Swarming Congress: Building a Resistance to the 2008 Iraq War Supplemental Funding Bill
By JEFF LAYS
On August 6, Congress begins its month long recess. August 6 also marks the start of Year 62 After Hiroshima-the one and only time that nuclear weapons were used. And it marks Year 17 After Iraq Sanctions, when the brutal economic sanctions regime against Iraq was first imposed by the international community.
On August 6, the Occupation Project will launch a reinvigorated campaign of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience / civil resistance to end Iraq war funding. Office occupations-both legal and extralegal-will commence at the offices of Representatives and Senators who refuse to publicly pledge to vote against any additional funding of the Iraq war. Occupations will continue at least through the end of September. The Occupation Project will work in conjunction with campaigns organized by Declaration of Peace, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, CODEPINK, Veterans for Peace, Grassroots America for Us and others.
The hottest weather of the year occurs in August. Let us commit to creating the hottest political weather: focused upon Congress to force an end to the Iraq war. Let us commit to forcing Congress to vote down the $145 billion being sought in supplemental spending to wage the Iraq – Afghanistan war through September of 2008. Let us commit to forcing Congress to force the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of this year.
Let us commit to using every nonviolent means at our disposal to defeat the Iraq war supplemental spending bill for 2008 and to bring every U.S. soldier home from Iraq by the end of this year.
Last fall, in Panora, Iowa social justice advocates discussed ways to bring the occupation of Iraq home to the offices of Representatives and Senators. The Occupation Project grew from these discussions. From February 5 through Tax Day, over 320 arrests occurred at the offices of 39 Representatives and Senators across the country. 15 of the 39 voted against the final Iraq war supplemental spending bill that Congress passed in May. 14 of the 15 who voted against the final bill had voted in favor of the Iraq war spending bill last year. Actions occurred at the offices of both Republicans and Democrats-challenging the reality that both parties are responsible for the ongoing war.
Meanwhile, sustained campaigns of office occupations that did not result in arrests took place in such diverse locations as Nashville, Tennessee (the birthplace of the Occupation Project); Huntsville, Alabama; Seattle, Washington; San Francisco, California; and across the state of Minnesota. Social justice advocates entered the offices on a weekly basis (and, in the case of Sacramento, CA, on a daily basis) and occupied the offices, pressing the demand that the Representative or Senator commit to voting against any additional funding for the war.
These next three months are critical to ending the war in and occupation of Iraq. Through the end of July, Grassroots America for Us is organizing the Swarm on Congress, intensive and extensive lobbying on Capitol Hill. In August, we must turn up the heat on Representatives and Senators while they are in their home districts and states for the month long recess.
In early September, General Petraeus will report to Congress on the progress-or lack thereof-that is being made in Iraq. Shortly after, the House will vote on HR 2451 as an amendment to the Iraq – Afghanistan war supplemental spending bill. Next the House will vote on the final version of the $145 billion war supplemental for FY 2008, and send it to the Senate for consideration. It will be a one-two punch vote. It is entirely probable that the final version of the supplemental spending bill will not be publicly available until less than 24 hours prior to the vote (the final version of the supplemental passed in May was not publicly available until the morning of the vote).
H.R. 2451 (sponsored by David Obey and Jim McGovern) requires that the redeployment of U.S. forces out of Iraq begin within 90 days of enactment. The partial redeployment is to be completed by June 30, 2008.
HR 2451 will keep U.S. troops in Iraq to: protect the U.S. embassy and diplomatic personnel; protect U.S. forces remaining in Iraq; engage in “target special actions limited in duration and scope to killing or capturing members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations with global reach”; and to train and equip the Iraqi Security Forces. Erik Leaver of the Institute for Policy Studies examined nearly identical language in March 2007 and concluded that it would allow for upwards of 40,000 to 60,000 U.S. troops to remain in Iraq.
Our demand must remain clear: end all funding for the Iraq war and withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of this year. The language of HR 2451 is not sufficient.
