Since President Obama took office, the war in Afghanistan has claimed the lives of over 1500 US troops, according to Just Foreign Policy's US Deaths in Afghanistan: Obama vs. Bush counter, which draws on data provided by iCasualties. By comparison, 575 US troops died during President Bush's two terms.
The rise in troop deaths during President Obama's presidency has not been altogether surprising given the administration's strategy in Afghanistan. In 2009, President Obama oversaw not one but two offensive surges, each of which added about 33,000 troops to the roughly 34,000 that were deployed in the country when he took office. By August 2010, more troops had died in Afghanistan under President Obama's command than during President Bush's seven years at the helm. By October 2011, that figure had doubled.
In early December 1914, Pope Benedict XV called for a "Christmas Truce" in the First World War. Leaders on all sides were forced to respond to the Pope's call. No formal truce was agreed, but across the trenches of the Western Front many soldiers on all sides observed the Christmas truce the Pope had called for.
Today the war in Afghanistan continues killing Americans and Afghans for no reason. If Pope Benedict XVI - the current Pope - called on Western leaders to announce an offensive ceasefire in Afghanistan for the Christmas holiday, Western leaders would have to respond. If we could stop the war for one day, it would set an important precedent, making it easier to achieve a lasting ceasefire and an end to the war.
Pope Benedict XVI has just inaugurated the use of a Twitter account. The Pope already has a million followers on Twitter, and the fact that he is now on Twitter is in the news. Sign and tweet our petition, and people around the world will see your appeal for the Pope to call for a Christmas ceasefire:
We're making our appeal for a ceasefire to the Pope because he is the most prominent and influential Western religious leader, and because of the historical precedent of his predecessor's call for a ceasefire in 1914. If Pope Benedict calls for a ceasefire in Afghanistan, other Western leaders will join his call, and Western governments with troops in Afghanistan will have to respond. Upon becoming Pope in 2005, he said: 
Yesterday, an overwhelming majority (62-33) of US Senators—including every Senator who caucuses with the Democrats save two—voted in favor of a measure that calls upon President Obama to continue withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan at a steady pace, as he promised in his address to the nation in June 2011. The "sense of the Senate", which was introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), also calls upon President Obama to end all regular US combat missions in Afghanistan no later than December 31, 2014, and to "take all possible steps" to end such operations earlier.
Why is this vote significant? At present, there is no timetable for removing the 68,000 US troops that remain in Afghanistan. President Obama does not plan to announce such a timetable until after his administration has decided how many troops to leave in Afghanistan post-2014. This decision is expected to happen within the next few weeks, which means that a decision on a drawdown timetable for 2013-2014 may also be imminent.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters that the Obama administration would come to a decision within the next few weeks about the magnitude of the US "enduring presence" in Afghanistan. Panetta said that the White House was currently reviewing several recommendations for troop levels from General John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. These options take into account the different roles US troops would play in Afghanistan after 2014. According to the New York Times,
The number, Mr. Panetta said, will be based on how many forces are needed for counterterrorism — that is, in commando raids like the one that killed Osama bin Laden — as well as for training and providing air transport and other support to the Afghan security forces.
Congressional offices will be paying special attention to phone calls coming in this week on the Defense Appropriations bill, so call your Representative today! Here's what you do:
- Call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Representative's office.
- Tell the person who picks up or your Rep's voice mailbox, "Hello, my name is _______, I live at _______. I urge Rep _______ to support amendments to the Defense Appropriations bill that would cut the Pentagon budget, end the war in Afghanistan, and draw down US troop levels in Europe."
Amendments expected to cut the military budget include:
- Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) and Barney Frank (D-MA) amendment to cut $1.1 billion (a freeze at FY12 levels) from the military budget;
- An amendment to cut $7 billion to align the bill to spending caps under the Budget Control Act;
- Barbara Lee amendment to cut $19 billion, corresponding to program cuts proposed by Project on Defense Alternatives and the Cato Institute.
Amendments expected to end or curtail the war in Afghanistan include:
- Barbara Lee amendment to cut all funding for the war except for what is needed for a safe and responsible drawdown;
- Walter Jones and Rosa DeLauro amendment preventing the use of funds past 2014 in support of any mission that does not have explicit Congressional approval.
And when you're done, report your call below.
