Buzz it up on Buzzflash
by Ed Ciaccio
June 26, 2009
There may be many reasons to vote against an incumbent, but surely, failing to prevent thousands of avoidable, unnecessary deaths must be the strongest reason.
As a result of two recent Congressional votes, more Americans, Iraqis, Afghanis, and Pakistanis will continue to die or suffer unnecessarily, most of which could have been avoided if our members of Congress did their sworn duty instead of betraying us as well as the civilians in those three victimized countries.
Just this past week, members of Congress again had the opportunity to stop the Bush/Obama wars of aggression/occupation for resources and hegemony in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and, as in so many instances since 2002, they failed miserably.
President Obama’s $106 billion war supplemental, which included billions for the International Monetary Fund to bail out European banks, generated controversy and intense debate. Most House Republicans decided to vote against it, not out of any newfound antiwar fervor, but only because they sensibly didn’t want U.S. taxpayer money used by the IMF to bail out foreign banks. However, many antiwar House Democrats were torn between opposing the continued funding of our wars and supporting a popular Democratic President.
Obama, through his Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, let anti-war Democrats, especially freshmen/women, know that they had better vote for the President’s war/IMF supplemental or they could forget about Democratic Party help in their 2010 campaigns. Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer disgustingly oversimplified the vote, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also would a few days later, terming it a vote to “support U.S. troops”, formerly the favorite baiting taunt of warmongering Bush/Cheney supporters.
Unfortunately, this hardball prevailed, as 21 previously “anti-war” Democrats caved and voted for the war/IMF supplemental, though 32 true anti-war Democrats resisted Obama’s pressure to vote against it[i].
But they and the House Republicans could not prevent the war/IMF supplemental from passing 226 to 202, with 6 not voting[ii].
Two days later, the Senate voted 91 to 5, with 3 not voting, to give Obama his war/IMF supplemental[iii].
So, after a historic 2008 election which resulted in an overwhelming mandate for change restoring the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate to Democratic control, “our” new Congress voted to continue to fund wars which are not really necessary for our nation’s defense, but which will continue to incite even more hatred of our nation and its foreign puppet governments/allies, recruiting even more terrorists.
If these politicians (for, they are certainly not leaders) truly cared about our soldiers, they would stop funding these illegal, unnecessary wars and bring our soldiers home as soon as possible. But their re-elections, the fossil fuel/global-warming energy resources in Iraq and near Afghanistan (the Caspian Sea), lucrative war industry campaign contributions, and the “Great Game/Grand Chessboard” of geostrategic position/dominance in the Middle East and Central Asia vis a vis Israel, Iran, Russia, China and India, obviously all mean more to them than the very expendable lives of our soldiers, let alone the scarcely-noticed lives of Iraqi, Afghani, and Pakistani civilians who will all continue to be victims of these wars for profit and power.
Never forget the following facts:
– The U.S. bombed, then invaded Afghanistan more than seven years ago (in fewer than four years, the U.S. helped defeat Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan in a world war which killed 60 million people) in retaliation for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That retaliation on a whole nation is collective punishment (a war crime) on a civilian population in revenge for the violent crimes of a handful of terrorists who trained there, but who also planned and plotted in Hamburg, Germany as well as Florida and California, U.S.A. Soon after the 9/11 attacks, when Bush demanded that the then-Taliban Afghan rulers turn over Usama bin Laden (as our FBI still spells it), the Taliban demanded proof that bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Bush refused to provide it, and the U.S. started bombing the Afghanistan people in October, 2001. Yet, to this day in late June, 2009, the FBI still does NOT list the 9/11 terrorism as one of bin Laden’s crimes because it STILL does not have enough hard evidence to do so[iv].
– The U.S. bombed, then invaded Iraq six years ago on the basis of lies, some of them produced by torturing prisoners, finally acknowledging that Saddam Hussein had no connections to the 9/11 attacks and no weapons of mass destruction. This unnecessary war and occupation is an illegal war of aggression, the “supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”, according to Associate United States Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who was the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunal following World War II. In September, 2004, then-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan declared the Iraq War illegal[v].
– The very presence of foreign, mostly U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is the main cause of violence in those countries[vi].
– U.S. drone attacks, which have increased under orders of President Obama and which have killed hundreds of Pakistani civilians, have increased hatred of the U.S. in Pakistan[vii].
– The seven years of our Afghan War/occupation and the six years of our Iraq War/occupation have killed more than 5,000 U.S. soldiers and maimed many tens of thousands more, both physically and psychologically. We now have increasing numbers of Iraq and Afghan veterans abusing drugs and alcohol, attempting or committing suicide, abusing their spouses and children, suffering PTSD, and needing extensive care and rehabilitation (which many are unjustly being refused).