And what of the argument that a vote against the $145 billion supplemental spending for 2008 will further endanger the well-being of U.S. troops currently deployed in Iraq? U.S. troops will not be in danger when the U.S. withdraws the troops from Iraq. $36 billion of this $145 billion will be for the procurement of ammunition, weapons systems and combat vehicles that will not be delivered to the military until 1 to 3 years has passed. The Army seeks $46 billion for “operations and maintenance” to fund its actions at current levels through September 30, 2008-a sure way to place U.S. soldiers and Iraqi citizens in further danger. (see “Iraq and Afghanistan Supplemental Spending 2008” at for an in-depth analysis of the 2008 war funding request).
Recall that the President is seeking $482 billion for the baseline military budget for 2008. That’s an 11 percent increase over the current year’s budget-and nearly 62% more than was spent on the military in 2001. The money is clearly available to safely and quickly withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of this year.
It is easy to be discouraged and lose heart after Congress passed the Iraq war bill in May. It is easy to be tempted to give up completely on the legislative process.
But giving up on the legislative process is, indeed, the easy route to take. It is the route that ensures that the Iraq war will continue as a war without end.
Instead, we should intensify our legal and extralegal lobbying efforts. We should recognize that nearly twice as many Representatives voted against the supplemental this year than last year and that, for the first time, Senators voted against an Iraq war supplemental spending bill because of their opposition to the war’s continuation (Arlen Specter voted against the supplemental in 2006 was because he did not believe it provided sufficient funds for a medical program). We should maintain pressure upon those Representatives and Senators who voted against the final war supplemental spending bill-working to ensure that they again vote against war funding this fall.
We should also recognize that the only way that this war will be ended is if we organize to exert sufficient pressure on Republicans and Democrats to force an end to war funding. With this in mind, we should recognize the tricks of the parliamentary trade and demand that David Obey and Nancy Pelosi do more to end the war. But we should also recognize that had Obey bottled up the war supplemental in committee or Pelosi refused to allow a floor vote, Jerry Lewis (as ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee) would have submitted his own version of a war supplemental and obtained 218 signatures on a discharge petition to force his version to be voted upon in the House.
Ending the war requires pressure on both Democrats and Republicans-both via legal lobbying and nonviolent civil disobedience / resistance.
Multiple efforts and allied campaigns are underway to force an end to the war in and occupation of Iraq. Become engaged with these efforts and organize locally.
· Join the efforts of the Swarm on Congress, an intensive and extensive lobbying effort in Washington, D.C. through the end of July initiated by Grassroots America for Us
· Organize local actions with the Occupation Project campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience / civil resistance / office occupations to demand that Representatives and Senators vote to end to all funding for the Iraq war. A reinvigorated campaign will be launched on August 6 to continue through the vote on war funding in September. Get involved at http://vcnv.org/project/the-occupation-project. You can contact the Occupation Project via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for suggestions and advice on how to organize a local Occupation Project campaign. Resources including voting records, legal information, etc. are available on this website.
· CODEPINK’s work includes the Occupation Project and the Don’t Buy Bush’s War campaigns (among other critical work to end the war).
· Join the Declaration of Peace campaign efforts. DoP will be lobbying Representatives and Senators through the summer, culminating with a week of actions nationally during the critical week of September 14 to 21. Visit www.declarationofpeace.org.
· Participate in the efforts of the National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR) as it challenges the war in Iraq through nonviolent direct action. NCNR has organized actions at military recruiting centers, Congressional offices, the Pentagon and weapons manufacturers. Visit www.iraqpledge.org.
· Participate in the legislative network of United for Peace and Justice as well as its nonviolent direct action working group to force an end to the war. Visit www.unitedforpeace.org.
Time is short to end funding for the Iraq war. And the costs are immeasurably high each day that the war continues. Much organizing work remains to be done.
Break time is over.
Jeff Leys is Co-Coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and a national organizer with the Occupation Project campaign. He can be reached via email, email@example.com.