The stars must have been aligned for George W. Bush last week because, in spite of the unchanging damning and dismal facts on the ground, both here and in Iraq, the Democratic Congress was gracious enough to pass three significant votes to bolster his failing presidency. While Vermonters usually can rely on their representatives not to be dragged into jingoistic, pseudo-patriotic congressional votes, representative Peter Welch managed to pull off a hat trick, voting with the Republicans all three times.
First, we had the Move-On ad condemnation vote. Because Move-On.org had the audacity to run an ad in the New York Times questioning the reliability and veracity of General David Petraeus' upcoming testimony, and using a bad pun to boot, Congress was incensed. Not content with declaiming against Move-On during their alloted speaking time, the Congress members felt compelled to pass a resolution condemning the ad “in [the] strongest possible terms”, forgetting that one of the freedoms that General Petraeus is supposedly fighting for is our unalienable right to free speech.
When asked to explain Mr. Welch's vote for this resolution, an office staffer explained: The Republicans made him do it, they forced a vote, so he had to vote yes! Peter loves Move-On! It was a terrible ad and Peter supports the troops, so how else could he vote! This is not about freedom of speech! It's Move-On's fault!
From the ridiculous, we go straight past the sublime to the depths of a knee jerk, reckless resolution that will have serious ramifications across the globe. Because it was “We Hate Iran Week” in Washington (and NewYork), the House passed HR 1400, a resolution tightening economic and political sanctions against Iran, (although a section disallowing further investments by the private sector in the Iranian oil sector was dropped from the final version). Included in this resolution was a declaration labeling the Iranian Islamic Red Guard to be a terrorist organization. This designation, which Senator Jim Webb called Dick Cheney's pipe dream when introduced in the Senate, lays the groundwork for Bush/Cheney to apply all of the nefarious actions that they have so notoriously used to bungle their efforts in Iraq and on their “war on terror”. Once labeled as terrorists, the Guard, and by extension the government they represent, are, in Bush/Cheney's estimation, fair game for any actions, including military strikes, that they wish to take. This is just the same sort of resolution that the Congress passed prior to the invasion against Sadaam which Bush used to justify his illegal war. And when he attacks Iran, we can expect Congress to cry once again, “We didn't mean to authorize military action, but now it's too late to do anything about it”.
The response from Welch's office? Many members of the progressive caucus voted for it, why couldn't Peter?
Maybe the euphoria of voting with the winning side was getting to his head, because Congressman Welch apparently forgot that he had recently signed and sent a letter to the President declaring that he would not vote another penny for the war unless it included a comprehensive and timely withdrawal plan. Instead he joined the Republicans and voted to fund the war for another thirty days without any restrictions whatsoever. When asked if the thirty days just didn't count, Welch's staffer agreed, saying that the letter was only referring to the longer term defense spending bill coming up for consideration in the coming weeks. So when does spending for the war start to count: at thirty-one days, sixty days? If only we all could operate with such flexibility with respect to keeping our promises and the definitions of our terms.
The Democrats have clearly surpassed even themselves with these actions. All that the Republicans have to do apparently, is to raise the flags of fear and pseudo-patriotism and the Democrats will shuffle quickly into line, reserving, of course, the right to have second thoughts later.
The American people can see through these machinations, it's unfortunate and and to our peril that the Democrats and Congressman Welch can not.