“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, April 16, 1953
Talk about stepping into the abyss. George Bush and his Pentagon allies are considering increasing the number of troops in Iraq by 40,000. The idea is supported by some members of Congress, with John McCain being the first member to express his support publicly. Democratic leader Harry Reid chimed in over the weekend, saying that he would support an increase just as long as it was only for “a few moths.” This is despite the fact that over 60% of US residents want the troops out of there sooner rather than later. Reid’s position also conveniently ignores the fact that once roops are in country, it becomes a lot harder for politicians and generals to pull them out. The current situation makes that all too clear. The White House position not only represents another blow to the idea that the people of the US run the country, it is a blatant kick in the voters’ face. Yet, as long as Congress continues to give the White House and Pentagon whatever monies they want to fight the war, any other legislative actions mean less than zero. In a reversal of Bush’s domestic initiatives like the No Child Left Behind act–an act which demanded individual states to follow certain mandates from the federal government without providing any funding, Congress provides unlimited funding of the war effort without asking for any guidelines, much less requiring any show of success.
It’s not like this is unusual. Certain funding requests rarely get a careful examination in Congress. Two of the most obvious ones both concern the Middle East. One is the constant funding that Tel Aviv gets no matter what they do or how they do it. The other is the budgeting that concerns those countries that contain big oil’s profit source. Sometimes the money for the latter is to prop up a regime friendly to Washington’s interests and sometimes it’s used to destroy a regime with different ideas. In Iraq, the former is taken to its historical extreme. In other words, a regime that appears to be barely holding on to its power is being supported with unabashed US military power–to the tune of approximately 180 million dollars per day. This is only the financial cost, of course. Human costs are immeasurable, but here are some raw numbers regarding them: over the course of the war, US troops have died on the average of more than two per day; somewhere around a half million Iraqis have died (probably more rather than less), over 20,000 US troops have been wounded, along with unknown numbers of Iraqis.
Despite these statistics, the war continues. In fact, as noted above, it may very well escalate. The Democrats squeak a lot about their frustration with the war and say they will do things differently, yet very few have made any genuine indication that they will refuse to fund the war. Instead, a good number have signed on to the suggestions of the essentially irrelevant Iraq Study Group, whose report suggested a continuation of the war by renaming the mission of the troops on the ground and eventually withdrawing the combat troops–a move that a Washington Post report said would leave 75% of the troops in country. In addition, not a single Democratic Senator voted against the appointment of CIA man and war apologist Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds like more business as usual. The Democratic Congress’ first test will come soon after they are seated. it will come in the shape of a $100 billion request for continuing the Iraq war. Other than a few noises from the left wing of the party–mostly from Congressman Kucinich of Ohio–there has been no indication that this request will not be granted. Indeed, a cursory reading of newspaper reports regarding the request leads me to believe that the only problem the Democrats have with the administration’s war funding request is the manner in which he requests them. Instead of the emergency requests Messrs. Bush and Cheney tend to prefer, the Democrats want the war funding requests to be included in the annual budget.
Recently, antiwar vet Mike Ferner, speaking for the groups Voices for Creative Nonviolence and Veterans For Peace, announced their call to antiwar protesters around the country to occupy the hometown offices of Representatives and Senators who have voted money for the war. These actions will take place in February, since Congress convenes in late January and the aforementioned funding request will be one of the first pieces of legislation on its agenda. This is a good idea. Indeed, I say let’s go even further. Let’s take up the call for the mass march on the Pentagon scheduled for March 17th and stage a sitdown protest there. Take over the lawn and refuse to leave. Sure, the upcoming antiwar marches on January 27th and March 17th are important, but, if all indications are correct, manifestations such as these have so far only succeeded in getting our elected officials to say they oppose the war, but not to do anything concrete about it. It’s up to us to make them stick to their words. Sitting in their offices until they answer our questions or call the police is a logical next step. So is the idea of a massive sit-in on the Pentagon lawn. It’s called heightening the contradictions. The United States could use some of that. Think about it.
If these ideas don’t work for you and your people, perhaps another one will., or a combination of other ones. If we recall the protests in Seattle in 1999 against the WTO, we will remember how effective they were in raising the level of awareness and opposition to the aims of global capitalism. We will also remember how effectively the protests were organized. Everything was done on a local level. Sure, the actual protests took place in Seattle (and several other places in the following years), but if we are to believe the polls, there are enough US residents opposed to the war that we can sit in on the Pentagon lawn AND take local actions. It’s in our interest to stop this war now. We have to make it in Congress’ interest , too.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org