This is a real head-scratcher. After the wringer the Bush Administration has put America through in our Iraq debacle–all the lies, the end-arounds, the waste of treasure and human lives–you’d think Congressional Democrats would’ve learned a lesson. You’d think Congress would be falling all over themselves to prevent another misadventure in Iran. Not so. A group I call the AIPAC Caucus, which routinely does the bidding of AIPAC even if unasked, lobbied Nancy Pelosi hard to remove language from the Iraq military appropriations bill which would’ve compelled Bush to come to Congress for authorization before using force against Iran. I always mistakenly thought one of Congress’ roles was to act as a check on the executive branch when it overstepped its prerogatives. Preventing an Iran military debacle would seem to be a perfect example of the wise use of Congressional power to check Bush.
Reps. Gary Ackerman, Susan Berkley and Eliot Engel didn’t think so according to the neocon publication, the New York Sun:
Two Democratic congressmen…intervened with…Nancy Pelosi to preserve President Bush’s authority to use military force in the gathering showdown with Iran.
The Democratic leadership had introduced language in a $100 billion bill to fund military operations in Iraq. The language would have required Mr. Bush to seek congressional approval before expanding military operations to Iran.
But in the past week, Ms. Pelosi removed the clause after a group of conservative and pro-Israel Democrats threatened to vote against the appropriations package if it included the provision tying the president’s hands.
One of those members, Rep. Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York, said yesterday he counted between 20 and 27 members who would have voted against the funding measure if it included the Iran language. Rep. Gary Ackerman, another Democrat of New York, said he thinks the dissenters had even more votes.
These statements by Engel and Ackerman represent precisely the type of muddled thinking which tied Democrats up in knots in 2003 when they largely acquiesced to Bush in the vote to approve military action against Saddam:
While I do not support any military action against Iran, I do believe everything needs to be on the table in order for them to calculate that they have to modify their behavior.”
…Mr. Ackerman said he made a political and policy argument in favor of withdrawing the Iran language. “Most people think it would be a bad idea to attack Iran. Those of us who have thought it out, also think it is a bad idea to take it off the table,” he said.
We know how this president operates. If you show weakness and refuse to stand head to head with him when he rattles sabers, he will assuredly take you for everything you’re worth if he needs to. If Bush has any serious thought in his mind of attacking Iran (and you know that he does), this will be considered a green light by him. And after the smoke clears over Iran’s nuclear facilities and Engel and his colleagues start scratching their heads and wondering what just happened, Tony Snow will be telling Fox News that this vote encouraged the president to stand tall against Iran. Then who will you have to blame Messrs Engel and Ackerman??
Did AIPAC specifically lobby for this? They didn’t have to. AIPAC talking points are inscribed inside the brains of the AIPAC Caucus. They know what AIPAC would want without even having to be told:
When asked Aipac’s role, Mr. Engel said, “When I objected no one from Aipac had spoken to me.” Mr. Ackerman yesterday said, “The leadership of Aipac thought the U.S. position would be better served without the Iran language. I don’t know they were lobbying anyone on this though.”
The sole ray of hope is Sen. Jim Webb’s Senate bill which requires legislative approval for military action:
Senator Webb…said he has won backing for his measure from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and would likely seek to attach his legislation as an amendment to a spending bill now moving through Congress to fund the Iraq war.”
Let your senators know that you support the Webb amendment. Don’t let the AIPAC Caucus lead us any closer to war with Iran than we already are.
Hat tip to M.J. Rosenberg at TPMCafe.