By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, July 14, 2019
The latest U.S. House of Representatives version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which is beyond global in scope and not the least bit defensive, offended Donald Trump’s desire for limitless power and spending in dozens of ways detailed by the people he employs to write things longer than tweets — and that was before it was amended. And the amendments are shockingly good.
If you’re going to pass a stinker of a bill, piling several hundred billion more dollars into a criminal enterprise that endangers us, devastates the natural environment, diverts funding away from enterprises that could save and radically improve billions of lives, promotes bigotry and violence, and generates refugees who can then be blamed for it, the least awful way to do so would be with the following amendments. But, bear in mind, these have been passed by the House and not the Senate, and unless people find out they exist and raise absolute hell about keeping them in, the House will strip them out in deference to the Senate, the President, the campaign funders, or all three.
One of the many amendments passed by the House by recorded vote (click the links below to see who voted which way) is “to require the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress on the financial costs and national security benefits of operating, improving, and maintaining overseas military infrastructure.” Learn more.
Another is “to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.” While a separate amendment was passed “to express the sense of Congress that the 2001 AUMF has been utilized beyond the scope that Congress intended; and that any new authorization for the use of military force to replace the 2001 AUMF should include a sunset clause, a clear and specific expression of objectives, targets, and geographic scope, and reporting requirements.”
An amendment was even passed in favor of documenting deaths, specifically “to make changes to current law related to policies and planning to ensure civilian protection, including procedures for incidents involving civilian casualties.”
Amazingly, an amendment was passed “to prohibit unauthorized military force in or against Iran.” Of course this does not mean to prohibit any illegal attack on Iran, but merely any illegal attack on Iran not approved by Congress.
Importantly, and after years of people demanding it, the House has passed an amendment “to express a Sense of Congress that diplomacy is essential for addressing North Korea’s nuclear program, as a military confrontation would pose extreme risks, and the US should pursue a sustained and credible diplomatic process to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea and an end to the 69-year-long Korean War.” The major breakthrough here is buried in those final words.
The House also passed amendments related to the U.S./Saudi war on Yemen, including one “to provide for a one-year prohibition on the sale of air-to-ground munitions used in the conflict in Yemen to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, while providing an exemption for any export or license suspensions that would incur a cost to the United States Government.” Another is “to prohibit funds from the Special Defense Acquisition Fund to aid Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates if such assistance could be used to conduct or continue hostilities in Yemen.” A third is “to prohibit funds from being used to transfer any defense articles or services to Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates under the emergency authority of the Arms Export Control Act that circumvents congressional review.” A fourth is “to prohibit support to and participation in the Saudi-led coalitions military operations against the Houthis in Yemen.”
Another pair of passed amendments address a major environmental crisis explained this weekend in a new video from CNBC. One is “to require the Administrator of the EPA to designate all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances as hazardous substances under section 102(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980.” The other is “to require the EPA to revise the list of toxic pollutants under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to include perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and publish effluent and pretreatment standards.”
Another amendment would “prohibit DoD funding to house any foreign nationals who are in the custody of and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
The looming danger of a nuclear apocalypse is addressed by two passed amendments. One is “to require the Comptroller General of the United States to submit to Congress independent studies regarding potential cost savings with respect to the nuclear security enterprise and force structure.” The other is “to require the Under Secretary for Nuclear Security to conduct a study on the unexpected cost increases for the W80-4 nuclear warhead life extension program and prevents $185 million from being obligated or expended until the study is completed.”
The new Cold War is addressed by an amendment “to prohibit funding for missiles noncompliant with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty until the Secretary of Defense meets certain conditions.” Another amendment would express “that the U.S. should seek to extend the New START Treaty, unless Russia is in material breach of the Treaty, or the U.S. and Russia have entered into a new agreement that has equal or greater constraints, transparency, and verification measures on Russia’s nuclear forces. Amendment also prohibits use of funds to withdraw from New START; Requires DNI, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense reports detailing the consequences of the Treaty’s lapse and impact on US nuclear modernization plan. Also requires Presidential certification regarding future of the Treaty before its potential expiration.”
As if that weren’t enough, future Trumparades would be canceled by an amendment “to prohibit the use of funds for an exhibition or parade of military forces and hardware, except for the display of small arms and munitions appropriate for customary ceremonial honors.”
Trump corruption schemes are tackled by two more amendments passed by the House. One would “prohibit the use of funds from being obligated or expended at properties owned by the President or that bear his name, with a waiver made available if the President reimburses the Department of the Treasury for the amount associated with the expense.” Another would “amend the current statutory prohibition on members of Congress contracting with the federal government to include the President, Vice President, and any Cabinet member.”
The House also passed an amendment that would address the epidemic of mass shootings by veterans. It would “codify a Department of Defense policy to report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) service members who are prohibited from purchasing firearms.”
Yet another amendment has been passed “to prohibit funds from being used to transfer defense articles or services to Azerbaijan unless the President certifies to Congress that the articles or services do not threaten civil aviation.” And, finally, an amendment would “require the Secretary of Defense to publish online the distribution of DOD Tuition Assistance Funds at institutions of higher education, and audit any proprietary institution receiving DOD Tuition Assistance funds that fails to meet the Financial Responsibility Standards in the Higher Education Act of 1965.”
We should keep in mind that some of these amendments would outlaw things that are already illegal, and that President Trump will have little reason to comply with any amendments that make it into law, given the practice established by Bush-Obama of erasing selected portions of laws with signing statements, and given Nancy Pelosi’s commitment not to impeach.
We should also keep in mind that a pig will always remain a pig.
UPDATE: I should have included that, amazingly, an amendment also passed requiring an investigation into the military’s bioweapon labs’ responsibility for Lyme disease.