afghanistan

Latest on National Defense Authorization Act Amendments

The list of amendments that will be introduced for the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act is not yet finalized or complete, so we will be updating this blog as more information comes out of Congress. The issue is expected to be taken up on the floor Wednesday. We encourage you to make your call as soon as possible, but if you plan to call later, please check back here before doing so.

Updates

[update by MI Thursday 2:29 pm ET: The votes are in on the three key amendments we've been following. Here are the results with vote counts:

Conyers (Amdt #35): PASSED. 416 yeas, 5 nays.
Amash-Lee (Amdt #155): DID NOT PASS. 187 yeas, 234 nays.
McGovern-Jones (Amdt #30): DID NOT PASS. 204 yeas, 215 nays.

We'll have further analysis soon.]

[update by KG Tuesday 8:50 pm ET: The following amendments will be brought to the floor for a vote: McGovern/Jones exit strategy (Amdt # 30), Amash-Lee amendment to cut out authorization for permanent war (Amdt #155), and the Conyers amendment to cut funds for ground troops (Amdt #35). Rep. Lee's amendment to limit US funding to that which is necessary for the safe and orderly withdrawal of U.S. forces was not approved for a floor vote. Rules Committee posted all the approved amendments here]

[update by RN Tuesday 5 pm ET: CLW report is Afghanistan votes likely Thursday.]

[update by RN Tuesday 2:30 pm ET: Peace Action guess is first votes possible 1pm ET Wednesday.]

Call Script

1. Call your Representative at 1-888-231-9276
2. When you reach your Representative's office, ask to speak to the staff person who handles foreign policy, or ask for the foreign policy staff person by name, if you know it. If this person is not available, leave your message with the person who answered the phone.

The War is Over. Kiss a Nurse and Start Packing

We got our man. Wave the flag, kiss a nurse, and start packing the equipment. It's time to plan to bring all our boys and girls home from Afghanistan. When the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks rolls around, let the world see that we are on a clear path to bringing home our troops from Afghanistan and handing back sovereignty to the Afghan people.


With more Sherlock Holmes than Rambo, and judging from press accounts, not much role for the 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence tracked Osama bin Laden to a safe house in a well-appointed suburb of Pakistan's capital and a small U.S. force raided the compound. Press reports say Osama bin Laden was killed in a firefight in the compound and that his body has been buried at sea, in accordance with Islamic tradition that expects a burial within 24 hours.

Success typically has many authors, and I don't doubt the ability of some to argue that our occupation of Afghanistan has contributed to this result. Perhaps it will turn out that some prisoner captured in Afghanistan by U.S. forces contributed a key piece of information that helped investigators find bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

And of course it will be argued, correctly, that Osama bin Laden's death is not necessarily the end of al Qaeda nor of groups inspired by al Qaeda; indeed, that there will be an incentive now for al Qaeda and al Qaeda-inspired groups to retaliate and to prove that they can still carry out actions against the United States.

Talking Points on S. 186, Boxer's Bill to Require End Date for Afghanistan War

If your Senator has not co-sponsored S. 186, The “Safe & Responsible Redeployment of U.S. Combat Forces from Afghanistan Act of 2011”, make sure you do so here. But don't stop there--you can take the next step by writing a letter to the editor in your local newspaper or by visiting your Senator's in-State office with the Talking Points posted below, which you can download here as a PDF.

For more background, check out JFP Policy Director Robert Naiman's piece on "Barbara Boxer: Champion in the Senate Against the Afghanistan War".

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Support S. 186, for a Timetable for the Redeployment of U.S. Troops from Afghanistan, Including an End Date for Near Decade-Long War

Senator Boxer’s bill S. 186 would require President Obama to submit a plan to Congress for the redeployment of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, including a date for the completion of that redeployment. As the White House prepares its decision on the extent of the July troop drawdown and works to conclude a security agreement with the Afghan government, it is a crucial time for Senators to weigh in.

