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The Democrats’ War Funding Debacle


“He who knows the enemy and himself will never in a hundred battles be at risk.” Sun­Tzu.

Last Friday was potentially a sublime day for the cause of peace in the House of Representatives. Under pressure from the peace movement and a handful of antiwar legislators, Speaker Nancy Pelosi had inserted a few poison pills into the supplemental for war funding – in the form of restrictions and deadlines for the war. However these dollops of poison had many antidotes in the form of the numerous loopholes provided to Bush. And so it was basically a bill to make the Democrats look good without terminating the war. In this way the Democrats could satisfy their real constituencies, AIPAC and other pro-war forces, while posturing for peace. Look good to the people, bash Bush and satisfy the real constituency. This was the plan.

As predicted, the phony poison pills were not acceptable to the stubborn pro-war Representatives and to the champions of a “Unitary” Executive, that is an emperor. They vowed to vote it down. That was the moment of sweetness. If but a handful, literally, of the “anti-war” Democrats voted against the bill, there would be no war funding. A crisis would be precipitated and a real debate over the war would have to begin in the Congress. It was a moment when all the talk about using an opponent’s weakness against him, political jujutsu, the oft-cited skill of the “insiders,” could be realized. It was a moment when “progressive” Democrats were in the driver’s seat. But in the end it was a moment of betrayal by virtually all the Democrats who have posed for so long as voices of peace. The bill passed, and funding for the war has been provided by the Democrats ­ once more. (The vote was 218 for funding and 212 against funding ­ so a mere four votes (yes, 4!) could have defeated the funding.)

There were only ten “heroes” in the entire House who voted against the supplemental on the basis of opposing the war. They were: Libertarian/Republican Ron Paul; Democrats Dennis Kucinich, John Lewis, Barbara Lee, Mike McNulty, Mike Michaud, Maxine Waters, Diane Watson, Lynn Woolsey; and Republican John Duncan. So that is about it ­ there are only ten who will desert the War Parties when push comes to shove.

Here in my home state of MA, things were especially grim on that day. Not a single member of “our anti-war” Congressional delegation voted against the supplemental! This despite the fact the sentiment here for peace is very strong, an atmosphere bestowed upon “our” congressmen by the hard work of the peace movement over the decades. Especially instructive is the case of Congressman Jim McGovern who has railed against funding the war and put his own Iraq withdrawal resolution before the House to much fanfare. That resolution is all very nice; it makes McGovern look good, perhaps allows him to salve his conscience a bit and most importantly permits the Dems to say that they harbor peaceniks in their ranks. But in Friday’s roll call McGovern’s vote was needed and the time for meaningless pleasantries was over. Jimmy McGovern toed the line. Here in MA the peace movement has adopted an all carrot, no stick approach to “our” delegation. The time for that is past. It is time to play hardball. It is earnestly to be hoped that this lesson has been learned. We shall see.

And finally there is the nationwide peace movement. MoveOn, in a repeat performance of its bogus polling ploy, claimed the “movement” was for “Pelosi’s” bill. Their push-pull poll was circulated on the floor of the House at a crucial moment, convincing wavering Democrats (or more likely providing them with cover) to vote for the war funding. (I can hear our House solons crying out one day: “If I knew then about MoveOn what I know now, I would have never voted for funding the war.”) Too many others in the “movement” (e.g., Council for a Livable World) and the “progressive” blogosphere (e.g., the boss of Daily Kos) joined MoveOn in its exercise in perfidy. But happily much of the peace movement stuck to its guns, including United for Peace and Justice, Military Families Speak Out, Veterans For Peace, Progressive Democrats of America, AfterDowningSt, Voters For Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore, Code Pink and others. Those organizations and others like them deserve our support; not a penny should go to the MoveOn’s of the world.

Every decent experiment in science brings a bit more clarity. And every significant struggle in politics does the same, as someone or other is sure to have said. In each case the insights are precious and we ought not waste them. We have learned a bit more about our enemy and, hopefully, about our own strategies.

JOHN V. WALSH can be contacted at



John V. Walsh can be reached at

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