Sunday, December 10, 2006

We Need Real Action on Iraq

Recently I received the followin group e-mail message from Dennis Kucinich. I don't think he'll mind if I share it with you:

Dear Friends,

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.

Sincerely,
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.

10 comments:

Ambivalent_Maybe said...

The main point from Kucinich's message--that it is hypocritical to continue to appropriate money for the war while saying you are against it--is a good one. One problem, though, is that most Dems have not taken the position that the troops need to come home right away. Like the ISG, they're still trying to figure out a way to salvage something in Iraq through short-term increases, phased withdrawals, increased training missions, or what-have-you. Voting against the appropriations would mean leaping into a 'bring them home now' position, which is not something most Dems seem likely to do. Partly, even mostly, that might be a reflection of political cowardice. But it's also because many Dems are as reluctant as the Reps to say that we've lost in Iraq, and there's nothing more our troops can do there.

Finally, a comment more related to your previous post. The paragraphs in Kucinich's message about Iraq's oil seems to insinuate that Baker and the ISG are part of a conspiracy to steal Iraq's oil, or, in fact, that private interests close to Baker may be stealing it already. This sort of rhetoric--vaguely related to the topic at hand, unsupported, hinting at some vast conspiracy--is part of what earns Kucinich a reputation as a whacko. It's a shame he couldn't rein himself in, because his central point is cogent, and should be the basis for serious and prominent debate in Washington right now.

christian_left said...

If bringing up the issue of oil privatization in Iraq makes Kucinich a "whacko" than count me a "whacko" too. Kucinich didn't make it up, IT'S IN THE REPORT. Recommendation #63, according to the following analysis of the issue taken from the L.A. Times and posted on commondreams:

http://www.commondreams.org
/views06/1208-26.htm

Here's the rationale, as I see it, for what Kucinich is asserting:
1. Baker has connections with the oil industry. 2. The ISG is making a recommendation that specifically benefits foreign oil companies. 3. QED, it is reasonable to be concerned about a conflict of interest.

How is this different from the many other conflicts of interest that we regularly assail politicians, especially Republicans, for having?

Moreover, I think you are interpreting Kucinich's statement somewhat uncharitably. He is merely raising a legitimate issue about conflict of interest, in the context of a much larger argument about the need for withdrawal from Iraq. He does not allege a "vast conspiracy," he is just saying that foreign oil companies stand to benefit from the ISG recommendations. Given how hardly anyone else seems to be getting anything out of the whole fiasco, and how many people have suffered from it, it seems like maybe asking the "who benefits?" question may not be so out of line at all. That's just being a good watchdog as a member of Congress, as far as I'm concerned. Given how so many others seem to be doing the bidding of large corporations, it's good to have someone on the other side asking the hard questions.

It is disheartening to me that people so easily marginalize and demonize courageous public figures like Dennis Kucinich. The same has happened to Russ Feingold several times. And John Conyers. I guess I am most disheartened when the jabs come from others in the progressive movement, who should know better. Sure, it's okay to disagree with someone's argument with a well-reasoned rebuttal. But I don't think it is fair to call someone a "joke" or a "whacko" without having some pretty darn good reasons for it.

Ambivalent_Maybe said...

I know it's in the report. I just don't see what it has to do with how Democrats should vote on continued funding for the war. Baker's ties to the oil industry and the ISG's ideas about privatization of Iraq's oil industry is a red herring. The fact that Iraq is loosing billions in oil smuggling is unrelated to privatization and only tangentially to continued war funding (in that it's another example of the futility of a continued American military presence). Perhaps it was uncharitable to take what could just be poor writing for sloppy thinking, but I think Kucinich is trying to smear the ISG's recommendations by insinuating something sinister about Baker's motives. That's either a very weak foundation on which to base the argument against another appropriation, or it's a distraction.

Just to be clear: I don't think Kucinich is a whacko. But I don't think Jim Baker and the ISG's recommendations are anything more than a desperate (and fairly incoherent) attempt to provide cover for a US withdrawal from Iraq. Kucinich would like that withdrawal to happen a lot sooner, without all this 'face saving' fiddling while more people are killed. He's taking a principled stand that I admire.

Rob said...

As I see it, congress has three options: impeach Bush, invoke the War Powers Act to facilitate a deadline or cut funding. In that order those options are my preferences at this point.

I give Kucinich credit for standing on principal.

Rob said...

As I see it, congress has three options: impeach Bush, invoke the War Powers Act to facilitate a deadline or cut funding. In that order those options are my preferences at this point.

I give Kucinich credit for standing on principal.

Rob said...

As I see it, congress has three options: impeach Bush, invoke the War Powers Act to facilitate a deadline or cut funding. In that order those options are my preferences at this point.

I give Kucinich credit for standing on principal.

Rob said...

At this point I believe congress has three options: 1) impeach and remove both Bush and Cheney; 2)invoke the War Powers Act to faciliate a deadline of withdrawal from Iraq; and 3) Cut Off Funding as Kucinich proposes. My preferences are in the order I list them.

Rob said...

At this point I believe congress has three options: 1) impeach and remove both Bush and Cheney; 2)invoke the War Powers Act to faciliate a deadline of withdrawal from Iraq; and 3) Cut Off Funding as Kucinich proposes. My preferences are in the order I list them.

christian_left said...

Thanks ambivalent_maybe for clarifying that you don't actually think Kucinich is a whacko and that you admire his principled stand. Hopefully we can all keep our eyes focused on the prize: applying pressure to end the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq.

We may just have to disagree over the small detail of what role the oil issue should play (small vs. none). I completely agree with you that it is not the main foundation for the argument at all, and I think Kucinich's own placement of it close to the end and only writing two sentences shows that he, too, gives by far the most attention to other factors. I don't, however, agree that it is a complete distraction or red herring. It is a minor issue, but not an irrelevant one (and possibly also of some use in public discourse). In order to find a political solution to the Iraq mess, we may need to consider dropping our insistence of opening up Iraq's oil to full exploitation by foreign oil companies. I just don't think someone like Baker with such close ties to the oil industry is a good person to lead an effort to resolve the Iraq situation successfully. So it is a minor but relevant issue.

Rob said...

Apologies for the multiple comments. Blogger appeared to dysfuntional last evening and it didn't appear that my original comment was going through. Feel free to delete this one.