Monday, June 22, 2009

Shocking News: Democrats put party over principle

Jeremy Scahill has been doing a great job covering the sell-out of self-proclaimed "anti-war" Democrats this week in granting President Obama more than $100 billion to continue his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- wars these same progressive lawmakers claim to oppose. As Scahill notes, 20 Democrats who opposed the war supplementals when President Bush was in office -- and initially opposed Obama's request -- chose to join "the responsible left" in backing the funds not because they had suddenly embraced America's imperial projects overseas, but for the strictly partisan reason that the current president is a Democrat.

Indeed, as Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) told The Hill, she believes "my president is a peacemaker," despite his escalation of the war in Afghanistan and increasing reliance on Predator drone attacks in Pakistan. Accordingly, "I'm going to give him what he wants."

Noticeably absent from Schakowsy's remarks is any attempt to defend the substance of what she was voting for. Instead, it's all about faith in Hope and Change, which Scahill rightly characterizes as the same "Dear Leader knows best" mentality progressives once criticized when exhibited by their conservative counterparts.

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) is another progressive Democrat who backed Obama's funding request for wars to which the lawmaker is ostensibly opposed. Earlier today I asked his office if he still opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and if so, "how does he reconcile voting to fund them, something he did not do back when the president was a Republican?"

In response, I was given this June 16th statement from the congressman:
“I have always opposed the Iraq War and will never waiver in that opposition, but today I voted for the supplemental appropriation requested by the President. I did not arrive at this decision easily, but I did so because the President needs- and deserves- our support on this issue.

“We voted for change last November and it rarely happens as quickly as we want, but we elected a man who opposed the war, but who inherited it when he became President. We owe President Obama a chance to lead America safely out of Iraq.

“At the same time, I am very concerned about escalating U.S. military forces elsewhere in the region and I have been vocal in expressing my fear that Afghanistan could become another quagmire. We must not let that happen.”
Again, what you'll see lacking in the above statement is any defense of the substance of bill in question. While McDermott's fear that "Afghanistan could become another quagmire" is well taken, it's not clear how voting for the money that is enabling an escalation of that war in any way prevents that from occurring. McDermott's entire argument for violating his stated opposition to the wars is that the president "needs" and "deserves" his support, though he never gets around to explaining why exactly that is or why those considerations trump the lives of the innocent civilians who will undoubtedly be killed thanks to Obama's well-funded but ill-considered imperial adventures.

McDermott has opposed war funding bills in the past, in 2007 quoting George McGovern on the House floor, saying "if we do not end this damnable war those young men will some day curse us for our pitiful willingness to let the Executive carry the burden that the Constitution places on us." I also noted his vocal opposition to any war with Iran in a piece last year for Inter Press Service, so it's a shame he chose to sacrifice principle for partisanship this time on such a life-and-death matter as war.

But McDermott was not alone. Courtesy of Scahill, here are the rest of the "anti-war" Democrats who voted to fund Obama's wars:
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.

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