U.S. airstrikes slaughtered 95 Afghan children in the Farah province last week, leaving a total of 140 civilians dead. And yet as Tom Hayden pointed out in The Nation this week, our Democrat-dominated Congress seems unwilling to criticize the Obama administration as it rushes to approve $94.2 billion in supplemental wartime funding. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, which has been holding hearings over the past few weeks with U.S., Afghan, and Pakistani military advisers, assessed that the supplemental only "exacerbates" failed strategies by allocating $84 billion to military escalation, leaving $10 billion for foreign aid.
At a time when we're facing soaring unemployment and an economic crisis, it's incredible to me that Congress is so quick to simply go along with Obama on this one, particularly when the run up to the war in Iraq is so fresh in our minds and when we've seen this pattern before from Democratic Presidents. And there are many who share this incredulity.
Here's a sample of the messages people left for members of the Senate Appropriations Committee:
1) Capturing bin laden will have no more effect than the capture of Saddam; 2) There is no military solution for Afghanistan/Pakistan; and 3) We can't afford it." -- Bernie Feldman
"I don't know what to do. I have written the President and my representatives on this subject, just as I did in the run up to the Iraq disaster. Not only does it seem to do no good, I don't even get replies, even the general bullshit ones." -- Tom S.
"Funding the war in Afghanistan will bring the running tab for Iraq and and Afghanistan to nearly $1 trillion in upfront costs. It will create, as Tom Engelhardt wrote recently 'a vast financial hemorrhage, an economic sinkhole.' When my husband and I can't pay our bills we make changes in our home economy. It is time for our nation to do the same in our defense economy." -- Sophi Z.
As bad as the Congressional support for the supplemental has been, there is a slight glimmer of hope here. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) filed a bill today that will require the Pentagon to set an exit strategy for the war in Afghanistan by the end of the year. Many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, including retired Corporal Rick Reyes, lobbied Congress in support of this bill. According to The Boston Globe:
Realizing that it could not stop the supplemental, the group focused instead on getting more support for McGovern's bill.
"Without an exit strategy, then the mission is doomed to fail," said Jake Diliberto, who fought in Afghanistan in 2001 as a Marine. Diliberto, who said he is now getting his master's degree in ethics from Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., said that he strongly believed in the mission, but that the US presence has grown extremely unpopular among Afghans, as civilian casualties have increased.
Former Marine Corporal Rick Reyes, who also served in Afghanistan shortly after the US invasion, said he never thought he would lobby Congress. But by midafternoon, he had met with representatives from 20 offices. The group planned to fan out and meet with 100 more.
"So far the response has been positive, but you never know how they will vote," said Reyes, who believes that the United States was made less safe by the operations in Afghanistan. He said his team was ordered to break down doors and beat people who later turned out to be innocent.
McGovern's bill could prove crucial to curbing military escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, enabling us to have something concrete by which to hold the administration accountable as this war spirals out of control. It could give Congress the cajones to exercise some oversight, thereby keeping Obama from repeating the Bush administration's heinous mistakes in Iraq. In other words, an exit strategy would really be for Obama's own good, not to mention Congress's.
The Globe reports that 60 members of Congress have co-sponsored McGovern"s bill, but it seems that number is now up to 73 and rising. Meanwhile, the supplemental isn't through Congress quite yet, which means there's still time to sign the petition urging Congress to vote no until more questions about the war are answered.