“There is simply no rationale for continuing American involvement with no end in sight, rising deaths for civilians and our brave soldiers, declining public sentiment, and serious economic pain at home,” Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich explained to his fellow House members during Thursday’s debate on ending the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. “Continuing our involvement in Afghanistan is not affordable, it's not just, and it hurts American foreign policy interests. It's time to go."
That message, long true but truer now than ever, resonated with 92 other members of the House, who joined Kucinich in voting for a new bill to bring an end to the war in Afghanistan by the end of 2011.
At a time when President Obama and Republican congressional leaders are both peddling different versions of the fantasy that America is broke, an when Republican governors are claiming that states are facing such hard times that only busting unions will balance budgets, Kucinich and his colleagues have found the missing money. It’s being wasted on a war of whim in Afghanistan.
As Kucinich explains, “There is simply no rationale for continuing American involvement with no end in sight, rising deaths for civilians and our brave soldiers, declining public sentiment, and serious economic pain at home. Continuing our involvement in Afghanistan is not affordable, it's not just, and it hurts American foreign policy interests. It's time to go.”
“While Congress pulls unemployment benefits from suffering Ohio families and proposes slashing health care benefits, vital children's programs, and veterans' services all because we're "broke," it continues to fund a war that has cost us more than $455 billion. We are told we should cut funding for assistance to low-income families with one hand, while with the other hand tens of billions of dollars are approved for a war that does nothing to further our national security. The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost the average American family of four almost $13,000 last year,” adds Kucinich, who says: “Our priorities are simply out of sync. Desperately needed unemployment benefits were filibustered last year because the costs to provide them were not offset with spending cuts or revenue increases. But we are not required to offset the costs of war, even when the war is completely funded by borrowed money - money we have to pay back with interest on the backs of our children and grandchildren.”
That argument gained favor with 85 Democrats, including ranking members such as John Conyers of Michigan, Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Bob Filner and George Miller and Henry Waxman of California, and Charles Rangel of New York. Congressional Black Caucus chair Barbara Lee, D-California, joined them, as did Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Keith Ellison of Minnesota.
Eight Republicans voted for the resolution, as well. In addition to long-time opponents of unnecessary wars, such as Texas Congressman Ron Paul and Tennessee Congressman John Duncan Jr., a number of younger GOP conservatives with Tea Party ties, such as Utah’s Jason Chaffetz backed the proposal to remove the troops from Afghanistan.
The bipartisan support for the resolution was satisfying, if insufficient. The measure still lost 321 to 93. Especially disappointing was the vote of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, who sided with Republican leaders in voting “no.”
Still, the increased level of opposition to the war was notable, as it put more members of Congress in synch with the American people.
“The U.S. Congress continues to lag far behind American public opinion on the war in Afghanistan. Evidence from opinion surveys reveals that Americans have greatly shifted their opinion on the war, with a two-thirds majority now opposing the war,” notes Kucinich. “Nearly three-quarters -- an overwhelming majority -- want to withdraw substantial numbers of troops by this summer. The vote today illustrates that Congress is unfortunately out of step with the American people on the issue of the Afghanistan war. Nevertheless, the number of Members of Congress voting in favor of the resolution to end the Afghanistan war grew appreciably over a similar vote last year. Most of the increase was due to Democratic members who switched their position. Most new Republican Members of Congress unfortunately opposed the resolution, in spite of the considerable costs of the war.
“The cost of the war, both in terms of blood and treasure is unsustainable. We will renew our struggle to bring U.S. policy in line with American public opinion, and ensure that American lives are not put at risk, Afghan civilians are not put at risk and our ability to address the fiscal needs of America here at home are not put at risk.”