Peace Action West News

The House takes small step toward challenging Obama on Afghanistan

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA-3), photo from his website

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA-3), photo from his website

As you’ve read here before, we’ve been mobilizing our members to help gain cosponsors for Rep. McGovern’s bill calling for an exit strategy from Afghanistan. This is one of the first legislative vehicles we’ve had in Congress to raise questions about the Obama administration’s plans as they prepare to send another 21,000 troops to Afghanistan. While the bill represents only a small step in asking the administration to develop and present an exit strategy, its significance lies in the fact that it challenges the administration to answer tough questions and evaluate the efficacy of its policy. Because of the amazing grassroots efforts by Peace Action West supporters and other activists around the country, we managed to get the cosponsor count up to 94 before yesterday’s vote.

Rep. McGovern had initially tried to get the bill offered as an amendment to the $105 billion supplemental war funding bills, but couldn’t get it through. The Obama administration opposed the bill, and the Democratic leadership was not eager to put restrictions on the administration. Rep. McGovern was able to get a floor vote on the bill as an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill, and grassroots groups mobilized to get representatives on board.

In the vote today, the amendment failed 138-278. While the ideal situation would have been passing the amendment, this is still a sign of progress. We have found in congressional lobby visits and public statements that Democratic members of Congress are reluctant to challenge President Obama on Afghanistan and want to give him a chance to let his strategy work. When more than half of the Democratic caucus defied the administration and leadership by voting for this amendment, they signaled that they are willing to take a stand on this issue. We need to encourage members of Congress to speak out more; the only way we’re going to see the Obama administration move is if they are feeling pressure from those in the public and Congress who question the wisdom of the military strategy in Afghanistan.  Click here to see how your representative voted, and here if you’d like to send a message of thanks or disappointment.

The slow pace of this organizing can be frustrating, but it’s important to realize that we are having an impact and moving toward our goal. I remember in the early years of the Iraq war, we struggled to get members of Congress to vote for any bill that implied there should be a timeline for withdrawal. The tide turned against the Iraq war, and I’m convinced the same will happen with Afghanistan, if all of us maintain our commitment to spreading the truth and pressuring our government to change course.

In other congressional voting news, the House handily defeated an amendment that would have taken $1.2 billion from cleanup of hazardous nuclear waste to fund our favorite Cold War boondoggle, missile defense. In a strange move, the leadership refused to allow a vote on Rep. Barney Frank’s amendment to cut $369 million that was added as a down payment on $2 billion in F-22s that the Obama administration and military don’t want. House Democrats protested the move, and Rep. Frank took on the argument that we should keep the F-22 as a jobs program.

These arguments will come from the very people who denied that the economic recovery plan created any jobs. We have a very odd economic philosophy in Washington: It’s called weaponized Keynesianism. It is the view that the government does not create jobs when it funds the building of bridges or important research or retrains workers, but when it builds airplanes that are never going to be used in combat, that is of course economic salvation.

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