With the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq approaching, Congress rejected reality once more and provided another infusion of funding to continue the open-ended occupation of that increasing disordered and volatile land. Nothing, not even the Bush administration's deception and intransigence, has done so much to continue the quagmire as the failure of Congress to check and balance the madness of President George.
Even as Iraq has become the "Bloody Kansas" of the Middle East, with a horrific explosion of sectarian violence that even some of the administration's most ardent apologists admit could well be a precursor to civil war, Congress remains the rubberstamp that it has always been – a fact confirmed Thursday by the lopsided House vote to meet another of the president's demands for more money to pay for his military misadventure.
By a vote of 348-71, the House approved a $91.9 billion supplemental spending bill, with the lion's share of the new funding earmarked for Iraq. Three years into a war that 60 percent of Americans now tell pollsters has not been worth the cost in lives and dollars that it has extracted from the United States, overwhelming majorities of both the Republican and Democratic caucuses in the House backed a measure that demands no real accountability of the administration – and that perpetuates a war that, according to a new Gallup Poll, 58 percent of Americans believe has had a generally negative effect on life in the United States generally.
The new money for the Iraq occupation comes on top of the $50 billion in supplemental war funding that the Congress had already approved for the current fiscal year, after spending $100 billion last year. And the administration says it will be back soon seeking another $50 billion for the coming fiscal year. All of this spending is in addition to the record $439.3 billion defense budget the president submitted to Congress.
This additional spending will push the federal budget deficit to a record $423 billion in fiscal year 2006, up more than $100 billion over the past year. That fact, along with concerns about the attachment of $19 billion for Hurricane Katrina relief to what started as a military supplemental, led roughly a dozen Republican fiscal hawks to oppose the measure – including Judiciary Committee chair James Sensenbrenner and Budget Committee stalwart Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. It was also opposed by several Republicans who have rejected past war supplementals, such as Texan Ron Paul and Wisconsin's Tom Petri.
But the bulk of the opposition votes came from 52 Democrats, most of them members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who believe as Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich said before the vote: "After three years arrogance and incompetence, contempt and lies, death and destruction, Congress should say enough is enough and provide not one more dime for this Administration's ill-conceived, ill-advised, misguided and failed Iraq policy. Iraq has held three elections and is now a sovereign nation. Meanwhile, our troops are caught in the middle of a civil war that our own generals say cannot be won by military force. To funnel more money into this failed misadventure would serve only to throw good money after bad. Congress should not serve as a rubber stamp of this Administration's failed policies. Congress should reject this Supplemental request, along with the Administration's failed policy in Iraq, and work to bring all our troops home."
Missing from the list of those calling the administration to account were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California; House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland; and, of course, the militantly pro-war chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Illinoisan Rahm Emanuel.
Most voters won't have a chance to send a signal to Emanuel anytime soon. But, in Illinois's 6th Congressional District, Democratic primary voters will have a chance to choose on Tuesday between the DCCC chair's handpicked candidate, Tammy Duckworth, who does not live in the district, and grassroots Democrat Christine Cegelis, who lives in the district and who stunned analysts by winning almost 45 percent of the vote as the Democratic nominee in 2004.
Duckworth, an Iraq veteran, has a compelling personal story, but she has refused to endorse a clear timetable for bringing the troops home. Cegalis supports a timetable, saying, "I have opposed this war from the start. But revisiting what brought us to this disastrous point does not solve the problem. It is time for us to bring our troops home." Cegalis explains that: "The failures of this war must prevent the United States from making similar mistakes in the future. And the only way we can make sure that lesson is learned is to elect leaders who understand that lesson."
After Thursday night's vote in the House, it is more evident than ever that the inability to understand that lesson is not merely a Republican infirmity. And it is equally evident that the appropriate response to the crisis will require voters, not just in Illinois but nationwide, to follow their own good judgment – as opposed to the dictates of Democratic "leaders" in Washington.
That's the message of the new group Vote for Peace, which is asking voters to take a pledge before they go to the polls: "I will not vote for or support any candidate for Congress or President who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq, and preventing any future war of aggression, a public position in his or her campaign."
Visit the Vote for Peace website at www.votersforpeace.us and learn more about this nonpartisan anti-war campaign.