After ten years of war, now is a perfect time to act to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Friends Committee on National Legislation has set up a toll-free number for us to call Congress: 1-877-429-0678. A Congressional "Supercommittee" is charged with coming up with $1.5 trillion in reduced debt over ten years, and the wars and the bloated Pentagon budget dangle before the Supercommittee like overripe fruit.
So what else is new, you may say. The Pentagon wants to stay everywhere forever.
But here is a key political fact about the world in which we live: the Pentagon does not always get what it wants. The Pentagon did not want to eat a timetable for the withdrawal of all Pentagon forces from Iraq by December, but the Pentagon was forced to eat such a timetable anyway. Now, the Pentagon is trying to undo the timetable. But it is far from clear that the Pentagon will succeed. Already it has been forced to lower its sights to seeking to keep a force of no more than 5000 "trainers." But even that lowered aspiration may well fail. The Iraqi government has said that it’s fine if thousands of "trainers" stay – as long as they don’t have immunity from Iraqi law. But the U.S. government says that’s a red line: in order to stay, the "trainers" must have immunity from Iraqi law. So less than three months before all Pentagon forces are supposed to leave Iraq, there is no deal. There well might never be a deal, and all Pentagon forces may well come out on schedule.
And the Pentagon forces are much more likely to come out on schedule if more Members of Congress get more vocal in their opposition. Representative Barney Frank said this week that keeping U.S. troops in Iraq past December would be "totally unacceptable." More protests and more phone calls will get more Members of Congress talking like that.
A key lesson from Iraq for Afghanistan is this: we can force the Pentagon to eat a timetable for military withdrawal, and once we’ve forced them to eat it, we have the ability to force them to keep it down. Already in May, 204 Members of the House – including all but 8 Democrats and 26 Republicans – voted to require the President to establish a timetable for withdrawal. We just need to switch six Members from that vote from no to yes to get a majority in the House for a timetable for withdrawal.
And now the Congress has an added incentive and opportunity to act to end the wars, because the Supercommittee is considering the ten year path of government spending. And Congress could eliminate many hundreds of billions of dollars in future government debt by ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Friday morning, hundreds of peace advocates marched from Freedom Plaza in Washington DC, past the White House, to the office of drone manufacturer General Atomics, demanding an end to the wars and drone strikes. Who says the 99% don’t have concrete demands? What could be more concrete than ending the wars?
Here is a short video from the protest: "When drones fly, children die! Stop the wars now!"
Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy.