The peace movement is now in a tizzy about the various “antiwar” resolutions proffered by the Democrats. Earnest and heated discussion of the minutest details of these various bills is clogging up the UFPJ (United For Peace and Justice) discussion groups and other channels of the official peace movement. But unfortunately all this frenzy is destined to come to naught. None of these bills will survive a Republican filibuster in the Senate or a Presidential veto. And the bills are all subject to challenge in the courts on the basis of which powers the Congress and Executive have over the conduct of war. These measures are designed to do no more than save face for the Dems and allow them to continue to bash Bush. But the bills will not and cannot end the war.
There is but one way for the Democratically controlled Congress to end the war and that is to stop the funding. So far the “antiwar” Democrats refuse to do that. So they now own the war every bit as much as Bush does. They cannot reasonably say that they refuse to defund the war now, but they will end the war later if one of their number becomes President in 2008. The simple fact is that they have the power now but they refuse to exercise it. They allow the death and destruction in Iraq to continue in order to satisfy their donors, AIPAC and their own ambitions to descend to the presidency.
The Democrats will claim that they only have a “razor thin majority,” so that their hands are tied. But this is not so. It takes only one Senator to filibuster against funding the war. Then it takes only 41 abstentions to sustain the filibuster. 60 votes are needed to stop a filibuster; so 41 abstentions mean that a filibuster is sustained and Bush’s supplemental funding bill for the Iraq war is dead (1). Such a filibuster is of course veto-proof since the filibustered bill simply dies and there is nothing for Bush to veto. There are 51 Senate Democrats, most of whom claim to be against the war, and at least one antiwar Republican Senator so the votes are there unless our solons of the Senate are deceiving us. If such a filibuster takes hold, the administration must then come back to the Congress with a bill acceptable to the 41, presumably a bill with funding to bring the U.S. soldiers home safely and quickly. (Sign the petition calling on Senators to take this action at www.FilibusterForPeace.org and circulate the petition widely.)
We all know the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah. Yahweh, always a bit crotchety, threatened to destroy those centers of depravity in the valley of the Jordan. (“What went on in Sodom and Gomorrah stayed in Sodom and Gomorrah.”) Yahweh agreed to relent if only 50 just men could be found in those twin cities of old. He then came down to 20 just men and then 10, but still his angels could not dig up that small number. In the end only one could be found, Lot, nephew of Abraham, so the god of mercy rained down his own shock and awe on the cities. (By the way, according to Biblical scholars the main sin in the twin cities was not homosexuality, although Yahweh was definitely a homophobe, but rather the financial practices practiced therein. It seems everyone was out to cheat and rob everyone else. It was the greed that really annoyed Yahweh.)
How does the U.S. Senate compare? Is it possible to find one “just” Senator in that august body? Can we find a Senator Lot? (As opposed to Lott.) So far the answer is no. Not one Senator has mentioned the possibility of the filibuster. During the course of “lobbying” efforts with nominally “antiwar” Senators, for example John Kerry and Barbara Mikulski, the answer to a request by activists for a filibuster has been a resounding “no”. And it does not take much backup to sustain the filibuster. 41 antiwar Senators need only abstain and the filibuster sticks.
Of course the Democrats must be shaking in their boots over the possibility of a filibuster. They have had the power to filibuster supplemental appropriations since the very beginning of the war, with more than 41 Democratic Senate votes every year from 2002 until the present. Their majority is far from “razor thin” when it comes to a filibuster since they now have a Senate majority. And the Republicans in their first weeks in the minority have used this option twice to prevent even a feeble resolution against the “surge” from coming up for a vote.
Why have the Republicans used the filibuster and the Democrats not? The answer, sad to say, seems to lie in the antiwar movement. The prowar forces demand that “their” Senators filibuster. They play hardball. If you want to understand the nature of that hardball, see the movie, “An Unreasonable Man” to find out how they used every dirty tactic that they could against Ralph Nader. Or look at how quickly AIPAC has managed to get the anti-Iran war provision out of the Democratic “antiwar” resolution in the House. But we in the antiwar movement have not applied the pressure. If we do not, then let us not criticize the Democrats for lack of spine not until we grow one of our own. Let’s begin by signing and circulating the petition at www.FilibusterForPeace.org.
JOHN V. WALSH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He welcomes suggestions for www.FilibusterForPeace.org.
See especially page 13 which points out that only 41 abstentions, not 41 “nays,” are required for cloture. The requirement for cloture is 60 votes so an abstention is as good as a “no.”