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In the salad days of my youth, when God was a teenager, I worked as a computer programmer. Once I complained to another programmer that writing programs for Windows machines was a pain in the butt.

"Look," he said. "Anyone with a C manual can write a program for a UNIX box and make it compile. But if you can write a program for a Windows box and make it compile - now you got something. And if the program not only compiles, but actually runs and does what it's supposed to - now you have an accomplishment you can be proud of."

Lobbying Senators for peace can be kind of like that. Senators are often much harder to move than House Members on peace issues, and sometimes people get demoralized. "No, No!" cries the Greek chorus. "Please don't ask us to call our Senators!" In general, your average Senator is much more attached to the Empire than your average Member of the House, because Senators are much more insulated from public opinion. They only have to run every six years, and Senators rarely seem to show their faces in Yourtown, USA to answer your questions about why they are supporting endless war.

But when the Senate starts to move - now you got something.

This week, the Senate started to move.

Fifteen Senators - so far - have signed a bipartisan letter to the President initiated by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Tom Udall (D-NM), urging "strong support for a shift in strategy and the beginning of a sizable and sustained reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, beginning in July 2011." The letter, including the fifteen signers so far, is here. A group of former military officials is supporting the letter, as well as a coalition of national organizations, including MoveOn and the National Organization for Women.

Meanwhile, on the Libya war, Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and Bob Corker (R-TN) - both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - have introduced a bipartisan resolution - S.J.Res.18 (not on Thomas yet as of this writing but you can find the text here) - echoing actions that have been taken by the House, including the Conyers amendment prohibiting the introduction of ground troops, the Garrett amendment affirming that US military operations have not been authorized, and the Boehner resolution demanding more information from the President (which never would have happened had it not been necessary to draw support from the sharper resolution introduced by Dennis Kucinich mandating the withdrawal of U.S. forces.)

There's been a lot of kvetching about the President's violation of the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution in ordering U.S. forces into combat in Libya and keeping them there, but until May 26, there was no effective bipartisan action in Congress to do anything about it. Whatever may be true in any other arena, in trying to retrain any President on war powers - always an extremely difficult task - broad, bipartisan action is essential. "Your guy is worse!" "No, your guy was worse!" - that's not going to get us where we need to go.

The first step towards broad, effective bipartisan action was the passage on May 26 of Michigan Representative John Conyers' amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act prohibiting the introduction of U.S. ground troops (uniformed forces) to Libya.

Writing in the Washington Post, defense and foreign policy correspondent Walter Pincus praised the Conyers amendment:

What may turn out to be a good precedent, because neither the House nor the Senate has voted to authorize what the United States is doing in Libya, is what the House did on [May 26]. It passed, by 416 to 5, an amendment to the fiscal 2012 Defense Authorization Bill that would prohibit deploying U.S. ground troops to Libya for any purpose other than to rescue fellow members of the U.S. armed forces.

Pincus likened the Conyers amendment to Sen. Fulbright's amendment during the Vietnam War - when Pincus worked for Fulbright - that prohibited the introduction of U.S. ground troops to Laos or Thailand, noting that this was the first Congressional initiative that limited the scope of the Vietnam War. Like Fulbright's amendment, the Conyers amendment enacted a Presidential promise into law.

The Webb-Corker bill is pursuing the same idea as the Conyers amendment: constrain the President from unilateral warmaking with broad, bipartisan action.

If you want your Senators to sign on to the Merkley-Lee-Udall letter and the Webb-Corker bill, you should tell them. The Congressional switchboard is 202-225-3121.

Here is Senator Webb's speech on the Senate floor introducing the Webb-Corker bill. Note how Senator Webb goes out of his way to emphasize the points of agreement of his bill with the actions taken by the House, including the passage of the Conyers amendment.

Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy.

10:26 AM PT: Peace Action says Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) has signed. We now have 16. Peace Action says the deadline is still COB today, but may be extended.

Poll

It would be a good thing if my Senators signed on to the Merkley-Lee-Udall letter and the Webb-Corker bill

94%16 votes
5%1 votes

| 17 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  I do believe it's essential that the Chief (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hound Dog, Robert Naiman

    Executive be constrained when it comes to applying military force or committing our military to any engagement in war.

    War should always be the last resort, and should always be accompanied by broad public support.

    Because of the overwhelming power of our military our Presidents have become trigger happy, not fearing at all any repercussions at home.  It's a very dangerous situation in my opinion.

    "A free society that will not help the many who are poor, cannot save the few who are rich." JFK, January, 1961

    by rontun on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 09:52:31 AM PDT

    •  It's w-a-a-a-a-y overdue for (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rontun, Robert Naiman, Russgirl

      Congress to act like an independent branch of government in a system of checks and balances.

      Rep. Conyers and Sen. Webb are each standing up on their own two legs, and that's encouraging for me.

      A few give much, a few give all, and most Americans give....NOTHING! ~~~ Support our troops - Bring them home

      by Hound Dog on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 10:05:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the heads-up... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Robert Naiman

    ...on the Merley-Lee-Udall letter.

    I got it in my inbox yesterday from JFP, and was wondering why it had not yet surfaced on Dkos.

    Question:  I'm wondering how you found the letter.  What was your source?  (My compliments regardless!)

    Comment:  The language in the letter is significant -

    "The costs of prolonging the war far outweigh the benefits. It is time for the United States to shift course in Afghanistan. "

    Far outweigh the benefits, they said!

