Never was the case so weak for throwing another $33 billion into the Afghanistan sinkhole, but that’s what a defensive US Congress did anyway on Tuesday evening. The vote was 308-114, with Republicans supplying most of the prowar votes.
Washington-based peace groups, after weeks of e-mailing messages to Congress, put the best face possible on the vote, claiming a "significant" gain of fourteen additional antiwar votes over the 100 cast for a similar amendment by Representative Barbara Lee two weeks ago. (The new Democratic votes were cast by Corrine Brown, Kathy Castor, John Conyers, Rosa Delauro, Lloyd Doggett, Anna Eshoo, Chaka Fattah, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Hank Johnson, Marcy Kaptur, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Gregory Meeks, James Moran, Christopher Murphy, Carol Shea-Porter, Mike Thompson, Lynn Woolsey and David Wu; while five Republicans joined the opposition: Paul Broun, Vernon Ehlers, Jeff Flake, Phil Gingrey and John Linder.)
Those casting prowar votes from safe liberal districts included Lois Capps, James Clyburn, Susan Davis, John Hall, Patrick Kennedy, Nita Lowey, Lucille Roybal-Allard, John Sarbanes and Joe Sestak. Significantly, Speaker Nancy Pelosi abstained from voting, which meant retreating from the chance to draw an antiwar line more firmly.
The highest measure of House opposition remains the 162 votes, including Pelosi’s, cast in the House recently for Representative Jim McGovern’s amendment requiring an exit strategy including a withdrawal timeline. Only eighteen senators voted for an identical amendment by Senator Russ Feingold earlier this spring. The dissenting numbers have almost doubled since last year.
In the moments after Tuesday’s vote, a representative of Barbara Lee’s office said new antiwar measures may be put forward around the defense appropriations bill later in this session. No concrete plan yet exists.
Those Congressional antiwar votes are in part due to years of grassroots work and mobilization, according to Rusti Eisenberg of the legislative committee of United for Peace and Justice. Is the glass half-full or half-empty?, she asks. What is clear is that there was never a better time to stop or delay this war. The political climate around Afghanistan turned extremely sour in the days leading up to Tuesday’s vote. The Washington establishment was shaken by the spilling of 91,000 classified documents by the independent muckrakers at WikiLeaks.org. The raw documents revealed a much grimmer situation in Afghanistan than portrayed by the White House and the Pentagon with its information-war strategy. As millions read the WikiLeaks revelations in the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel, a nervous White House pressed for an immediate House vote. "We don’t know how to react. This obviously puts Congress and the public in a bad mood," lamented one White House official.