In March, President Obama told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that the United States must have an “exit strategy” in Afghanistan.
Ninety Members of Congress agree. They’re supporting H.R. 2404, a bill introduced by Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) whose text is one sentence long: “Not later than December 31, 2009, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to Congress a report outlining the United States exit strategy for United States military forces in Afghanistan participating in Operation Enduring Freedom.”
This week, Rep. McGovern is expected to try to attach this language to the 2010 military authorization bill. You can ask your Representative to support this effort here.
The Members of Congress are going a bit further than President Obama. They’re saying not only that the U.S. should have an exit strategy, but that Congress and the American people should be told what it is.
It’s Congress – and the American people – who have the power of the purse. This week, over the protests of progressive Democrats, Congress approved another war supplemental – paying for military escalation with no exit strategy – bringing the total spending for the war in Afghanistan to $223 billion since 2001, according to the Congressional Research Service.
$100 billion more in wartime spending. That’s what Congress is hellbent on approving despite valiant efforts from a growing number of Progressives led by FireDogLake’s Jane Hamsher to derail this legislation’s passage in the House. $100 billion, and for what? To bring more troops to Afghanistan without an exit strategy? To further US foreign policy that fails to address the humanitarian needs of the world’s third poorest country? To escalate military operations that directly result in Afghan civilian casualties?
Recently, Anand Gopal, who has been covering the war in Afghanistan for The Christian Science Monitor, dispelled the myths about troop escalation at the America’s Future Now Conference in Washington, DC. The reality, Gopal grimly assessed, is that more troops will mean more incidents of violence. More troops will also mean the need for more airstikes, which, as you can see in the sobering trailer for part four of Rethink Afghanistan, will mean more civilian casualties.
Gopal’s logic follows that of the Carnegie Endowment’s Gilles Dorronsoro, who has said for months that the increased presence of US forces in Afghanistan is the single greatest reason for the Taliban insurgency. And the more they surge, the more Congress will fund more war. To see exactly how US foreign policy is perpetuating this cycle of violence, read Ralph Lopez’s recent blog post and watch the accompanying al Jazeera video. Taliban extremists are using US airstrikes as a recruiting tool, preying upon the survivors, particularly children, who have lost everything in these bombings and suddenly have a chance to act upon their hatred toward the United States.
Fortunately, there are ways to take immediate action and address Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis.
With Taliban looking on approvingly, these tearful children in Afghanistan swear that they will now be suicide bombers after losing people they love in the only thing that more war funding gets you: More war. Film-maker Robert Greenwald (“Iraq for Sale”) urges us to keep calling the swing Democrats in the War Supplemental up for a vote, as we are now just three short of sending it back to the drawing board, for an exit strategy and a renewed focus on civilian aide rather than bombs for Afghans.
No one deserves this, and yes the Taliban plays it to its advantage. That’s why they look so happy in this video. Greenwald points out, more bombs are not going to address 40% unemployment, and a rampant picking-through-garbage-for-food scale of poverty. U.S. Generals and command staff in Afghanistan are desperate for more jobs on the ground, to keep young men paid and tired and not fighting for the Taliban’s $8 a day, since they are the ones who have to ride out in helicopters and apologize for the bombs falling in the wrong place.
The most interesting American political story unfolding today is the fight in the House over the Afghanistan–Iraq–IMF–Cash for Clunkers–Torture Photos supplemental funding bill. There is a lot at stake in this bill, which still might not have the votes to pass. Here is why it is worth watching:
Jane Hamsher was on the Washington Journal this morning to discuss the war supplemental, which the House is debating and voting on right now. This video though (part two of which is here) offers a particularly insightful breakdown of how we got to this point, how the war supplemental suddenly included a massive European bank bailout, and how Rahm Emanuel and the White House started making deals and pressuring members of Congress to gain their support.
In 2007, 82 Democratic members of Congress signed a pledge. They would never again vote to fund the war in Iraq without plans for troop withdrawal.
Republican critics accused them of demagoguing the war. Of using our soldiers as a political pawns, of not meaning what they said.
