May 2011

Kucinich Calls the Question on Libya War Powers

Last week, voting on amendments on the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, the House of Representatives began taking action to limit U.S. military involvement in Libya's civil war.

Now the House leadership has agreed to a vote on House Concurrent Resolution 51, introduced by Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich, which would direct the President, pursuant to the War Powers Resolution, to remove U.S. armed forces from the Libya war. The vote could come as early as Wednesday afternoon.

The U.S. military intervention in Libya was never authorized by Congress, and thus violates U.S. law and the U.S. Constitution.

Some have argued that other Presidents have violated the War Powers Resolution, therefore it is no big deal. This is a breathtaking argument on its face: "everyone breaks the law." But moreover, as the New York Times noted on May 25:

 

many presidents, citing their power as commander in chief, have bypassed a section that says they need prior Congressional authorization to deploy forces into hostilities, except if the country is under attack. But there is far less precedent of presidents' challenging another section that says they must terminate any still-unauthorized operations after 60 days. In 1980, the Justice Department concluded that the deadline was constitutional. [my emphasis]

On May 20, the New York Times reported, referring to the 1980 Justice Department memorandum,

 

Report-Backs on H. Con. Res. 51 Call-In

Thanks so much to all of who called your Representative concerning H. Con. Res. 51!

[Update by KG, 3:22 PM] While H. Con. Res. 51 did not pass, 148 members of Congress supported Kucinich's resolution that would have directed the President to remove U.S. armed forces from Libya, pursuant to the War Powers Act. 265 members of Congress voted against the measure while 19 did not vote. You can check to see how your member of Congress voted here.

Please take a moment to report your call by posting a comment on this page. We provided a sample call script below.

Call Script for H. Con. Res. 51

1. The Congressional switchboard is 202-225-3121.
2. Ask to be transferred to your Rep's office.
3. Ask to speak to the staff person who handles foreign or military affairs. If you can't speak with this person, just leave a message with the individual who answered the phone.
4. Say, "I urge Rep. __ to vote yes on H. Con. Res. 51, which would direct the President to remove U.S. military forces from the Libya conflict, pursuant to the War Powers Resolution."
5. When you're done, please take a moment and report your call by posting a comment below.

Egypt Opens Rafah Crossing: This Is What Democracy Looks Like

There was a slogan on the streets of Seattle: "This is what democracy looks like." You can't love democracy and denigrate protest, because protest is part of democracy. It's a package deal.

Likewise, you can't claim solidarity with Egyptian protesters when they take down a dictator, but act horrified that the resulting government in Egypt, more accountable to Egyptian public opinion, is more engaged in supporting Palestinian rights. It's a package deal.

On Saturday, at long last, the Egyptian government "permanently opened" the Egypt-Gaza passenger crossing at Rafah. A big part of the credit for this long-awaited development belongs to Tahrir. It was the Tahrir uprising that brought about an Egyptian government more accountable to public opinion, and it was inevitable that an Egyptian government more accountable to public opinion would open Rafah, because public opinion in Egypt bitterly opposed Egyptian participation in the blockade on Gaza.

In addition, opening Rafah was a provision of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation accord brokered by the Egyptian government - an achievement facilitated by the fact that the post-Tahrir Egyptian government was more flexible in the negotiations with Hamas that led to the accord.

Mubarak had a deal with the U.S. government: I obey all your commands on the Israel-Palestine issue, and in exchange, you shut your mouth about human rights and democracy. Tahrir destroyed this bargain, because it forced the U.S. to open its mouth about human rights and democracy in Egypt, regardless of Egypt's stance on Israel-Palestine. When it became clear to Egypt's rulers that subservience to the U.S. on Israel-Palestine would no longer purchase carte blanche on human rights and democracy, there was no reason to slavishly toe the U.S. line on Israel-Palestine anymore.

Asserting War Powers, House Moves To End Afghanistan, Libya Wars

Voting on amendments on the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, the House of Representatives took action to hasten the end of the wars in Afghanistan and Libya.

Afghanistan

By a 204-215 vote [roll call] - six switchers would have passed the amendment - the House narrowly failed to adopt a bipartisan amendment from Reps. Jim McGovern [D-MA] and Justin Amash [R-MI] that would have required the Department of Defense to develop a plan for an "accelerated transition of military operations to Afghan authorities."

It may seem counter-intuitive to count narrowly failing to adopt an amendment as "taking an action," but in terms of consequences, it is taking action. Getting more than 200 votes sends a signal to the White House: if you don't move - for example, by announcing a significant drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan this summer - you could lose the next vote in the House. And if the Administration lost a vote in the House on the Afghanistan war, you can bet that would be front-page news in Europe, weakening the Administration's case to the Europeans for continuing the status quo. It seems likely that the Administration will want to stay one step ahead of the House, rather than face a public defeat. That points toward an accelerated drawdown this year.

If 204 Members were willing to vote yes, it seems extremely likely that 6 House Members who voted no gave a yes vote serious consideration. Indeed, The Hill reports:

 

NDAA amendments of interest approved by Rules

The NDAA amendments approved by the Rules Committee are posted here:

http://democrats.rules.house.gov/112/rule/112_hr1540_rule2.pdf

Unfortunately, this document is not searchable.

So, I made another document, a Word file, with just the amendments I thought were of particular interest, marking them STRONGLY SUPPORT, SUPPORT, or OPPOSE. "Strongly Support" means we put it in our action alert: the McGovern-Jones amendment requiring a plan for accelerated withdrawal with an end date; the Conyers amendment barring ground troops from Libya (which, by the way, has quite a few co-sponsors); the Amash-Lee amendment striking the "permanent war" authorization.

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/sites/default/files/interesting_amendme...

Days of Decision on Ending the Wars

If you don't see yourself as the sort of person who calls your representatives in Congress and urges them to vote to end the war in Afghanistan, stand up and take a bow. This is your moment of special recognition. The American peace movement is calling on you - you - to call your representatives in Congress now to urge votes against the wars, and we want you to do this so badly that the Friends Committee on National Legislation has established a toll-free number for you to reach your Representative: 1-888-231-9276.

The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act is expected on the floor of the House this week, and the House is expected to consider, among others, amendments to limit and end the war in Afghanistan, to limit and end the war in Libya, and to strip from the bill the "permanent war" authorization inserted by Rep. McKeon. Voting on these amendments may happen as early as Wednesday afternoon, eastern time.

A suggested call script, with information on many proposed amendments, is here. If your schedule doesn't permit you to call, you can write here.

Polls show that America - Blue America, Red America, and Purple America - is done with these wars. But the wars grind on.

One reason that these wars grind on is that while Members of Congress do obviously care about polls, polls are not all they look at to gauge public opinion. They want to know what people in their particular district think, and they want to know not only where the majority of opinion lies, but the intensity with which people hold their views. It's one thing to say that the majority wants to end the wars; it's another thing to say that the majority wants to end the wars, and furthermore, people in my district see this as a priority.

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JFP 5/23: Obama Challenges Israel; Afghanistan call-in day tomorrow

Just Foreign Policy News
May 23, 2011

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I) Actions and Featured Articles

Pentagon Authorization Before Congress This Week

This week, the House is expected to debate and vote on the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) - the bill authorizing spending for the Pentagon. The House is expected to consider amendments to the NDAA that would push towards ending the wars in Afghanistan and Libya, as well as to strip McKeon's "permanent war" authorization language from the NDAA. Many groups working to end the war in Afghanistan have set a call-in day to Congress for Tuesday. We will send out an alert Tuesday morning; please make a note in your calendar that you are going to call Congress tomorrow. We may have access to a toll-free number; in any event, the Congressional switchboard is 202-225-3121. McGovern and Lee are expected to introduce amendments against the Afghanistan war; Conyers and Kucinich are likely to introduce measures limiting or ending the war in Libya. Look for our alert Tuesday morning.

DC Union Station FlashMob: "Move Over AIPAC"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=V7pU5aZmYbM

Why We Sail To Gaza

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Latest on National Defense Authorization Act Amendments

The list of amendments that will be introduced for the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act is not yet finalized or complete, so we will be updating this blog as more information comes out of Congress. The issue is expected to be taken up on the floor Wednesday. We encourage you to make your call as soon as possible, but if you plan to call later, please check back here before doing so.

Updates

[update by MI Thursday 2:29 pm ET: The votes are in on the three key amendments we've been following. Here are the results with vote counts:

Conyers (Amdt #35): PASSED. 416 yeas, 5 nays.
Amash-Lee (Amdt #155): DID NOT PASS. 187 yeas, 234 nays.
McGovern-Jones (Amdt #30): DID NOT PASS. 204 yeas, 215 nays.

We'll have further analysis soon.]

[update by KG Tuesday 8:50 pm ET: The following amendments will be brought to the floor for a vote: McGovern/Jones exit strategy (Amdt # 30), Amash-Lee amendment to cut out authorization for permanent war (Amdt #155), and the Conyers amendment to cut funds for ground troops (Amdt #35). Rep. Lee's amendment to limit US funding to that which is necessary for the safe and orderly withdrawal of U.S. forces was not approved for a floor vote. Rules Committee posted all the approved amendments here]

[update by RN Tuesday 5 pm ET: CLW report is Afghanistan votes likely Thursday.]

[update by RN Tuesday 2:30 pm ET: Peace Action guess is first votes possible 1pm ET Wednesday.]

Call Script

1. Call your Representative at 1-888-231-9276
2. When you reach your Representative's office, ask to speak to the staff person who handles foreign policy, or ask for the foreign policy staff person by name, if you know it. If this person is not available, leave your message with the person who answered the phone.

JFP 5/20: Obama affirms '67 borders, slams Bahrain crackdown

Just Foreign Policy News
May 20, 2011

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No "Hamas Exception" for Human Rights: A Reply to the American Jewish Committee

JFP replies to a challenge from the American Jewish Committee regarding the Gaza blockade and the freedom flotilla.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/no-hamas-exception-for-human-rights_b_864409.html

*Action: Help Just Foreign Policy Get to Gaza:

Donate to support our participation:
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/donate/audacityofhope

*Action: Tell Hillary to Ensure Safe Passage for US Boat to Gaza
Using Twitter and/or Facebook, urge Hillary to protect the Audacity of Hope.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/audacityofhope/urgehillary

Ray McGovern: Obama, Tell Netanyahu – Don't Mess With Flotilla to Gaza

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, a passenger on the Audacity of Hope, urges President Obama to press Prime Minister Netanyahu not to attack the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/05/20

Why We Must Sail To Gaza

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No "Hamas Exception" for Human Rights: A Reply to the American Jewish Committee

Following my post about my plans to participate in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in opposition to the blockade of Gaza, "Why We Must Sail to Gaza," David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, responded by challenging me to answer his concerns about Hamas and Israeli security.

Of course, I welcome the opportunity to respond to David's concerns, and I thank David for giving me the opportunity to do so. Moving the focus of attention from the arena of violence to the arena of engagement and dialogue -- that's a key component of what nonviolent resistance is all about.

The overall thrust of David's piece appears to be that Hamas is a monster, and therefore whatever the Israeli government does -- including the blockade of Gaza -- which is claimed to be "in defense against Hamas," is justified.

The logic of the argument that the blockade of Gaza is automatically justified by the threat of violence to Israel from Hamas should be familiar to Americans. It's essentially the same logic that the Bush-Cheney Administration used in justifying its decisions to torture detainees -- ignore the Geneva Conventions and the right of habeas corpus, and invade Iraq after 9/11: your concerns about human rights and international law are very pretty. But now we are facing a terrible enemy, so your pretty concerns about human rights and international law are no longer relevant.