Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) has pulled together a group of five Republicans and eight Democrats who plan to introduce a special resolution on the House floor compelling the president to comply with the War Powers Act as he wages war in Afghanistan.
Congress has largely ceded its constitutional duty to declare war and has instead been relegated to approving or disapproving war funds -- it hasn't cut off money for a war since Vietnam.
While Kucinich was on the House floor Tuesday debating the war, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) gathered reporters in the Rayburn House Office Building to decry Obama's proposed troop escalation, which Grayson said will only waste lives and money in pursuit of an impossible goal. Grayson had just come from the floor, where he inserted 100,000 names petitioning for an end to the war into the congressional record.
If a war is being waged without a declaration, the War Powers Act allows any representative to introduce a joint resolution forcing the House Committee on Foreign Relations to vote on that resolution within 15 days; Kucinich is hoping to force such a vote. The resolution would then be sent back to the House floor.
"Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States makes it Congress' responsibility to determine whether or not we go to war or stay at war. Consistent with Article 1, Section 8, the privileged resolutions will invoke the War Powers Resolution of 1973. I ask for your support of these resolutions, which will be introduced in the House in January," Kucinich wrote to his colleagues last week.
Grayson and six other Democrats have signed on to his resolution, including Reps. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Bob Filner (D-Calif.), Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Eric Massa (D-N.Y.).
The five Republicans include Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Ed Whitefield (R-Ky.) and Timothy Johnson (R-Ill.).
"There is no nation of Afghanistan. There's not likely to be one in the future," Grayson said at the briefing. "We are not able to bring about security or stability in an area like that. We are fighting against the reality of the situation."
The Florida congressman said U.S. security goals won't be met through occupation or nation-building, contrasting those failures with the speedy overthrow of Afghanistan's Taliban government and the subsequent expulsion of al-Qaeda by roughly 1,000 U.S. Special Forces troops in the final months of 2001. Barring an immediate national-security threat, Grayson said, the United States would be better off leaving Afghanistan to its own devices, as it does Sudan and the two dozen or so other nations facing armed insurrections at any given time.
"There's actually a lot of human capital in Afghanistan, but it's never going to develop if we try to imprint our own ways on Afghanistan. And we just have to face the fact that Afghanistan's never going to look like Minnesota, nor should it," he said. "I'm not suggesting that peace is going to break out everywhere if we leave, that's not realistic. What I am suggesting is that we cannot, we simply cannot bring peace to the entire world at the point of a bayonet. That's not the way it works."
Grayson was joined at the press conference by Rethink Afghanistan filmmaker Robert Greenwald and two veterans who oppose further involvement in Afghanistan. Army National Guard Specialist Matthew Justice, who earlier this year was clearing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from Afghan roads, said the U.S. occupation is not improving the local police force's ability to function autonomously, as they are generally sniffing for bombs in old pickup trucks.
Nathan Toth, a former naval officer whose ship served 159 consecutive days at sea -- the most of any vessel since World War II -- during the initial invasion of Afghanistan, spoke at length about the accidents that wiped out whole Afghan villages, and the tragedies that have befallen his friends and fellow sailors delayed or denied treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
The sizable antiwar bloc of House Democrats who challenged further Iraq appropriations haven't been heard much on Obama's proposed escalation in Afghanistan, or the defense spending bill currently facing the House -- which contains war funds but not money for Obama's surge. There will be coordinated opposition to the escalation, Grayson said, but like everything else, Afghanistan has taken a back seat to health care reform. "My main priority is that," he said.
Obama's proposed escalation in Afghanistan will cost at least as much as a decade's worth of health care reform. The $3 trillion borrowed to spend in Iraq poses its own long-term national-security problems, Grayson said -- not to mention that the money isn't going to Americans. "I think we need to understand that even the American worker, as productive as he is, has his limits, and we need to take care of ourselves," Grayson said.
WATCH veterans discuss their experiences in this clip from Rethink Afghanistan: