Letter from former military officials to the President in support of substantial drawdown

[Letter from former military officials to the President expressing support for the Senate letter urging substantial drawdown from Afghanistan.]

June 2, 2011

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As former military officers and defense officials, we endorse the Senate letter to the Administration to order a "sizeable and sustained" reduction in troop levels in Afghanistan, beginning in July 2011.

We agree that the United States has successfully deployed its military and intelligence assets to accomplish our stated mission of destroying al Qaeda's training camps in Afghanistan and degrading the leadership by killing or capturing dozens of significant al Qaeda leaders, culminating in the operation that eliminated Osama bin Laden.

Furthermore, we do not believe it is a top national security interest of our country to utilize our military forces to undertake nation-building activities in an internal Afghan conflict that stretches back to the 1970s.

We congratulate you on the successes achieved by our forces, and urge you to begin a substantial and responsible redeployment of our forces this summer.


Evelyn Foote, Brig Gen., U.S. Army (Ret.)

Robert G. Gard, Jr., Lt. Gen., U.S. Army (Ret.)

Sam Gardiner, Colonel, USAF (Ret.)

Matthew Hoh, U. S. Marine Corps (Iraq), State Department Officer, (Afghanistan)

John H. Johns, Brig. Gen., U.S. Army (Ret.)

Lawrence J. Korb, former Assistant Secretary of Defense and Captain, U.S. Navy Reserves (Ret.)

Karen Kwiatkowski, Lt. Col., USAF (Ret.)

Paul R. Pillar, Former U.S. Intelligence Officer


Merkley-Lee-Udall letter circulating in Senate in support of substantial drawdown

[This letter to the President in support of a substantial drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan is currently being circulated among Senators; at this writing, the letter is currently announced to close at COB Tuesday, June 14.]


MoveOn, NOW, Peace Action press Senate for substantial drawdown

[Organizations sent the following letter to Senate staff is support of the Senate letter pressing President Obama for a substantial drawdown.]


U.S. Boat to Gaza is a Quarter Jewish - "Not Too Shabby!"

According to the New York Times, a quarter of the passengers on the U.S. Boat to Gaza are Jewish.

What does it mean that the U.S. Boat to Gaza is a quarter Jewish? According to the noted American Jewish commentator Adam Sandler, a quarter Jewish is "not too shabby!" Maybe the U.S. Boat to Gaza will be mentioned in Adam's next Hanukkah song.

What does it mean that the U.S. Boat to Gaza is a quarter Jewish? Maybe it means that the Israeli authorities will have some compunction about shooting up our boat. After all, isn't the official story of Zionism all about making a "safe harbor" for Jews in Palestine? We're not trying to make aliyah. We just want to visit. Should we be shot for trying to do so? Wouldn't it be a mitzvah to let us pass unharmed?

What does it mean that the U.S. Boat to Gaza is a quarter Jewish? Maybe it means that we can openly contest a construction of Jewish identity based on supporting the obstruction of Palestinian freedom, with a Jewish counter-narrative of universal human liberation.

U.S. Boat to Gaza passenger Hedy Epstein, an 86-year-old whose parents died in the Holocaust, told the New York Times,


At Long Last, House Debates and Votes on Libya War Powers

On Friday, more than two months after President Obama ordered U.S. forces into a war of choice in Libya without Congressional authorization, and more than two weeks after the expiration of the 60 day limit of the War Powers Resolution for the unauthorized use of force, the House finally debated and voted on the deployment of U.S. forces to the Libya conflict. You can watch the debate on c-span here.

What brought this debate and vote to pass was a resolution to withdraw U.S. forces from the conflict within 15 days brought pursuant to the War Powers Resolution by Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich. This resolution was originally supposed to be voted on Wednesday, but the House leadership, fearing that the resolution would pass, delayed consideration until Friday.

In the meantime, Speaker Boehner crafted an alternative resolution criticizing the Administration's lack of communication and consultation with Congress on the war, designed to drain enough support from the Kucinich resolution so that the Kucinich resolution would not pass.

Not surprisingly, Boehner's strategy worked. The Boehner resolution passed, 268-145, with 223 Republicans and 45 Democrats voting yes [roll call.] The Kucinich resolution was defeated, 148- 265, with 87 Republicans and 61 Democrats voting yes [roll call.]

Despite the defeat of the Kucinich resolution, Friday's action by the House was important.


Kucinich Calls the Question on Libya War Powers

Last week, voting on amendments on the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, the House of Representatives began taking action to limit U.S. military involvement in Libya's civil war.

Now the House leadership has agreed to a vote on House Concurrent Resolution 51, introduced by Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich, which would direct the President, pursuant to the War Powers Resolution, to remove U.S. armed forces from the Libya war. The vote could come as early as Wednesday afternoon.

The U.S. military intervention in Libya was never authorized by Congress, and thus violates U.S. law and the U.S. Constitution.

