We tend to think of war as resulting from an excess of aggression or disorderliness or rebellion. Western academics hunt in the genes of foreigners and study chimpanzees to find the root of the nastiness.
But one would be hard press to count the number of people who have lost their lives to an excess of cowardice in the halls of the United States Congress. "This chamber reeks of blood," said Senator George McGovern, who would have been shocked anew this week.
On Constitution Day, the House of Representatives -- followed the next day by the Senate -- decided to put off until after the next U.S. elections in November any possible consideration of the new U.S. war already underway in Iraq and Syria, but voted in the meantime to approve of shipping weapons over to Syria to fuel the violence.
Here's a website that tells you how your Representative and Senators voted and lets you send them an appropriate message with one click.
Said Congressman Jim McDermott, who voted No: "This amendment, which is valid only through early December, serves as nothing more than a faux authorization designed to get Congress through the election season. Moreover, it addresses only one aspect of the strategy the President outlined last week. That is not a responsible way to conduct public policy."
So, the President announced a three-year war, based on no timetable anyone has produced other than that of U.S. presidential elections. And Congress declared that it would consider looking into the matter after the next Congressional election. But it's not as if we don't all know that they are allowing the war to go on and worsen each and every day. Numerous Congress members denounce Congress for what they themselves call a shameful act of cowardice. But which of them are protesting their "leadership"? Which of them are moving a discharge petition to force a vote? Which of them are using the War Powers Resolution to compel a vote regardless of what the "leadership" wants?
Back on the 25th of July the House overwhelmingly passed the McGovern-Jones-Lee resolution which required the President to seek Congressional authorization before sending troops to Iraq. The President went ahead and ignored that. Will Congress cut off the funding? Censure? Impeach? Nope. Congress voted to approve weapons and training for Syrians who are closely allied with the forces Obama is already waging an air and ground war against in Iraq.
Senator Tim Kaine had been leading the charge to demand that Congress vote before any new war. (As noted, the House did, and the Senate did not follow suit.) Now Kaine says a discussion of that following the U.S. Congressional elections will be sufficient. Until then, the United States will fuel the violence on both sides of a complex war, while repeating incessantly "There is no military solution" and deploying the military and military weaponry in a counterproductive effort to find a solution.
Remarked Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who voted No on weapons to Syria: "The consequences of this vote will be a further expansion of a war currently taking place and our further involvement in a sectarian war. . . . What is missing from this debate is the political, economic, diplomatic and regionally-led solutions that will ultimately be the tools for security in the region and for any potential future threats to the United States."
Also missing was an organized opposition. Republicans voted yes and no, as did Democrats, as did the so-called Progressive Caucus, as did the Black Caucus. These people need to hear the message that cowardice is not a campaign strategy. They must be confronted with the demand that they stop this war, just as they were a year ago, when scary ISIS videos weren't manipulating Americans into once again doing the bidding of terrorists who gain strength from U.S. attacks. A year ago we spoke up. We confronted Congress members at town hall meetings. We stopped them.
Now they've literally cut and run. They're taking a two-month vacation in order to pretend they have nothing to do with the escalating violence. They need to hear from us in person. But we can start by sending them a note to let them know what we think.
Remember, their duty is not to vote approval for a new war, which will then somehow make everything OK. Their duty is to uphold the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the U.N. Charter, the wisdom of most of the world, the lessons of the past decade, and basic common decency by stopping the war.