US$87 billion for war
Congress voted to approve the Bush administration's $87 billion package for the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, but not without vocal and sometimes vehement opposition by lawmakers and peace activists. They reflected the growing opposition to the Bush administration's lies, the occupation, and the mounting US and Iraqi casualties. Senator Edward Kennedy, one of 12 senators who voted against the US$87 billion, said a no vote was not a vote against the troops, "but the President's war has been revealed as mindless, needless, senseless, and reckless. The American people know all this. Our allies know it. Our soldiers know it. Hany Khalil, organising co-ordinator of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), told the People's Weekly World, "As The New York Times noted, Congress felt the heat from our movement, pushing more of them to distance themselves from the occupation". At the same time, he said, lawmakers failed to give Iraqis "the resources they need to repair the damage done by the US war, sanctions, and occupation". Growing rejection Public opinion polls show growing rejection of Bush's foreign policy and rising concerns about domestic issues. Khalil asked, "How about US$87 billion for US cities, for jobs"? "The Republicans and the Democrats need to look at the war's impact at home", Khalil said. "Bush wants money for war but denies support for those who die for his policies". Bush threatened to veto the bill unless his original request was accepted. The congressional votes came within days of the announcement of a record-breaking US$374 billion federal deficit. The Centre for Budget and Policy Priorities said nearly half of the deficit was caused by Bush's tax cuts for the rich. Trust Democrat Representative Jan Schakowsky, one of 125 House members who voted no, noted that US troops are not even receiving basic necessities in Iraq. "The Bush administration cannot be trusted to make our troops a priority, so how can we trust them with $87 billion?" she asked, adding, "Billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent already on no-bid contracts for major US corporations like Halliburton and Bechtel for reconstruction efforts that Iraqis say can be performed for pennies on the dollar if given to local contractors". Zack Exley, MoveOn.org organising director, commented that "the Bush administration is trying to give blank cheques out to Pentagon contractors", while some wounded soldiers returning from Iraq are waiting a month or more for appointments with a military doctor. "It's disgusting", Exley said. Pentagon contractors Even right-wing think tanks deplore the cronyism of Bush's contract awards, Exley told the World. "The vast majority of this money is just being flushed down the toilet, going into profits for Pentagon contractors, most of whom happen to be big Republican campaign contributors". In stark contrast, the White House has strongly opposed increasing health benefits for reservists and National Guard members and veterans' health care. UFPJ's Khalil told the World, "We need to redouble our efforts to bring out people who were active in January, February and March, when large sections of public opinion opposed a pre-emptive war on Iraq". The movement needs to be "focusing our pressure on Congress to reject the policies of Republicans or Democrats that are pro-war", said Khalil.
* * *People's Weekly World