How Many Democrats Will Stand Up to Obama's Bloated Military Budget and $75 Billion More in War Spending?

Obama wants billions more for the Iraq/Afghanistan wars on top of a US military budget that already surpasses Bush-era spending by $21 billion. Where is the resistance?

Much of the media attention this week on President Obama's new
military budget has put forward a false narrative wherein Obama is
somehow taking his socialist/pacifist sledgehammer to the Pentagon's
war machine and blasting it to smithereens. Republicans have charged
that Obama is endangering the country's security, while the Democratic
leadership has hailed it as the dawn of a new era in responsible
spending priorities. Part of this narrative portrays Defense Secretary
Robert Gates as standing up to the war industry, particularly military

The reality is that all of this is false.

is an undeniable fact: Obama is substantially increasing US military
spending, by at least $21 billion from Bush-era levels, including a
significant ratcheting up of Afghanistan war spending, as well as more
money for unmanned attack drones, which are increasingly being used in
attacks on Pakistan. (David Swanson over at does a great job of breaking down some of the media coverage of this issue across the political spectrum).

Obama's budget of $534 billion to the Department of Defense
"represents roughly a 4-percent increase over the $513 billion
allocated to the Pentagon in FY2009 under the Bush administration, and
$6.7 billion more than the outgoing administration's projections for FY
2010," bragged Lawrence Korb, author of the Center for American Progress' report supporting Obama's escalation of the war in Afghanistan, in an article called, " Obama's Defense Budget Is on Target."

Obama and his neoliberal think tankers clearly didn't think much of Rep. Barney Frank's call earlier this year to cut military spending by 25%
to pay for urgently needed social programs and economic aid to
struggling Americans. "To accomplish his goals of expanding health care
and other important quality of life services without ballooning the
deficit," Frank said,
Obama needed to reduce military spending. "If we do not get military
spending under control, we will not be able to respond to important
domestic needs." Well, not only is overall military spending on the
rise, but Obama is about to ask for billions more for the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan in a "supplemental" spending bill, the type which were
staples in Bush's campaign to mask of the full military budget and
total cost of the wars. Obama could seek the funding as early as

Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting
that we may actually see some spine coming from Congress in standing up
to Obama's request for this additional $75.5 billion in war funds. The
WSJ characterized the situation as one of "raising tensions" between
Obama and some lawmakers opposed to the wars. It should be
noted off-the-bat that the Congresspeople speaking out are,
predictably, members of the usual suspects club and the Democratic
leadership is probably at this moment sharing cocktails in the backroom
with McCain and McConnell, but, nonetheless, it is worth examining what
is being said:

"I can't imagine any way I'd vote for it," said Rep. Lynn
Woolsey, a California Democrat and leader in the 77-member
congressional Progressive Caucus. It would be her first major break
with this White House.

Ms. Woolsey fears the president's plan
for Iraq would leave behind a big occupation force. She is also
concerned about the planned escalation in Afghanistan. "I don't think
we should be going there," she said.

Similar sentiments echo
across the House. Rep. Jim McGovern (D., Mass.) said he fears
Afghanistan could become a quagmire. "I just have this sinking feeling
that we're getting deeper and deeper into a war that has no end," he

Rep. John Conyers (D., Mich.) dismissed Mr. Obama's plans
as "embarrassingly naive," and suggested that the president is being
led astray by those around him. "He's the smartest man in American
politics today," Rep. Conyers said. "But he occasionally gets bad
advice and makes mistakes. This is one of those instances."

Obama has vowed to break with the Bush-era tradition of seeking
such supplementals to fund the war, saying that beginning in 2010 he
will fund the wars as part of his overall budget. The anti-war caucus
of Democrats is unlikely to have enough votes to block it given the
increasingly overt pro-war nature of the Democratic leadership. And, as
the WSJ notes, the funding bills are likely to pass "since many
Republicans will support them."

An interesting point nestled
half-way through the WSJ piece illustrates a point some antiwar
activists have been making since Obama's election-he is likely to win
increased support from Democratic lawmakers for wars they may not have
supported when Bush was in power:

The president argues that Afghanistan has been neglected, allowing al Qaeda to regroup and exposing the U.S. to new dangers.

John Larson (D., Conn.) suggests Democrats may be less inclined to
joust with the current White House on the issue than they were with
former President George W. Bush. "We have somebody that Democrats feel
will level with them," said Mr. Larson, the House's fourth-ranking

This truly is one of the most important trends to watch with the
Obama presidency, particularly as it relates to war policy. Obama is in
a position to greatly advance the interests of empire, precisely
because he is able to build much wider support for policies that are
essentially a continuation of those implemented by Bush.

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