Congress has packed up and gone home for the year, leaving us with some good and bad news in next year’s budget. This year has been a trying one for those of us who had high hopes that the new Congress would make significant progress toward ending the war in Iraq. Unable to coalesce around a strategy to hold the Bush administration accountable and failing to live up to recent tough rhetoric, Congress passed an additional $70 billion for the occupation of Iraq by a vote of 70-25 in the Senate and 272-142 in the House. While we are all frustrated at Congress for continuing to send President Bush blank checks to fund the war, we know we have the majority of the American and Iraqi people on our side and will continue our tireless efforts to end the occupation.
This is also a time to celebrate positive developments, and there was much to celebrate in the omnibus spending bill passed earlier this week. One of the most exciting developments is that the funding for the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead has been completely zeroed out. Peace Action West and other group have mobilized opposition to this thinly veiled attempt to create new nuclear weapons. This is the third time that the Bush administration has tried and failed to take the US down the dangerous road of new nuclear weapons development. The bill also includes some positive steps to counteract global proliferation, such as cleaning up loose nuclear material and requiring reports to reevaluate nuclear weapons strategy and create a Comprehensive Nuclear Threat Reduction and Security Plan.
The spending bill also includes some great provisions related to protecting human rights through controlling the spread of conventional weapons. Peace Action West worked to generate support for limits on cluster munitions, indiscriminate weapons that rain “bomblets” on civilian areas. The spending bill includes prohibitions on exporting cluster bombs with a 1% or higher failure rate, and requires a written agreement that they won’t be used in civilian areas. In addition, the bill prohibits military aid to any country identified by the State Department as recruiting or using child soldiers.
Thank you for all of your help in achieving these successes. While we have endured frustrating setbacks, our successes are significant, and will ultimately result in a better quality of life for people around the globe. We will redouble our efforts in this next critical election year to make sure these achievements are not just a flash in the pan, but contributions to a shift in the direction of US foreign policy.
Groundswell will be on vacation until early January. Happy holidays from all of us here at Peace Action West.