To understand just how bad the 112th Congress, elected on November 2nd and taking office on January 3rd, is likely to be for peace on Earth, one has to understand how incredibly awful the 110th and 111th Congresses have been during the past four years and then measure the ways in which things are likely to become even worse.
(We haven't had enough time/space in the last week to give this the attention it deserves - promoted by Paul Rosenberg)
One of the biggest stories of the year is being virtually ignored by one of the most influential media outlets in America. Meanwhile, Iran's government news outlet engages in journalism.
The latest document dump from WikiLeaks would seem to be one of those massive, stop the presses, drop everything and throw all available resources at it stories that dominates news cycles for weeks on end. One of the first revelations was of Frago 242 (a Guardian story describes a frago as "a 'fragmentary order' which summarises a complex requirement"), which directed soldiers not to investigate war crimes that did not directly involve members of the coalition. There are reports that US soldiers may have engaged in war crimes themselves. There are hundreds of thousands of documents and they will take a long time to digest.
The New York Times featured it Saturday. On Sunday it did so again; this time with an accompanying character assassination of Julian Assange, which Glenn Greenwald promptly took apart. While Greenwald focuses on the author of the smear - London Bureau Chief John Burns - in a sense it is a somewhat narrow critique.
It seems similar to how some activists focused their ire on Rahm Emanuel when initiatives appeared to get frustrated by the White House. After all, the hard charging, abrasive chief of staff who draws fire (conveniently) away from the president is a stock character in Washington. Emanuel was hardly novel. More importantly, he was not calling the shots. Anyone put off by him should focus at least as much on his employer.
The same goes for Burns. Whatever journalistic sins and malfeasance can be hung on him (and Greenwald catalogs them brilliantly) the fact is, his employers give him the platform. We should spare some scrutiny for them. For instance, look at the front pages of the Times on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. There is nothing about the new documents at all.
Pretending to end a war and occupation, while stationing 50,000 soldiers, 18,000 mercenaries, and 84,000 support contractors in massive and permanent military bases in Iraq is a far cry from what candidate Barack Obama described as ending "the mind-set that got us into war in the first place." It fits better with Nobel Peace laureate Obama's description of war as "not only necessary but morally justified."
I'm running for Congress against Stephen Lynch in the Democratic Primary (MA-9) because we don't just need more Democrats -- we need better Democrats. And to get Better Democrats, we need to do more to hold those "Democrats" who vote against the interest of working families accountable.
During his time in Congress, Stephen Lynch has taken some pretty bad votes. Whether it was to deny health care coverage to tens of millions of Americans, to send our troops to war in Iraq, or to restrict a woman's right to choose, Stephen Lynch's bad votes have hurt our community -- and our nation.
Today our campaign is launching a new website to get the facts out there about Stephen Lynch's bad votes, and the harm that's come from those votes. After all, if you can't judge a Congressman based on his voting record, what CAN you judge him on?
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.
This world in arms is not spending money alone.
It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
This is not a way of life at all in any true sense.
Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron. ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower, speech, American Society of Newspaper Editors, 16 April 1953
I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity. ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
The United States Military Industrial Complex has might. General and former President Eisenhower understood this. He warned Americans. Abundant might does not make right; it only advances the notion of righteousness. Patriotism is promoted through militarism. His words fell on deaf ears. The sound was hollow in contrast to the drone of drumbeats. At the time, Americans were as they are today; dedicated to the customs we think characterize democracy.
We are spending $2 Billion a week in Afghanistan. If you want to see zeros, that's $2,000,000,000.00 a week. It also means $104 Billion a year.
Meanwhile, we can't afford to keep our education budgets in functional condition. We can't reduce our National Debt. We can't bring down our operating deficit. And we are spending a fortune on foreign servicing (read China) of our debt.
For the literalists among you, I know the Iraq war isn't over. This article describes the cause for how it will eventually end, rather than a "residual force" of 50,000 occupying the country indefinitely.
Still, as the withdrawal continues, and as the Obama administration takes credit for fulfilling a campaign promise by withdrawing, it is important to place credit for the coming end of American military involvement in Iraq where it belongs: with Iraqis. Until the status of forces agreement was signed in late 2008, none of the domestic efforts to end American military involvement in Iraq had any success. Consider:
The wide-ranging protest movement against the war in Iraq from 2002-2005 may have helped increase public opposition to the war, but did not stop or slow it.
Democrats won control of Congress in the 2006 elections in large measure because of public opposition to the war. However, not only did they continue to fund the war without any conditions for withdrawal, but the number of American troops in Iraq actually increased during 2007.
The only thing that stopped the war was the Status of Forces Agreement, which stated no residual troops in Iraq at the end of 2011. The Iraqi government was able to force the United States to agree to no residual forces because the U.S. needed a Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, or else its legal mandate to remain in Iraq would have expired on December 31st, 2008. With that sort of leverage, the Iraqi government was able to accomplish what no domestic anti-war forces were able to do: end the U.S. military presence in Iraq.
