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This Joke's on Us

The Gutless Mini-Politics of the Congressional Democrats

by DAVE LINDORFF

Despite polls showing that 6 in 10 Americans want the U.S. out of Iraq asap, the best that this crew can come up with is a call-not binding, or course-for the president to pull out the troops by next spring or even summer. That would be over a year from now, and more than five years (!) into this criminal and incredibly stupid war.

At the rate things have been going, it would also be perhaps 1000 more dead Americans, 14,000 more gravely wounded Americans, and 100-150,000 more dead Iraqis later.

And in offering this limp request, Congress is in the process of approving the appropriation of another $122 million in spending on the War in Iraq and the War in Afghanistan.

This is action? They could be blocking that funding altogether, and shutting the damned war down. Why can’t Democrats, who were put in their position of power in Congress by the voters, at least show the courage and principle of Republican Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex), who is opposing the funding and says, "It’s amazing to me that this Congress is more intimidated by political propagandists and special interests than the American electorate, who sent a loud, clear message about the war in November."

And those subpoenas. Congress is boldly demanding the appearance of Bush’s Rasputin Karl Rove and his ousted legal adviser Harriet Meirs. Fine as far as it goes, but what about the clear evidence at the Libby trial that his regent, Dick Cheney, orchestrated a smear campaign against administration critic Joe Wilson and his CIA wife Valerie Plame, obstructed the Justice Department investigation into that effort, and lied about what he had done? Shouldn’t there be subpoenas issued to the Veep himself and all of his staff?

What about the evidence at that same trial that the president himself was in on the cover-up and obstruction of justice conspiracy. Shouldn’t there be subpoenas of staff to pin that down, and a letter of interrogatories to the president himself?

While they’re at it, shouldn’t this 110th Congress that the people elected last fall in an effort to clean out the Augean stables of the Bush White House and to end the war be initiating an impeachment of the president, at least on his admitted felonious violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Law? After all, a federal judge already tried that case and determined that the president is a felon. That’s an easy case to impeach on.

They could also be revoking the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. That’s the resolution Congress passed on September 18, 2001, which the president has ever since been claiming makes him a dictator-that is commander in chief in a borderless, endless "war" on terror-not beholden to the Constitution, and free to ignore or invalidate acts of Congress at will. It’s an astonishing abuse of power, exactly what the Founding Fathers feared could happen, and yet Congress is doing exactly nothing about it.

There’s no need for the 2001 AUMF. We’re not at war in Afghanistan anymore, after all. There is a new, elected government there, and it has invited in NATO to help it fight a resurgent Taliban. We’re just there as part of NATO, and so hardly need a special AUMF-especially one that can be falsely construed as an authorization to be a dictator. So why isn’t Congress revoking the damned thing?

The could revoke the 2002 AUMF too. Bush misued that one as an authorization to go to war against Iraq, since it actually required him to go to the UN for authorization-something he never bothered to do. In any event, we’re not at war in Iraq either, as much as it might look like we are. The war in Iraq is over folks. We’re not even occupiers there any more. Remember, we handed sovereignty over to the Iraqis in 2004! There’s an elected government in Iraq-an independent government-and we’re there at their invitation to help them with an insurrection problem. That’s not a war, any more than it’s a war in Columbia, where we’ve also sent troops at the Columbian government’s request. So why doesn’t Congress revoke the AUMF? It would be a good idea, because Bush is liable to misuse it further and claim it gives him the right to attack Iran at will. He’s said as much.

Again, listen to Republican Ron Paul, who says, "Congress should admit its mistake and repeal the authority wrongfully given to the executive branch in 2002. Repeal the congressional sanction and disavow presidential discretion in starting wars. Then start bringing our troops home. If anyone charges that this approach does not support the troops, take a poll. Find out how reservists, guardsmen, and their families–many on their second or third tour in Iraq–feel about it. The constant refrain that bringing our troops home would demonstrate a lack of support for them must be one of the most amazing distortions ever foisted on the American public." (Of course, Rep. Paul has his own issues when it comes to guts. He has publicly stated that the president has committed impeachable crimes, and yet he has shied away from doing the obvious, and appropriate, thing: submitting a bill of impeachment. If he does do it, it would be the ultimate shaming of Democrats in the House.)

I’m fed up with the gutless mini-politics of this Congress. Who gives a damn whether they’ve passed a minimum wage bill? It’ll never get past Bush anyhow. Neither will anything else of consequence that this Congress passes.

Unless they don’t start challenging the Bush administration directly and forcefully, Congressional Democrats aren’t going to do bupkis in two years and people are going to start wondering why they were voted in in the first place. People might even start to think seriously about letting the Democratic Party just wither away.

Wouldn’t make much of a difference without it, really, and we might even come up with something better. It wouldn’t be too hard to do.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His n book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can’t be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s newest book is "The Case for Impeachment",
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com