That’s a position much of the corporate DLC feel
free to spout, without ever calling for a definitive withdrawal.
However, it’s all the DLC-centered clique in the Caucus will
sign off on, and they have an effective veto. Unanimity, when
unattainable based on progressive principles, becomes a weapon
in the hands of a small, corrupted minority.
Individual Black lawmakers in forefront
There is a parallel between Nancy Pelosi’s protection
of Democratic war-continuers and a CBC that is stifled by the
perceived need for unanimity. However, this commentary is meant
to point out a practical weakness in CBC institutional behavior,
not to besmirch the large majority of Black lawmakers, many
of whom are also frustrated that the Caucus is no longer able
to consistently act as a true "conscience of the congress"
- and a voice that reflects the actual state of Black political
opinion. As individuals, Black congresspersons are in the forefront
of whatever progressive activity occurs in the U.S. House, including
efforts to end the Iraq war and occupation.
In May, 2005, Rep. Lynn Woolsey’s (D-CA) amendment
called on the president to "develop a plan
as soon as practicable after the date of the enactment of this
Act to provide for the withdrawal of United States Armed Forces
from Iraq; and transmit to the congressional defense committees
a report that contains the plan…." Somehow - and to Nancy
Pelosi’s apparent surprise - the rather tame amendment to a
defense bill escaped from committee for a surprise vote on the
floor of the House. Despite Pelosi’s last ditch opposition,
five Republicans and a majority of Democrats (122) voted with
Woolsey - 31
of those votes came from the CBC.
The seven Black Democrats that voted against Woolsey’s
"Withdrawal of U.S. Armed Forces from Iraq" bill were:
Sanford Bishop (GA), Corrine Brown (FL), G.K. Butterfield (NC),
Artur Davis (AL), Harold Ford (TN), David Scott (GA), Kendrick
Reps. Harold Ford (TN) and Sanford Bishop (GA)
were among the original "Four Eunuchs of War."
The two other War Powers Act supporters of 2002,
William Jefferson (LA) and Albert Wynn (MD), voted for Woolsey’s
"withdrawal" amendment in 2005.
Of the 65 congresspersons that formed the Out
of Iraq Caucus in July of this year, 25 were Black, including
five of the eight founders: Maxine
Waters (CA), John Conyers (MI), Charlie Rangel (NY), Barbara
Lee (CA), John Lewis (GA), and Corrine Brown (FL). Rep.
Brown had months before voted against the Woolsey amendment.
Original 2002 "eunuch" Albert Wynn,
a DLC activist who two and a half years later supported Woolsey,
also joined the Out of Iraq Caucus. However, War Powers "eunuch"
William Jefferson stayed away.
Here is the irreducible core of pro-war CBC members,
all of them either DLC or Blue Dog Democrats:
Sanford Bishop (GA)
Artur Davis (AL)
Harold Ford (TN)
David Scott (GA)
These men are the worst malefactors in the CBC
on issues of war and peace, as well as social and economic justice.
They and a second tier of four to six other corrupted Black
lawmakers combine to prevent the Black Caucus from carrying
out its historic mission. Harold Ford’s Memphis district is
no more pro-war than any other Black urban center - but Ford
refuses to represent his constituents. Artur Davis hails from
the Black Belt of Alabama, the ground on which Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr. built an edifice of struggle for justice and peace
- yet Davis sides with corporate warmongers. David Scott’s suburban
Atlanta district is demographically little different than Rep.
Cynthia McKinney’s neighboring district - but his vision bears
no relationship to the historical Black Political Consensus.
If the CBC’s hands are tied by an implicit veto
from these men, who are surrogates for forces antithetical to
the interests and opinions of African Americans, then the Caucus
will fail itself, and all of us. Rep. Mel Watt and the chairpersons
that succeed him will repeatedly find themselves hamstrung by
the worst elements that corporate money can buy.
Let the Black Caucus be Black!
It’s bad enough that Black folks’ political fates
are currently tied to a Democratic leadership that cares more
about preserving a false and do-nothing party "unity"
than ending a war. But it is unthinkable that we will continue
to allow the Black polity to be paralyzed and polluted
by a bought-and-paid-for element. At the very least, African
Americans must protect their own institutions. Do the opinions
of 95 percent of Black America have no standing, even in the
Congressional Black Caucus? Can a gaggle of hustlers be allowed
to veto the deepest aspirations of 40 million people?
