By Dave Lindorff
Laid-off American workers will be getting temporary extended
benefits as the nation sinks into recession, thanks to Congressional
Democrats, who cleverly tacked a funding provision onto a bill giving
the president all the money he asked for (and then some) to fund the
Iraq and Afghanistan wars on out through next June. Veterans of the
Iraq War will also be getting tuition benefits equal to the full cost
of in-state public college tuition plus $1000 a year for books and
When workers pick up those unemployment checks from their state
Department of Labor offices, though, they should see them as dripping
blood. Those checks have been bought with the blood of American men and
women in uniform who have been sent over and over into harm’s way in
those two countries in misbegotten and criminal adventures that have
nothing to do with defending America and everything to do with boosting
the profits of oil companies and defense contractors, and with getting
Bush re-elected and Republicans elected.
Iraq Vets, too, should not overlook the blood on their VA education benefits checks, because their tuition will be paid by the blood of active-duty comrades still left stranded in battle zones overseas.
It didn’t have to be like this.
For generations, Congress has voted supplemental funding for
unemployment benefits to be extended during economic downturns—not
always willingly, but always eventually, following enough pressure from
workers and the labor movement.
For generations, too, Congress has voted for education benefits for veterans.
This being an election year, passage of a freestanding supplemental
benefits bill for unemployment insurance and a restoration of decent
education benefits for Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans would have
been a sure thing. Even Republicans facing the prospect of re-election
campaigns would have signed on to both measures by Labor Day and the
votes would have been there to override any Bush veto. Neither
measure—both important in themselves and badly needed—had to be tied to
a war-funding bill.
But Democrats in the House and Senate leadership weren’t really
thinking about the plight of the unemployed or the needs of returning
veterans in this case. They were, rather, thinking of a way of putting
some “progressive” window-dressing on a war-funding bill that they
wanted to pass without having to take responsibility for it. Their
objective was to push the whole issue of funding the wars out past
Election Day, in hopes of not having to discuss it in the coming
Funding Bush’s and Cheney’s war in Iraq especially has, after all,
become a more and more unpopular and difficult affair for Democrats. In
this last go-round, fully 141 House Democrats voted against further
funding of the war—nearly the same number as voted for it (149). At
first, back in mid-May, the measure didn’t even pass, because
Republicans cleverly joined with the anti-war Democrats in blocking the
measure, forcing Democratic leaders to scramble to round up the votes
to pass a bill the second time around.
Americans clearly don’t want the war to continue, and Democrats
don’t want to have to face the voters, as every member of the House and
a third of the Senate have to do this November, being labeled as war
backers. That’s why they come up with these pathetic excuses like, “I’m
opposed to the war but we have to support the troops.”
Any sentient being in the country by now knows that most of the
long-suffering and abused troops, as polls have shown, think that the
best way to support them is to bring them home immediately. A Zogby
poll of active-duty troops in Iraq taken in 2006 found that 72% wanted
the US out within a year, while one in four wanted all US troops out
immediately. Only one in five supported staying “as long as necessary.”
(With many of those troops on yet another rotation, in some cases their
fifth, those numbers are probably even more in favor of immediate
withdrawal today.) Military experts have also written about how all the
troops in Iraq could be pulled out safely in as little as two weeks’
time. All the Pentagon would need to do is start running a constant
convoy of trucks south to Kuwait, carrying troops and weapons systems.
They could leave the porta-potties, the McDonalds stands, the bowling
alleys, the gyms and the barracks to the Iraqis and then blow up
whatever they didn’t want falling into the wrong hands. It would be
easy and fast. There’s no need for Obama’s proposed 16-month staged
withdrawal, which would just mean more unnecessary deaths and killings.
Democrats in Congress know all this, but congenitally spineless and
devoid of principle, they’re afraid if they don’t fund the war they
could be accused by Republicans of being “soft” on defense—as though
the Iraq War had anything at all to do with protecting America.
And so they have come up with this shameless ruse of attaching a
$95-billion domestic spending package, including unemployment funding
measure and a veterans’ education benefits measure, to a $162-billion
atrocity—a measure that assures more death and destruction in Iraq and
Afghanistan, and more dead and maimed American military personnel.
They’re pretending that they “pulled one over” on Bush by forcing him
to sign an unemployment extension bill and a veterans’ bill, when they
know Republicans would have forced him to sign those anyway, later in
The real joke is on the American people, and on those very workers
and veterans who will be receiving the unemployment checks and tuition
reimbursements funded as a result of this duplicitous tactic.
The $162 billion that Congress has voted for the continuation of
the two pointless and disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, together
with the money already allocated for the so-called “War on Terror,” is
all borrowed, and is a major contributor to the collapse of the dollar
and to the resulting soaring of the price of oil, electricity and
imported goods. It is thus a major contributor to the credit crisis and
the collapse in the housing market that has pushed the nation into what
may be the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.