Symbolism Has Moral Power in Congressional Votes on Iraq


The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate cast moral votes last week on the White House's plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq.

The majority of Representatives took a moral, albeit symbolical, vote against an administration that fabricated a case for war, misleading the nation into an unnecessary conflict that never passed the rules of a just war and continues to violate those time-honored standards.

 

The minority of Representatives voted to make matters worse in a nation that has descended from awful dictatorial corruption to ghastly American control.

 

President Bush's backers favored an escalation in the number of troops, refusal to talk to other regional countries, undefined victory, increased noncombatant deaths and the road away from peace.

 

Seventeen Republicans and 229 Democrats cast moral votes. Two Democrats and 180 Republicans voted to stay the course. Six representatives did not vote.

 

One of the two Democratic representatives who voted for the continuation of the failed war was Jim Marshall, a man with a 4-year old record of being wrong about the war.

 

The Macon, Ga., representative blasted the news media in September 2003 for their coverage of the war. Writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he suggested that the news media "were somehow complicit" in the death of a U.S. soldier in Iraq.

 

"I'm afraid the news media are hurting our chances. They are dwelling upon the mistakes," he wrote. "But it is not balancing this bad news with 'the rest of the story,' the progress made daily, the good news. The falsely bleak picture weakens our national resolve, discourages Iraqi cooperation and emboldens our enemy."

 

A proponent of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Marshall said that the harm of our media "is killing our troops."

 

Four years into the war, after over 3,100 U.S. military deaths, more than 23,400 military injuries, tens of thousands of noncombatant civilian deaths, and mortgaging America's financial future to mayhem, one wonders where Marshall's progress is.

 

Had some of the national media been more discerning and less malleable to the Bush administration's misinformation campaign and had most political leaders possessed the moral compass of just war, perhaps the nation would not have waltzed into war.

 

Thankfully the media and a growing number of political leaders are more skeptical about secrets and more demanding about accountability.

 

Even though the Senate failed to reach the necessary 60 votes to debate the resolution on expanding the war in Iraq, 56 senators did vote against the president, including seven Republican Senators. A number of Republican Senators were absent. One Democrat voted against allowing the needed Senate debate.

 

Nonbinding votes disclose the building momentum of the moral march away from an administration without a moral basis for its war.

 

Fewer and fewer Americans are rallying around the flag in a way that chokes off critical thinking. More and more Americans are practicing discernment about statements from the White House and pro-war commentators. Progress toward ending the U.S. involvement in the war is painfully slow but headed in the right direction.

 

Congressional votes matter, even symbolic ones.

 

Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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