One of the reasons the mainstream media failed to expose the fraud perpetrated by the Bush White House during the run-up to war in Iraq was that it virtually ignored dissenters. And there were some. Even in Washington.
Most notably, in September 2002, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy gave a bold, moving speech outlining his view “that America should not go to war against Iraq unless and until other reasonable alternatives are exhausted.”
The elite Washington media barely even made mention of it.
So with that very much in mind, this blog intends to call attention to those few members of Congress who, in contrast to the Congressional Hyperbole Caucus, are saying things about the U.S. response to the Islamic State that indicate that they might possibly be advocating something somewhat like restraint. Maybe.
Jen Bendery of the Huffington Post found exactly one member of Congress who wasn’t banging the drums of war: populist Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Harkin.
“It’s fear-mongering. It’s what happened after 9/11. ‘Oh my god, they’ve got these planes crashing. Now they’re going to take over America.’ That’s nonsense,” Harkin told HuffPost. “We just keep jumping from one mistake to another. I have a feeling we’re going to do the same thing with [the Islamic State].”
Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) was talking about an alternate path in a statement he issued on Monday. “I encourage them to employ the same intelligence resources – and the same selective, highly effective means they used to bring down Osama Bin Laden,” he wrote. “Special operations of this kind do not involve U.S. troops on the ground, the killing of innocent people, or the re-involvement of the United States in another terribly destructive, expensive, open-ended conflict in that region.”
Nolan told a local paper that he will only support humanitarian efforts in the conflict in Syria. “When we get ourselves involved in that conflict, then we become a part of the problem and the solution becomes ours,” he said.
Here is Rep. Jim McDermott, a liberal Democrat from Washington State, on MSNBC’s Hardball the other night, after Chris Matthews asked him if he’d support the use of special forces in Syria to go after the Islamic State:
I’d have to be convinced by the president.… . And if we don’t have some support from some of our Arab allies going on the ground, I don’t think we should get into it.
If we say we’re going to do it all from the air and drop a few special forces here and there, it’s not going to work. It is going to take more than that, and we have to have our allies support us.
So until or unless Obama can show that friendly Arab states are willing and able to take the battle to the Islamic State, all bets are off?
Do you know of other members of Congress who aren’t entirely on the war bandwagon? Post comments and/or email me.
For now, however, the only possible congressional hurdle to stepped up military action by Obama is a move afoot to give him explicit authorization to do so. This is mostly coming from members of Congress who would at least like to maintain the fig-leaf of checks and balances.
Lawmakers in both chambers and both parties — including Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian Republican from Kentucky, superhawk Sen. Mark Kirk, Republican of Illinois, and Sen. Tim Kaine, Democrat from Virginia, contend that Obama needs congressional authorization to comply with the War Powers Resolution.
That’s not to say any of them would vote against it. Indeed, on Monday, Sens. Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, and Jim Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma — two members of the Hyperbole Caucus — along with Rep. Frank Wolf, Republican of Virginia, introduced resolutions to authorize military action in Syria.
Historically anti-war members of Congress, including Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), have called for a debate and a vote on authorization in a way that leaves open the possibility of voting against. “If an authorization is necessary, it must be limited and specific to prevent passing of another blank check for endless war,” Lee said in a statement.
And although the rest of the congressional leadership is deferring to presidential authority, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of all people, has suddenly become outspoken on the need for an authorization vote.
The polls are showing the electorate is increasingly alarmed bout the Islamic State. “This is the first time anything outside the borders of the United States have come up on my campaign,” McConell told Politico. So he had to do something.
And here, as a reminder, is what genuine, heartfelt dissent looks like. From that Kennedy speech:
There is clearly a threat from Iraq, and there is clearly a danger, but the Administration has not made a convincing case that we face such an imminent threat to our national security that a unilateral, pre-emptive American strike and an immediate war are necessary.
Nor has the Administration laid out the cost in blood and treasure of this operation.
With all the talk of war, the Administration has not explicitly acknowledged, let alone explained to the American people, the immense post-war commitment that will be required to create a stable Iraq.…
Resorting to war is not America’s only or best course at this juncture. There are realistic alternatives between doing nothing and declaring unilateral or immediate war. War should be a last resort, not the first response. Let us follow that course, and the world will be with us – even if, in the end, we have to move to the ultimate sanction of armed conflict.
Photo of Sen. Tom Harkin: Chip Somodevilla/Getty