3/5 of House Dems "Obsessed" with Afghan Withdrawal Timetable

"Obsession" isn't just "a fragrance for men." According to our
Commander-in-Chief, "obsession" now also characterizes the widespread
interest in the timeline for bringing home 100,000 American boys and
girls safely from Afghanistan so they can grow old with their
sweethearts and lead economically productive lives, rather than
becoming Pentagon statistics or lifelong burdens on their family
members and the public purse.

President Obama said there's "a lot of obsession" about the withdrawal
date for U.S. troops from Afghanistan, APreported

This "obsession" has so afflicted the body politic that Thursday
night, three-fifths of the Democrats in the U.S. House of
Representatives voted for an
amendment on the war supplemental that not only tried to lock in the
July 2011 timetable for the beginning of the drawdown that
President Obama promised
last year, but also would have required the President to establish a
timetable for the completion of the drawdown.

Are some of us "obsessed" with a withdrawal timetable for U.S. forces
from Afghanistan? Damn straight we are. Advocacy of a withdrawal
timetable is the principal means by which Americans outside of the
military can act politically to protect the lives of our fellow
citizens who are being deployed. Every day by which we can shorten the
war is a day on which our fellow citizens won't have the opportunity
to be blown up in Afghanistan.

And as for the people of Afghanistan, the withdrawal timetable is our
ticket to freedom from having the same relationship with Pashtun
residents of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan as the Israeli army has
with Palestinian residents of Hebron in the southern West Bank. The
withdrawal timetable is the little patch of blue that we prisoners
call the sky.

The group of Americans afflicted by this "obsession" is surely going
to continue to grow in numbers and influence. The 162 who voted for a
timetable for withdrawal yesterday represented almost a 20% increase
over those who voted for an
exit strategy last June. The three-fifths of the Democratic caucus in
the House who voted for a timetable for withdrawal yesterday featured
many members of the Democratic leadership, including House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi [D-CA], who usually doesn't vote on the floor (her
statement backing her vote for the amendment is here),
David Obey [D-WI], chair of Appropriations, who co-sponsored the
amendment; John Larson [D-CT], chair of the Democratic Caucus; Chris
Van Hollen [D-MD], assistant to the Speaker; George Miller [D-CA],
chair of Education and Labor; Barney Frank [D-MA], chair of Financial
Services; and Henry Waxman [D-CA], chair of Energy and Commerce.

And crucially, important Democratic players have begun to violate the
Washington consensus that pretended that war spending had nothing to
do with unmet domestic needs. David Obey tied
funding for teacher's jobs to the war supplemental
, and labor
unions, by insisting on money for teachers in the House bill, have
helped to jam up Congressional approval of the war money. MoveOn
called out House Republican leader John Boehner [R-OH] for suggesting
that we should cut Social Security benefits - including raising the
normal retirement age to 70 - while saying no limit can be placed on
war spending. And Speaker Pelosi told
the Huffington Post
: "It just can't be that we have a
domestic agenda that is half the size of the defense budget...in terms
of the war now in Afghanistan, which is a growing part of it...we have
to say how can we carry this and can we carry this on the backs of
children's nutrition."

Once the artificial wall between consideration of war spending and
consideration of domestic spending is thoroughly breached, every
Republican, Wall Street and corporate Democratic attack on Social
Security and on spending to support domestic employment under the
guise of "deficit reduction" is likely to provoke a counter-attack
from important Democratic players on war spending and the Pentagon
budget. That's going to drive even more Democrats and Independents
into the "timetable for withdrawal" camp.

Time is running out on the Obama Administration's ability to maintain
politically a large-scale deployment of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Even solely from the point of view of its own narrow self-interest,
the Administration should get busy pursuing serious peace talks with
the Afghan Taliban, because there's no reason to expect that the
Administration's leverage in the future will be any greater than its
leverage today.

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