After the House of Representatives soundly defeated a resolution to authorize the war in Libya for the period of a year – a companion bill to the McCain/Kerry measure in the Senate – the body rejected another measure that was being pushed as an “antiwar alternative.”
Republicans overwhelmingly opposed the first resolution last week, while a surprising number of Democrats marshaled under Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) seemingly exposed themselves as hawks by their outspoken support. Democrats chided House Republicans during the debate for not adhering to the NATO treaty.
Many of these same Democrats rejected the the second resolution presented last Friday, which barred the use of funds in the war while providing a myriad of exceptions that amounted to what some observers called a de facto authorization of the current war strategy. Hawks voted against it because it didn’t authorize more attacks, while some antiwar Republicans, led by Ron Paul (R-TX), claimed it didn’t do enough to ensure less intervention.
The second resolution was expected to pass, but the nays had the day 180-238. Its failure sets the stage for Dennis Kucinich’s (D-OH) forthcoming bill to cut all funding for the Libyan war. Kucinich supported the second resolution calling it a good start that would lay the groundwork for his bill to be presented after the July 4th recess.
In other news, the Navy Times is reporting that “since NATO’s Operation Unified Protector (OUP) took over from the American-led Operation Odyssey Dawn on March 31, the U.S. military has flown hundreds of strike sorties.” An Africa Command (AFRICOM) spokeswoman confirmed the news Wednesday which controverts the official line from the White House – that the United State’s role in the conflict has been in a support capacity only, providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and refueling for NATO aircraft.
Nicole Dalrymple, AFRICOM spokeswoman wrote the following in an emailed statement to the Times:
“U.S. aircraft continue to fly support [ISR and refueling] missions, as well as strike sorties under NATO tasking. As of today, and since 31 March, the U.S. has flown a total of 3,475 sorties in support of OUP. Of those, 801 were strike sorties, 132 of which actually dropped ordnance.”
The US has also expanded its covertly operated aerial assaults to East Africa. The CIA announced Wednesday that targets within Somalia were struck by predator drones, wounding two al-Shabab military leaders who have apparently been linked to al Q’aida. Officially speaking, unmanned drones have been utilized in six countries so far: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and now Somalia (which the Pentagon has recently labeled a major terrorist base).
In a related story, relations between Islamabad and DC continue to sour as Administration officials have rejected demands by Pakistani authorities to abandon Shamsi Air Base, a major staging ground for CIA drone attacks in the region. “That base is neither vacated nor being vacated,” an anonymous official told Reuters.
Rounding out the week in war news are some tragic statistics coming from the often overlooked battlefield of Iraq. Three US soldiers died Wednesday in Southern Iraq during what officials are calling a “hostile event.” The total American death toll for the month has reached 15, making June the deadliest month for deployed troops in Iraq in two years. The figure also represents a drastic increase from May when two soldiers lost their lives. Officials are attempting to blame Iran for the increase in violence, saying that Shi’ite militias (ostensibly backed by the Revolutionary Guard) are reacting to the news that the U.S. has no intention of leaving Iraq after the December deadline for withdrawal.