Clearly, the handful (plus a few fingers) of "derelicts"
in the CBC must be voted out by the citizens of their districts.
The infestation requires great agitation, organization, fund
raising, and the application of lots of political Raid to get
them scurrying in the open. The CBC Monitor’s September Report
Card - which will be updated in late January - draws "bright
lines" that point to who should be acknowledged and rewarded,
and who should be targeted for electoral extinction. BC
is told that a Black Progressive PAC will soon emerge to help
make examples of the worst offenders. And there is no worse
offense than prolonging an illegal war, a crime against peace.
It does not help that Nancy Pelosi, a former leader
of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, now spends much of
her time sabotaging congressional peace initiatives - especially
when these initiatives are disproportionately Black. But the
Congressional Black Caucus is hampered by its own attempts at
discipline, hitched to an ideal of unanimity that became counterproductive
as soon as the corporate money started to roll into selected
A "sense of the House" resolution does
not require a unanimous vote. Neither should an in-caucus "sense
of the CBC" resolution. Speak Truth to Power - the truth
that 95 percent of Black folks know. Out of Iraq Now!
Let Iraq be Iraq! And Let the Black Caucus be
Text of Rep. Cynthia McKinney’s statement
to the U.S. House
November 18, 2005
The Republicans in this House have done a heinous
thing: they have insulted one of the deans of this House in
an unthinkable and unconscionable way.
They took his words and contorted them; they took
his heartfelt sentiments and spun them. They took his resolution
and deformed it: in a cheap effort to silence dissent in the
House of Representatives.
The Republicans should be roundly criticized for
this reprehensible act. They have perpetrated a fraud on the
House of Representatives just as they have defrauded the American
By twisting the issue around, the Republicans
are trying to set a trap for the Democrats. A "no"
vote for this Resolution will obscure the fact that there is
strong support for withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. I am
voting "yes" on this Resolution for an orderly withdrawal
of US forces from Iraq despite the convoluted motives behind
the Republican Resolution. I am voting to support our troops
by bringing them home now in an orderly withdrawal.
Sadly, if we call for an end to the occupation,
some say that we have no love for the Iraqi people, that we
would abandon them to tyrants and thugs.
Let us consider some history. The Republicans
make great hay about Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons
against the Iranians and the Kurds. But when that attack was
made in 1988, it was Democrats who moved a resolution to condemn
those attacks, and the Reagan White House quashed the bill in
the Senate, because at that time the Republicans considered
Saddam one of our own.
So in 1988, who abandoned the Iraqi people to
tyrants and thugs?
In voting for this bill, let me be perfectly clear
that I am not saying the United States should exit Iraq without
a plan. I agree with Mr. Murtha that security and stability
in Iraq should be pursued through diplomacy. I simply want
to vote yes to an orderly withdrawal from Iraq. And let me
Prior to its invasion, Iraq had not one (not one!)
instance of suicide attacks in its history. Research shows
a 100% correlation between suicide attacks and the presence
of foreign combat troops in a host country. And experience also
shows that suicide attacks abate when foreign occupation troops
are withdrawn. The US invasion and occupation has destabilized
Iraq and Iraq will only return to stability once this occupation
We must be willing to face the fact that the presence
of US combat troops is itself a major inspiration to the forces
attacking our troops. Moreover, we must be willing to acknowledge
that the forces attacking our troops are able to recruit suicide
attackers because suicide attacks are largely motivated by revenge
for the loss of loved ones. And Iraqis have lost so many loved
ones as a result of America's two wars against Iraq.
In 1996, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
said on CBS that the lives of 500,000 children dead from sanctions
were "worth the price" of containing Saddam Hussein.
When pressed to defend this reprehensible position she went
on to explain that she did not want US Troops to have to fight
the Gulf War again. Nor did I. But what happened? We fought
a second gulf war. And now over 2,000 American soldiers lie
dead. And I expect the voices of concern for Iraqi civilian
casualties, whose deaths the Pentagon likes to brush aside as
"collateral damage" are too few, indeed. A report
from Johns Hopkins suggests that over 100,000 civilians have
died in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, most of them violent
deaths and most as "collateral damage" from US forces.
