I am on a quest for integrity in Washington this week. The Democratic leadership plan to continue the war in Iraq by supporting yet another appropriations bill that is likely to go to the floor early next year granting an estimated $160 BILLION, the largest appropriation so far for the Iraq war. You can read my comments in an interview with Truthdig yesterday.
There is $70 billion already in the pipeline that can be used to bring the troops home.
There is only one way to end the war in Iraq – by cutting off funds. In October this year, $70 billion was appropriated for FY 2007; the $160 billion supplement will take the budget for the war in 2007 to $230 billion. 2006 saw $117 billion spent on the war, 2007 will be almost double. This will expand war, increase the violence, send more troops to the region, and push our nation into even further indebtedness.
Already over 18% of our tax dollars goes to service the interest on our national debt and 28% to the annual military budget (not including wars in Afghanistan and Iraq), whilst only 2% goes on housing and 0.3% on job training.
Last week I published a series of articles on the web which analyze the responsibilities of congress, the Campbell v Clinton case, of which I was part, which rules that appropriating funds is implied consent for the war (i.e., voting for appropriations = voting in favor of the war), looks at the voting record in the House and Senate, and puts forth a plan for US withdrawal and UN handover. Click here to read the articles.
Yesterday the Iraq Study Group issued their Iraq report, which I read in full last night and spoke about on the floor of the house today.
The report cites how 500,000 barrels of oil are being stolen per day in Iraq. That is $11.3 billion worth per year. This is interesting, since the Ministry of Oil was the first place our troops were sent after the invasion of Iraq and we now have 140,000 troops there.
How can we expect the end of the Iraq war and national reconciliation in Iraq, while we advocate that Iraq's oil wealth by handled by private oil companies?
It is ironic that this report comes at the exact time the Interior Department's Inspector General says that oil companies are cheating the US out of billions of dollars, while the Administration looks the other way.
Is it possible that Secretary Baker has a conflict of interest, which should have precluded him from co-chairing a study group whose final report promotes privatization of Iraq oil assets, given his ties to the oil industry? Is it possible that our troops are dying for the profits of private oil companies?
What kind of logic is it that says we need to appropriate $230 billion in a single financial year? The largest appropriation for the war in Iraq? The money is there to bring the troops home now.
A defective logic has invaded Capitol Hill. Democrats won the election because the American people want to end the war in Iraq, yet members feel they can say they oppose the war in Iraq while at the same time support an appropriation of $160 billion. They say the appropriation is to "support the troops," yet will result in keeping them in Iraq for another two years.
We must work together to transform this destructive thinking.
I need your help.
Please contact your member of congress and the Democratic leadership, urging them to vote NO on the appropriations bill next year. An appropriation of $160 billion is enough to keep us in Iraq for another two years. In Government Oversight Committee hearings, I have personally questioned military officials, who state clearly that this war cannot be won militarily.
Would you buy a used war from this administration?
There is $70 billion already in the pipeline that can be used to bring the troops home and implement a real plan for stability in the region.
Dennis J Kucinich
I think Kucinich is absolutely right about this. If the Democrats want to have any long-term credibility with the American people, who want the U.S. troops OUT of Iraq, then we need to prove it with real action. This seems like the best way to do it. As he points out, we have money in the pipeline to bring the troops home, so the whole "support the troops" argument for spending obscene amounts of money to continue the occupation is simply wrong--and perhaps backwards, if you look at it from the point of view of the troops' well-being. We need to put pressure on Democrats and Republicans alike to support this approach.
This IS an issue of integrity. Some Democrats seem to want to make it look like we are doing something by demanding greater transparency. But this will DO NOTHING to get the troops home or end the occupation of Iraq. This is simply short-term self-serving behavior by elected politicians to avoid confronting the President or actually risking a gutsy move to actually force and end to the war. This is all about authenticity, and if we REALLY want to say we heard the American people in the last election--and polls show that 60% of people want the U.S. out of Iraq within six months, and even higher percentages say within a few years. We have to simply swallow hard and do it. Click here to read more of Kucinich's plan for getting out of Iraq.
On a different, but related, subject...the whole thing about "keeping impeachment off the table" (Pelosi) is starting to bother me more and more. How can we say that it is off the table? Like Iraq, this issue is also about long-term integrity and authenticity. If we truly believe that evidence suggests grave offenses against law and the American system of government by Bush and Cheney, then don't we have to pursue it? I wouldn't ever want to prejudge a process like that, but don't we have ample evidence to at least begin some inquiries? Sure, in the short term, the media will try to skewer us for going on the offensive. But don't difficult times call for courageous leadership? If impeachment is not warranted in situations like this (if facts are what they appear to be), then when would it ever be justified? We need to think about the long-term consequences, both domestically and internationally, for failing to do everything we can to hold Bush and Cheney responsible for what they have done. There are even Republicans now who are starting to recognize the illegality of what has happened.
This is not about short-term political gain, this is about the long-term health of America. If it were about politics, then we would follow Nancy Pelosi into table clearing mode, for it is certainly more expedient in the short term to avoid the inevitable charges of political motivation...plus Bush and Cheney will be gone in a few years anyway...plus they provide ample foils for the Democratic Party's PR efforts... Maybe we need to do a little positive legislation first (raising minimum wage, negotiating lower drug prices, etc.) just to get things moving a little in Congress but pretty soon we need to at least be willing to investigate wrongdoing by Bush-Cheney in a serious way. If the evidence is solid, the Democrats (and honest Republicans) should move quickly forward to impeach both of them. Here's my idea: Let's give them until Groundhog Day (Feb. 2nd). That's a week or two after Bush's state of the union, and it will give just a little time to immediately pass some consensus legislation and send it to Bush. Then we need to start agitating for accountability in our hallowed system of checks and balances. Let's face it: the members of Congress (except for a few courageous ones) aren't going to do it on their own--they need our prodding and encouragement to do what's right.