Those who signed that pledge need to cast their vote against the Supplemental Appropriations Act on Tuesday and prove them wrong.
We may agree or disagree about what needs to be done in Iraq, but a promise is a promise. Anti-war activists have supported these members of Congress because of that 2007 pledge. They knocked on doors and distributed leaflets and donated to their campaigns. They and marched side by side with them as they sought to bring an end to the war that still lingers in Iraq and escalates in Afghanistan, as the new film Rethink Afghanistan documents.
Face-to-face whipping? Sounds like one of the Bush administration’s enhanced interrogation torture techniques, but it’s actually will happen tonight in Congress because House leadership doesn’t have the votes yet on the $100 billion war supplemental. According to Peace Action’s Paul Martin, the House wants to bring this bill to a vote tomorrow, but won’t if they can’t swing the votes they need (h/t Jane Hamsher). Our Representatives need to hear from us so they don’t buckle under this pressure, especially since it seems like Rahm Emanuel is going to be buying votes any which way he can.
I called Chakah Fattah’s office this afternoon since he’s my Rep here in Philly. The person who answered the phone said Rep. Fattah wasn’t sure how he would be voting tomorrow. Not only did I try to emphasize the need for him to vote “No,” I also mentioned the 2007 pledge Fattah (and every other member of House) took not to vote for war funding without a troop withdrawal provision.
Keep calling these Reps and convey a similar message:
Welch and others pledged not to vote on such further appropriations without the inclusion of a timetable for withdrawal, and word on the Hill is that Welch may be among those signatories who may reverse themselves on the issue under pressure from the new, Democratic administration.
It’s past time for the progressive wing of the party to stand up and expect the same deference being shown by the Obama administration to the congressional blue dogs. Call Welch and let him know you look forward to him sticking to his pledge to Vermonters at (888) 605-7270 (toll free in Vermont),(802) 652-2450, and/or (202) 225-4115 (here’s the fdl whip tool again).
Green Mountain Daily has been doing a great job covering this stuff.
We’re on the verge of a huge progressive victory for the antiwar movement. Jane Hamsher estimates we have 36 of the 39 Democratic votes needed to defeat the war supplemental bill in the House tomorrow–which leaves only three to go! We must make sure our Reps know we oppose the war, and remind them that everyone in the House in 2007 signed the pledge not to vote for more war funding unless there are provisions for troop withdrawal.
According to Hamsher, here are the vets who are “leaning No” and could use a boost of antiwar support:
Want to know what 21,000 more US troops and $96.7 billion more in wartime spending will go toward? Gen. Petraeus says insurgent attacks in Afghanistan are at their highest level since 2001; there were 400 attacks in the last week alone. Both Generals Petraeus and McChrystal expressed the desire to keep civilian casualties to a minimum, but how can they possibly achieve that lofty goal with more troops on the ground? It stands to reason that more troops will mean more incidents of violence, increasing calls for more US airstrikes, which in turn will mean more civilian casualties.
If Congress approves this wartime funding, there is a good chance we will see more families like the one in the above video, forced into an Internally Displaced Persons camp in Kabul and left to starve in the wake of recent bombings. “The children are crying and asking for food from me,” a helpless father cries. “It has been five nights, we haven’t eaten anything, I don’t know what to do. How can I feed them or get them medication? …Death is better than this kind of life, to be hungry and thirsty.”
There won’t be anyone to pick up the phone at congressional offices this weekend, but you can write letters to the editor in time for the Sunday edition, urging members of Congress to vote against the Supplemental Appropriations Act.
The war supplemental shouldn’t be held hostage to a $100 billion European bank bailout
Four billion in “Cash for Clunkers” is being added to the bill to force progressives to vote for it
Let’s separate these bills and talk about them honestly
The administration has committed itself to transparency. This is not transparent.
Rahm Emanuel is threatening Democratic freshmen if they don’t vote for the bill. We need 39 Democratic votes to defeat it. Already 32 have committed to oppose it. Please write your local paper and urge them to support your member of Congress in voting against the supplemental. (If you don’t know who your member of Congress is, you can look them up here.)