National peace organizations are pressing Congress to open up debate on getting the U.S. out of Iraq.

With Bush insisting on “staying the course” and “not believable any more,” Congress is “the only body left to come forward and make a statement about leaving Iraq and not leaving any bases behind,” said Col. Daniel Smith, senior military affairs analyst for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker lobbying group.

FCNL, United for Peace and Justice, Win Without War and True Majority are focusing on passage of House Resolution 543, a “discharge petition” that would get Iraq withdrawal out of Republican lockdown and onto the House floor for discussion. It currently has 70 signers, all Democrats. Several Republicans are expected to announce their support shortly.

Nine bills aimed at bringing the troops home are bottled up in GOP-controlled committees. If 218 House members sign the discharge petition, it would bring to the floor the bipartisan “Homeward Bound” bill, which calls for the president to announce a plan for withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq, and to begin withdrawal by Oct. 1. While Homeward Bound itself may not pass, getting it out for open debate would allow for the first-time a “knock-down drag-out debate on Iraq — where we’re going, what is the endgame? how soon will it begin?” said Smith, a retired career Army officer who served in Vietnam.

March 19 marks three years since the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Nearly 2,500 U.S. troops have been killed and thousands severely wounded. The war has cost the U.S. $250 billion so far, with billions more requested in additional “emergency” funds. Estimates of the Iraqi dead range from 37,000 to over 100,000. The cost of rebuilding Iraq will be enormous.

As Americans contemplate a fourth year of death and destruction with no end in sight,

their view of President Bush has turned sour. In an Associated Press/Ipsos poll this month, 60 percent gave Bush a negative job rating, and only 39 percent approved of his handling of Iraq. Bush has no Iraq plan, 65 percent told a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Bush began a new spin cycle with a March 14 speech claiming “real progress” in Iraq but offering no plan for troop withdrawals.

Reflecting the public mood, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) responded, “Instead of launching yet another public relations campaign,” Bush should “provide a strategy to bring our brave men and women home safely and soon.”

Susan Udry, UFPJ legislative coordinator, said the discharge petition, H.Res. 543, “makes a strong point” for congressional lobbying and letters to the editor asking, “Don’t you think Congress should be discussing this? Why isn’t our representative allowing debate? Isn’t Iraq important enough?”

If debate opens, she said, House members can bring forward any kind of amendment, including proposals contained in other bills blocked by the GOP. She cited the bill introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) ending funding for U.S. military action in Iraq, and another introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) which bars permanent U.S. bases in Iraq.

Other stalled bills include one introduced by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), which calls on the president to tell Congress within 30 days what the remaining military mission in Iraq is and give a timeframe to withdraw troops, and the bill introduced by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), which would end deployment of U.S. troops in Iraq and set up a “quick-reaction U.S. force” in the region.



Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.