This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.
To understand just how bad the 112th Congress, elected on November 2 and taking office on January 3, is likely to be for peace on Earth, one has to understand how incredibly awful the 110th and 111th Congresses have been during the past four years and then measure the ways in which things are likely to become even worse.
Oddly enough, doing so brings some surprising silver linings into view.
The House and Senate have had Democratic majorities for the past four years. In January, the House will be run by Republicans, while the Democratic majority in the Senate will shrink. We still tend to call the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "Bush’s wars." Republicans are often the most outspoken supporters of these wars, while many Democrats label themselves "critics" and "opponents."
Such wars, however, can’t happen without funding, and the past four years of funding alone amount to a longer period of war-making than US participation in either of the world wars. We tend to think of those past four years as a winding down of "Bush’s wars," even though in that period Congress actually appropriated funding to escalate the war in Iraq and then the war in Afghanistan, before the US troop presence in Iraq was reduced.
But here’s the curious thing: while the Democrats suffered a net loss of more than sixty seats in the House in the midterm elections just past, only three of the defeated Democrats had voted against funding an escalation in Afghanistan this past July 27. Three other antiwar Democrats (by which I mean those who have actually voted against war funding) retired this year, as did two antiwar Republicans. Another antiwar Democrat, Carolyn Kilpatrick of Michigan, lost in a primary to Congressman-elect Hansen Clarke, who is also likely to vote against war funding. And one more antiwar Democrat, Dan Maffei from western New York, is in a race that still hasn’t been decided. But among the 102 Democrats and twelve Republicans who voted "no" to funding the Afghan War escalation in July, at least 104 will be back in the 112th Congress.
That July vote proved a high point in several years of efforts by the peace movement, efforts not always on the media’s radar, to persuade members of Congress to stop funding our wars. Still a long way off from the 218-vote majority needed to succeed, there’s no reason to believe that antiwar congress members won’t see their numbers continue to climb above 114—especially with popular support for the Afghan War sinking fast—if a bill to fund primarily war is brought to a vote in 2011.