I was on another deadline last night, so I didn’t get to read the news or listen to Air America yesterday. This morning I got an e-mail from my dad saying someone kicked the bees nest in Washington. About the same time, my wife called from the living room asking if I had heard what Pennsylvania Rep John Murtha (Democrat) had said at his news conference yesterday.
But before I get to that, which you’ve probably already heard about anyway, it’s worthy to note that the Bush administration has been “striking back’ at all the criticism about the war from Democrats, beginning on Veterans Day, when Bush went to Murtha’s state and spoke the following words to veterans:
“While it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began… These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America’s will.”
Later on, he said that Democrats that “voted for the war” would now like to rewrite history as well. So I thought I’d go back and take one more look at that “vote for the war,” which I had, somewhat ignorantly I guess, rewritten in my head as an authorization to use force, not really a “vote for war.”
The resolution can be read here, from the White House website, but the important parts are these. Following a bunch of “whereas…” statements comes the real meat of the resolution. I have edited it down, but again, if you question my “context,” you can read the whole resolution at the link above.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This joint resolution may be cited as the `Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002′.
SEC. 2. SUPPORT FOR UNITED STATES DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS. The Congress of the United States supports the efforts by the President to–
- strictly enforce through the United Nations Security Council all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq and encourages him in those efforts; and
- obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.
SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.
- AUTHORIZATION- The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to–
- defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
- enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.
- PRESIDENTIAL DETERMINATION- In connection with the exercise of the authority granted in subsection (a) to use force the President shall, prior to such exercise or as soon thereafter as may be feasible, but no later than 48 hours after exercising such authority, make available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his determination that–
- reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and
- acting pursuant to this joint resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorist and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
- WAR POWERS RESOLUTION REQUIREMENTS–
- SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
- APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this joint resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.
The remainder of the resolution deals with reports that the president must give to Congress.
So it seems as with all things regarding this administration, it interprets these things as it sees fit. While some of us sussed Bush up from day one, it would appear at least half of our fellow Americans could not, and thus might have taken Bush at face value when he went to Congress and said he needed authorization to give teeth to the previous resolutions — that now Saddam would know that if he didn’t get his shit together, didn’t let the UN inspectors have unfettered access to EVERYTHING, that the US military would be on Iraq’s doorstep.
According to this article in CNN, some Senators believed that this resolution was too broad and premature. Senator Robert Byrd, in particular, noted that this resolution amounted to a “blank check.” Just looking at the wording above, I’d have to agree. In the hands of an honorable administration, the resolution would, indeed, seem to give teeth to UN resolutions that had previously gone unenforced, and give a “final notice” to Saddam’s administration that they better let the inspectors back in, or there would be trouble. In the hands of an irresponsible administration however, the wording would seem to indicate that all a warmongering president would have to do to go in with guns blazing is claim that continuing inspections “will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.”
Of course, we all know what happened, but it bears going over for the record.
While Iraq had previously hindered the ability of Unscom inspectors to perform their duties — an act which subsequently triggered a substantial bombing campaign by the US and Britain in 1998 — as of March 2002, Iraq began once again to negotiate with the UN to resume inspections, although it did not allow inspectors to enter the country until September 16, 2002, when Iraq agreed to allow inspectors to return “without conditions,” according to a report at www.armscontrol.org. According to this website, on March 7, 2003:
UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans Blix tells the Security Council that Iraq’s cooperation with the inspectors in providing information about past weapons activities has improved, although Baghdad has not yet complied with its disarmament obligations. UNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors had stated during briefings to the Security Council on January 27 and February 14 that Iraq was gradually increasing its cooperation with the United Nations. Yet, both deemed the cooperation insufficient.
Following this report by Hans Blix, the US, UK and Spain attempted to draft another resolution calling for military action if Iraq didn’t comply with complete disarmament by March 17th. Despite wooing by the Bush administration, support for the resolution failed, and when it became clear that the votes weren’t on Bush’s side, that the world was not yet ready to specifically vote for a war against Iraq, the United States (in the form of the Bush administration) did what any warmongering administration would do — they decided not to bring the new resolution to a vote, and decided that the original resolution — this “blank check” — was enough to allow for the immediate withdrawal of UN inspectors from Iraq, and to allow for the immediate invasion of a soverign nation, one that while not incredibly cooperative with UN inspectors, was allowing them unrestricted access nonetheless.
But for good measure, and to ensure that he’d be able to say that it was Saddam’s own fault that his country was invaded, Bush gave Saddam and his sons an ultimatum before the US would attack — leave Iraq now, or face our wrath. Saddam did not leave, the US “Coalition” forces invaded.
The “blank check” had been written for $500-600 billion dollars, 2000 or more US soldiers lives, the mental or physical wounding of 20,000 US soldiers, and the killing of over 30,000 Iraqi civilians.
So was the resolution a “vote for war?” For those Senators and Congressional representatives that signed the resolution, I would say no, that there was every reason to expect that this was merely a step to put some backing behind the UN resolutions. Why else would there be no support for the second resolution?
But fast forward to this week, and Bush’s speech in front of the Veterans of the United States, where he claimed that Democrats are trying to re-write history. The rallying cry continued on Wednesday, when Dick Cheney spoke in front of a conservative “think tank,” the Frontiers of Freedom. According to this article on CNN, Cheney blasted Democrats for claiming that he and the president misled the country into war. Among his comments:
The suggestion that’s been made by some U.S. senators that the president of the United States or any member of this administration purposely misled the American people on prewar intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city.”
“What we’re hearing now is some politicians contradicting their own statements and making a play for political advantage in the middle of a war,” Cheney said. “The saddest part is that our people in uniform have been subjected to these cynical and pernicious falsehoods day in and day out.”
