Patriots for Peace: Doggett on Congress and the War

Rep. Lloyd Doggett responds to anti-war critics on congressional action against the Iraq war

The Chronicle asked U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett a few questions about congressional action in opposition to continued war in Iraq. Here are his full responses.

Austin Chronicle: Given polls and a recent resurgence in anti-war protests, it seems public opinion is shifting against the war pretty heavily. From their conversations with lawmakers, local activists said even Republicans are feeling pressure from their conservative constituency to act against the war. Is Congress lagging behind public opinion?

Rep. Lloyd Doggett: With President Bush at the peak of his popularity after 9/11 and the location of my own congressional district uncertain, I was a leader in the House of Representatives against the measure authorizing the president to invade Iraq. From protest gatherings to the floor of the House, I have continued to work to convince more of my colleagues that we must exit Iraq. Actually, I think many in Congress now, whose votes we need to end this war, reflect ambivalence that remains too common across America. While a majority of the public agrees with us that the president has failed, they do not yet agree on the best solution. Even for those who reject the escalation – "stay the course, but supersize it" – too many remain fearful of the consequences of bringing our troops home soon. Our focus should be on persuading these neighbors as well as their elected representatives that prompt, phased redeployment from Iraq now is the best way, both to support our troops and make our families safer.

AC: In declining to sign a pledge to oppose supplemental funding for the Iraq war, you said that there may be a reason why you "need" to vote in favor, according to CodePink. Could you please explain what you meant by this?

LD: Any limitations need to be on the president, not on my personal ability to react strategically in an ever-changing environment in Congress. I have emphasized that we must seek firm limitations on appropriations, or we will leave this war-making president restrained only by Dick Cheney's imagination. I do not know now in what way this bill and any amendments will be presented or worded. One of many possibilities is that we could successfully place sufficient limitations on the president's actions in Iraq to provoke a veto threat; I could decide to vote for a limitation-encumbered supplemental and put him to the test. I am not unwilling to vote against funding, but winning a vote to significantly limit funding is a better way to stop the killing than casting a vote against funding that is overwhelmingly defeated.

AC: In your remarks on the floor on Feb. 17 you said, "Unless we move forward to place firm limitations on appropriations, we will leave this war-making president restrained only by Dick Cheney's imagination." You seemed to be making a strong case against voting for funding, but you seem to be reversing your stance. Are you?

LD: I fully stand by my statement and am seeking to implement it with firm, meaningful limitations as indicated in my answer to the previous question.

AC: As the adage says, you can't please everyone all the time. Democratic lawmakers seem to be in a political tightrope walk, trying to appease constituents on the left with rhetoric opposing the war and passing nonbinding resolutions and those on the right by "supporting the troops" through funding. By trying to achieve a middle ground, isn't Congress just nullifying itself, in a sense, and giving its tacit support to the war?

LD: Our recent resolution reflects no such political "tightrope." The troops and their families deserve our support, and as I noted on the House floor, there are better ways to support them than by sending more troops to be killed. If the American people do not believe all of us are supporting our troops, as we should, then we will not have their support to bring our troops home. The wording of the resolution adopted, with my strong personal urging as it was drafted, did not deal with funding; rather it constituted an unequivocal rejection of the escalation of the president's misguided war. It's passage was a victory – it is the first step back from the abyss in Iraq, and now we must take the next step, which I want to be as big and meaningful a step as we can secure votes to take. I am not seeking the "middle" – I am seeking a majority to take the most effective steps we can stop the killing. What does give "tacit support to the war," as well as aid and comfort to Dick Cheney and his ilk, are the tactics of a few fringe elements, who seem more interested in turning people off than turning down the war machine. If what we are doing is not winning more people to our side, we are only prolonging this tragic war. As we voice our opposition, we should proudly wave our flag, not surrendering any such cherished symbol to those whose policies are doing it so much harm. I believe in patriots for peace!

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CongressIraq War, Lloyd Doggett, Iraq War, Anti-war Movement, Dick Cheney

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