162 House Votes for an Exit Strategy From Afghanistan

An addition $33 billion in spending for President Obama's
occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq -- and they are now his occupations
as much as they once were George Bush's -- was approved by the House
Thursday night as part of a broad "emergency" supplmental spending bill.

But the money for the Afghanistan quagmire did not come without a fight.

An addition $33 billion in spending for President Obama's
occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq -- and they are now his occupations
as much as they once were George Bush's -- was approved by the House
Thursday night as part of a broad "emergency" supplmental spending bill.

But the money for the Afghanistan quagmire did not come without a fight.

Two-thirds of House Democrats and nine Republicans voted for an
amendment sponsored by Appropriations Committee chair David Obey,
D-Wisconsin, and Congressmen Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, and Walter
Jones, R-North Carolina, that would have required the president to
rapidly begin developing a plan for the safe, orderly and expeditious
redeployment of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The Obey-McGovern-Jones
amendment also called for more detailed reporting to Congress on the
status of the occupation and for stricter congressional oversight of
private contractors working on the ground in Afghanistan in order to
address charges of corruption, waste, fraud and abuse.

The amendment received 162 votes, while 260 members opposed it.

What was significant was the partisan breakdown.

Among Democrats, 153 backed the amendment, while 98 opposed it.

Among Republicans, 9 backed the amendment while 162 opposed it.

So President Obama is now relying on Republicans to provide
unquestioning support for his war, while most Democrats want to see an
exit strategy developed.

Significantly, 100 members of the House
(93 Democrats, 7 Republicans) voted for an amendment offered
by California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the chair of the
Congressional Black Caucus, which proposed to fully fund a withdrawal
plan.

Twenty-five members (22 Democrats and three Republicans) cast the
boldest anti-war votes, backing an amendment to strike Afghanistan
funding from the supplemental bill. Another 22 members (all Democrats)
voted "present," suggesting their sympathy with the proposal.

What does it all add up to? Congress has not checked or balanced the
president, and that is disappointing -- although opportunities still
exist to do so, as the supplemental spending bill now must go back to
the Senate for another vote.

What should be understood, however, is that the president's own party is losing patience with his misguided war strategies.

As Paul Kawika Martin, Peace Action's
policy and political director, said late Thursday: "A year ago,
American voters turned against the Afghanistan war. They understand
that the enormous costs of blood and treasure are not necessarily
making us safer. Congress is slowly catching up with their
constituents. The votes in the House showed increasing congressional
concern for a failed policy in the Afghanistan region at a time when
Representatives are thinking about elections four months from now."


They are, as well, thinking about how to balance a budget when so much
money is being diverted to expand missions that Obama should be
bringing to an end.

"We've been in Afghanistan for nine years, making it the longest war in
our nation's history, and it's come at a tremendous cost. We've
tragically lost more than 1,100 American lives and spent close to $300
billion. We've also been in Iraq for seven years, where we've lost more
than 4,400 American lives and spent more than $700 billion," explained
Congressman John Garamendi,
D-California, who added that, "Every dollar spent on war is a dollar
not available for job creation in America, our schools, paying down the
deficit, or helping those afflicted by natural and man-made disasters.
The more than $30 billion allotted for the Afghanistan war could employ
300,000 teachers in schools across America."