Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Brunswick, ME, United States

The collapsing US military & economic empire is making Washington & NATO even more dangerous. US could not beat the Taliban but thinks it can take on China-Russia-Iran...a sign of psychopathology for sure. We must all do more to help stop this western corporate arrogance that puts the future generations lives in despair. @BruceKGagnon

Friday, July 02, 2010


I watched several hours of the "debate" and voting on the war $$ supplemental bill early last evening. To say it was a convoluted process would be an understatement.

Activist David Swanson blogged throughout the vote and this morning sent around a good piece trying to explain the maze of votes that Democratic party leadership constructed in order to ensure passage of the war bill.

"Congress has long tended to pass unrelated measures in combination with war bills, and usually some of these measures, such as funding schools, jobs, veterans care, or disaster relief, provide excuses for some "anti-war" Democrats to vote for the war funding. But including good things with war bills can lead the Republicans to vote No. When they all do that, as they did last June, no more than about 40 Democrats can vote No or the bill fails. Last June, the leadership and the White House were able to threaten and bribe enough Democrats to vote yes on a bill that funded both war and an IMF banker bailout. Only 32 Democrats voted No. On Thursday the House leadership couldn't do that because over 40 Democrats refused to be bought off. In fact, at least 51, and reportedly 80 to 90 had committed to voting No.

"In theory, this should have resulted in separating the pig of war funding from the lipstick of domestic spending. Both would then, in theory, have easily passed the House as separate bills, with the domestic spending facing an uncertain fate in the Senate as long as the leadership over there keeps the filibuster rule in place. It would also have forced the Democratic leadership to pass the war funding with more Republican votes than Democratic.

"But that's not what happened. Instead the Democratic Leadership produced something called a self-executing rule. Typically, the House will vote on a rule for how a bill will be voted on, vote on amendments if the rule permits any, and then vote on the bill. In this self-executing rule, the bill was to be considered passed if at least one amendment to it was approved. Otherwise it was to be considered dead. Either way, there would be no vote on the bill. There was, however, a vote on the rule. But here's the catch: it isn't considered polite and appropriate to vote against a rule, and Americans are not expected to notice how anyone votes on a rule. It's not a bill, but a procedural matter -- never mind if the procedure is to pass war funding without another vote.

"In the end
38 Democrats, including very few progressives, voted No on the rule, which passed 215 to 210. That's suspiciously close, and suggests that the leadership permitted those votes but no more."

According to the Washington Post:

"And before they approved the war funding, a block of Democrats insisted on holding votes on a series of measures to show their disapproval of the war.

"One hundred fifty-three House Democrats and nine Republicans voted for an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), that would require Obama to present a plan by next April for the 'safe, orderly and expeditious redeployment of U.S. troops' and allow a vote in Congress to stop additional war funding if withdrawal does not start by next July, the time administration officials have said they will start reducing forces in Afghanistan.

"Ninety-three Democrats, along with seven Republicans, backed an even more restrictive amendment from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) that would allow the war funds to be spent only on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan."

Neither of those anti-war amendments passed because many Democrats and Republicans joined together to defeat them.

Here in Maine our two members of the House of Representatives voted against the war funding bill (and the rule) which is a big victory for our Bring Our War $$ Home campaign.

But we still have much work to do. We have two Republican senators in Maine and have to work on them next. But first we must convince our two Democrat members of the House that they must take an active leadership role in further educating Mainers about the costs of war to our state. They could play a key part in helping move the public consciousness to the point that our Republican senators must move against further war spending.

We either work together to make this happen or it goes no where. One good vote does not end an expensive and immoral war. Cooperation, good planning, and hard work is the only way out of Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan. The sooner we get started the better.


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