Out of Afghanistan Caucus Calls for NO VOTE on War Funding

With a vote scheduled tonight on the $33 billion supplemental for the
Afghan war, members of the Out of Afghanistan Caucus held a press
conference today, July 1 to express their opposition to the war
funding. The Caucus, chaired by Congressman John Conyers, is an
informal group of 21 members dedicated to reorienting US policy
towards diplomacy and the swift redeployment of the US military.

Speaking at the press conference were Rep. John Conyers, Bob Filner,
Alan Grayson, Barbara Lee, Judy Chu, Sheila Jackson Lee and Mike
Honda. Cong. Maxine Waters arrived late and didn't get a chance to
speak.

The congresspeople addressed the hypocrisy of the fiscal conservatives
in Congress who are concerned about the out-of-control deficit but
support the war supplemental. Cong. Conyers labelled his Out of
Afghanistan group the "fiscally-conservative doves" and called on
fiscal conservatives of all political stripes to vote against the war
supplemental. Cong. Honda complained that the administration said last
year would be the last time the war budget was presented as a
supplemental, outside the normal budget, but then the administration
turned around and requested another supplemental. "Supplementals are
always deficit spending and if fiscal conservatives are serious, they
must vote against this," Honda said.

Congressman Filner, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee,
painted a grim picture of the cost of the war for U.S. soldiers. While
the official figures talk about 5,000 dead and 45,000 wounded, he said
the true cost was exponentially higher. "Close to one million soldiers
have visited VA hospitals for war-related injuries. Hundreds of
thousands have brain injuries or PTSD," he said. "We can't keep this
up. It's time to bring our children home."

Congresswoman Chu said that Congress was first told by Secretary Gates
that we needed 2,500 more soldiers in Afghanistan, then Admiral Mullen
called for 20,000 more, then McChrystal said 30,000 more. "What is the
correct number of troops we need in Afghanistan?", she asked. "Zero.
More troops just means more trouble."

Congressman Nadler said we had every right to target bases where
people were plotting against to attack us, but not to make war against
those countries. "We have no business intervening in an Afghan civil
war," he said. "It's a fool's errand. If the Afghan soldiers don't
have the will and motivation to fight the Taliban, we can't instill
that in them. And without the will and motivation, there's no
winning."

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee related the war funding to the BP
disaster. "We have a crisis of tsunami proportions in our own Gulf
with the BP disaster that will require billions, perhaps trillions, of
dollars. We need our resources to fight this war at home," she said.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee talked about her amendment to strike war
funding from the Supplemental, and the hopes that her amendment will
be voted on tonight. The other anti-war amendment is the one presented
by Cong. Jim McGovern, which calls for a detailed withdrawal plan and
has 100 co-sponsors.

Before the vote tonight, we need an all-out push for more no votes.
The following list of "liberal Democrats" must be pressured to vote
no: Yvette Clarke, Steve Cohen, Jim Cooper, Jerry Costello, Barney
Frank, Luis Gutierrez, Jay Inslee, Steve Kagen, John Lewis, Edward
Markey, Doris Matsui, Jim McDermott, George Miller, Grace Napolitano,
Richard Neal, James Oberstar, Jan Schakowsky, Mike Thompson, Edolphus
Towns, Nydia Velazquez, and Anthony Weiner.

While Afghanistan Caucus members spoke passionately today about ending
the war, unfortunately they, and the anti-war movement, don't have the
clout to stop this round of war funding. Even though the majority of
Americans now oppose the war, the majority in Congress will probably
still vote for it. While we must make every effort possible today to
get more anti-war votes, we have to build a stronger movement if we
are really serious about ending this war!