– We know that somewhere between 600,000 and over one million Iraqis have died (in addition to the approximately one million Iraqis who died due to the decade of George H.W. Bush/Bill Clinton sanctions), countless millions have been maimed, and more than four million displaced due to the Bush/Cheney (now Obama) illegal, unnecessary war. There is no agreed-upon number of Afghan dead due to the Bush/Cheney (now Obama) war of retaliation, but, coming after decades of the Afghan war against the Soviet Union and then civil war between warlords and the Taliban, the suffering of the people there in one of the poorest countries on earth has been horrific.
– Top-ranking military officials themselves have admitted that there is no military solution in Afghanistan, yet President Obama is escalating the number of U.S. troops there by 21,000[viii].
As Bruce Gagnon writes:
This vote yesterday ought to be the final straw for people who call themselves peace activists and still remain loyal to the Democrats. You’d think they would have felt this slap up-beside-their-heads but sadly many will go back for more. Those hard-headed folks now hold the key to ending these genocidal wars in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan. Until these Democratic Party worshiping “peaceniks” turn cold on the donkey party I’m afraid nothing much changes in America.[ix]
Or, as Cindy Sheehan asks:
Are you tired of being used and betrayed by Democrats, yet? Like Matt Gonzalez (a good SF politico) who ran a principled anti-corporate campaign as Ralph Nader’s running mate in 2008, asked: “What can the Democrats do to lose your support?” There’s always the health care “reform” that is not universal and keeps the insurance companies and HMO’s in the mix in something that should guarantee health for all and not wealth for a few. Or how about that torture thing? Turns out that Democrats may not have ordered it, but they are sure good about covering it up and protecting those who did order it. I am pretty sure that the rank and file Democrat does support single-payer health care and does not support torture.[x]
And that leads into the other major area in which “our” Congress can do something that would save tens of thousands of lives: expand health care so all U.S. citizens have it.
Right now, 22,000 Americans die each year because they cannot afford health care[xi]. That’s an average of 60 deaths every day. These ghastly numbers put all the fuss about how much it will cost to insure all Americans in clear perspective. That the wealthiest nation in history, with a War Department budget of more than $600 billion (actually closer to one trillion dollars if the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons, NASA’s military section, the CIA, and other “national security” expenditures are included), and with an empire of more than 800 military bases in over 130 foreign countries (costing $100 billion per year) cannot afford to provide adequate health care, a human right according to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to all its citizens, is much worse than a travesty. It is a national disgrace and a very avoidable tragedy (by the way, our next nearest spending rival in national ‘defense’ is China, with a war budget of $65 billion, or one-tenth ours).
As Jon Soltz puts it:
“Let me get this straight. The latest polls say three-quarters of the American people want a public option in health care, yet it’s in question. But, Congress is about to throw $369 million (on a down-payment of $2 billion) for a dozen F-22 fighter jets that even the Pentagon doesn’t want. Oh, and the money for it? It’s coming out of funds that were set aside to clean up dangerous nuclear waste in the U.S.”[xii]
The original 2002 Institute of Medicine study put the figure at 18,000 Americans dying each year due to lack of health care[xiii], but even that lower figure is still horrendous, adding up to more than six times the deaths from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or six 9/11 attacks each year.
And these are avoidable deaths.
Imagine what we would be demanding if we knew we could avoid six 9/11 terrorist attacks each year.
Well, we are demanding something: public, government-run health care that everyone can afford, as current polls indicate[xiv].
However, Congressional Republicans and “moderate/centrist/Blue Dog” Democrats such as Max Baucus (recipient of millions in health care industry campaign contributions) and Kent Conrad oppose a public option, let alone the one system that would give all Americans adequate health care at a fraction of today’s outrageous (and increasing) costs: single payer.
The single payer bill, H.R. 676, in the 435-member House of Representatives, has only 83 co-sponsors as of June 21, 2009. The Senate version, S. 703, has only its sponsor, Senator Bernie Sanders. Yet more Americans, including doctors, prefer a single payer health care system to any other option once they understand that they will have total choice of their doctors and hospitals in such an inclusive system, despite the lies and propaganda from the profit-care industry and its shills in the media and Congress[xv].
These Congressional tools of the corporate health insurance and pharmaceutical industries value their re-election chances due to continued contributions from their corporate patrons more than the lives of 22,000 Americans who die each year, the 25 million who have inadequate health insurance, and the 50 million who have no health insurance at all.
These next few summer months will be the watershed moment for truly universal health care in our country, as the past week was the watershed moment for de-funding our useless wars. Given Congress’ monstrous failure to stop those wars, we must be unceasing in our pressure on, and scrutiny of, these members of Congress who draw their salaries and benefits, including government health care, from our taxes and who claim to represent us.
If they vote to sacrifice American lives in endless, unnecessary wars thousands of miles away or oppose a health care system which would save tens of thousands of American lives here at home, they are most definitely not “our” Congressional representatives in the House and Senate, regardless of their party affiliation and alleged ideology.
So why should we continue to support these callous, corrupt incumbents who take us for granted, or much less vote for them? They have betrayed us for too long. They, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who work against our very lives, no longer deserve our votes. Primary and general election opponents who will work to save American lives by bringing our soldiers home from wars of empire and by crafting legislation that assures adequate, affordable health care for every American are the only candidates worth our support and votes in 2010. These two issues, war and health care, are the pre-eminent life and death issues now, and we must no longer tolerate politicians who ignore our demands on these issues.
Ending aggressive wars which are unnecessary for our defense is a matter of justice for the soldiers victimized by our civilian and military warmongers/profiteers who send them, filled with lies, to kill and die for no worthwhile reasons. It is a matter of justice to the people in other countries, especially children, who are victimized by our warmongers’ dreams of resources, war profits, and global hegemony. Securing the inalienable human right of health care for all Americans is a matter of fundamental justice, especially to all workers and vulnerable people. True justice, which treats all humans fairly and as humans, not as “others/things” to be exploited, is the only sure way to lasting and true peace, as history repeatedly teaches us.
It is LONG past the time for a Justice and Peace Movement independent of ANY political parties. Alleged “anti-war” or “progressive” groups which still ally themselves with the Democratic wing of the One True Party – The Corporate/Militarist Party of Empire – are deluding themselves and continuing their own complicity in maintaining the current Permanent War Economy of the U.S. National Security State. So-called “libertarians” and “conservatives” who continue to support wars for empire and oppose national health care are simply participating in that delusion and complicity.
All those of us who claim to care about others both here and abroad, about justice, and about peace, must become relentless in our efforts to fundamentally change the current pro-corporate, anti-human system of our country, starting with the current members of Congress. We must serve warning, in no uncertain terms, to all incumbents of any political party who voted to continue our useless, wasteful wars, and to those who oppose universal, affordable health care, that we will work to defeat them in the next elections, and in 2012 as well. That is the only message they will listen to.[xvi]
[i] See FINAL ROLL CALL FOR THE HOUSE WAR-FUNDING SUPPLEMENTAL http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2009/roll348.xml and House passes war-funding bill, despite reservations http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/story/70193.html
[ii] See In Congress: 32 Heroes, 21 Frauds http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/43479; In a historic vote, only 30 of 256 Democrats stood against $100 billion for more war http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/06/17-5; and The Five Republicans Switched Their Votes After It Was Over http://campaignsilo.firedoglake.com/2009/06/18/rightleft-coalition-forming-against-blank-check-government/
[iii] See Senate War supplemental passes after photo settlement http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/war-supplemental-passes-after-photo-settlement-2009-06-18.html and U.S. Senate Roll Call Vote on $106 billion supplemental http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=111&session=1&vote=00210
[v] See Iraq war was illegal and breached UN charter, says Annan http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/sep/16/iraq.iraq
[vi] See Attacking Iraq Invites Retributive Violence by Col. Daniel Smith, USA (Ret.) http://www.foreignpolicyforum.com/view_article.php?aid=31, Occupation and Rule in Iraq http://www.globalpolicy.org/iraq/humanitarian-issues-in-iraq/occupation-and-rule-in-iraq.html, The Forgotten U.S. War On The Iraqi People By Ghali Hassan http://www.countercurrents.org/hassan171008.htm, and Will More U.S. Troops Boost Afghanistan Violence? http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103628928
[vii] See Death From Above, Outrage Down Below http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/17/opinion/17exum.html and Pakistanis outraged over continued drone attacks – World Blog – msnbc.com http://worldblog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/01/26/1761106.aspx
[viii] See Stirrup: ‘No military solution in Afghanistan’ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1567309/Stirrup-No-military-solution-in-Afghanistan.html and No purely military solution for Afghan: Robert Gates http://blog.taragana.com/n/no-purely-military-solution-for-afghan-robert-gates-4049/
[xi] See Make that 22,000 uninsured deaths: Uninsured and Dying Because of It: Updating the Institute of Medicine Analysis on the Impact of Uninsurance on Mortality http://www.pnhp.org/news/2008/january/make_that_22000_uni.php
[xiii] See 2002 Study: Uninsured Don’t Get Needed Health Care; Delayed Diagnoses, Premature Deaths Result http://www.thebody.com/content/whatis/art19328.html
[xiv] See Most in US Support Govt-Backed Health Care: Poll | CommonDreams.orghttp://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/06/21-2, Poll finds wide support for healthcare changes http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSTRE55K00A20090621, and In Poll, Wide Support for Government-Run Health – NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/21/health/policy/21poll.html?_r=3&partner=rss&emc=rss
[xvi] To call Congress: 202-224-3121. For Congressional emails: House of Representatives, see http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW.shtml Senate, see http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
To contact President Obama, call Comments: 202-456-1111 or Switchboard: 202-456-1414, and see http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/