McGovern, Obey Lead House Showdown on Afghanistan War

Tonight, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the
Pentagon's request for $33 billion for open-ended war and occupation
in Afghanistan. While press reports suggest that when the dust
settles, the Pentagon will have the war money, it's likely that a
record number of Representatives will go on the record in opposition
to open-ended war and occupation.

Representative Jim McGovern [D-MA] and Representative David Obey
[D-WI] are expected to introduce an amendment on the war supplemental
that would require President Obama to present Congress with a
timetable for military redeployment from Afghanistan.

Ninety-eight Representatives have already signed
their names
to this policy, by co-sponsoring McGovern's bill, H.R.

In addition, the McGovern-Obey amendment would try to lock in the
President's promise to begin a "significant
" of troops in July 2011 by requiring another vote on
funding if the promise is not kept. The amendment also requires a new
National Intelligence Estimate by January, which would hopefully have
the effect of forcing the Administration's promised December review of
the war policy to be real and its main conclusions public.

So far, the high-water mark for House opposition to the
Administration's war policy in Afghanistan came in June 2009, when 138 Members
voted for an amendment introduced by McGovern requiring the Pentagon
to present Congress with an exit strategy. Among House Democrats,
McGovern's June amendment had majority support by a margin of 131-114,
a 53-47 split.

Representative McGovern will be working to bring more than 138 Members
with him this time, on a provision that is significantly sharper than
last June's amendment, because it requires a "timetable for
withdrawal" rather than merely an "exit strategy," as well as trying
to lock in the promised drawdown of summer 2011.

Getting the McGovern-Obey amendment past the entire House will be a
very tall order if the overwhelming majority of House Republicans
continue to vote for open-ended war. Only 7 Republicans voted with
McGovern last June. If only 7 Republicans vote with McGovern now, and
turnout is similar to June, some 200 Democrats - four-fifths of the
Democratic caucus - would have to vote yes to carry the amendment.

But there is some grounds for optimism that McGovern could bring with
him a significantly bigger proportion of the Democratic caucus than he
did last June.

On May 27 of this year, eighteen
voted in favor of Senator Feingold's amendment requiring
a timetable for withdrawal. Before May, no-one in the Senate had
joined Feingold in publicly advocating for a withdrawal plan; last
year, the Senate didn't even consider anything like Representative
McGovern's exit strategy amendment. But in May, Feingold's amendment
was backed by three of the four members of the Senate Democratic
leadership: Senator Durbin, Senator Schumer, and Senator Murray. That
was the Senate, traditionally more supportive of foreign military
entanglements than the more populist House.

And that was before Michael Hastings' Rolling Stone article
and General McChrystal's dismissal called the question of the radical
disconnect between the Washington fairy tale of how military
escalation is going to lead to "success" and the "ground truth"
reality of quagmire in Afghanistan.

The story that was told last fall when General McChrystal demanded
30,000 more troops has not come to pass. The offensive in Marja was a
failure. The offensive in Kandahar, the centerpiece of the escalation
- which people in Kandahar have overwhelmingly rejected - has been
postponed. The Afghan Taliban have not been "defeated" or "degraded."
The political settlement that the Afghan government is now seeking -
with the ostensible support of the U.S. - will involve the same
Taliban leaders that we are fighting today, and the eventual result of
these negotiations is not likely to be significantly changed by more

By sending a decisive signal that patience in Congress is wearing out,
the House can dramatically shorten the war. Congress can save many
American and Afghan lives and tens of billions of dollars if it moves
decisively to turn this ship around. You can weigh in by calling your
Representative today. The Capitol Switchboard is 202-225-3121.

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