So, while President Obama is indeed fulfilling his campaign promise to partially withdraw from Iraq, it is actually the Iraqis themselves who deserve credit for forcing the United States to legally agree to a complete withdrawal. Iraqis are the ones who deserve the applause today, because they are the ones who ended the war in Iraq.
We all know the statistics. Over 4,400 American service men and women killed. Over $730 Billion spent. Longer than American involvement in World War II, longer than the Civil War, longer than the American Revolution, catching up to Vietnam.
We all know what a terrible cost the War in Iraq has levied on us. This is a war that my opponent in the Democratic primary, incumbent Stephen Lynch, not only voted for, but also voted to fund at least eleven times.
Still, as frequently as we've heard the dizzying and disheartening statistics, we sometimes lose sight of the direct impact this war has had on our communities. While we spend some $13 billion per month on the Iraq War, many of our cities and towns face crippling budget shortfalls as we climb out of this ongoing recession.
To make it clear to the families of Massachusetts' 9th Congressional district, I have offered a breakdown of the costs, using an interactive map. If you visit the map on my website, you can see what the per capita financial cost to each city and town has been - as well as what that money would have bought in teachers, police, and firefighters over these past seven years.
Iraq certainly isn't the only issue where my opponent and I disagree, or where he has cast a profoundly bad vote. Stephen Lynch voted for the Patriot Act and its reauthorization, while I believe that it represents an infringement on the civil liberties of law-abiding Americans. Lynch voted for the Stupak Amendment to the health care reform bill, while I am staunchly pro-choice and see the Stupak Amendment as the most profound attack on a woman's right to choose since the Hyde Amendment of the 1980's. Stephen Lynch also voted against the health care reform bill, while I support it because it provides tens of millions of Americans with access to health care, allows children to remain on parents' health care plans until the age of twenty-six, and ends some of the worst abuses of health insurance companies, like "pre-existing conditions" restrictions on children.
There is a clear pattern that, while Stephen Lynch may vote with us Democrats more often than not, the votes where Lynch diverges from us Democrats are among the votes that most shape the path on which our country will head. If you no longer want to face the cost of a bad vote - if you want to elect a Better Democrat - I urge you to get involved and support my campaign.
Senator Robert Byrd has passed away. He was the longest serving member of the Senate, and of Congress, in history.
Possible election in 2010 To morbidly deal with the political ramifications first, due to the date of his death, it certainly seems like West Virginia law states an election will be held in 2010:
If the vacancy occurs less than two years and six months before the end of the term, the Governor appoints someone to fill the unexpired term and there is no election. If the vacancy occurs two years and six months or more before the end of the term, the Governor appoints someone to serve until the unexpired term is filled at the conclusion of the next candidate filing period, Primary Election, General Election and certification. The winner of that General Election fills the balance of the unexpired term. The election for the full term will be held as scheduled regardless of the date of the vacancy.
These provisions are set out in West Virginia Code §3-10-3.
Had he died in six days, on July 4th, there would have been no election in 2010. Granted, there might be some ambiguities as to when Robert Byrd's term ends (since the Senate usually adjourns before Christmas), or when the vacancy is declared (it appears to be at the discretion of the Governor). As Nate Silver wrote last night:
Byrd's current term expires on January 3, 2013.(...)
In other words, we are within a week of the threshold established by West Virginia law. If a vacancy were to be declared on July 3rd or later, there would not be an election to replace Byrd until 2012. If it were to occur earlier, there could potentially be an election later this year, although there might be some ambiguities arising from precisely when and how the vacancy were declared.
Still, with Wall Street reform in need of a vote this week, and with the seat obviously vacant at the moment, it might be best if Governor Joe Manchin were to appoint a successor immediately.
Update--Special election UNLIKELY: A closer examination for the law, and of past court rulings on this law, shows that a special election is actually very unlikely. Reid Wilson:
But a special election is unlikely. State law says Manchin's appointment will be valid "until a successor to the office has timely filed a certificate of candidacy, has been nominated at the primary election next following such timely filing and has thereafter been elected and qualified to fill the unexpired term."
The WV primary took place May 11, making it unlikely that a special election will take place this year. And odd-year elections, used in many states to pick local officials, are a rarity in WV. In recent years, voters went to the polls only in '05, when they voted on a constitutional amendment. No elections were held in '07, '03 or '01.
Because the primary has already occured, the next opportunity to "timely file" will be Jan. '12 -- when Byrd's seat would have come open anyway. A primary would follow in May, with a special election to be held in concurrence with a general election later that year.
There is settled case law on the point. In '94, Kanawha Co. Circuit Court Judge John Hey resigned in April. A local GOP party chairman sued then-Gov. Gaston Caperton (D) to try and compel a special election for the following Nov. The state Supreme Court, in Robb v. Caperton, ruled against the local party chairman and said Caperton's appointee would serve until the '96 election, when the office would have come up for election anyway.
