So much attention has been placed on Congress’ clandestine-like approval of an extension of PATRIOT Act provisions, that the passage of an amendment to the $690 billion defense spending bill by the House on Wednesday, officially recognizing that Obama is indeed engaged in an illegal war in Libya, has been buried in recent news.
The President has failed to obtain Congressional authorization within 60 days of his announcement of the use of military force against Libya, which occurred on March 21. His deadline for approval was May 20. On Thursday, the House approved an additional amendment that would ban US ground troops and private security contractors from setting foot in Libya. Only five Representatives opposed the measure: Shelley Berkley (D – NV), Steve King (R – IA), Gwen Moore (D – WI), Jim Moran (D – VA), and Dana Rohrabacher (R – CA).
While the President ventures into new interventionist territory, old-guard lawmakers in DC are reluctant to give up their investment (emotional or otherwise) into the Afghanistan war theater. Despite public opinion heavily favoring an end to the war, Congress defeated Jim McGovern’s (D – MA) measure to negotiate a settlement that would allow for a pullout, but only by a narrow margin. The 204-215 vote saw over 90 percent of sitting Democrats vote for a pullout, and even a surprising number of freshman Republicans supported the measure as well. The outcome was disappointing for the dwindling anti-war movement, but activists are hopeful that public opinion about the nearly decade-long conflict is having a political impact. Case in point: last year’s vote on a similar amendment pulled in only 138 yes votes.
On the Iraq front, the Defense Department announced Tuesday that over 7,000 soldiers will be deployed to this ongoing war theater beginning in mid-summer even though the U.S. has agreed to withdraw all combat troops by December 31st. “The deployments are part of the regular rotation of forces and will include a division headquarters of 775 soldiers and two brigade combat teams totaling 6,400 soldiers,” reports the Army Times. Soldiers will continue deploying through the Fall from the following units: 3rd Infantry Division headquarters, Fort Stewart, GA;1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas.
Finally, the cost of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars surpassed the $1.2 trillion mark.