The accuracy of the 100,000 can and should be debated. Yet
our media, while quick to cover attacks on civilians by insurgent
forces in Iraq, have given us a blackout on Iraqi civilian deaths
at the hands of US combat forces.
Yet let us remember that the United States and
its allies imposed a severe policy of sanctions on the people
of Iraq from 1990 to 2003. UNICEF and World Health Organization
studies based on infant mortality studies showed a 500,000 increase
in mortality of Iraqi children under 5 over trends that existed
before sanctions. From this, it was widely assumed that over
1 million Iraqi deaths for all age groups could be attributed
to sanctions between 1990 and 1998. And not only were there
5 more years of sanctions before the invasion, but the war since
the invasion caused most aid groups to leave Iraq. So for areas
not touched by reconstruction efforts, the humanitarian situation
has deteriorated further. How many more Iraqi lives have been
lost through hunger and deprivation since the occupation?
And what kind of an occupier have we been? We
have all seen the photos of victims of US torture in Abu Ghraib
prison. That's where Saddam used to send his political enemies
to be tortured, and now many Iraqis quietly, cautiously ask:
"So what has changed?"
A recent video documentary confirms that US forces
used white phosphorous against civilian neighborhoods in the
US attack on Fallujah. Civilians and insurgents were burned
alive by these weapons. We also now know that US forces have
used MK77, a napalm-like incendiary weapon, even though napalm
has been outlawed by the United Nations.
With the images of tortured detainees, and the
images of Iraqi civilians burned alive by US incendiary weapons
now circulating the globe, our reputation on the world stage
has been severely damaged.
If America wants to win the hearts and minds of
the Iraqi people, we as a people must be willing to face the
pain and death and suffering we have brought to the Iraqi people
with bombs, sanctions and occupation, even if we believe our
actions were driven by the most altruistic of reasons. We must
acknowledge our role in enforcing the policy of sanctions for
12 years after the extensive 1991 bombing in which we bombed
infrastructure targets in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions.
We must also be ready to face the fact that the
United States once provided support for the tyrant we deposed
in the name of liberating the Iraqi people. These are events
that our soldiers are too young to remember. I believe our
young men and women in uniform are very sincere in their belief
that their sacrifice is made in the name of helping the Iraqi
people. But it is not they who set the policy. They take orders
from the Commander-in-Chief and the Congress. It is we who
bear the responsibility of weighing our decisions in a historical
context, and it is we who must consider the gravest decision
of whether or not to go to war based upon the history, the facts,
and the truth.
Sadly, however, our country is at war in Iraq
based on a lie told to the American people. The entire war
was based premised on a sales pitch-that Iraq had weapons of
mass destruction menacing the United States-that turned out
to be a lie.
I have too many dead soldiers in my district;
too many from my home state. Too many homeless veterans on
our streets and in our neighborhoods.
America has sacrificed too many young soldiers'
lives, too many young soldiers' mangled bodies, to the Bush
I will not vote to give one more soldier to the
George W. Bush/Dick Cheney war machine. I will not give one
more dollar for a war riddled with conspicuous profiteering.
Tonight I speak as one who has at times been the
only Member of this Body at antiwar demonstrations calling for
withdrawal. And I won't stop calling for withdrawal.
I was opposed to this war before there was a war;
I was opposed to the war during the war; and I am opposed to
this war now - even though it's supposed to be over.
A vote on war is the single most important vote
we can make in this House. I understand the feelings of my
colleagues on both sides of the aisle who might be severely
conflicted by the decision we have to make here tonight. But
the facts of US occupation of Iraq are also very clear. The
occupation is headed down a dead end because so long as US combat
forces patrol Iraq, there will be an Iraqi insurgency against
I urge that we pursue an orderly withdrawal from
Iraq and pursue, along with our allies, a diplomatic solution
to the situation in Iraq, supporting the aspirations of the
Iraqi people through support for democratic processes.