Iraq: US bombs Shi’ites —again; Congress funds carnage —again

At least seven young men were killed in an apparent US helicopter attack on an outdoor Ramadan gathering in the Baghdad Shi’ite suburb of Abu Dshir late Sept. 27. Witnesses say the men were playing a traditional Ramadan game called mihaidis, in which teams try to find a hidden ring, when the helicopters appeared, briefly hovered over the crowd—and then began firing machine-gun blasts and rockets. Maj. Brad Leighton, identified by the New York Times as “a spokesman for the multinational forces in Baghdad,” responded with the following sensitive statement:

“We assess possibly two or three were killed or wounded. We were not able to get an accurate assessment. Collateral damage was not observed, but it is a possibility. If some innocents were killed, we regret that.”

US attacks claiming Shi’ite civilian “collateral damage” in Baghdad are becoming alarmingly common. Meanwhile, the same day as the Abu Dshir attack, the US Congress once again signed off on an indefinite extension of the carnage. John Nichols notes in his blog for The Nation:

The Senate agreed on Thursday to increase the federal debt limit by $850 billion – from $8.965 trillion to $9.815 trillion – and then proceeded to approve a stop-gap spending bill that gives the Bush White House at least $9 billion in new funding for its war in Iraq.

Additionally, the administration has been given emergency authority to tap further into a $70 billion “bridge fund” to provide new infusions of money for the occupation while the Congress works on appropriations bills for the Department of Defense and other agencies.

Translation: Under the guise of a stop-gap spending bill that is simply supposed to keep the government running until a long-delayed appropriations process is completed – probably in November – the Congress has just approved a massive increase in war funding.

The move was backed by every senator who cast a vote, save one.

Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, the maverick Democrat who has led the fight to end the war and bring U.S. troops home from Iraq, was on the losing end of the 94-1 vote. (The five senators who did not vote, all presidential candidates who are more involved in campaigning than governing, were Democrats Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden and Republicans John McCain and Sam Brownback.)

Said Feingold, “I am disappointed that we are about to begin the 2008 fiscal year without having enacted any of the appropriations bills for that year. I am even more disappointed that we voted on a continuing resolution that provides tens of billions of dollars to continue the misguided war in Iraq but does not include any language to bring that war to a close. We need to keep the federal government operating and make sure our brave troops get all the equipment and supplies they need, but we should not be giving the President a blank check to continue a war that is hurting our national security.”

In the House, the continuing resolution passed by a vote of 404 to 14, with 14 other members not voting.

The “no” votes in the House, all cast by anti-war members, came from one Republican, Ron Paul of Texas, and 13 Democrats: Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer, Missouri’s William Clay, Minnesota’s Keith Ellison, California’s Bob Filner, Massachusetts’ Barney Frank, New York’s Maurice Hinchey, Ohio’s Dennis Kucinich, Washington’s Jim McDermott, New Jersey’s Donald Payne, California’s Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, Diane Watson and Lynn Woolsey.

That means that, of the 2008 presidential candidates, only Republican Paul and Democrat Kucinich voted against giving the Bush administration a dramatic – if not particularly well publicized – infusion of new money for the war.

“Each year this war is getting more and more costly – both in the amount of money spent and in the number of lives lost. Now this Congress is providing more funds so the administration can continue down a path of destruction and chaos,” said Kucinich, who noted the essential role of House and Senate Democratic leaders, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in passing the continuing resolution. “The Democratic leadership in Congress needs to take a stand against this President and say they will not give him any more money. That is the only way to end this war and bring our troops home.”

See our last post on Iraq and the politics of escalation.