Last week, members of the Smedley Butler Brigade of Veterans for Peace organized an office occupation of Representative Ed Markey’s office in Massachusetts. Their demand was simple: refuse to continue funding the Iraq war and vote against the $93 billion supplemental spending request submitted to Congress by President Bush on February 5. Their action was one of a growing number of office occupations taking place during the Occupation Project campaign of civil disobedience to end Iraq war funding.
Markey adroitly launched into song and dance, agreeing to meet and promising, in writing, to vote against President Bush’s request. The next day, he pivoted and swirled, doing the finest two step you’ll ever see. He pronounced that he will most definitely vote against President Bush’s request. He also pronounced that he will wait to decide whether to vote for or against the final supplemental spending bill being crafted by Representatives John Murtha and David Obey in the House Appropriations Committee. Talk about having your cake and eating it too.
Let there be no mistake. The Democrats are buying the Iraq war lock, stock and barrel. Indeed, fewer votes may be cast against continuing Iraq war funding this year than last year (or the year before) if so-called, erstwhile antiwar Democrats follow the logic of Markey.
The Democrats, led by Murtha and Obey, must be told in no uncertain terms that they cannot simultaneously be against the Iraq war and continue to fund the war. Murtha’s proscription is aptly dubbed a "slow bleed" strategy, as reprehensible as the "slow bleed" strategy of the Bush administration. The Bush administration made a clear and coldly calculated decision that, so long as deaths of U.S. soldiers were kept to a "minimum" and spread out amongst communities across the U.S., his administration could continue to wage this war without arousing active opposition to this war from middle America. Similarly, Murtha seems to be calculating that he and the Democrats will survive a "slow bleed" of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi citizens while he nibbles at the edges of ending the war in and occupation of Iraq.
Murtha’s proposals to end stop loss and stop move orders should be supported. A grave injustice is done to members of the U.S. military when they are forced to serve beyond the end of their enlistment contract or forced to extend their tour of duty in Iraq. His proposal to require that U.S. service members should also be at home for a minimum of one year before being deployed back to Iraq is also worthy of support. Indeed, I and three others were arrested at the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command here in Illinois last July pressing those demands.
Murtha fiddles on the edges of using the power of the purse to end the Iraq war while Rome-Baghdad-is burning to the ground.
The situation is not all that much brighter on the Senate side of the Congress. Senators are posturing to be the most antiwar Senator, especially those who are running for President. None is yet showing the political courage of their predecessors in the Senate-to actually vote against any additional funding for the Iraq war. The end of the U.S. war in Vietnam began in 1965 when three Senators voted against funding the war.
Senator Feingold introduced S. 448, "The Iraq Redeployment Act of 2007", which calls for the cessation of most funding for U.S. military operations in Iraq 180 days following passage of the act. Senator Obama introduced S. 433, "The Iraq De-Escalation Act of 2007", which, in excessively convoluted language, moves towards calling for the withdrawal of U.S. combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008. However, if you read S. 433, enough loopholes exist to drive a Mack truck through, which ensure continuation of the Iraq war, most notably the provision that the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq can be suspended with the simple certification by Bush to Congress that Iraq is achieving the benchmarks spelled out in the legislation. Neither S. 448 nor S. 433 contain any kind of enforcement language if the President decides to ignore the resolutions.
Senator Feingold and Senator Obama, will you dare take the requisite steps to end the war by cutting war funding? Senator Bernie Sanders, I’m calling you out on this one too. And you too, Senator Sherrod Brown. Each of you voted against funding the Iraq war while in the House. But you both conveniently lost your principles and your conscience when you voted for Iraq war funding last year when you were running for the Senate.
If you can’t bring yourself to vote against this supplemental spending bill on its face, will you at least commit to the intermediate step? Will you commit to introducing an amendment to the supplemental spending bill, as well as to the regular Department of Defense Appropriations bill (which contains another $142 billion for the war next year), which will specify that any and all funding for the war will be ended by a specific date and that all U.S. service members will be withdrawn from Iraq by that date? Will you further commit to voting against any supplemental spending bill and / or regular appropriations bill which does not contain such a provision?
If not, Senators Feingold, Obama, Sanders and Brown and Representatives Obey and Murtha-and all other erstwhile antiwar Senators and Representatives-allow me to introduce you to Representative Markey. I’m sure we can arrange ball room dance lessons so you can refine the Markey Two Step as you sway to the Chattanooga Choo Choo train of war funding.
JEFF LEYS is Coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and a national organizer for the Occupation Project campaign of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience to end Iraq war funding. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Information on the Occupation Project campaign can be found at www.vcnv.org.