So, there might be a Republican court challenge trying to force an election in 2010, but the very likely outcome is there won't be.
On the prospects of holding the seat If there is an election, whoever Governor Machin appoints will be the Democratic nominee, as the West Virginia primary has already occurred. Democrats hold a 26-8 majority in the West Virginia Senate, and a 69-31 majority in the House, so there is a pretty deep bench, and a very thin Republican one. There is a good chance that whoever Manchin appoints will be able to hold the seat, although it is highly unlikely that the appointed Senator will be a progressive champion.
The best solution may simply be for Manchin to appoint himself immediately.
Remembering Robert Byrd Now, let's return to remembering Robert Byrd. There is a lot to be said about the man, but my fondest memories are from the October 2002 debate on Iraq. Here is a moving speech he gave back then, "I Weep for My Country."
This is an open thread to discuss Senator Robert Byrd.
The oil spill in the gulf continues to create a tectonic shift in public opinion over offshore drilling, making Obama's mid-2008 flip-flop on expanding offshore drilling to placate public option all the more ironic.
From 2008-2010, support for increased offshore drilling was around 2-1 in favor. Polls from CBS, Pew, ABC News CNN and Gallup all showed over 60% of the country in favor, and less than 35% of the country opposed. In no poll was the ratio in favor of expanded drilling greater than CBS News. In two polls conducted in July and August of 2008, CBS found super-majorities in favor, by margins of 64%--28% and 62%--28%.
Just as notably, there is now evidence that President Obama's approval rating has taken a real hit as a result of the BP oil disaster. As such, this entire episode has become a morality play reminiscent of the Democrats who favored the Iraq war back in 2002. With public opinion on the side of conservative policy, some Democrats went along with a war that they thought was a bad idea. Then, only a few years later, that policy caused a huge disaster, and public opinion shifted against that policy. The Democrats who flipped ended up holding the bag, sitting on the wrong side of public opinion and lacking both foresight and principles.
Hillary Clinton's error in this regard is a significant reason why Obama, rather than Clinton, is currently President. Now, Obama's own error is dragging down his Presidency. That is some remarkably thick irony, about as subtle as the message of an after school special starring Ben Affleck.
In 2008 Joe Allen published "Vietnam: The (Last) War the U.S. Lost," which provides a terrific and concise history of the United States' involvement in Vietnam, from beginning to end. Doing this in 200 pages results in a limited history, but the basic points all seem right.
Allen concludes that Vietnam was ended by three forces: the resistance of the Vietnamese, the peace movement in the United States, and the resistance of soldiers in the U.S. military. Because he was writing in 2008 or earlier, Allen compares the Vietnam War only to the Iraq War, not Afghanistan. But many points he makes are, or may prove to be, relevant to both of those current quagmires. He finds the Iraqis, the Americans, and the American soldiers all coming up short in comparison with the three groups that ended the Vietnam War. The same can almost certainly be said with regard to Afghanistan.
More U.S. forces are serving in Afghanistan than in Iraq, the Pentagon said Monday, a first since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and a reflection of the new primacy of the nine-year Afghan war. Using figures collected Saturday, the Pentagon says 94,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan and 92,000 in Iraq. The numbers are expected to rise in Afghanistan and fall in Iraq as the Obama administration shifts the focus to what it has called the more important conflict.
So, no real decline yet. There should, however, be a meaningful decline come 2011. Current American plans (and agreements with the Iraqi government) are to remove all American troops from the country, including the 50,000 that will still be in Iraq at the and of August. Combined with the supposed start of withdrawal from Afghanistan in mid-2011, and by the end off 2011 there should be less than half of the current number of American troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Whenever talk of Israel flares up in the media, my first reaction is to think about Iraq and Afghanistan. Sure, what Israel is doing is really bad (I will write more about that in a bit), but it terms of numbers it is utterly dwarfed by what we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just in Iraq, there were a minimum of 110,000 violent deaths through only April of 2009. This compares to about 1,400 in the latest large-scale Israeli invasion of Gaza. It is certainly crass and morbid to compare body counts this way, as it trivializes very real human suffering. However, the discrepancy is pretty eye-popping., none the less
I guess what I am saying is that while it would be nice if the U.S. wasn't issuing statements on Israel that are entirely out of step with international opinion, the first priority of making the United States a better player in international diplomacy is to stop engaging in conflicts that result in the violent deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Somehow, none of that ends up in the news anymore, as it just can't seem to draw headline the same way that Israel-Palestine can.
Forty-six congressional candidates and 17 activist organizations released a statement on Monday opposing any more funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and inviting more candidates, incumbents, and organizations to sign on. The 46 candidates include 16 Libertarians, 15 Democrats, 14 Greens, 1 Independent, and thus far 0 Republicans (and more may be added to the website by the time you read this). Forty-two are candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, and four for the Senate. They do not all agree with each other on many topics, including their reasons for opposing war spending. But they all back this short statement: