Right and Popular

Tom Hughes of DFA recently sent out a letter asking for direction on DFA's lobbying of Congress.

The subject line suggested that my answers would be known as the "McBride Doctrine" perhaps a play to get a better response, as I am sure there are a lot of people with egos who jumped at the chance to have the DFA policy be known as their doctrine... It won't happen that way folks.

He said,

"March 19 will mark the beginning of a fourth year of war in Iraq with no sign of when our troops will come home. In the last election, we told Congress to change the course. Now, we need to tell them how."
(Tom, it's the start of the fifth year not the fourth)

What Mr. Hughes didn't say is that March 19 will start year five of the war and occupation in Iraq. The human cost is known, yet difficult for most to fathom: An estimated 650,000 Iraqis dead, the creation of 2 million refugees, 1.8 million internally displaced, 82 humanitarian aid workers killed, 150 journalists and media assistants killed. And most importantly to those of us who have loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are approaching 3,500 coalition troops killed, and tens of thousands wounded.

Nor did he mention that the annual congressional budget blueprint sets guidelines but is not binding.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England told the budget panel that the administration's $142 billion 2008 war request is the Pentagon's best estimate but that it "could go up or down" depending on how well the war goes.

Tom continued,

"You are against the war in Iraq. You want to end the occupation and bring our brave men and women home." And then, "Our work led Democratic candidates to take Iraq head-on in the last election and your support created the new majority in Congress. Now, you need to lead the way again."

Since I am still banned from DFA website I can't login to make comments, so most of the stuff from DFA is a bit one sided, their choices and their views.

WeDemocrats.org is not a lobbying group as most so called grassroots organizations are, we are a service organization.

But his questions got me to thinking. Just because we don't specialize in lobbying, doesn't mean we shouldn't make our voices heard. The letters to the editor page is often the most-read page in a newspaper--if they're flooded with our letters, we can really shape public opinion.

A little research turned up some interesting precedents set by previous Congresses.

In the past Congress has chosen among several different policy levers to guide U.S. national security policy as it relates to the deployment of American troops. Broadly speaking, the Congress can:

Condition, limit, or shape the timing and nature of troop deployments and the missions they are authorized to undertake;

Cap the size of military deployments; and

Prohibit funding for existing or prospective deployments.

Since 1970, there have been several instances in which these powers were exercised and passed into law by Congress.

Our Founding Fathers, in their wisdom, deliberately created a system of government containing branches that were both interdependent and competitive.

While the president is commander-in-chief, Congress retains the power (with the consent of the president) to establish the laws by which the United States conducts foreign policy and more importantly, to decide whether the activities in which the president is engaged are deserving of the resources from the American people he requests to conduct those policies.

There were a series of attempts by Republicans and Democrats throughout the 1990s to influence deployments in the Balkans.

I know most were largely unsuccessful on policy grounds, but were attempted by prominent Republicans and Democrats, many of whom remain involved in today's debate on Congress's role in national security policy. What was true then remains true now: Congress has an obligation to remain engaged on shaping national security policy.

October 2002. P.L. 107-243 - A joint resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. Like the Afghanistan resolution a year earlier, the Iraq resolution reflected some changes sought by Congress. For example, the president initially sought authorization to use force "to restore peace and security in the region." Congress succeeded in striking that provision, and made the exercise of the authority granted in the resolution conditional on the president certifying that Iraq would not harm the war on terrorism, but it failed in attempts to insert other limitations on the president.

1. Should Congress limit funding levels to force redeployment?

December 1970. P.L. 91-652 - Supplemental Foreign Assistance Law. The Church-Cooper amendment prohibited the use of any funds for the introduction of U.S. troops to Cambodia or provide military advisors to Cambodian forces.

June 1973.  P.L. 93-50 - Supplemental Foreign Assistance, "None of the Funds herein appropriated under this act may be expended to support directly or indirectly combat activities in or over Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, and South Vietnam by United States forces, and after August 15, 1974, no other funds heretofore appropriated under any other act may be expended for such purposes."

December 1982. P.L. 98-215 - Defense Appropriations Act. In what became known as the Boland Amendment, Congress prohibited covert military assistance for Nicaragua.

November 1993. P.L. 103-139. The Congress limited the use of funding in Somalia for operations of U.S. military personnel only until March 31, 1994, permitting expenditure of funds for the mission thereafter only if the president sought and Congress provided specific authorization.
September 1994. P.L. 103-335. The Congress declared "no funds provided in this Act are available for United States military participation to continue Operations Restore Hope in or around Rwanda after October 7, 1994, except for any action that is necessary to protect the lives of United States citizens."

June 1998. P.L. 105-85 - Defense Authorization Bill. The Congress prohibited funding for Bosnia "after June 30, 1998, unless the President, not later than May 15, 1998, and after consultation with the bipartisan leadership of the two Houses of Congress, transmits to Congress a certification-- (1) that the continued presence of United States ground combat forces, after June 30, 1998, in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina is required in order to meet the national security interests of the United States; and (2) that after June 30, 1998, it will remain United States policy that United States ground forces will not serve as, or be used as, civil police in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina."
In 1998, Senators Warner and Byrd sought to cut off funding for the Kosovo deployment unless the president sought and received explicit congressional authorization and developed a plan to turn the peacekeeping duties over to U.S. allies by July 1, 2001.

More recent supplemental bills for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also contained several proposed amendments to shape the direction of these military commitments. In 2003, Rep. David Obey sought to require half of all reconstruction aid to Iraq to be in the form of loans and Rep. Henry Waxman sought to reduce Iraqi reconstruction funds by $250 million.
In not one of the above cases, did the "sky fall", as was predicted by some of the Hawks in the media and congress.

We should restore veterans' benefits. Put money into services for service members' families. Make sure that those taking the risks are treated generously rather than calously. They've earned it, and we won't let anybody take that away from them.

2. Should Congress set a Troops Cap in a conflict in which the USA is engaged?

December 1974. P.L. 93-559 - Foreign Assistance Act of 1974. The Congress established a personnel ceiling of 4000 Americans in Vietnam within six months of enactment and 3000 Americans within one year.

June 1983. P.L. 98-43 - The Lebanon Emergency Assistance Act of 1983. The Congress required the president to return to seek statutory authorization if he sought to expand the size of the U.S. contingent of the Multinational Force in Lebanon.

June 1984. P.L. 98-525 - The Defense Authorization Act. The Congress capped the end strength level of United States forces assigned to permanent duty in European NATO countries at 324,400.

July 2000. P.L. 106-246 - Military Construction Appropriations and For Other Purposes - Personnel Ceiling in Colombia: "no funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this or any other Act (including funds described in subsection (c)) may be available for-- (A) the assignment of any United States military personnel for temporary or permanent duty in Colombia in connection with support of Plan Colombia if that assignment would cause the number of United States military personnel so assigned in Colombia to exceed 500; or (B) the employment of any United States individual civilian retained as a contractor in Colombia if that employment would cause the total number of United States individual civilian contractors employed in Colombia in support of Plan Colombia who are funded by Federal funds to exceed 300."

3. Should Congress set minimum standards of training, rest, and equipment for any troops sent to Iraq?

Democrats are deeply divided over their Iraq strategy, but leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., want the war funding bill to require that any troops deployed in Iraq be properly trained, equipped and rested.

The conditions could be waived, under their most recent plan, but President Bush would have to do so himself, and report to Congress each time.

"We will fight every effort that the Democrats attempt to put handcuffs on the president to stymie his ability to wage this war in Iraq and to win it," House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio said.

These comments mark something of a role revision for Republicans, who have savaged Democrats for proposing conditions on the Iraq spending measure, saying they were trying to cut off funding for the troops.

The Democrats and Republicans should get together on establishing benchmarks for troop safety, and by doing so would make it very hard for the Hawks to argue that we are abandoning our troops. If Bush vetoes the proposals, he doesn't get any money. This is what should be done, but will it? I have my doubts.

4. Should Congress tie funding to a readiness requirement that the President can waive if he explains why standards can not be met?

By ordering Bush to spend money a certain way and Bush not doing it, it clearly draws the constitutional lines in the sand and forces Bush to enunciate his "unitary executive" theory (possibly in court) rather than his current method of issuing signing statements and more quietly ignoring Congress's directives.

Do I hear echoes of the calls for impeachment?

While I do believe that we should impeach both Bush and Cheney, as long as they can muster the 34 Republicans to forestall a successful impeachment its not going to happen.  Maybe eventually that support will become like supporting Nixon after the smoking gun tape came out. Four months after Republicans' overwhelming defeat at the polls, Republican senators still don't get it. America has had it with George Bush. And yet, the overwhelming majority of GOP Senators continue to do the president's bidding on Capitol Hill.

If the President defies the will of Congress and is using taxpayer money in an unconstitutional manner ("No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law"), then shut down the government (don't pass continuing resolutions) and initiate impeachment proceedings on that ground alone then it might come to pass.

5. Should Congress set a binding deadline to bring the troops home?

What we need is to get activist celebrities like Sarandon, Robbins, Penn, Springsteen, et al to step up and add their star power to the power of our ideas. This would guarantee more media coverage, and that coupled with personal lobbying by not just WeDemocrats but all the people will force Congress to act.

October 1994. P.L. 103-423 - A joint resolution regarding U.S. Policy Toward Haiti. Congress supported a "prompt and orderly withdrawal of all United States Armed Forces from Haiti as soon as possible."

I don't think we Democrats are being looked down on for confronting Bush, but rather because we are not confronting him ENOUGH.

I believe we are in the right on this matter, it is the popular opinion of a majority of the people, what I don't understand is why both sides are NOT fighting for what is right and popular. But hey, we are only the voters and in Washington we are only a necessary evil that they have to pander to at election time.

We MUST organize & empower every possible activity from big peace marches in Washington to small protests in Tucson. This has to be a national effort with everybody behind it from the grassroots on up. It won't work if it's just something happening somewhere else from the top down. People need to see it and feel it in real time where they live, not on CNN. We The People have the power to control our representatives, let's use that power.

In short, I have no "McBride Doctrine" but the above does demonstrate that the president should expect that Congress can and will shape U.S. policy as it relates to military deployments. And that We The People will continue in our efforts to see that these members of Congress do that which is Right and Popular.

Ron McBride
Founder & Chairman
Publisher of WE! The People  online magazine

Ron McBride is founder, chairman and regular contributor of, by and for www.wedemocrats.org. He is the author of numerous articles on Democracy. His writings can be found at www.WeDemocrats.org, at mytown.ca/mcbride plus blogs such as www.dailykos.com, at www.OpEdNews, www.mydd.com and several more.

Tags: Afghanistan, CNN, Congress, Defense Authorization, Democrats, DFA, founding fathers, Iraq, John Boehner, National Security, pentagon, President George W. Bush, Republicans, Tom Hughes, tucson, Vice President DIck Cheney (all tags)


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