War Funding Family Argument

Isaiah J. Poole

A $124 billion war funding supplemental bill is scheduled for a vote in the House of Representatives today, and progressive anti-war members are, for the most part, planning to hold their nose  and vote for it.

It has been a particularly agonizing week for the progressive movement, which has been caught between its passion to end the war and the political realities of getting a bill through Congress. How tough the choices are comes through in a Democracy Now! debate between House Progressive Caucus co-chairman Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., and Campaign for America’s Future co-chairman Robert L. Borosage.

During the debate, which aired Thursday, Woolsey argued passionately against voting for the bill. “It is $100 billion more to pay for the President’s surge for his escalation of this war. There are virtually no enforcement measures in this legislation that will make the President do anything that we’re telling him to do.”

But Borosage argued that there are strategic reasons why a “yes” vote—even though it does not meet all of the demands of the anti-war movement— is a good idea.

I think that isolates the opponents, it allows us to really target on those opponents. The President has vowed he will veto the bill if it survives the Senate. And we’ll come back, and this is going to be a series of votes as we try to put boundaries around and rein in a rogue president who is intent on escalating a war that the country wants us out of. So this is a beginning of a process. I think it’s a moment where uniting the opponents of the war and putting real pressure on those who are proponents, who are for the war, this vote will do that. I think it’s a very valuable thing to pass.

It is an argument similar to one made by David Sirota at his Working for Change blog. In what he called “a memo to the Progressive Caucus,” Sirota takes aim at groups that have been agitating for a non-compromise stand against the war.

… There is no denying that there is a loud, vocal Professional Protest Industry – check out International ANSWER or the LaRouchies for a few examples). As a matter of existence, this industry wants – no, needs – to prioritize the public debate over wielding real legislative power, because that is the niche that makes them relevant. That these organizations have attacked some of the most steadfastly progressive groups for not being antiwar “enough” shows exactly where their priorities are.

But lawmakers are not professional protest organizations. They are elected to wield power – that is their job. To be sure, noise and protest and press conferences can play a key constructive role in shaping legislation. But when legislation in question ultimately comes to a vote, power is wielded with the quiet force of the law, which is why the binding redeployment language must remain, by far, the most important element of this bill to anyone who is interested in ending the war.

Today’s vote is certainly important, but it is a part of a broader battle to end the war and to hold to account those in power who so recklessly got us into it. Progressives have a challenge in not allowing differences in strategy from keeping us from achieving that bottom-line goal.

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