Representative DeFazio recently defended his record of opposing war in his Eugene Weekly letter to the editor, “DeFazio The Dove.” DeFazio presents a selective review of his record being “a consistent opponent of war” that he claims “even the least bit of research into my career would clearly show.” Let’s see what else the least bit of research shows.
DeFazio points out that he voted against the Iraq War but ignores that he voted “to remove the Saddam Hussein regime from power in Iraq” with his vote for the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. Voting for regime change instead of war hardly qualifies one as “a consistent opponent of war.” How did DeFazio envision this regime change would happen if not militarily? Perhaps sanctions? DeFazio voted for sanctions against Iraq in 1990. Six years later Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had said “the price is worth it” when responding to claims that 500,000 children had died from the sanctions.
DeFazio then explains his vote for the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force after 9/11, which he says has “disturbingly been used beyond its original intent to justify endless wars the US is still engaged in worldwide.” Should DeFazio be so surprised? DeFazio’s vote came after serving in Congress for 14 years, and after seeing what DeFazio calls “Bush’s original draft, which gave him limitless authorization to use US forces as he pleased.” Why is DeFazio then surprised that Bush “used US forces as he pleased?” A “consistent opponent of war” might have predicted what Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were going to do or might have worried that the AUMF would be abused by ensuing administrations. Even in 2019 the White House is arguing that the 2001 AUMF authorizes war with Iran.
A “consistent opponent of war” might have also understood that the “military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism,” a quote from Barbara Lee who voted against the 2001 AUMF. Not only has a State Department official just this month stated that Al Qaeda “is as strong as it has ever been,” but a 2016 Army War College study “indicates US efforts have been correlated with a worsening of the terror situation.”
DeFazio ends by mentioning his War Powers Act which he introduced for the ninth time this year. It has died in Congress each time. It cannot be blamed on DeFazio that Congress appears to not want responsibility for authorizing war, but we can question whether trying to give Congress this power can be called “opposing war.” This is a Congress in which 70% voted for the Iraq War and 75% just signed a letter urging the White House “to remain militarily engaged in Syria” after it had announced a pullout.
The problem with current war powers law, according to DeFazio at a Eugene town hall earlier this month, is that “the President can use force and then come after the fact to Congress for authorization. That’s a huge problem… once the bullets start flying and casualties start mounting.” DeFazio is right that it is difficult to avoid disastrous wars once we’ve crossed a certain threshold, but he is wrong about where that threshold is.
US wars begin long before “the bullets start flying and casualties start mounting.” The US was funding the French attack (pg 122) of Vietnam in 1950 and it wasn’t until 1959 that the first US soldiers were killed there. Iraq was under crippling sanctions for 12 years before the regime change that DeFazio voted for was achieved with a full invasion and occupation.
More recently, DeFazio voted for the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act in 2017 which bundles sanctions against Iran, Russia, and North Korea. In October, 2018 the World Court ordered the US to ease sanctions against Iran in its 1st case against “economic warfare.” Two months later the house passed a bill cosponsored by DeFazio which “imposes sanctions on Iranian officials.”
Sanctions don’t just draw us closer to war, they are acts of war. Former State Department official, Thomas Shannon, compares sanctions in Venezuela to “the bombing of Dresden and Tokyo.” Put simply, to be a consistent opponent of war, one must be a consistent opponent of sanctions, therefore DeFazio is neither. Perhaps DeFazio is a dove relative to Congress, but with doves like DeFazio, it is easy to see why a 2013 Win/Gallup poll found the US to be the greatest threat to peace.