Black Caucus on Libya War:

The Good, the Confused, and the Hopeless


By Glen Ford

These 24 members of a caucus that claims to be the “conscience of the Congress” will sign any check and authorize any amount of killings.”

July 02, 2011 "BAR" -- When the crunch came on June 24, only six members of the Congressional Black Caucus showed themselves to be of any use whatsoever to humanity and the cause of peace. We shall call them The Good. These three ladies and three gentlemen voted both to cut off funds to President Obama’s war against Libya – which he bizarrely insists is not really a war – and to directly withhold congressional authorization for that war, authority Obama claims he does not need.

Obama’s bombers won the fight over funding, 238 to 189, with only 36 Democrats willing to pull the money plug on the Nobel Peace Prize-winning warmonger. Six of those Democrats comprise the fraction of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) that is worth a damn:

The Good

John Conyers, Jr. (MI); Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL); Barbara Lee (CA); Laura Richardson (CA); Bobby Scott (VA); Maxine Waters (CA)

Thirty-one CBC members opted to allow Obama to continue spending on the Libyan operation, which will have cost $1 billion by September. Three failed to vote at all.

Obama’s defeat came on the question of barring the U.S. military from taking part in the NATO assault on Libya. By a vote of 295 to 123, the U.S. House withheld authorization for the war. On the losing side, 115 Democrats, including 24 Blacks, gave Obama their assent to U.S. participation in NATO’s bombing, whether he claims to need it or not.

As was logical, all six CBC members that voted to cut off funds to Obama’s Libya war (“The Good”) also opted to pull U.S. forces out of the NATO operation. They were joined by eight CBC members who had supported giving Obama all the money he needs to bomb Libya, but also wanted to withdraw congressional authorization for the war. The 8 vote-splitters could be described as schizophrenic – throwing money at a war that they want to pull out of. We will call them:

The Confused

Sanford Bishop (GA); Andre Carson (IN); Yvette Clarke (NY); Hansen Clarke (MI); William Lacy; Clay (MO); Danny Davis (IL); John Lewis (GA); Gwen Moore (WI)

With a total of 14 CBC members withholding authorization for Obama’s North African war (6 “Good” – 8 “Confused”), that leaves 24 members who have absolutely no redeeming political value. When it comes to an undeclared (actually, fiercely denied) war against an African country that has done nothing to harm the United States, these 24 members of a caucus that claims to be the “conscience of the Congress” will sign any check and authorize any amount of killings. It is far too kind to call them:

The Hopeless

Karen Bass (CA); Corrine Brown (FL); Emanuel Cleaver (MO); James Clyburn (SC); Elijah Cummings (MD); Donna Edwards (MD); Keith Ellison (MN); Chaka Fattah (PA); Marcia Fudge (OH); Al Green (TX); Alcee Hastings (FL); Sheila Jackson Lee (TX); Hank Johnson (GA); Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX); Gregory Meeks (NY); Donald Payne (NJ); Cedric Richmond (LA); Charles Rangel (NY); Bobby Rush (IL); David Scott (GA); Terri Sewell (AL); Bennie Thompson (MS); Mel Watt (NC); Frederica Wilson (FL)

G.K. Butterfield (NC) and Edolphus Towns (NY) did not take part in either vote. Call them Irrelevant and Hopeless.

In the Black Caucus of the 112th Congress, there are more Confused members (8) than Good (6), and The Good are outnumbered four to one by The Hopeless (24). The authoritative Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill reports that Democratic and Republican “whips” didn’t enforce discipline in the party ranks on either of the June 24 votes, which would indicate that members were guided in their votes by their own moral and intellectual imperatives – a depressing thought, given that peace lost by wide margins in the Black Caucus.

Among The Hopeless is the small slice of the CBC that talks and behaves very much like their white nationalist colleagues. For example, David Scott, the bankers’ representative from Atlanta, said he didn’t want to “pull out the rug” from under NATO. Keith Ellison’s argument is far more dangerous because it purports to have a moral – and even pro-African – underpinning. The Minneapolis congressman’s spiel is also perfectly aligned with the ravenous “humanitarian” interventionist hawks of the Obama administration, UN Ambassador Susan Rice and advisor Samantha Power. Ellison explained:

I voted against two resolutions concerning U.S. involvement in Libya because they would have limited our ability to respond to humanitarian emergencies.

"I was one of the first members of Congress to call for a no-fly zone over Libya to protect innocent civilians who want nothing more than freedom and the right to self-determination. Hours before the United Nations passed Resolution 1973, which the Arab League supported, Col. Moammar Gadhafi vowed to attack the strategically located port city that is home to 600,000 people and contains a major airport. I supported American participation in NATO operations to prevent a massacre and support the pro-democracy movements across the Middle East. Gadhafi’s forces do not control this vital city.”

Ellison’s argument is far more dangerous because it purports to have a moral – and even pro-African – underpinning.”

This is the essence of the Obama doctrine – a semantic shell game that wages war on the pretext of preventing a “humanitarian” crisis as defined by the superpower and its friends – and then, after inflicting thousands of deaths, claims no war has occurred, technically, legally, or in actuality. Ellis wants Obama – and, presumably, any future U.S. president – to have the power to define or predict “humanitarian” pretexts for military intervention, at will. He seeks to give the White House the right to shoot its way into any country it wants under some humanitarian construct – all in the name of “freedom and self-determination.”

Of course, national self-determination cannot exist in a world in which the U.S. and the Europeans claim the right to intervene whenever they identify some group, however vaguely defined, as endangered by the actions or inactions of the local government. Ellis has given a blank check to arbitrary global rule by U.S. military fiat – to endless wars that need no declaration, and to the end of international law as it has evolved over the centuries.

George Bush could never have pulled off a scam as monstrous as Obama’s humanitarian intervention doctrine, a bottomless evil that, if left standing, represents a point of no return for the rule of law on the planet. Yet, except for the six Good members, the Congressional Black Caucus is a Hopeless case, wedded to war – or Confused, halfway to Hell.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at