Below is the text of a sign-on letter being circulated by Reps. Barbara Lee and Walter Jones calling on President Obama to expedite US military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Sign on to Letter to President Obama: Expedite Withdrawal from Afghanistan
From: The Honorable Barbara Lee
The American people have overwhelmingly come to the conclusion that our brave men and women in uniform have accomplished all that we have asked of them and it is time to bring them home from Afghanistan.
Members of Congress need to stand with seven out of ten Americans (including 52% of GOP voters) who oppose the war in Afghanistan.
We invite you to sign on to the letter below which closes on May 10, 2012 (ahead of the NATO Summit in Chicago). The letter calls on the President to expedite our troops’ return and speed up the transition to having Afghans in charge of Afghanistan.
Member of Congress
Member of Congress
Current Co-Signers (49): Adam Smith, Baldwin, Bass, Capps, Chu, Yvette Clarke, Clay, Cohen, Conyers, Costello, John Duncan, Edwards, Ellison, Farr, Filner, Frank, Grijalva, Hahn, Alcee Hastings, Heinrich, Hinchey, Holt, Honda, Jackson Jr., Tim Johnson, Kucinich, Lewis, Lofgren, Maloney, McCollum, McGovern, Michaud, George Miller, Moore, Nadler, Olver, Pingree, Polis, Rangel, Richardson, Loretta Sanchez, Serrano, Slaughter, Stark, Mike Thompson, Tonko, Frederica Wilson, Woolsey, Yarmuth.
May 10, 2012
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama:
The US in Afghanistan: A Tale of Urination, Desecration, Extermination, and ... Posing with Corpses?
Afghans showing that they are not altogether pleased with a recent Koran burning incident at a US base in Afghanistan.
It appears that public embarrassments are becoming a monthly occasion for the US occupation in Afghanistan. In January, a video was released on the internet depicting four US soldiers urinating on the corpses of three dead Afghans. The purportedly unintentional burning of Korans at Bagram base ignited violent protests throughout the country in February. And last month, a US soldier was indicted on charges of killing 17 Afghan villagers in a macabre night-time massacre.
So what has April brought us from Afghanistan? No, it's not spring showers--and whatever it is, it is certainly unlikely to result in May flowers. It's eighteen photographs featuring US soldiers posing with Afghan body parts. Classy.
Just yesterday, Santorum announced the suspension of his presidential campaign, leaving Mitt Romney the presumptive Republican candidate for president. The Obama campaign has moved quickly, announcing today it's on (no, really, they said this) by releasing a factsheet on Facebook about their likely opponent, entitled, "Five Things You Need to Know About Mitt Romney." The image has become a viral sensation, with over 15,000 likes, 2,800 comments, and 7,000 shares at the time of writing. I've embedded a copy to the right. Take a look.
Okay, first fact is predictable.
Second one ... wait, what?
He opposes the President's plan to end the war in Afghanistan and would leave troops there indefinitely.
Does this mean that Obama is NOT planning to leave troops in Afghanistan indefinitely? How did I miss the President announcing a date for full withdrawal from Afghanistan? Did I black out or something? When did this happen? What great news!
This week, peace groups around the country are calling Congress with the message: end the Afghanistan war now! Call your Representative at 877-429-0678 and tell him or her to support and co-sponsor H. 780, which would limit funding for the war to funds that are necessary for a safe and orderly withdrawal. Check the link to see whether your Rep is already a co-sponsor--if so, thank him or her for their support, and tell them to everything in their power to promote the bill and its mission.
When you're done with your call, report it below.
On Wednesday night, the Senate adopted by voice vote an amendment introduced by Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley calling on President Obama to speed up U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan. This was a watershed event towards ending the war. The previous high water mark of Senators calling for expedited withdrawal was 27; the previous high water mark on a vote was 18. The vote is a green light from the Senate to the White House for a faster military withdrawal that would save many American and Afghan lives and (at least) many tens of billions of taxpayer dollars.
Because it was a voice vote, there was no roll call. But, if you want to know who especially to thank, 21 Senators sponsored Merkley's amendment:
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR); Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT); Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM); Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY); Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH); Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT); Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK); Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM); Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA); Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD); Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND); Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL); Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA); Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT); Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV); Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) ; Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV); Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY); Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
The Senate vote - which saw John McCain standing alone in vocal opposition - is more evidence that on key issues of war and military spending, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Buck McKeon haven't been speaking for Republicans generally.