Something happened in Congress last Thursday that most Americans have not heard about. A number of Congress Members, led by Barbara Lee and Tom Allen, proposed an amendment to the latest giant spending bill for the war, an amendment forbidding the United States to establish permanent bases in Iraq.
Both Lee and Allen spoke on the floor in support of the amendment, as did Jan Schakowsky, John Conyers, Dennis Kucinich, Sheila Jackson Lee, David Price, Maxine Waters, Lynn Woolsey, Maurice Hinchey, and the militantly pro-war Jane Harman. That's a lot of speeches. Did you read about any of them anywhere? See them on TV? How about on the radio?
The amendment passed!
Did you read or hear that anywhere? You almost certainly did not, unless you search out information on the internet or subscribe to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Lexis-Nexis database contains most major newspapers and transcripts of many talk shows. I did a search Sunday afternoon for "Barbara Lee." I found four relevant articles. One was from the San Francisco Chronicle. One was Lee's own press release. And two were Allen's press release. I also searched for "permanent bases." Again I found Lee's press release. I also found a story from Agence France Press and two from the BBC quoting the U.S. ambassador to Iraq promising that the United States would not build permanent bases. Neither the BBC nor AFP had anything about the amendment passed by Congress.
If you search for "Iraq" in Lexis Nexis it comes back with too many articles to display. Media decision makers are, to put it mildly, aware of Iraq as an issue in the news. In fact, dozens of articles covered the vote to spend another $72 billion on the war. But they did not mention the amendment.
The relevant reporters had all been sent press releases from two Congress Members and various NGOs, such as the Council for a Livable World, which sent out this one: http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/?q=node/8979 .
The blogosphere was blasting the news all over Thursday evening. And on Friday, the San Francisco Chronicle had the story, in print and online. The article began:
"Washington -- The House passed a $92 billion emergency spending package Thursday to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and for Hurricane Katrina relief operations. The House, in approving the spending bill 348-71, also gave anti-war Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland a rare victory by accepting her proposal to bar permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq."
After a few other paragraphs, it continued:
"Lee's amendment, which would bar the use of any funds in the new spending bill to establish permanent bases, passed on a voice vote, with no one speaking in opposition. President Bush and some top administration officials have said the U.S. military has no interest in permanent bases, the prospect of which is among the causes of anti-American unrest in Iraq. Leaders of the Republican majority also may have chosen to avoid a debate and recorded vote on Lee's proposal because they didn't want to go on record endorsing a permanent military presence in Iraq when polls show Americans oppose the war. Opponents also may try to strike the amendment when leaders of the House and Senate reconcile their bill for final passage. 'In adopting this amendment, we can take the target off our troops' backs by sending a strong and immediate signal to the Iraqi people, the insurgents and the international community that the United States has no designs on Iraq,' Lee said on the House floor."
That's quite a story: an issue so touchy that the majority party goes against its own wishes in order to avoid going on record, and a reporter, with his editor's approval, anticipates that they will likely reverse that position behind closed doors. Won't that be an even bigger story!
Well, no. Not if no one has heard about this one. And not if no one has even heard that bases are being built or that Iraqis are killing Americans because of it.
Maybe the wisest course is to cut out the middleman. Go straight to Barbara Lee's press release for your news on this issue: