Yellow Ribbon Amendments

The US Senate just passed Sen. John Cornyn’s (D-TX) amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act condemning the “Petraeus/Betray Us” ad placed two weeks ago by by a 72-25-3 vote.

The purpose of the amendment is:

To express the sense of the Senate that General David II. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces.

Sen Gordon Smith voted “yea”, naturally. Sen. Ron Wyden voted “nay”. But 22 Democratic Senators (out of 49) voted for it. Joe Biden (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Barack Obama (D-IL) did not vote.

This is precisely the kind of measure we had a post-mortem on several weeks back, with regard to the 2003 Oregon House resolution Jeff Merkley voted for, that mixed expressions of support for President Bush and a reiteration of the lies about the threat Iraq posed to the United States with a statement of support for the members of the armed services.

In this version, the US Senate says Gen. Petraeus deserves their support and condemns attacks on his honor and integrity as well as attacks on the honor and integrity of the “United States Armed Forces”.

The “sense of the Senate” resolution has no more force than the House statement Merkley voted for in 2003. Very few people are going to argue against condemning attacks on members of the armed services.

It’s possible that Merkley may have thought the ad went too far. It’s possible he believed that and didn’t think it worthy of condemnation, but I have to wonder based on past performance whether he’d have felt compelled to vote for this amendment on the ground that it also condemned attacks on servicepeople, His vote for the 2003 House bill was predicated on wanting to show “strong support” to members of the military. Apparently men and women on their way to the war zone were paying special attention to non-binding resolutions passed by state legislatures. Would Cornyn’s amendment have done any less?

At four and a half years into the war in Iraq, wouldn’t “strong support” be even more necessary than at two days? If he’d been in Gordon Smith’s place, would he have felt compelled to once again pick-and-choose which portions of the purely cosmetic amendment he wanted to say he was supporting and throw away the part about Petraeus (if indeed he disagreed with it) so that he could support the troops?