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House members pressured on war funding vote

Several Bay Area House members are among targets of a progressive Democratic phone/fax/email lobbying blitz pressuring them to vote against the $100 billion Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan war supplemental spending bill, even as the Obama Administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi try to whip votes into line for it. From

All 178 House Republicans plan to vote against the $100 billion Iraq/AfPak War Supplemental to protest $5 billion for the International Monetary Fund. That means 39 Democratic opponents could defeat the bill. 34 Democrats on the right promised to vote no, so we only need 5 more.

On May 14, 51 Democrats voted no and 4 Democrats were absent. Most were Progressives who oppose the war funding, but a few were Bluedogs who want to cut unnecessary spending.

Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, already are on the list of lawmakers who’ve vowed to vote against the bill. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, is on the “voted with us on May 14 and still with us as far as we know” list, but I guess they can move her onto the sure-thing list with Lee, Stark and Woolsey now, based on the statement she sent me a few minutes ago:

“I voted against the Iraq/Afghanistan supplemental last month because I have serious problems with the current wars and do not believe that escalating the conflicts make America or the world safer.

“Increased military operations, with the inevitable civilian casualties, only inflame local resistance and increase the number and severity of violent attacks.

“While other items are included in the supplemental – many of which I support – this is, foremost, a vote for or against funding the wars. For that reason, I will again vote no when it comes to the floor.”

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, were listed the same as Speier; I haven’t heard back from either of their offices yet.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, is listed among those who “voted with us on May 14 but now oppose us.” And Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, is listed among the unknowns; his spokeswoman, Sarah Hersh, said McNerney “has received a similar number of calls, emails and faxes on this subject as compared to other major issues. Of those who have contacted his office, there’s about equal support and opposition. The Congressman looks forward to hearing from his constituents on this and other issues.”

Posted on Monday, June 15th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Barbara Lee, George Miller, Iraq, Iraq War, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 4 Comments »

Most local lawmakers oppose war spending bill

The House of Representatives this afternoon passed the 2009 Supplemental Appropriations Act – $96.7 billion in military spending, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan, through Sept. 30 – on a 368-60 vote; the U.S. Senate continues working on its own version.

Most Bay Area House members, unsurprisingly, opposed it: Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma. Voting for the bill were Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; and Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, while Pete Stark, D-Fremont, was absent.

I spoke a few minutes ago with McNerney, who said that as far as Iraq goes, he supports the additional funding so long as President Obama follows through with his timeline for drawing down troops there.

Afghanistan, McNerney said, is “a little bit more complicated, a little more difficult – I’m very concerned about what’s happening over there. … The president has a good team over there and I want to see him have an opportunity to carry out an acceptable outcome.”

More commentary, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Ellen Tauscher, General, George Miller, Iraq, Jackie Speier, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

Barbara Lee/Obama honeymoon over?

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, had this to say today, more than a week after the Obama Administration asked Congress for $83.4 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:

“I applaud President Obama for moving forward to address the difficult situations in Iraq and Afghanistan which he inherited from the Bush Administration.

“As the only Member of Congress to vote against the resolution authorizing the use of military force on September 14, 2001, I believe now as I did then that the resolution gave a blank check for military action not only in Afghanistan but throughout the world in the Bush Administration’s so called ‘war on terror’, and that there is no military solution in Afghanistan.

“Military escalation, which places our brave troops in harm’s way, will be counterproductive to the goal of creating a more stable country. A new direction which places greater emphasis on — and devotes substantially more financial and human resources to — regional and international cooperation, humanitarian and development assistance, and non proliferation efforts is needed.

“With regard to funding for the occupation of Iraq, I have consistently worked on a bipartisan basis to ensure that no permanent bases be built in Iraq and have stated that I will only support fully funding the safe and timely redeployment of our troops and contractors out of Iraq.”

Remember, Lee was an early, ardent supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign; her disappointment at having to issue this news release is almost palpable.

Posted on Friday, April 17th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, Iraq, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

A whole lot of upcoming political events

First up: Me.

California Republican Party Vice Chairman Tom Del Beccaro was kind enough to invite me to participate in a panel discussion on California politics at 7 p.m. tomorrow night, Wednesday, March 18, along with Chronicle columnist Phil Matier, state GOP communications director Hector Barajas and Steve Frank, publisher of the conservative California Political News and Views site. It’s at the Contra Costa Country Club, 801 Golf Club Road in Pleasant Hill. Tickets are $25 each; email or for reservations.

Lots more happening in coming days, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, March 17th, 2009
Under: Barbara Lee, General, George Miller, Iraq, Pete Stark, Political events, Republican Party, Republican politics | No Comments »

What they’re saying about Obama’s Iraq plan

Bay Area House reactions to President Barack Obama’s plan for drawing down troop levels in Iraq were predictably varied, with one major Obama ally’s displeasure particularly unsurprising. Said Congressional Black Caucus chairwman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

“As one of the co-founders of the Out of Iraq Caucus I opposed the Iraq war and occupation from the beginning and have spent nearly seven years working to extricate the United States from this fiasco.

“I welcome President Obama’s pledge to the American people to end the war and withdraw all combat troops by August 31, 2010.

“However, I am deeply troubled by the prospect that President Obama’s plan contemplates leaving up to 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. It is far from clear how or why troops deployed for combat operations will be viewed differently by Iraqis simply by designating them as ‘support’ troops. Ending the war and occupation means redeploying all troops and all military contractors out of Iraq. It also means leaving behind no permanent bases and renouncing any claims upon Iraqi oil.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Administration to hasten the day when war and occupation of Iraq is ended and all American troops and military contractors have been withdrawn and reunited with their families and loved ones.”

