Eric Garris, founder and director of Antiwar.com, discusses the convoluted House votes on multiple Afghan War bills and amendments, Obama’s broken pledge to stop using emergency supplemental bills for war funding, how House Reps can now somewhat credibly claim either support or opposition to the war and why China seems to have won the Iraq war.
MP3 here. (12:55) Transcript below.
Eric Garris is the founder, managing editor, director and webmaster of Antiwar.com.
Scott Horton interviews Eric Garris July 2, 2010
Scott Horton: Okay, everybody, welcome back to the show, wrapping up the week here, Antiwar Radio on LRN, the Liberty Radio Network, LRN.fm, and simulcasting the first two hours of the show every Tuesday through Friday from 9 to 11, well, West Coast time where I am, 11 to 1 Texas time, at KAOSRadioAustin.org. And our first guest on the show today is Antiwar.com’s founder and managing director, Eric Garris. He’s also the webmaster for LewRockwell.com. Welcome to the show, Eric.
Eric Garris: Thanks for having me, Scott.
Horton: Let’s talk about this vote. This is the strangest thing in the world. I wanted you on the show to see if you could explain this to me a little bit because you’re such a master at the electoral politics game here, and we got three of the four top stories on Antiwar.com right now are the roll call votes on: 1) the war funding bill, 2) withdrawal from Afghanistan, and 3) cut all war funding. And I’ve never seen so many Republicans vote against either of these kind of antiwar bills, anything like this before. I’m not sure what’s going on. I was wondering if you could help provide some clarity.
Garris: Well, I talked this morning with a congressional staffer who said that this was the most convoluted set of votes that he’s ever seen, which is saying quite a bit, considering we’re talking about Congress. As convoluted as the Afghan war and its goals have become, the votes last night really reflected the confusion and just how complex the war funding has become. There were actually six votes last night, and interestingly enough, that Ron Paul speech that you just aired came after the last vote.
Garris: They did not want to give him his full five minutes during any of the other votes.
Horton: I can’t figure out why…
Garris: The final vote was the vote to approve the war funding bill. It was presented as a procedural bill, or a procedural amendment, on a bill that was described as such: “Making emergency supplemental appropriations for disaster relief and summer jobs for fiscal year ending September 30, 2010.”
Horton: Summer jobs, is that what they’re calling it now?
Garris: That’s what they called it, summer jobs. Summer jobs in Afghanistan.
Horton: Yes. That’s hilarious. So –
Garris: So the vote that eventually was the approval vote passed 215-210 with every Republican voting against it.
Horton: Now how is that? Because it said summer jobs?
Garris: Because it added all this domestic pork into the legislation. So what’s going to happen now is that it goes back to the Senate. If the Senate concurs on everything the House did, it goes to the president for his signature. Otherwise it will come back to the House for reconciliation and may result in another vote in the House at some point in the near future, but that is not clear. The other votes are very interesting. It basically was set up to allow members of Congress to go back to their districts and say, “I voted for the war,” or “I voted against the war.”
Garris: Because given the different sets of votes, they could claim either one.
Horton: Aha! Which is why such disparity between the cut-all-funding bill and the withdrawal-from-Afghanistan bill there.
Garris: That’s right. Now, there were two –
Horton: Well, now hold it right there, man, we got the bumper music playing here, we have to go out to the break. But I’d like to note here, Eric, before we go out to the break, real quick, that this is all about emergency supplementals that Obama promised he would never fund the war by emergency supplementals. Just that one more at the beginning of last year.
Horton: And now here we are. All right, we’ll be back.
Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m your host, Scott Horton, and I know you read Raimondo three times a week, but this is the guy that really makes it happen, Eric Garris, the founder and the director of Antiwar.com. Now, Eric, we’re talking about the six different votes in the House of Representatives on war funding yesterday. Help me make sense out of this.
Garris: I’ll try. The original bill that was passed by the Senate includes 37 billion for Afghanistan and Iraq but also includes money for FEMA, Haiti, veterans, the Gulf oil spill, farm loans, mine safety, Guam, highway safety, Capitol police, and a few other things.
Horton: And this is the Senate bill?
Garris: That is correct.
Garris: So the first amendment was an amendment to add more domestic pork like summer jobs and such. And that passed. The second amendment was additional domestic issues, money for teachers, Pell grants, energy loans, schools on military installations, but interestingly also includes tightening up of Iran sanctions and tightening up of the No Fly List, those were just thrown in there, as well as requirements to shore up the policing of detainees. So that also passed. Those are the two reasons that the Republicans voted against the final bill, 215-210. Now the three interesting amendments that came up were all defeated. One would have required a new National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan by January 31 of next year, requiring a plan by April 4 of next year on the safe, orderly and expeditious redeployment of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. That got 160 yes votes. That’s as close as we came to any sort of antiwar vote. The Barbara Lee amendment, which would require war funds to be tied to withdrawal of Afghanistan, got 100 votes. The best amendment was an amendment to cut off all war funds from Afghanistan immediately. That amendment got only 25 yes votes. There were three Republicans and 22 Democrats. The three Republicans were Ron Paul, Duncan from Tennessee, and, uh…
Horton: Walter Jones, right?
Garris: No, not Walter Jones, interestingly enough.
Garris: It was from Tim Johnson off Illinois.
Horton: Oh, so Jones was out that day or something. He voted yes?
Garris: Yes. Again, this was one of those things where people – see Jones was the cosponsor of one of the weaker amendments, so I think he felt obligated to vote against this one. As did Barbara Lee. Barbara Lee voted against the immediate cutoff of war funding.
Horton: Yeah. Well, I know that Walter Jones is sincere in his opposition to the war, so I’m not exactly sure what’s going on there.
Garris: Well, as I said, he was the cosponsor of the McGovern-Obey amendment, which was the one to require the National Intelligence Estimate. So I think that he probably made a deal to not support the more radical ones in order to push this one.
Horton: Okay, fair enough, go ahead.
Garris: But, you know, this is just – these last three amendments, none of them were expected to pass. They were allowed up in order, as I said, to give congressmembers the argument that they voted either for the war or against the war when they go back out to their constituents and when they’re running for reelection. There were very few that voted consistently across the board. One of them, interestingly enough, was Alan Grayson. He voted against the final funding, voting with the Republicans, and he voted for the immediate cutoff – he voted for all the antiwar bills. He and Ron Paul were among two of the only people that voted that way.
Horton: How’d Dennis Kucinich do in there?
Garris: Oh, I’m sorry. Kucinich also voted correctly on all of those.
Horton: Yeah, I would assume so. He’s voted against war funding all along, just like Ron Paul.
Garris: That’s right. Kucinich has got one of the best voting records in Congress, as far as war bills go.
Horton: All right. Well, so, the lesson here basically is that we have our very small group of congressmen who we know mean it and the rest of them are just posturing, and they get to vote yes, no, and sideways on six different bills so that when they go home and run for reelection they can put their finger in the wind, figure out what it is that people want, and then they can claim that that’s how they’ve been voting.
Garris: Right. And it’s really a reflection of the whole “strategy” of our mission in Afghanistan. You know, as Ron Paul said in his speech that you opened up with, what is the reason that we’re there? It keeps changing all the time. And, so you have mission creep being reflected in the votes in the House.
Horton: Yeah. Well, and of course, it’s, I don’t know, I guess I subscribe to the Gareth Porter theory, that basically the generals are just chasing the bullets they’ve just shot, and whichever direction they’re shooting, just keep going that way, and just keep it going on forever, you know. Of course the highest levels of the Pentagon are intimately tied together with the military industrial complex firms and so forth with the iron triangle-revolving-door thing, and I don’t know, let me ask you. Do you think that anybody still imagines that they’re going to have some kind of safe, secure pipeline from Tajikistan down to the port of Karachi there? It seems like that pipe dream’s long gone, right? Pipeline dream?
Garris: You know, I think that those kinds of things, you know, the mineral wealth in Afghanistan, those are just PR. They’re just trying to sell the American people on the fact that they might at some point recoup some of the losses of the money.
Horton: They wanted an oil pipeline through there before the war.
Garris: Well, yes, they may have wanted it, but in terms of holding it out as something that we think we’re going to get anything from, as long as we’re there militarily, those kinds of things are not going to happen. You know, you look at what happened in Iraq. I mean, look at all the oil money that we made back from the money we spent on the war, that Wolfowitz predicted. It didn’t materialize.
Horton: Well, and I think it’s in The Times today that it’s the Chinese who are going in there with briefcases.
Garris: Exactly. Just going to say that.
Horton: Yeah, they’re over there making deals for that Iraqi oil. And people want to say Petraeus won that war? It sure don’t look like it to me.
Garris: Well, in a number of ways, we’re fighting the wars for the Chinese. I mean, they’re the ones that are profiting from our actions around the world.
Horton: Well, and fair enough. They’re the ones paying for it all.
Garris: Well that’s right. So it’s a good deal.
Horton: The American empire, it’s a wondrous thing! All right, well, thanks very much Eric. I’ve learned again how cynical the leaders of Congress are. Appreciate it.
Horton: All right, everybody, that’s Eric Garris. He’s the founder and managing director of Antiwar.com. He’s also the webmaster for LewRockwell.com. Give him credit. Hang tight, we’ll be back.