Will Congress pad the last “emergency” war funding bill?

April 15, 2009 at 9:21 am | Posted in Congress, Iraq, Obama Administration, Politics | Leave a comment

The late but unlamented Bush administration used emergency spending bills to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact is, these bills were a device to hide the cost of the wars by taking it off the budget. The Obama administration has vowed to provide more transparency in government, and says that the current bill—used out of administrative necessity—will be the last.

I hope so. But the current bill, although it is seemingly needed, may acquire additions to fund large weapons systems requested by the Pentagon—like more F-22 fighters and a refueling tanker for the Air Force. These are controversial projects, but even if they were obviously needed “slam dunk” projects, they should be carefully scrutinized on their own merits, not passed as an addendum to an otherwise necessary spending bill.

That seems obvious. But some powerful Democrats are talking about adding the fighters and tanker to the bill: Representative John Murtha (D-PA), chairman of the Defense Spending Committee and Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. They are strong supporters of the military weapons industry. They must be prevented from padding the bill.

Fortunately, opposition to the practice exists. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator John McCain (yes, that John McCain) is the ranking Republican on the committee. Both are working on improving the DOD procurement process, and neither looks kindly on the practice of adding weapons systems to emergency spending bills.

But they need help. I wrote to President Obama and to my representative and senators, and I suggest you do so too. An easy way is to use Congress.org, but you can use the phone, snail-mail, or whatever means you like. Just do it: let your elected representatives know what you think.


A Quaker Statement on Torture

June 6, 2008 at 8:12 am | Posted in Bush Administration, Iraq, Peeves | 2 Comments

I regularly attend the Quaker (Society of Friends) meeting in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Although I’m not a Quaker, I agree with them on most things. Like the Quakers (and most Americans) I’m horrified by the fact that our government uses torture. The following is the text of the statement:


It is the custom of Friends Meetings (Quakers) to write official statements, called Minutes, concerning current moral issues both as an exercise among ourselves to come to clarity and unity about them and as a public witness to our neighbors.

Because of our concern for prisoners, military service members, and civilian workers involved in the United States government’s alleged interrogation practices, the Fayetteville Friends Monthly Meeting has written the following Minute on Torture.

Fayetteville (NC) Friends Meeting’s Minute on Torture

“Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.”

                            Hebrews 13:3 NRSV

                        (New Revised Standard Version)

Recognizing that of God in every person, we condemn the use of torture for any purpose by any person, group, or government. Torture by any means is immoral. It debases the humanity of the tortured, the torturer, and those who have knowledge of it.

For Fayetteville, NC Monthly Meeting, torture is not a distant issue. We are located near a major hub of a growing international torture complex. Hundreds of torture flights have taken off nearby; training for the brutal techniques takes place in the region at secretive military and other facilities. Our public officials have ignored protests.

The acceptance of torture is making our society an international pariah. We appeal to Friends and others everywhere to take up this concern and follow it through. Let us bear down into the work of bringing this immoral practice into the Light. Let us do all we can to bring about the day when torture is banished from our country and from our planet.

A Comment from The Curmudgeon

I urge you to write your elected representatives to let them know how you feel. (An easy way is to join Congress.org: see the link at the right.) You may also want to visit the National Religious Campaign Against Torture at http://www.nrcat.org/. For additional information on Quakers visit the Friends General Conference at http://www.fgcquaker.org/

Memorial Day: Support the Troops

May 26, 2008 at 3:44 pm | Posted in Bush Administration, Iraq, Politics | 2 Comments

I have two family members in the service, one of whom is home for R & R before going back to Iraq. The other is in danger of being deployed, but for now is in California. I earnestly pray that both survive this unnecessary and evil war with neither physical nor emotional damage. I want all of our troops to return as quickly as is safe and reasonable.

The Iraq war is notable in that it is being waged at a time when taxes, especially for the rich, have been reduced. We as a nation have not been asked to make any real sacrifices, although about 4,000 of our young folks have been killed and more than 25,000 have been injured. I was happy, therefore, to hear that Warlord George W. Bush has made the ultimate sacrifice: he’s given up golf.

In a May 13th interview with Politico magazine and Yahoo, Bush said he gave up golf in [August] 2003 out of respect for U.S. soldiers killed in the war. “I didn’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf,” he said. “I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.”

Well…he didn’t actually give it up. He kind of tapered off, playing his last game on October 13, 2003. And it’s likely that he had to stop playing golf because he had leg problems. He had a minor muscle tear in his right calf, and aching knees, so in addition to giving up golf, he had an MRI in December on the advice of his physician.

‘Way to support the troops, W!

Of course Bush won’t be able to serve another term, knees or no. But the Republicans evidently have a replacement all lined up. Viet Nam veteran and former prisoner of war John McCain is the presumptive nominee, and he is (I am quite serious about this) a true American hero. That makes it all the more sad that he didn’t make it to the Senate to vote on the new GI Bill. The bill, which Bush has threatened to veto, would pay tuition and other expenses at a four-year public university for anyone who has served at least three years since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The bill passed anyway, by a 75-22 majority, so McCain’s vote wasn’t really needed. But if I were a veteran running for President on a support-the-troops platform I’d have been there and voted Yes—very loudly. Senator McCain was on the West Coast at a fund raiser. Got to keep your priorities straight, huh?  Oh yeah:  McCain opposes the bill.

