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July 2010, Week 5

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Sat, 31 Jul 2010 12:04:20 -0400
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Obama Doubling Down on War, with Not Enough Votes to
Stop Him Yet

Despite WikiLeaks Revelations, Congress Votes for War
Funding

By Tom Hayden

TheNation.com

http://www.thenation.com/article/37983/despite-wikileaks-revelations-congress-votes-war-funding

July 29, 2010 - Never was the case so weak for throwing
another $33 billion into the Afghanistan sinkhole, but
that's what a defensive US Congress did anyway on Tuesday
evening, July 27. The vote was 308-114, with Republicans
supplying most of the prowar votes.

Washington-based peace groups, after weeks of e-mailing
messages to Congress, put the best face possible on the
vote, claiming a "significant" gain of fourteen additional
antiwar votes over the 100 cast for a similar amendment by
Representative Barbara Lee two weeks ago. (The new
Democratic votes were cast by Corrine Brown, Kathy Castor,
John Conyers, Rosa Delauro, Lloyd Doggett, Anna Eshoo, Chaka
Fattah, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Hank Johnson, Marcy Kaptur,
Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Gregory Meeks, James Moran,
Christopher Murphy, Carol Shea-Porter, Mike Thompson, Lynn
Woolsey and David Wu; while five Republicans joined the
opposition: Paul Broun, Vernon Ehlers, Jeff Flake, Phil
Gingrey and John Linder.)

Those casting prowar votes from safe liberal districts
included Lois Capps, James Clyburn, Susan Davis, John Hall,
Patrick Kennedy, Nita Lowey, Lucille Roybal-Allard, John
Sarbanes and Joe Sestak. Significantly, Speaker Nancy Pelosi
abstained from voting, which meant retreating from the
chance to draw an antiwar line more firmly.

The highest measure of House opposition remains the 162
votes, including Pelosi's, cast in the House recently for
Representative Jim McGovern's amendment requiring an exit
strategy including a withdrawal timeline. Only eighteen
senators voted for an identical amendment by Senator Russ
Feingold earlier this spring. The dissenting numbers have
almost doubled since last year.

In the moments after Tuesday's vote, a representative of
Barbara Lee's office said new antiwar measures may be put
forward around the defense appropriations bill later in this
session. No concrete plan yet exists.

Those Congressional antiwar votes are in part due to years
of grassroots work and mobilization, according to Rusti
Eisenberg of the legislative committee of United for Peace
and Justice. Is the glass half-full or half-empty?, she
asks. What is clear is that there was never a better time to
stop or delay this war. The political climate around
Afghanistan turned extremely sour in the days leading up to
Tuesday's vote. The Washington establishment was shaken by
the spilling of 91,000 classified documents by the
independent muckrakers at WikiLeaks.org. The raw documents
revealed a much grimmer situation in Afghanistan than
portrayed by the White House and the Pentagon with its
information-war strategy. As millions read the WikiLeaks
revelations in the New York Times, the Guardian and Der
Spiegel, a nervous White House pressed for an immediate
House vote. "We don't know how to react. This obviously puts
Congress and the public in a bad mood," lamented one White
House official.

The president could have declared that the newly released
materials only add to a growing consensus that the war is
unwinnable. Instead he sent his spokesperson Robert Gibbs
out to discredit the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange,
who is fast becoming a hero in the global info-wars.

Gibbs was offended by a German interview with the elusive
Assange, in which he said "I enjoy crushing bastards," a
sentiment that will do him no harm with Assange's readers
and collaborators.

The Pentagon also is seeking to muzzle and imprison the
American Private First Class Bradley Manning, 22, charged
with downloading the documents and sending them to Assange.
Manning, who is known by his hacker name Bradass87, copied
the secret information on a CD labeled "Lady Gaga" while
pretending to hum along to her music.

"I want people to see the truth, the non-PR version," said
Manning. While downloading the materials, he had discovered
"awful things that belong in the public domain and not on
some server stored in a darkroom in Washington, DC.... I
just couldn't let these things stay inside of the system and
inside of my head."

Manning calls his action "open diplomacy.... It's beautiful
and horrifying. It belongs in the public domain." WikiLeaks
founder Assange announced Monday that he has another 15,000
documents ready to release.

For now, funding for the escalation has been salvaged by the
House vote. But the full impact of the documents remains to
be seen. If the Pentagon finds a way to shut down WikiLeaks,
it is likely that a huge media and public protest will
follow. Going forward with upbeat messages about the war
becomes hazardous for Obama too, especially with the release
of more documents threatened. Pressures thus will increase
here and across the NATO alliance to begin reducing the
military presence.

On the very day the disclosures were splashed across front
pages, American officials were quarreling with Afghanistan's
President Hamid Karzai over whether fifty-two civilians were
killed by Western rockets in Helmand Province, a scene of
the current offensive. And, according to official sources
interviewed by Dexter Filkins of the New York Times, Karzai
is "pressing to strike his own deal with the Taliban and the
country's archrival, Pakistan, the Taliban's longtime
supporter."

Instead of bending to these apparent realities, Obama
instead seems intent on doubling-down with the military
offensive in Kandahar and his secret attacks in Pakistan.

No one in the government has found a way to stop him,
despite 73 percent of Democrats and a majority of
independents opposing his Afghanistan policy. By voting for
war funding without conditions, Congress has yielded its
checks and balances function, and now is being usurped and
outperformed in its oversight responsibilities by the
twentysomething geeks of WikiLeaks.

[Tom Hayden is a former state senator and leader of Sixties
peace, justice and environmental movements. He currently
teaches at PitzerCollege in Los Angeles. His books include
The Port Huron Statement, Street Wars and The Zapatista
Reader.]

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