House to Vote on Afghanistan "Exit Strategy"

Last night the House Rules Committee decided that Rep. Jim McGovern's amendment requiring an exit strategy from Afghanistan would be in order when the House considers the FY2010 Defense Authorization [H.R. 2647]. That means that today or possibly tomorrow there should be a vote on the House floor on McGovern's amendment, which would require the Pentagon to submit to Congress by the end of the year an exit strategy from Afghanistan.

If you don't know where your Representative stands, now would be a good time to call and ask. The Congressional switchboard is 202-225-3121. Ask to be connected to your Representative's office, and ask your Representative to co-sponsor McGovern's bill [H.R. 2404] and support McGovern's amendment (which is essentially the same text as the bill) when it comes to the floor.

This will mark the first time in the Obama Administration that there has been a debate and vote in the House specifically on U.S. policy towards Afghanistan. The amendment is quite worthy in its own right: do not the Congress and the American people - not to mention the people of Afghanistan - have the right to be told what the exit strategy for the U.S. military is? But it is also a wedge to open up debate in the United States about what the U.S. is doing in Afghanistan and plans to do in the future.

Military commanders have made statements indicating plans to remain in Afghanistan until 2020. If ten more years of war is the Pentagon's "exit strategy," we - and the people of Afghanistan - have a right to know that and debate it.

Since you're calling your Congressional office anyway, let me call three other worthy amendments to your attention.

Another amendment from McGovern "Would require public disclosure of students and instructors at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation," the military training school at Ft. Benning formerly known as the "School of the Americas," or more colloquially, as the "School of Assassins." School of the Americas Watch has documented the past involvement of SOA graduates in major human rights violations in Latin America. In recent years the Pentagon has stopped providing information about what is going on at the school.

An amendment offered by Representative Barbara Lee prohibits the establishment of permanent military bases in Afghanistan. A similar amendment in the case of Iraq actually affected U.S. military construction in the country.

An amendment offered by Representative Alcee Hastings would establish access for the Red Cross to the U.S. prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan - Afghanistan's Guantanamo.

Urge your Representative in Congress to support these worthy amendments. Above all, let's begin a real debate about U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

There is always a best time for everything. You cannot force something to happen because is not yet the right time.

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