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      Lessons From Iraq

      US soldiers march at a forward base near Najaf, Iraq, April 15, 2004.

      Thank you, Reps. Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee, for your organized forum reflecting on the Iraq war experience. My comments are these:

      The importance of a Congressional bloc willing to hold hearings, introduce legislation and offer amendments to cut funding cannot be overstated. Public opinion could be mobilized at congressional district levels to pressure congressional members, hold demonstrations, organize counter-recruitment campaigns and channel energy into national elections. This approach, gradual as it seemed, was the only way out of Iraq and proved to be a model for the subsequent effort to “wind down” the war in Afghanistan.

      As a result of this anti-war opposition, then candidate Sen. Barack Obama seized the opportunity in the 2008 Iowa caucuses to campaign on an out-of-Iraq platform and eventually become president.

      It is imperative that progressives in Congress adopt the same model against the secretive and unaccountable drone war strategy, which has been employed as the current administration withdraws from the failed ground wars in the region. Aside from persistent local protests, the rank-and-file peace and justice movement needs a legislative anti-drone strategy to organize locally and bring pressure on their representatives through the 2014-2016 cycle.

      It is also imperative that Congressional progressives take up the challenge presented by President Obama to “rein in” the executive branch before another Imperial Presidency is fully entrenched. The 1973 War Powers Resolution must be updated. The 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force also needs to be narrowed or repealed, since it has become the legal rationale for secret wars by the CIA and the Pentagon only vaguely connected to the original purpose.

      I would urge you to read former Sen. Jim Webb’s article in The National Interest, “Legislative Irrelevance: The Fading Role of Congress in Foreign-Policy Decision-Making.” (March/April 2013). Not only is Congress in danger of abdicating its constitutional responsibilities, it is diminishing the potential role and impact of rank-and-file citizen activists to irrelevance as well.

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