Members of Congress speak out on Afghanistan votes
Last week’s votes on the amendments to the Afghanistan war funding bill gave us an idea about the strength of the growing opposition to the war in Afghanistan. Although the $33 billion for military operations passed, now more than ever, our efforts are starting to make waves. Representatives who support a smarter strategy in Afghanistan voted on the two amendments that would have required a timetable for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and allowed military funding only for withdrawal. Many of them issued strong statements laying out their objections to the failing approach in Afghanistan and calling for better alternatives.
Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) issued this statement:
“As a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, and as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I believe that the best national security strategy is to be economically strong at home and to deploy “smart power” abroad. We must carefully balance our diplomacy, development, and defense strategies.
“After extensive deliberation and study, I remain convinced that our policies toward Afghanistan and Iraq are inappropriate. We’ve been in Afghanistan for nine years, making it the longest war in our nation’s history, and it’s come at a tremendous cost. We’ve tragically lost more than 1,100 American lives and spent close to $300 billion. We’ve also been in Iraq for seven years, where we’ve lost more than 4,400 American lives and spent more than $700 billion.
[…] “I do not think that we strengthen our national security by continuing and expanding the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. I also support an enhanced withdrawal from Iraq.”
Rep. Garamendi also strongly opposed the $33 billion funding for the war in a statement on the floor:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s vote supporting the McGovern-Obey-Jones amendment is of significant importance because she rarely votes on the House floor. She sent a strong signal about the growing impatience with the war in the Democratic caucus. This is what she had to say about her vote:
“I supported the McGovern-Obey-Jones amendment because it would have provided Congress with a National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan that is current; a plan for the redeployment of U.S. troops that is consistent with the President’s announced policy of December 2009 to begin bringing our troops home next year; quarterly reports submitted to Congress on the President’s plan; and an expansion of oversight to deal with waste, fraud and abuse. The amendment would not have limited our military’s efforts to attack Al Qaeda, gather or share intelligence with our allies in the region or change military strategy on the ground during the period of redeployment. Our men and women in uniform continue to perform heroically in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world, and it is critical that Congress has the most up-to-date information as we debate policies that impact our soldiers, their families and our national security.”
Close Pelosi ally, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) joined Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Pete Stark (D-CA) and many others in voting to end the funding for the war in Afghanistan with the exception of the funds needed to bring our troops back safely.
“The war in Afghanistan is now the longest war in American history — longer than the Vietnam War. President Obama put a great deal of effort into reevaluating U.S. strategy in Afghanistan when he came into office, for which I applaud him. And I was pleased that he set forth a timeline for beginning to draw down American forces there. Yet, I still believe that we are on the wrong course there and that it is time to end American involvement in the morass in Afghanistan and put Afghans in charge of their own country.
“This war has taken too many American service men and women’s lives and has cost the taxpayers an unconscionable and unaffordable amount. And still, the policy is not working.[…]We must change course – we can no longer leave our troops in harm’s way while the military effort there is not moving forward toward a successful conclusion of the war. That’s why I voted today to end funding for the war, except to provide the funds necessary to keep our troops safe as we redeploy them rapidly and responsibly. While I am disappointed that we did not prevail on this vote, I will keep pushing to ensure that we bring this war to as expeditious conclusion as possible.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), a reliable pro-peace leader who offered the amendment to limit military funding to be used only for withdrawal, expressed her satisfaction that the long delayed debate about the war is finally taking place:
“While I am disappointed that a majority of my colleagues did not join me in this effort, I am pleased that we are finally beginning to have the debate that we should have had a long time ago.
“Nine years ago, I was the lone vote in this effort. Tonight, 100 of us spoke with one voice to bring about a responsible end to this war. This was a step in the right direction. And each step brings us closer to ending this war which is now the longest in our nation’s history.
“The facts are clear – there is no military solution to Afghanistan and in fact, the occupation of Afghanistan is making us less safe and creating greater security threats from terrorism.
“We cannot continue to put our troops – who have performed honorably – into harm’s way.
“We will continue to lift up our voices to say ‘enough is enough’ until we can finally bring our troops home and bring about a responsible end to this war.”
While the amendments did not pass, this was the highest number of representatives ever on record calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), who has authored several pieces of legislation calling for an end to the war, recognized the significance of the outcome of the votes:
“Last night’s vote was an important milestone. 60% of the Democratic Caucus – including Speaker Pelosi, who by tradition rarely votes on the House floor – was joined by 9 Republicans in expressing our strong concerns about our policy in Afghanistan. This vote should send a signal to the Administration that Congress is increasingly troubled by risking the lives of our troops and borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars for “nation-building” in Afghanistan while we are facing a dire economic situation here at home. I will continue to work to build bi-partisan support for a meaningful exit strategy from this war.”
The votes last week are a clear sign that the growing pressure from the public in opposition to the war in Afghanistan is working. We can end this war by continuing to make it very difficult for the Obama administration to maintain its current position on Afghanistan and give it no other choice but to change course.