Thursday, July 01, 2010

Support the Out of Afghanistan Caucus

Out of Afghanistan Caucus Calls for NO VOTE on War Funding
Published on Thursday, July 1, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

by Medea Benjamin

With a vote scheduled tonight on the $33 billion supplemental for the Afghan war, members of the Out of Afghanistan Caucus held a press conference today, July 1 to express their opposition to the war funding. The Caucus, chaired by Congressman John Conyers, is an informal group of 21 members dedicated to reorienting US policy towards diplomacy and the swift redeployment of the US military.

Speaking at the press conference were Rep. John Conyers, Bob Filner, Alan Grayson, Barbara Lee, Judy Chu, Sheila Jackson Lee and Mike Honda. Cong. Maxine Waters arrived late and didn’t get a chance to speak.

The congresspeople addressed the hypocrisy of the fiscal conservatives in Congress who are concerned about the out-of-control deficit but support the war supplemental. Cong. Conyers labelled his Out of Afghanistan group the “fiscally-conservative doves” and called on fiscal conservatives of all political stripes to vote against the war supplemental. Cong. Honda complained that the administration said last year would be the last time the war budget was presented as a supplemental, outside the normal budget, but then the administration turned around and requested another supplemental. “Supplementals are always deficit spending and if fiscal conservatives are serious, they must vote against this,” Honda said.

Congressman Filner, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, painted a grim picture of the cost of the war for U.S. soldiers. While the official figures talk about 5,000 dead and 45,000 wounded, he said the true cost was exponentially higher. “Close to one million soldiers have visited VA hospitals for war-related injuries. Hundreds of thousands have brain injuries or PTSD,” he said. “We can’t keep this up. It’s time to bring our children home.”

Congresswoman Chu said that Congress was first told by Secretary Gates that we needed 2,500 more soldiers in Afghanistan, then Admiral Mullen called for 20,000 more, then McChrystal said 30,000 more. “What is the correct number of troops we need in Afghanistan?”, she asked. “Zero. More troops just means more trouble.”

Congressman Nadler said we had every right to target bases where people were plotting against to attack us, but not to make war against those countries. “We have no business intervening in an Afghan civil war,” he said. “It’s a fool’s errand. If the Afghan soldiers don’t have the will and motivation to fight the Taliban, we can’t instill that in them. And without the will and motivation, there’s no winning.”

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee related the war funding to the BP disaster. “We have a crisis of tsunami proportions in our own Gulf with the BP disaster that will require billions, perhaps trillions, of dollars. We need our resources to fight this war at home,” she said.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee talked about her amendment to strike war funding from the Supplemental, and the hopes that her amendment will be voted on tonight. The other anti-war amendment is the one presented by Cong. Jim McGovern, which calls for a detailed withdrawal plan and has 100 co-sponsors.

Before the vote tonight, we need an all-out push for more no votes. The following list of “liberal Democrats” must be pressured to vote no: Yvette Clarke, Steve Cohen, Jim Cooper, Jerry Costello, Barney Frank, Luis Gutierrez, Jay Inslee, Steve Kagen, John Lewis, Edward Markey, Doris Matsui, Jim McDermott, George Miller, Grace Napolitano, Richard Neal, James Oberstar, Jan Schakowsky, Mike Thompson, Edolphus Towns, Nydia Velázquez, and Anthony Weiner.

While Afghanistan Caucus members spoke passionately today about ending the war, unfortunately they, and the anti-war movement, don’t have the clout to stop this round of war funding. Even though the majority of Americans now oppose the war, the majority in Congress will probably still vote for it. While we must make every effort possible today to get more anti-war votes, we have to build a stronger movement if we are really serious about ending this war!

Medea Benjamin (medea@globalexchange.org) is cofounder of Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org) and CODEPINK: Women for Peace (www.codepinkalert.org).

Today's Democracy Now broadcast is devoted to a discussion of the U.S. strategy and policy in Afghanistan:


Ambassador Eikenberry's Cables on U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan

In the above-linked secret November 2009 cable from U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan (and retired lieutenant general) Karl Eikenberry discusses his misgivings about America's counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan.

Press Release from the Institute for Public Accuracy

Another $33 Billion for War in Afghanistan Today?

July 1, 2010

By Rebecca Griffin

Political director of Peace Action West, Griffin said today: "It’s happening now. After weeks of stalling and amidst growing dissent from the public and Congress, the House will vote on $33 billion for escalating the war in Afghanistan.

"The McChrystal debacle has fueled a larger debate about the failing counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. Thirty members of Congress wrote to Nancy Pelosi asking to delay a vote and raising concerns about the possibility that the military could ask for even more troops. Another group wrote to Obama calling for an end date for the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. Rep. John Conyers has started a new Out of Afghanistan Caucus in Congress to keep the momentum going."

Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, Rep. Michael Honda, Rep. John Conyers and Rep. Alan Grayson just released a statement: "Progressives Issue Challenge to Conservatives on War Spending: If You're Serious About Fiscal Responsibility, Oppose Afghan Funds," which states: "Our challenge: if you oppose deficit spending, debt dependency on China, cuts to Social Security, and are concerned about a debt-threat to our national security, then oppose this supplemental war funding request."

Also see: "McGovern, Obey Lead House Showdown on Afghanistan War."

Background: Obama had stated there would be no more supplementals. He wrote in April 2009: "This is the last planned war supplemental. Since September 2001, the Congress has passed 17 separate emergency funding bills totaling $822.1 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After 7 years of war, the American people deserve an honest accounting of the cost of our involvement in our ongoing military operations.

"We must break that recent tradition and include future military costs in the regular budget so that we have an honest, more accurate, and fiscally responsible estimate of Federal spending."


For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020

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