Monday, November 21, 2005

Patrick Martin: Senate Democrats Continue to Support Iraq War and Guantánamo Prison Camp

Senate Democrats back Iraq war, Guantánamo prison camp
By Patrick Martin
World Socialist web Site

Senate Democrats went on record Tuesday to support the war in Iraq and the continued operation of the US concentration camp at Guantánamo Bay. A large majority of the 44 Senate Democrats lined up with the Republican majority and the Bush administration in key amendments to the defense appropriations bill. The Senate session culminated in a bipartisan 98-0 vote to approve the nearly $500 billion budget for the Pentagon.

In the two most critical votes, the Democrats gave their support by a 37 to 6 margin to a Republican amendment tacitly supporting the Bush administration’s policy on the Iraq war; and then voted 30-13 for a Republican amendment explicitly endorsing the use of military tribunals at Guantánamo Bay.

The first vote came on an amendment by Republican John Warner of Virginia which hailed the US military forces in Iraq and called on the Bush administration to provide regular reports on the “current military mission and the diplomatic, political, economic, and military measures, if any, that are being or have been undertaken to successfully complete or support that mission.” The reports were to include figures on Iraqi troop strength and capabilities, and other conditions demonstrating “progress” in the war.

The amendment expressed the wish that the “calendar year 2006 should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with Iraqi security forces taking the lead for the security of a free and sovereign Iraq, thereby creating the conditions for the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq.”

The passage of this measure was portrayed by Democrats and sections of the media as a rebuff to the Bush administration’s conduct of the war. It actually represents the watering-down of an already weak amendment offered by Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan containing the same language about a “successful completion” of the US “mission” in Iraq.

Levin’s version appealed to the administration to present a “campaign plan with estimated dates for the phased redeployment of the United States Armed Forces from Iraq.” This version—which did not mandate either a definite date or an actual withdrawal—was defeated by a 58-40 vote, largely along party lines.

The Republican leadership then took the Democratic amendment, dropping only the section referring to estimated dates of withdrawal, and presented it as a directive to the Iraqi stooge regime established by the US military occupation. Senator Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, described the amendment as a “strong bipartisan message to the world” that it was time for Iraqis to take charge of their own country.

“The coalition forces, most particularly the United States and Great Britain, have done their job,” Warner said. “And now we expect in return that they take charge of their nation and run it and form a democracy and prevent any vestige of a civil war from taking place.” Other Republicans expressed the hope that adoption of the amendment would appease growing antiwar sentiment in the US—without altering the actual policy of the US government.

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