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ACTION ALERT: Afghanistan: A Chance to Stop the Killing


April 23, 2010
Friends Committee on National Legislation

The House plans to approve $33 billion more for the US war in Afghanistan. Yet, here on Capitol Hill, FCNL's lobbyists are finding support for proposals to end that US war responsibly. Changing the war mentality of Congress will not be easy. Thousands have signed FCNL's petition for a new US policy in Afghanistan, including a responsible withdrawal. We're delivering those petitions to members of Congress right now.

http://fcnl.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/a-defeat-that-moves-us-closer-to-the-victory-of-withdrawal-from-afghanistan

(April 20, 2010) -- The House plans to approve $33 billion more for the US war in Afghanistan. Yet, here on Capitol Hill, FCNL's lobbyists are finding support for proposals to end that US war responsibly.

Changing the war mentality of Congress will not be easy. It is possible, though. You and thousands of others signed FCNL's petition for a new US policy in Afghanistan, including a responsible withdrawal. We're delivering those petitions to members of Congress right now.

Now Representatives Jim McGovern (WA) and Walter Jones (NC), a Democrat and a Republican, have introduced a bill to require the administration to create an exit strategy from Afghanistan and set a timetable for withdrawal of US forces.

If, in the next few weeks, we can persuade at least 100 representatives to cosponsor the McGovern-Jones Exit Strategy bill, they may be able to attach that war-ending provision to the supplemental war funding bill, which Congress will vote on in the next several months.

We oppose the war spending supplemental. We urge representatives to vote against the $33 billion for war. Whether a representative is able to do that or not, however, he or she should be able to cosponsor and vote for the bipartisan McGovern-Jones Exit Strategy bill. We need you to ask your representative to do that now.

Take Action
Ask your representative to cosponsor the McGovern-Jones Afghanistan Exit bill (H.R.5015). Also, multiply your effort: ask five friends to write to their representatives, too.

Background
FCNL is lobbying Congress to end the US war in Afghanistan. An exit strategy is the next step.

* Begin a withdrawal of US troops
* Halt offensive operations against the Taliban and focus on political reconciliation among all Afghan groups
* Engage Afghanistan's neighbors, including Iran and Pakistan, to promote reconciliation and security
* Channel US development aid through Afghan and multilateral organizations.



A Plan for Peace in Afghanistan
FCNL

In the past two months, more than 6,500 Americans have signed a petition calling for a new US policy and responsible withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Congress is starting to pay attention to this call. As we delivered the petitions last week, Rep. Jim McGovern (MA) and Sen. Russ Feingold (WI) introduced a bipartisan bill requiring the administration to develop an exit strategy and a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Take Action

Ask your representative and senators to cosponsor this bill. It could be voted on in May or June as part of the president's request for $33 billion more for war.

Four Steps for Peace
The United States should:
* Begin a withdrawal of US troops;
* Halt offensive operations against the Taliban and focus on political reconciliation among all Afghan groups;
* Engage Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Iran and Pakistan, to promote reconciliation and regional security;
* Channel US development aid through Afghan and multilateral organizations.

In early March, only 65 members of Congress voted for Rep. Dennis Kucinich's resolution to require the speedy withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan. FCNL's foreign policy lobbyist Jim Fine sees this as a defeat that moves us closer to victory


A Defeat that Moves Us Closer to the Victory of Withdrawal from Afghanistan
Jim Fine / FCNL

(March 18, 2010) -- The House rejected a resolution March 10 that would have required all US troops to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of this year. The vote was 65 for and 356 against. Rather than a resounding defeat for opponents of the administration’s aggressive war-fighting strategy in Afghanistan, the episode was actually an important step in hastening the much needed and—if the concerned public remains engaged with Congress—the inevitable withdrawal.

The resolution, introduced by Dennis Kucinich (OH), was the vehicle for a three-hour debate of the Afghanistan war on the House floor, the first in many months. The resolution, which cited the Vietnam era War Powers Act, was also a powerful reminder—and an uncomfortable one for some—of congressional responsibility for US war-making.

The debate gave Rep. Jim McGovern (MA) an opportunity to remind colleagues that 138 members voted last June for a measure he introduced to require the administration to prepare an exit strategy for Afghanistan.

McGovern said, "While my amendment did not carry the day, I believe it demonstrated to the administration that an open-ended commitment was not sustainable." The odds are that McGovern's assessment is right. When President Obama outlined his Afghanistan strategy in December he included a pledge to "begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011."

Administration officials tried to whittle those words down to next to nothing in subsequent testimony to Congress, but the fact remains that the administration felt compelled by public and congressional opinion to speak about withdrawal even as it was announcing its troop surge of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.

The debate was also the occasion for members opposed to the war but reluctant to support the Kucinich resolution to speak out. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR) said:

I have profound reservations about the course we are on and the ability to generate positive long-term, fundamental changes that will persist over time. I think it is absolutely essential that we have this debate.

While I don’t agree with the resolution that somehow we are going to be able to pull the plug and be able to end this in 30 days or 30 weeks, I do think it is important for Congress to focus on what is here, what is possible… I don’t agree that we are powerless on some of the defense appropriations, for instance. We can in fact push back. We can be heard. And we can start reversing what I think is an inappropriate course.


Blumenauer is right and, in fact, the reversal has already begun. The beginning is evident in the July 2011 “transfer out” date, in the pressure from the Afghan government, Britain, and other U.S. allies to engage Taliban leaders in reconciliation talks, and in the Afghan government’s interest in negotiating a status of forces agreement and withdrawal timetable with the United States.

Congress will have an opportunity to hasten the process when it votes on the $33 billion Afghan war supplemental funding bill this spring.

There is no chance that all of the funding will be rejected, but there is every chance of votes on amendments that will constrain administration policy and put the US on a course of de-escalation and withdrawal.

It’s well worth remembering that, with one exception, opponents of the Iraq war lost every Iraq war vote in Congress, yet those failed votes were an important part of the political process that forced none other than the Bush Administration to sign an agreement with Iraq to withdraw all US forces from the country by the end of 2011.

Congress shapes foreign policy, for good or ill, by the resolutions it introduces, the debates it holds, and the votes it takes. But the vote count doesn’t always indicate the direction of congressional influence. The March 10 debate on the Kucinich resolution was an important milestone on the road out of Afghanistan. The more we push Congress to change the course of US Afghanistan policy, the sooner we’ll reach the next milestone.

P.S.: The March 10 debate would have been an even bigger step on the road to end the war if the mainstream media had paid more attention to it. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (RI) in his floor speech asked that if anybody wants to know where cynicism is, cynicism is that there are one, two press people in this gallery. We’re talking about Eric Massa 24-7 on the TV.

We’re talking about war and peace [here, on the House floor], $3 billion [sic; possibly a reference to the expected $33 billion supplemental funding bill or a high, $300 billion, estimate of the cost of the Afghanistan war to date], a thousand lives, and no press? No press? You want to know why the American public is sick? They’re sick because they’re not seeing their Congress do the work that they’re sent to do. It’s because the press, the press of the United States, is not covering the most significant issue of national importance, and that is the laying of lives down in the Nation for the service of our country. It is despicable, the national press corps right now.

(I confess a momentary absence from the US media world and had to look up Kennedy’s reference to Eric Massa. But I excuse myself, since I was in Ramallah, absorbed in the news of the West Bank and Israel on the BBC and al-Jezirah, at the time that the story broke.)



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