31 May 2011

Kucinich Calls the Question on Libya War Powers

The House leadership has agreed to a vote on House Concurrent Resolution 51, introduced by Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich, which would direct the President, pursuant to the War Powers Resolution, to remove U.S. armed forces from the Libya war. The vote could come as early as Wednesday afternoon.

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08 May 2011

After OBL: McGovern/Jones Push for Real Withdrawal Plan

The bipartisan legislation is unique in that it carries with it the prospect of a roll call, in which every member of the House will have to choose a side: open-ended war in Afghanistan, or a clear plan for military withdrawal?

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25 Apr 2011

An Anti-War Candidate Announces for President

If there is no anti-war Democratic primary where you live, would you consider voting in a Republican primary to vote against the war?

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22 Apr 2011

Barbara Boxer: Champion In The Senate AgainstThe Afghanistan War

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="350" caption="afghanistan by The U.S. Army, on Flickr"]afghanistan[/caption]

If you’ve ever spent quality time trying to move an agenda through Congress, you know that moving an agenda isn’t just about lobbying individual Members. You need a “champion” for your issue. The champion introduces your bill. The champion recruits other offices to sign up. The champion introduces an amendment that carries the same idea as the bill and lobbies other Members to vote for it. The champion circulates letters to other offices. The champion raises the profile of your issue in the media.

When Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold lost his bid for re-election, advocates working to end the war in Afghanistan lost their champion in the Senate. It was Feingold’s office that introduced the bill, introduced the amendment, circulated the letter, led the lobbying of other offices, led the charge in the media.

Now California Senator Barbara Boxer has re-introduced Feingold’s bill requiring the President to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan – a timetable with an end date. So far, Senators Dick Durbin, Tom Harkin, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Sherrod Brown have signed on as co-sponsors of Senator Boxer’s bill.

The re-introduction of this bill is extremely timely and important, for two reasons.

First, the White House is currently debating how to follow through on the President’s promise to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in July. Will it be a mere token withdrawal, signifying nothing, as the Pentagon has demanded? Or will it be a “significant and sizable reduction” that sends a clear signal to everyone in Afghanistan and the U.S. that U.S. troops are on their way out, as the Democratic Party has demanded?

In this context, it’s very important for Senators to speak up. And signing on to a bill that says that the President has to establish a timetable for U.S. withdrawal that has an end date is an essential way to speak up.

When a Senator signs on to a bill like the Boxer bill, that Senator is basically communicating two things: first, I am unhappy with the status quo and I think that the Administration needs more pressure from people who think the way I do; second, if an amendment is introduced that contains the same basic idea as this bill, I am likely to vote for that amendment.

It’s this second function – stalking horse for an amendment – that is the principal reason that the text of the bill matters. Otherwise, the Senators are basically signing a piece of paper that says, “I am concerned about what the Administration is doing and I think that the Administration needs more pressure from people who think like me.”

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04 Apr 2011

Conyers: Congress Should Bar U.S. Ground Troops From Libya

In the wake of President Obama’s decision to go to war in Libya without Congressional authorization or debate, there’s a heightened level of public and media cynicism about the ability of any Congress to constrain any Administration on warmaking in any way whatsoever.

This is dangerous. It’s important for Congress to assert its war powers: important to prevent the U.S. from being sucked into another quagmire, important to build pressure for a negotiated resolution in Libya by shutting down the possibility of further military escalation, important for future efforts to prevent and limit U.S. wars that Congress act affirmatively to impose limits.

Unfortunately, the approach of the Administration has limited Congress’ options. Apparently the Administration does not intend to respect the limits Congress enacted in the War Powers Resolution. Thus, although every measure pursued by Members of Congress helps in some way to limit the Administration by adding political pressure, there is a specific need for measures that can attract majority support: the Administration cannot ignore action by the majority that has the force of law.

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01 Apr 2011

How Many Should Die To Send Qaddafi to the Hague?

Here is a question I would like pollsters to ask American voters about the Libya War:

Is sending Qaddafi to the International Criminal Court a military objective worth having American troops “fight and possibly die” for?

I haven’t seen any pollster ask this question. Indeed, the fact that sending Qaddafi to the Hague is a de facto military goal of the United States in Libya isn’t even being clearly acknowledged yet in the U.S. media.

However, we can make an educated guess what he response might be, because a Quinnipiac University poll recently asked some questions that are closely related.

Voters say 61 – 30 percent that removing Qaddafi from power is not worth having American troops “fight and possibly die” for, the poll reports. They say 48 – 41 percent that the U.S. should not use military force to remove Qaddafi from power. Furthermore, 74 percent of voters are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” that the U.S. will get embroiled in a long-term military conflict in Libya.

This strongly suggests that if American voters were asked, is sending Qaddafi to the International Criminal Court a military objective worth having American troops “fight and possibly die” for, more than 61% would say no and fewer than 30 percent would say yes. Because sending Qaddafi to the Hague is a military objective that includes removing Qaddafi and more.

Yet, with a super-majority of Americans opposed and without Congressional authorization, that is what we are doing: fighting a war to remove Qaddafi from power and send him to the Hague.

It’s very likely that you wouldn’t know this if your only source of information were the U.S. press, which hasn’t been reporting on the divisions among US allies on what an acceptable agreement to end the war would be. But the British press is reporting it.

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29 Mar 2011

Contrary to the President, Removal of Qaddafi is the Military Objective

Contrary to the President’s speech, the military mission in Libya is not limited to “protecting civilians.” The New York Times reports that the White House strategy is to overthrow Qaddafi by destroying the Libyan military. This is of course totally outside the scope of the UN resolution and a complete contradiction to what the President told the nation last night.

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24 Mar 2011

When the House Comes Back, You’re Gonna Get In Trouble

The Obama Administration has four days to put US involvement in the Libya war on a path that doesn’t look like open-ended quagmire. Otherwise, when the House comes back next week, the Administration is going to get in trouble.

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21 Mar 2011

Congress Must Debate the Libya War

If President Obama can bomb Libya without Congressional authorization, then President Palin can bomb Iran without Congressional authorization.

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18 Mar 2011

The UN Security Council Has Not Authorized Regime Change in Libya

It’s a great thing that the Obama Administration has resisted calls for unilateral U.S. military action in Libya, and instead is working through the United Nations Security Council, as it is required to do by the United Nations Charter.

Now, the Administration needs to follow through on this commitment to international law by ensuring that foreign military intervention remains within the four corners of what the UN Security Council has approved. If it does not, and instead Western powers take the view that we now have a blank check to do whatever we want, the certain consequence will be that it will be much more difficult to achieve Security Council action in a similar situation in the future, and those who complain that the Security Council is too cautious will have only themselves to blame.

Some of the reporting on the Security Council resolution has been misleading. The Security Council has not authorized military action for any purpose. The Security Council has authorized military action necessary to protect civilians. It has not authorized military action to overthrow the Libyan government. Clearly, some people do want foreign military action to assist in the overthrow of the Libyan government, but such action has not been approved by the Security Council.

The text of the UN Security Council resolution can be found here.

Here is the first action item:

1. Demands the immediate establishment of a cease-fire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians;

The Libyan government has announced a cease-fire. It is certainly true, as Western leaders have noted, that announcing a cease-fire is not at all the same thing as implementing one. But before Western military forces start bombing Libya, efforts to achieve a cease-fire must be exhausted. To do otherwise would be to make a mockery of the Security Council.

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