S. 186, “Safe & Responsible Redeployment of U.S. Combat Forces from Afghanistan Act of 2011” would:

  • Put the Senate on the Record in Support of Obama’s Plan for a Significant Drawdown

A Vote on the People's Budget is a Vote on the Wars

The House of Representatives is expected to vote soon, perhaps by tomorrow morning, on the People's Budget put forward by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

A vote in favor of the People's Budget is a vote against the endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, because the People's Budget would end the wars.

In particular, the People's Budget would end emergency war funding beginning in FY 2013:

 

End emergency war funding beginning in FY 2013 The CBO baseline assumes that all discretionary funding--including emergency war funding--grows with inflation (from a starting point of $159 billion in 2011) when projecting future discretionary spending. Eliminating all emergency defense funding starting in 2012 would save $674 billion over 2012-16 and $1.6 trillion over 2012-21 relative to this baseline.

Furthermore, the People's Budget would cut the "base" military budget (that is, the "not for the current wars" or "future wars" military budget.) It would:

 

When the House Comes Back, You're Gonna Get In Trouble

Here is some unsolicited advice for the Obama Administration: you essentially have four days to put US involvement in the Libya war on a path that doesn't look like open-ended quagmire.

Otherwise, when the House comes back next week, you're going to get in trouble.

Many people have difficulty imagining the possibility that Congress could give the Obama Administration difficulty over the Libya war. Since 2001, many people think, Congress has rolled over for both the Bush and Obama Administrations on questions of war and peace. Why should now be any different?

The view that Congress has only rolled over misses important history. For example, the legislative fight over a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq was a significant contributor to the fact that we have such a timetable for withdrawal today, even though such a timetable was never enacted legislatively. Congress lost the issue legislatively, but eventually won the issue politically.

But the more important point here that many people aren't thinking about yet is that the political dynamics of the coming debate over the Libya war could be very different from the debates over Iraq and Afghanistan. If the Libya war is going full-bore next week with heavy US involvement, there could be significant opposition in Congress, especially in the House, from both Democrats and Republicans.

A "Pledge of Resistance" to Defend Social Security (and Defund the Empire)

For the third time in the last 20 years, establishment voices, with high-profile slots in traditional media, are trying to convince the public to accept cuts to Social Security by endlessly claiming such cuts are necessary without giving coherent evidence to justify the claim. Twice, under President Clinton and the second President Bush, these voices were defeated. But they didn't give up. And now they are in striking distance of their goal: the fact that Republicans have taken over the House, combined with the fact that the President appointed a deficit reduction commission which nearly recommended a cut in Social Security benefits, and might well have done so if Rep. Schakowsky hadn't worked to undermine the co-chairs' plan, means that one can't be complacent; some reports have suggested that the President may indicate support for cuts to Social Security in his State of the Union speech. Of the two principal Washington political actors who will shape the outcome - the Republican leadership and the President's team - one is a determined adversary of the public interest, the other a very uncertain ally. The most successful anti-poverty program in U.S. history is again in grave danger.

Twenty years ago, Social Security was called the "third rail" of U.S. politics. Touch it, you die. But it turned out that was not true. The Establishment greedheads were not, in fact, afraid to try to mess with this wildly popular program. Maybe Wall Street political power is the third rail.

In these two decades, Social Security hasn't been the third rail. Instead, it's been the Grey Goose of folk song legend. The knife couldn't cut him and the fork couldn't stick him. Try as they might, they couldn't kill him. Can the Grey Goose survive the next assault?

The Richard Holbrooke Memorial Peace Talks to End the Afghan War

When a Member of Congress dies, sometimes other Members name a bill after that Member that advances some cause identified with the Member. So, for example, we had the "Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act" - Kennedy was a champion of volunteer service.

Such naming has multiple effects. Of course it honors the departed. But, like the Spanish hero El Cid, whose companions suited him up and placed him on his horse to drive off their foes, it also gives the departed one last ride into battle. When you name something the "Our esteemed colleague who just passed" Act, you're laying down a challenge - don't leave this one on the cutting room floor. And everyone gets to cheat death a little by giving the departed one last accomplishment associated with that person's name.

The uncompleted challenge of Richard Holbrooke's diplomatic career was a peace deal in Afghanistan. It was the hope of many that Holbrooke would help broker a peace deal between the warring factions in Afghanistan and between their regional patrons that would end the war. This hope was encouraged by Holbrooke's role in negotiating the 1995 Dayton Accords that ended the war in Bosnia.

This unfinished business was apparently very much on Holbrooke's mind as they prepared him for surgery from which, presumably, he had some inkling that he might not return.

"You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan," Holbrooke said, according to family members.

Are peace talks to end the war a pipe dream? Not according to many Afghanistan experts with decades of experience in the country.

Stan Greenberg: Afghanistan War Likely Cause of Primary Challenge

Press reports have suggested that Administration officials are trying to make Democratic voters forget that the Administration promised to start drawing down troops from Afghanistan in July 2011 by "pivoting" to the "aspirational goal" that "most" U.S. "combat troops" will be withdrawn by 2014. The Administration still says it will withdraw some troops in July 2011, but press reports suggest that the Administration may try to make this a "symbolic" withdrawal, not the "serious drawdown" (as Speaker Pelosi put it) involving "a whole lot of people" (as Vice-President Biden put it) that Democrats were led to expect.

But if these press reports about Administration strategy are correct, Administration political strategists may have another think coming. Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg suggests that continued escalation of the war in Afghanistan would be likely to draw a primary challenge, the Christian Science Monitor reports:

 

As Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg was leaving a Monitor breakfast last week, he was asked about the possibility that President Obama might face a Democratic primary challenge in 2012.

Mr. Greenberg's two-word answer: "Watch Afghanistan."

As the Monitor notes, a recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 62 percent of Democrats say US troops should not be in Afghanistan.

Could Nonviolent Resistance Defeat Petraeus' Night Raids in Afghanistan?

Pop quiz on the news: who said this week, referring to the dispute between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. military commander David Petraeus over U.S. Special Forces "night raids" that break into Afghans' homes in the middle of the night:

 

Many Afghans see the raids as a ... humiliating symbol of American power.

Was it:

a) Afghan President Hamid Karzai b) Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich c) U.S. peace activist Kathy Kelly d) The New York Times

The correct answer is d, the New York Times. Here is the full quote:

 

Many Afghans see the raids as a flagrant, even humiliating symbol of American power, especially when women and children are rousted in the middle of the night. And protests have increased this year as the tempo has increased.

It is a striking symptom of the moral depravity of the US war in Afghanistan that the policy of night raids, which press reports have suggested is one of the most hated aspects of the U.S. military occupation among the Afghan population, has been the subject of almost no public debate in the United States. Newspaper columnists aren't inveighing against the night raids. Members of Congress aren't demanding that the night raids stop.

The only thing that has occasioned any public debate about them in the U.S. at all is that President Karzai denounced them in an interview with the Washington Post ahead of the NATO summit. And the response of U.S. officials is: wow, this guy Karzai is really an unreliable partner. Is he off his meds? He has some nerve complaining about something that Western press reports suggest is among the aspects of the U.S. military occupation most hated by Afghans.

Did Voters Give Republicans a Mandate for More War?

Everybody knows that the recent election was all about the economy, right?


Nobody would claim that American voters just gave Republicans a mandate for more war, would they?

Here we go:

 

Republican Senator John McCain said on Tuesday in the wake of big Republican victories in Congress that he hopes President Barack Obama will take a fresh look at U.S. war policy in Afghanistan. McCain won re-election to his Arizona Senate seat by a large margin, ensuring he will retain have a strong voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee as its ranking Republican member.

In an interview, McCain told Reuters he was looking forward to a December review the Obama administration is preparing to give an update on the U.S. troop increase Obama ordered a year ago to try to repulse a strengthened Taliban.

McCain, who is expected to visit Afghanistan soon, said he would like to see a change in Obama's decision to begin withdrawing some U.S. troops from Afghanistan next August.

The world would be a better place if one could just ignore things like this. But as Reuters points out, McCain is ranking member on Senate Armed Services, in addition to being the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. Two axioms of politics in America are: 1) you can't ignore a dangerous political claim, just because it's nonsensical, and 2) you can't wait for a nonsensical and dangerous political claim to gain momentum before moving to quash it, because it's like a highly infectious disease: you have to stamp it out immediately before it takes root in the population.