    You see, I've been hammering on Sen. Durbin for maybe three years now, using much of the very same facts and reasoning as the senators use in the letter.  Yet, Durbin has mostly been MUTE on the subject of Afghanistan, as if the place and our 100,000 troops there don't even exist.

    So, I've been hammering on him recently to TALK ABOUT Afghanistan....just talk about it.  And, with this letter he's signed, he has PROVEN that he gets it.

    Though I'm delighted to see the rhetoric, it still is only words in the air, unless the senators ACT in accordance with the rhetoric.

    So, anyone who wants our troops redeployed should insist to these senators that they take effective action, as members of an independent branch of government by drawing down the funding that buys more boards and nails to crucify our troops in these needless deployments.

    A few give much, a few give all, and most Americans give....NOTHING! ~~~ Support our troops - Bring them home

    by Hound Dog on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 09:57:04 AM PDT

  •  Here's the text of the Merkely-Lee- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Robert Naiman

    Udall letter, which Mr. Naiman referred to above.

    The JFP link, once again.

    Submitted by Robert Naiman on 8 June 2011 - 9:23am

    [This letter to the President in support of a substantial drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan is currently being circulated among Senators; at this writing, the letter closes at COB Thursday.]

    June X, 2011

    The President
    The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC 20500

    Dear Mr. President:

    We write to express our strong support for a shift in strategy and the beginning of a sizable and sustained reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, beginning in July 2011.

    In 2001 the United States rightfully and successfully intervened in Afghanistan with the goals of destroying al Qaeda's safe haven, removing the Taliban government that sheltered al Qaeda, and pursuing those who planned the September 11 attacks on the United States. Those original goals have been largely met and today, as CIA Director Leon Panetta noted last June, "I think at most, we're looking at maybe 50 to 100, maybe less" al Qaeda members remaining in Afghanistan.

    In addition, over the past few years, U.S. forces have killed or captured dozens of significant al Qaeda leaders. Then, on May 2, 2011, American Special Forces acting under your direction located and killed Osama bin Laden. The death of the founder of al Qaeda is a major blow that further weakens the terrorist organization.

    From the initial authorization of military force through your most recent State of the Union speech, combating al Qaeda has always been the rationale for our military presence in Afghanistan. Given our successes, it is the right moment to initiate a sizable and sustained reduction in forces, with the goal of steadily withdrawing all regular combat troops.

    There are those who argue that rather than reduce our forces, we should maintain a significant number of troops in order to support a lengthy counter-insurgency and nation building effort. This is misguided. We will never be able to secure and police every town and village in Afghanistan. Nor will we be able to build Afghanistan from the ground up into a Western-style democracy.

    Endemic corruption in Afghanistan diverts resources intended to build roads, schools, and clinics, and some of these funds end up in the hands of the insurgents. Appointments of provincial and local officials on the basis of personal alliances and graft leads to deep mistrust by the Afghan population. While it is a laudable objective to attempt to build new civic institutions in Afghanistan, this goal does not justify the loss of American lives or the investment of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars.

    Instead of continuing to be embroiled in ancient local and regional conflicts in Afghanistan, we must accelerate the transfer of responsibility for Afghanistan's development to the Afghan people and their government. We should maintain our capacity to eliminate any new terrorist threats, continue to train the Afghan National Security Forces, and maintain our diplomatic and humanitarian efforts. However, these objectives do not require the presence of over 100,000 American troops engaged in intensive combat operations.

    Mr. President, according to our own intelligence officials, al Qaeda no longer has a large presence in Afghanistan, and, as the strike against bin Laden demonstrated, we have the capacity to confront our terrorist enemies with a dramatically smaller footprint. The costs of prolonging the war far outweigh the benefits. It is time for the United States to shift course in Afghanistan.

    We urge you to follow through on the pledge you made to the American people to begin the redeployment of U.S. forces from Afghanistan this summer, and to do so in a manner that is sizable and sustained, and includes combat troops as well as logistical and support forces.

    We look forward to working with you to pursue a strategy in Afghanistan that makes our nation stronger and more secure.

    Sincerely,

    (Signatures as of 6/8/11)

    Sen. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
    Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
    Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
    Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)
    Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)
    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY
    Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
    Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
    Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
    Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
    Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
    Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)
    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
    Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

    A few give much, a few give all, and most Americans give....NOTHING! ~~~ Support our troops - Bring them home

    by Hound Dog on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 10:10:26 AM PDT

  •  I find it amusing that Bob Corker and (0+ / 0-)

    John Boehner, both big-time supporters of the illegal Iraq invasion, now have their panties in a wad over our limited participation in a U.N.-backed intervention in Libya.

    Meanwhile, on the Libya war, Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and Bob Corker (R-TN) - both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - have introduced a bipartisan resolution - S.J.Res.18 (not on Thomas yet as of this writing but you can find the text here) - echoing actions that have been taken by the House, including the Conyers amendment prohibiting the introduction of ground troops, the Garrett amendment affirming that US military operations have not been authorized, and the Boehner resolution demanding more information from the President (which never would have happened had it not been necessary to draw support from the sharper resolution introduced by Dennis Kucinich mandating the withdrawal of U.S. forces.)

    But hey, I guess military action is ok for them as long as it's a good ol' boy Republican from down south who's responsible for launching an illegal invasion and not a black, Democratic President who works with the international community and the U.N...

    "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

    by Lawrence on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 10:27:55 AM PDT

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