Some have argued that other Presidents have violated the War Powers Resolution, therefore it is no big deal. This is a breathtaking argument on its face: "everyone breaks the law." But moreover, as the New York Times noted on May 25:


many presidents, citing their power as commander in chief, have bypassed a section that says they need prior Congressional authorization to deploy forces into hostilities, except if the country is under attack. But there is far less precedent of presidents' challenging another section that says they must terminate any still-unauthorized operations after 60 days. In 1980, the Justice Department concluded that the deadline was constitutional. [my emphasis]

On May 20, the New York Times reported, referring to the 1980 Justice Department memorandum,


Egypt Opens Rafah Crossing: This Is What Democracy Looks Like

There was a slogan on the streets of Seattle: "This is what democracy looks like." You can't love democracy and denigrate protest, because protest is part of democracy. It's a package deal.

Likewise, you can't claim solidarity with Egyptian protesters when they take down a dictator, but act horrified that the resulting government in Egypt, more accountable to Egyptian public opinion, is more engaged in supporting Palestinian rights. It's a package deal.

On Saturday, at long last, the Egyptian government "permanently opened" the Egypt-Gaza passenger crossing at Rafah. A big part of the credit for this long-awaited development belongs to Tahrir. It was the Tahrir uprising that brought about an Egyptian government more accountable to public opinion, and it was inevitable that an Egyptian government more accountable to public opinion would open Rafah, because public opinion in Egypt bitterly opposed Egyptian participation in the blockade on Gaza.

In addition, opening Rafah was a provision of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation accord brokered by the Egyptian government - an achievement facilitated by the fact that the post-Tahrir Egyptian government was more flexible in the negotiations with Hamas that led to the accord.

Mubarak had a deal with the U.S. government: I obey all your commands on the Israel-Palestine issue, and in exchange, you shut your mouth about human rights and democracy. Tahrir destroyed this bargain, because it forced the U.S. to open its mouth about human rights and democracy in Egypt, regardless of Egypt's stance on Israel-Palestine. When it became clear to Egypt's rulers that subservience to the U.S. on Israel-Palestine would no longer purchase carte blanche on human rights and democracy, there was no reason to slavishly toe the U.S. line on Israel-Palestine anymore.

Asserting War Powers, House Moves To End Afghanistan, Libya Wars

Voting on amendments on the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, the House of Representatives took action to hasten the end of the wars in Afghanistan and Libya.


By a 204-215 vote [roll call] - six switchers would have passed the amendment - the House narrowly failed to adopt a bipartisan amendment from Reps. Jim McGovern [D-MA] and Justin Amash [R-MI] that would have required the Department of Defense to develop a plan for an "accelerated transition of military operations to Afghan authorities."

It may seem counter-intuitive to count narrowly failing to adopt an amendment as "taking an action," but in terms of consequences, it is taking action. Getting more than 200 votes sends a signal to the White House: if you don't move - for example, by announcing a significant drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan this summer - you could lose the next vote in the House. And if the Administration lost a vote in the House on the Afghanistan war, you can bet that would be front-page news in Europe, weakening the Administration's case to the Europeans for continuing the status quo. It seems likely that the Administration will want to stay one step ahead of the House, rather than face a public defeat. That points toward an accelerated drawdown this year.

If 204 Members were willing to vote yes, it seems extremely likely that 6 House Members who voted no gave a yes vote serious consideration. Indeed, The Hill reports:


NDAA amendments of interest approved by Rules

The NDAA amendments approved by the Rules Committee are posted here:

Unfortunately, this document is not searchable.

So, I made another document, a Word file, with just the amendments I thought were of particular interest, marking them STRONGLY SUPPORT, SUPPORT, or OPPOSE. "Strongly Support" means we put it in our action alert: the McGovern-Jones amendment requiring a plan for accelerated withdrawal with an end date; the Conyers amendment barring ground troops from Libya (which, by the way, has quite a few co-sponsors); the Amash-Lee amendment striking the "permanent war" authorization.

Days of Decision on Ending the Wars

If you don't see yourself as the sort of person who calls your representatives in Congress and urges them to vote to end the war in Afghanistan, stand up and take a bow. This is your moment of special recognition. The American peace movement is calling on you - you - to call your representatives in Congress now to urge votes against the wars, and we want you to do this so badly that the Friends Committee on National Legislation has established a toll-free number for you to reach your Representative: 1-888-231-9276.

The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act is expected on the floor of the House this week, and the House is expected to consider, among others, amendments to limit and end the war in Afghanistan, to limit and end the war in Libya, and to strip from the bill the "permanent war" authorization inserted by Rep. McKeon. Voting on these amendments may happen as early as Wednesday afternoon, eastern time.

A suggested call script, with information on many proposed amendments, is here. If your schedule doesn't permit you to call, you can write here.

Polls show that America - Blue America, Red America, and Purple America - is done with these wars. But the wars grind on.

One reason that these wars grind on is that while Members of Congress do obviously care about polls, polls are not all they look at to gauge public opinion. They want to know what people in their particular district think, and they want to know not only where the majority of opinion lies, but the intensity with which people hold their views. It's one thing to say that the majority wants to end the wars; it's another thing to say that the majority wants to end the wars, and furthermore, people in my district see this as a priority.