By the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, McCain has changed his mind (I won’t say flip-flopped) about how long we’re going to have troops in Iraq. He used to say we’d be there for a hundred years if necessary. Now he says we won’t be there after 2012.

‘Way to support the troops, John!

Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton were in the Senate for the vote, and they both voted for the GI Bill. They have similar plans for getting the troops home: both would bring back one or two brigades a month for, says Obama, sixteen months. Clinton says a year.

You decide: who is supporting the troops?

The Senate, the art of politics, and the DOD appropriations bill

September 19, 2007 at 10:21 am | Posted in Congress, Iraq, Politics | Leave a comment

This week the Senate will consider the Department of Defense appropriations bill, H.R. 3222. As a practical matter, the Democrats will probably try to change the mission in Iraq to allow some troops to be withdrawn quickly without pulling out entirely. If they take the hard line I prefer, there will probably be a Republican filibuster and eventually a presidential veto, which the Democrats don’t have the votes to override.

OK. Politics is the art of compromise, so this is probably the right way to go. But they should also insist on including Senator Jim Webb’s amendment (the one that failed in July) to require that troops stay home for specific periods of time before being redeployed.

Tell your Senators. Who knows, they might have the sense to do the right thing!

Here we go again

September 16, 2007 at 7:30 am | Posted in Bush Administration, Congress, Iraq | Leave a comment

“All we need,” says the administration, “is a little more time. We’re making progress. Things are better now. Violence is down. Just be patient a little while longer”

If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard the administration say these things I could run for president, and probably win because I’d out-spend everybody else. (Don’t worry, I don’t have those dimes and I wouldn’t have the job anyway.)

The thing is, nobody except the administration and a few of its apologists even pretends to believe those talking points. In fact there are quite a few people in the administration who don’t believe them either. But hey, ya gotta make a living, right?

Last week the president, showing his disconnect from reality and his contempt for the American people, said that things were so good we were bringing troops home. The fact is, Mr. President, that almost everybody knows that we’re out of troops, and the troops you’re bringing home have been there so long they must return.

And, again showing his contempt for the American people, the president announced that he was going to keep us in Iraq, dying and getting wounded, past the end of his presidency. That way he won’t have to take the blame for what happens when we leave. He thinks.

But I have news for you, Mr. President. The American people, and the historians who will document your presidency, know that you invaded Iraq without reason, that you mulishly insisted that we stay there until we gained some undefined “victory,” and that you have now decided that we must stay there until you leave office.

The fact is that we have already lost the war we should not have started. The surge is a failure, the Iraqi army is a laugh, the Iraqi police are as sectarian as the population, and even more Anti-American, the government has made no measurable progress in bridging the sectarian political divide.

American casualties have increased every month since before the surge, and the number of attacks on Iraqi civilians has remained flat. Sectarian violence hasn’t really decreased, unless you use the definition General Petraeus apparently uses, and if you do that, criminal violence has increased as sectarian violence has decreased.

The president boasts about success in Al Anbar province, where the local sheiks have joined American forces in fighting Al Qaeda groups. But these sheiks are Sunnis, and they don’t get along with the Iraqi national government or the Iraqi army. In fact US troops have had to physically intervene to prevent attacks on our Sunni allies by our Iraqi army allies. The national government, with reason, worries that the Sunni militias we are arming in Al Anbar will turn into insurgents if and when Al Qaeda is suppressed. But that may be a while: last week Al Qaeda killed the most important Sheik in Al Anbar.

If we stay in Iraq we’re going to find U.S. forces under attack by Al Anbar Sunni militias using weapons we furnished them.

The Government Accountability Office (the non-partisan investigative agency of the Congress) says the Iraqis have failed to meet 11 of its 18 benchmarks for political progress and security. (Under administration pressure, the GAO upgraded its grade for two of the benchmarks from “did not meet” to “partially met.”) The report points out that “the constitutional review process is not complete, and laws on de-Ba’athification, oil revenue sharing, provincial elections, and amnesty have not passed.” It says that “violence remains high, the number of Iraqi security forces capable of conducting independent operations has declined, and militias are not disarmed.” And it adds that “funding for reconstruction has been allocated but is unlikely to be spent.”

Well. We’re not getting anywhere militarily (and everybody admits that there’s no military solution for Iraq). We’re not getting anywhere politically. We’re there only because Bush wants us to be there. And the sad thing is we’re likely to stay there until we get a new president. Because the Democrats don’t have the guts, or the confidence in the good sense of the American people, to do what they ought to do: cut off funding for the war and force the administration to bring our troops home.

Write your senators. Write your congressman. Write the Democratic leadership in congress. Tell them to stop the funding for this awful, unnecessary war.

There’s a link on the right that makes it easy.


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