Some differing views, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, Ellen Tauscher, Iraq, John Boehner, Lynn Woolsey, U.S. House | No Comments »

Tauscher to re-introduce ‘dwell time’ bill

Continuing the “it’s-a-whole-new-ballgame-with-Obama-in-the-White-House” waltz, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, this Thursday will announce she’s introducing legislation to provide more “dwell time” for troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, to help them recover mentally and physically and give military units time to repair and upgrade equipment.

The House in August 2007 passed Tauscher’s like-minded H.R. 3159. It would’ve required that any regular Armed Forces member or unit deployed to Iraq must then have an equal period of time at home before being redeployed, and that no unit or member of a Reserve component including the National Guard be redeployed to Iraq within three years of their previous deployment.

But Tauscher’s bill died in the Senate Armed Services Committee, and its companion amendment introduced by U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., went down to defeat in September 2007, soon after Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he would recommend a veto, branding it a dangerous “backdoor way” to draw down forces.

Why am I reliving all this history? Well, partly because Gates is still our Secretary of Defense; it’ll be interesting to see what he recommends now, given he’s serving a new President with a new agenda for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Posted on Tuesday, February 10th, 2009
Under: Afghanistan, Ellen Tauscher, General, Iraq, U.S. House, War on Terror | No Comments »

CodePINK’s solidarity with the shoe-thrower

There’s never a wrong time for street theater against the war, as far as CodePINK is concerned, and so the activists who blockaded and protested downtown Berkeley’s U.S. Marine Corps recruiting station for all that time will be back outside the station at 8 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, Dec. 17, in a show of ow solidarity with Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush during a press conference Sunday in Baghdad.

(Didja see how fast Bush ducked? Not bad for a 62-year-old who’s used to having a room full of trained professionals throw themselves in front of him at the first sign of trouble. And, by the way, I can understand how al-Zaidi could have a chance to launch the first loafer, but shouldn’t someone have gotten to him before the second?)

ANYway, CodePINK activists are calling for his immediate release without charges; they even want Bush to intervene on his behalf. (Yes, good luck with that, let me know how it goes.) They’ll march around the recruiting station at 64 Shattuck Square holding their shoes aloft, then line them up for a dramatic tableau; it’s meant not only to show support for al-Zaidi’s act of civil disobedience, but also to represent Iraqis killed, tortured, maimed and U.S. soldiers who’ve died in Iraq, the news release says.

“It’s outrageous that al-Zaidi could get two years in prison for insulting George Bush, when Bush is directly responsible for the deaths of 1.5 million Iraqis and 4,200 U.S. troops, and 5 million displaced Iraqis,” said CodePINK cofounder Medea Benjamin. “The one who should be in jail is George Bush, and he should be charged with war crimes.”

Posted on Tuesday, December 16th, 2008
Under: Berkeley, Iraq, President Bush | No Comments »

The Blackwater indictment documents

A 35-count indictment was unsealed today in the District of Columbia charging five Blackwater security guards with voluntary manslaughter, attempt to commit manslaughter, and weapons violations for their alleged roles in the Sept. 16, 2007, shooting at Nisur Square in Baghdad, Iraq. The defendants are charged with killing 14 unarmed civilians and wounding 20 other individuals.

Here’s the indictment; here’s the proffer of testimony given by a sixth Blackwater employee about what happened that day; and here’s the criminal information to which that sixth employee has pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors.

Read ’em and weep. Literally.

Posted on Monday, December 8th, 2008
Under: Iraq | No Comments »

Oh, so NOW they want an exit strategy?

House Republican leaders sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke yesterday outlining their concerns about the lack of transparency in the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) — the $700 billion financial-markets bailout — even as Treasury officials decide whether to ask Congress to release more of the money.

Such opaqueness is unacceptable, particularly if it is your intention to ask Congress to release the remaining $350 billion in taxpayer funds that were conditionally authorized by Congress this fall. It is our strongly held view that before any such request is made, the American people need satisfactory answers to a number of important questions. While the Treasury and Federal Reserve play different roles within the government, many of your recent activities have been coordinated efforts. As a result, we request answers to the following questions:

    1. What is your exit strategy for the government’s sweeping involvement in private business?

Whoa. I’m all for more transparency and accountability, but I spend much of my day writing so I’m a little sensitive to use of the language, and I think House Republicans should be banned from using the phrase “exit strategy” for the time being, don’t you? I mean, by some estimates we’ve spent well over $600 billion — some say it’s way into the trillions — on the war in Iraq (not to mention the steep human costs), but I didn’t see these same Republicans pushing the Bush Administration for an exit strategy there. I guess big government is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted on Thursday, December 4th, 2008
Under: Iraq, John Boehner, U.S. House | No Comments »

Black Friday street theater in SF

Iraq Veterans Against the War intends to “occupy” San Francisco’s bustling Union Square this Friday, staging an “Operation First Casualty” to demonstrate “the brutal and unjust consequences of occupying a foreign country,” according to a press release.

IVAW members will round up “brave civilian volunteers” and arrest them “in the same style used in Iraq,” the release continues; they’ll be transported to Moscone Center — taking simulated deadly fire along the way — for interrogation, and after that they’ll move to United Nations Plaza where Food Not Bombs will be serving lunch to the homeless to highlight the plight of thousands of homeless vets.

“Our aim is to show the American public the truth of the US occupation in Iraq, and the effects on returning soldiers,” IVAW spokesman Eddie Falcon says, as well as to urge the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq; reparations for human and structural damage done to Iraq; a halt to “the corporate pillaging of Iraq;” and full benefits, adequate health care and other support for returning veterans.

The event is co-sponsored by Veterans for Peace, World Can’t Wait, the International Socialist Organization, Food Not Bombs, Courage to Resist and Students Against War – SF State.

Posted on Wednesday, November 26th, 2008
Under: General, Iraq | No Comments »