The question UFPPC asked on Jan. 4, 2007  --  "What's the matter with Congress?"  --  poses itself still more insistently some 345 days later, the day after Reuters reported that the U.S. Congress "authorized more Iraq war spending on Friday, sending President George W. Bush a defense bill requiring no change in strategy after failing again to impose a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawals."[1]  --  Only three senators voted against HR 1585, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008:  Robert Byrd (D-WV), Russell Feingold, (D-WI), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).  --  The seven senators not voting  --  Joseph Biden, Barbara Boxer, Hillary Clinton, Christopher Dodd, Daniel Inouye, Barack Obama, and John McCain  --  included five presidential contenders.  --  When Daniel Ellsberg spoke in Tacoma in January 2007 in support of Lt. Ehren Watada, he said that the U.S. Constitution was written to stop just such an enterprise as the Iraq war and occupation.  --  Yet Congress votes to keep it going, in defiance of the wishes of about two thirds of the American public.  --  The Democratic leadership even fails to acknowledge its own failure:  "'The effort (to change course in Iraq) is not over,' Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said after the vote," Susan Cornwell reported.  "But he did not know what the next step in that struggle would be."  --  This failure to put an end to what is a demonstrably illegal aggression against a non-threatening nation that violates both international and the law of the United States constitutes a profound crisis of the Republic.  --  In the minds of many, such a crisis legitimates calls for civil resistance like the one issued last month by law professor Francis Boyle.  --  The blogger knowns as "The Common Ills" noted that there have been "885 [U.S. military] deaths [in Iraq] since Pelosi became the Speaker of the House and Harry Reid became the Senate Majority Leader.  When voters gave Dems control of both houses in the November 2006 elections, they weren't saying, 'Dilly-dally around and do con jobs on us while nearly 900 US service members die in an illegal war.'  They were saying 'END THE WAR!'"  --  And quotes Ron Jacobs:  "The men and women calling themselves Democrats and sitting in Congress are the biggest bunch of liars this country has ever seen.  Given today's political situation, what with Bush and Cheney running the White House, that's a pretty big claim to make.  Unfortunately for those who believed those men and women might actually stop the war in Iraq and begin getting the US military out of there, this is the only conclusion one can make.  I mean, take a look.  There are more troops in Iraq now than there were when the Democrats won (yeah, won) both houses of Congress a little over a year ago.  If my calculations are correct, more than $100 billion have been spent to keep those troops there, keep them in supplies both lethal and otherwise, and to top it off, more troops have died since those elected 'representatives' took their places than in any other year of this loathsome war and occupation.  Add to this list of calamities the untold numbers of Iraqis killed, wounded, and uprooted from their homes.  No matter how you look at it, there is no way this can be called ending the war.  In fact, not only could it be called enabling this debacle to continue, the more truthful description would be to call what the Democrats have done is conspire to commit murder."   --  What is the matter with Congress? ...


By Susan Cornwell

December 14, 2007

WASHINGTON -- The Democratic-led Congress authorized more Iraq war spending on Friday, sending President George W. Bush a defense bill requiring no change in strategy after failing again to impose a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawals.

The defense policy bill, approved 90-3 by the U.S. Senate, also expanded the size of the U.S. Army and set conditions on the Bush administration's plan to build a missile defense system in Europe.

The measure already had passed the House of Representatives and now goes to Bush, who is expected to sign it into law. It authorizes Pentagon programs expected to cost $506.9 billion during fiscal 2008, which began in October.

The bill authorized another $189.4 billion for the Iraq and Afghan wars, for which Congress has already approved some $600 billion. But it does not deliver the new money. That is done by appropriations legislation at the center of a big dispute on Capitol Hill.

Democratic efforts to amend the defense policy legislation to change course in Iraq passed the House of Representatives but failed several times this year in the narrowly divided Senate.

Republicans, who used procedural rules to block the pullout plans each time they came up, were happy with the result.

"I was pleased to see . . . no policy changes to the Petraeus plan," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, referring to U.S. Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus whose plan for a temporary boost in U.S. troops in Iraq has been credited with reducing violence.

"The effort (to change course in Iraq) is not over," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said after the vote. But he did not know what the next step in that struggle would be.

Senate Republicans are expected to try next week to appropriate $70 billion to fund the war until well into next year. The Pentagon has said the Army will run out of cash for the war in mid-February.

The defense policy legislation expands the Army by 13,000 soldiers to 525,400 in 2008. It also provides 25,000 more U.S. immigrant visas over five years for Iraqis who worked for the United States and whose lives are now in danger.

The legislation placed conditions on Bush's plan to build a missile defense system in Europe. It stipulates that Poland and the Czech Republic must give "final approval" -- which Levin says means parliamentary approval -- to any deal before the project can go ahead.

It also bars funds from being spent on the missile shield until the secretary of defense certifies to Congress that the system would actually work. The White House wants to build the missile shield to counter what it has described as a possible threat from a "rogue state" like Iran.

The bill lays out a road map of military priorities, and directs weapons acquisition programs. Legislators earlier removed some provisions of the bill that Bush had objected to, including a nonmilitary measure to expand protections against hate crimes in the United States.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said it was important to speed the military's growth without letting recruiting standards slip. Presently, he said, "We're taking people into the military that we never dreamed of taking in a few years ago," including some with criminal records.

The legislation includes a 3.5 percent pay raise for the military. In response to complaints, it enhances veterans' health care, expanding treatment for brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, and assuring speedy mental health evaluations.

(Editing by David Alexander)