“The president and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone. But we’re not going to sit by and let them rewrite history. We’re going to continue throwing their own words back at them.”
Fast forward to this morning, when my wife called to me asking if I had heard what Rep. John Murtha had said yesterday. I checked online, and watched his news conference, which you can see here. What I saw was a Democrat talking to the people like a human being, in very plain speech — not posing for the cameras, not monitoring his every spoken word for what could someday be used against him. What I saw was someone finally speaking up and saying what more than half the country is feeling right now — enough is enough. This is bullshit, and it needs to stop. You can read the transcript here. What America saw yesterday at that news conference was an ex-Marine and Vietnam Veteran who is in constant contact with military families. It’s all well and good for the Bush administration to say, “Democrats are emboldening the enemy and demoralizing the troops,” but how do they know? Are Bush and Cheney talking to our troops day in and day out to see how they’re feeling? Murtha has, and he said the following: “I’ve been visiting our wounded troops at Bethesda and Walter Reed, as some of you know, almost every week since the beginning of the war. And what demoralizes them is not the criticism; what demoralizes them is going to war with not enough troops and equipment to make the transition to peace. The devastation caused by IEDs is what they’re concerned about, being deployed to Iraq when their homes have been ravaged by hurricanes — and you’ve seen these stories about some of the people’s whose homes were destroyed, and they were deployed to Iraq after it — being on their second or third deployment, leaving their families behind without a network of support.”
But that wasn’t all that Rep. Murtha talked about. He also spoke about the cost of the war in terms of dollars.
Our deficit is growing out of control. The director of the Congressional Budget Office recently admitted to being terrified about the deficit in the coming decades. In other words, where’s the money going to come from for defense?
I voted against every tax cut — every tax cut I voted against. My wife says, “You shouldn’t say that.” I believe that when we voted for these tax cuts, you can’t have a war, you can’t have a tragedy like we had, the hurricanes, and then not have a huge deficit, which is going to increase interest rates and could cause real problems. This is the first prolonged war we’ve ever fought with three years of tax cuts without full mobilization of American industry and without a draft. On the college campuses they always ask me about a draft: You’re for a draft. I say yeah, there’s only two of us voted for it, so you don’t have to worry too much about it.”
And about the notion that Iraq would pay for its own reconstruction from oil revenue?
I just recently visited Anbar province in Iraq in order to assess the conditions on the ground. And last May — last May — we put in the emergency supplemental spending bill — Moran amendment — which was accepted in conference, which required the secretary of Defense to submit a quarterly report about the — and accurately measure the stability and security in Iraq. Now — we’ve now received two reports. So I’ve just come back from Iraq, and I looked at the next report. I’m disturbed by the findings in the key indicator areas.
Oil production and energy production are below prewar level. You remember they said that was going to pay for the war, and it’s proved to (be) below prewar level. Our reconstruction efforts have been crippled by security situations. Only $9 billion of $18 billion appropriated for reconstruction has been spent. And I said on the floor of the House, when they passed the $87 billion, the $18 billion was the most important part of it because you got to get people back to work, you got to get electricity, you got to get water! Unemployment is 60 percent. Now, they tell you in the United States it’s less than that, so it may be 40 percent. But in Iraq, they told me it’s 60 percent when I was there. Clean water is scarce, and they only spent $500 million of the $2.2 billion appropriated for water projects.
Massive bungling. And already the White House is reacting. Murtha has a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts from the Vietnam War. That doesn’t mean much to the Neo-Cons who claimed that Kerry got his from a “scratch,” I guess. In a statement after the press conference, White House Press Secretary released a statement that read, “Congressman Murtha is a respected veteran and politician who has a record of supporting a strong America. So it is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party. The eve of an historic democratic election in Iraq is not the time to surrender to the terrorists. After seeing his statement, we remain baffled — nowhere does he explain how retreating from Iraq makes America safer.”
Perhaps anticipating the White House’s smearing as a response to his charges, a reporter asked Murtha, “The president and the vice president are both saying it is now irresponsible for Democrats to criticize the war and to criticize the intelligence going into the war because everybody was looking at the same intelligence.” Murtha essentially said, “Bring it on.”
I like guys who’ve never been there that criticize us who’ve been there,” Murtha said. “I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don’t like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done. This is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion! The American public knows it. And lashing out at critics doesn’t help a bit. You got to change the policy. That’s what’s going to help with the American people. We need to change direction. The troops — what hurts the troops are the things that I listed before.
Plain speech, spoken from the heart. That is not only the key to winning back the world, but winning back this country. That is the key to getting our troops out of harms way.
But it’s not going to be easy. There are criminals in the White House who won’t leave without a fight. But the stories are finally coming out. Just today, ex-CIA chief Stansfield Turner declared Dick Cheney as a “vice-president for torture” in reference to Cheney’s refusal to back John McCain’s legislation forbidding torture by US officials. Cheney has lobbied against the legislation, and a statement from his office noted that the United States “does not torture.” It also said that “Our country is at war, and our government has an obligation to protect the American people from a brutal enemy that has declared war upon us.” Cheney wants an exception in the legislation for CIA officers who are interrogating prisoners who might have “knowledge of an imminent attack.” Lovely, eh? So basically, it’s OK to torture people if you think they have information about an attack. How do you know until you torture them? Beats me. I would imagine if you’re tortured you’ll eventually tell the CIA anything it wants to hear, right?
The end of the insanity is nearer and nearer each day, thanks to the bravery of people like John Murtha, who aren’t afraid to speak out, who aren’t afraid of this administration’s intimidation. And when the Senate and House are controlled once again by Democrats in 2006 (2007), the bees nest is sure to be kicked a bit more. Who knows what will emerge? Only Bush and his cronies.