Shame: The 'Anti-War' Democrats Who Sold Out
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In a vote that should go down in recent histories as a day of shame for the Democrats, on Tuesday the House voted to approve another $106 billion dollars for the bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and increasingly Pakistan). To put a fine point on the interconnection of the iron fist of U.S. militarism and the hidden hand of free market neoliberal economics, the bill included a massive initiative to give the International Monetary Fund billions more in U.S. taxpayer funds.
What once Democrats could argue was "Bush's war," they now officially own. In fact, only five Republicans voted for the supplemental (though overwhelmingly not on the issue of the war funding). Ron Paul, who made clear he was voting against the war, was a notable exception.
This vote has revealed a sobering statistic for the anti-war movement in this country and brought to the surface a broader issue that should give die-hard partisan Democrats who purport to be anti-war reason for serious pause about the actual state of their party. Only 30 Democrats voted against the war funding when it mattered. And these 30 did so in the face of significant threats to their political future from the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. That means that only 30 out of 256 Democrats are willing to stand up to the war and the current president presiding over it. Their names are listed below; I would encourage people to call them and thank them for standing up and voting no when it counted.
Two other Democrats, not expected to vote against the war funding, joined the anti-war Democrats. Brad Sherman and Pete Stark brought the total number of Democratic votes against the supplemental to 32.
Now, there are many Democrats who consistently vote for war funding, including Nancy Pelosi, but not many of them have such little shame that they dare characterize themselves as anti-war. Remember, 221 voted Tuesday in favor of the war funding. But for those who campaign as anti-war and signed pledges not to continue funding war and then vote for billions more for wars they claim to oppose, Tuesday should be remembered as a day of shame and cowardice. Here are the Democrats who voted against war funding when it didn't count and yes (on Tuesday) when it did--and when refusing to do so might have affected them personally: Yvette Clarke, Steve Cohen, Jim Cooper, Jerry Costello, Barney Frank, Luis Gutierrez, Jay Inslee, Steve Kagen, Edward Markey, Doris Matsui, Jim McDermott, George Miller, Grace Napolitano, Richard Neal (MA), James Oberstar, Jan Schakowsky, Mike Thompson, Edolphus Towns, Nydia Velázquez, and Anthony Weiner. These legislators should be called and asked why they voted for war funding they claimed to oppose last month.
Tuesday's vote came after an intense campaign by progressive bloggers, activists and anti-war Congressmembers Dennis Kucinich, Lynn Woolsey and Jim McGovern to get the 39 Democrats needed to block war funding to vote against it. This was made possible due to a roller-coaster-like series of events in the weeks and days preceding the vote.
The White House and the Democratic Congressional Leadership played a very dirty game in their effort to ram through the funding. In the crosshairs of the big guns at the White House and on Capitol Hill were anti-war legislators (particularly freshmen), and the movement to hold those responsible for torture accountable.
In funding the wars post-Bush, the Obama White House has been able to rely on strong GOP support to marginalize the anti-war Democrats who pledged back in 2007 to vote against continued funding (as 51 Democrats did in May when the supplemental was first voted on). But the White House ran into trouble on this bill because of Republican opposition to some of the provisions added to the bill (primarily the IMF funding) and one removed (the Graham-Lieberman amendment that would have blocked the release of prisoner abuse photos). This created a situation where the White House and pro-war Democrats actually need a fair number of anti-war Democrats (whose votes seldom matter this much) to switch sides and vote with them. That is why this battle was so important for the anti-war movement.
Many Democrats (who may not have necessarily been against the supplemental) were up in arms when the Graham-Lieberman provision (which the White House “ actively” supported) was on the table. Facing warnings that it could derail the funding package, the White House stepped in, deploying Rahm Emanuel to the Hill to convince legislators to drop the amendment, while at the same time pledging that Obama would use his authority to continue to fight the release of more photos: