Opposing the Iraq Supplemental Funding Bill

By Phyllis Bennis
A child in front of “Eyes Wide Open,” an anti war exhibit organized by the American Friends Service Committee. Photo: AFSC.org

The Congressional resolution passed recently gives Bush another $100 billion to continue the US occupation of Iraq. The timelines and restrictions included in the bill - clearly responding to the strong public support for ending the war - were weakened almost to the disappearing point to allow the razor-thin vote. Very few of those toothless restrictions will likely make it into the final bill that must survive a super-majority in the Senate, a House-Senate conference committee, and a likely Bush veto.

But the effort to hold Congressmembers to their electoral mandate must be continued and ratcheted up, not abandoned, even as we look towards pressing alternative centers of power (city councils, state legislatures, etc.) as instruments to pressure Congress from new directions.

Congress is not the peace movement. So the peace movement must stay unified on our principles and our demands, in the face of congressional waffling and "realistic" pragmatism, unfortunately promoted by one influential part of our movement. Whatever they do, we must stay consistent on demanding an end to the US occupation: de-funding (not re-funding) the war, and bringing home (not redeploying) all (not just some) of the troops (including the mercenaries). The longstanding American Friends Service Committee slogan has it right: "Not one more death, not one more dollar." That means STOP funding the war. STOP allowing Bush to send more US troops to kill more Iraqis and be killed in the process. Just stop.

The Supplemental Funding Bill
The Democratic leadership in the House claims the $125 billion supplemental bill is the way to end the war. Aside from setting a date for bringing home troops, the House version included a number of items many in the peace movement would ordinarily support - veterans' health benefits, Katrina survivors' assistance, and children's health insurance.

So if there's a timeline, what's the problem with the supplemental? Why shouldn't peace activists support it?

Because it gives President Bush another $100 billion to continue the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it doesn't end the occupation or prevent expansion of the war to Iran.

It calls for pulling out some troops from Iraq by August 2008.
It exempts whole categories of troops from the withdrawal...

Troops "training the Iraqi military" can stay - currently 6,000, perhaps as many as 20,000 (no limit in the supplemental).

Troops engaged in "special operations" can stay - the Marines say they want 20,000 for Anbar Province alone, perhaps as many as 40,000 for the whole country (no limit in the supplemental).

Troops "protecting diplomatic enclaves" like the huge Green Zone and the US Embassy, the largest in the world, and maybe including the numerous US bases established in Iraq, can stay - 20,000 is a conservative number (no limit in the supplemental).

That means Bush could keep unlimited numbers, perhaps 60,000-80,000 troops, permanently in Iraq - and still be in compliance with the bill.

And the bill does not require that the troops withdrawn from Iraq be sent home; they can be immediately deployed to Afghanistan, or to bases in surrounding Arab countries, or to ships in the Persian Gulf - or be used to attack Iran.

It imposes restrictions on Pentagon deployments, prohibiting the deployment of troops not fully trained, not adequately equipped, and not adequately rested between deployments.

It includes a waiver for President Bush to simply state his intention to override those restrictions, allowing him to send in as many untrained, badly equipped and exhausted troops as he wishes.

Prohibit construction of new permanent bases in Iraq.
It does nothing to close the existing permanent bases the US has built across Iraq and includes billions for "military construction" presumably for those existing bases.

Require Iraq's government to pass a new oil law.
The law being debated in the parliament abandons Iraq's long history of maintaining control of its oil resources in favor of allowing international (especially US) oil companies to take control of large sectors of the vital oil industry.

Cuts 10% of the funding for private military contractors.
It allows 90% of the 100,000 or so mercenaries who fight alongside the US military to remain in Iraq.

The supplemental does not prohibit an unprovoked attack on Iran.

The supplemental does not end the occupation of Iraq.

Phyllis Bennis, a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam, often provides analysis articles to United for Peace and Justice, a national coalition in which SPC participates.