Powerful Members of Congress Turning Against Afghan War

by Matt Southworth on

06/07/2011 @ 07:00 AM

The chairman and ranking member of the very powerful House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Harold Rogers (KY) and Rep. Norm Dicks (WA), have both recently made statements which question the futility of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. They join a growing bipartisan group of powerful representatives and senators calling this war into question. At a time when opposition to long, costly wars is at an all time high, the importance of this awakening­which is even beginning to shape the Obama administration’s July drawdown in Afghanistan­cannot be overstated. In fact, such strong and growing opposition seems to have even the Pentagon on its heels.

Rep. Dicks comes from the heavily military industrial complex state of Washington. It is the place Boeing sets up shop and nuclear submarines are docked off the Pacific coast. Joint Base Lewis-McCord is home to the 2nd Infantry Division and many others large units. When asked about President Obama’s withdraw, Dick said <http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0611/56158.html#ixzz1OaEa24rh> , “We need to start seeing if we can do this a little faster” than 2014. Rep. Rogers, who is questioning <http://fcnl.org/blog/2c/War_fatigued_Congress_Refuses_to_Authorize_War_in_Libya/> the possibilities for success in Afghanistan, is no stranger to large military bases either; in Kentucky, Fort Campbell houses the 82nd Airborne­an Army division heavily deployed in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Both appropriators know first hand the fiscal­Rep. Dicks chairs the powerful Defense Appropriations Subcommittee­and human costs, seeing the personal sacrifices made by their constituents year after year over the last decade.

Rep. Dicks and Rogers are not alone. The institution itself <http://fcnl.org/issues/afghanistan/Congress_is_increasingly_vocal_on_Afghanistan/> is questioning the purpose of maintaining U.S. forces in Afghanistan, especially after the death <http://fcnl.org/blog/2c/Bin_Laden_is_gone_so_what_happens_in_Afghanistan/> of Osama bin Laden. Senator Richard Lugar (IN), ranking member of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has l ong expressed doubt about the possibility for success in Afghanistan. Senator John Kerry (MA), chair of that same committee, has questioned the war strategy in the context of how it all ends. Perhaps the greatest metric for growing opposition is the recent vote on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act <http://fcnl.org/blog/2c/NDAA_votes_huge_momentum_builder/> offered by Reps. Jim McGovern (MA) and Walter Jones (NC) which was based on their H.R. 1735 <http://capwiz.com/fconl/issues/bills/?bill=45696501> . The amendment called for a plan and date certain for leaving Afghanistan. It failed narrowly by a vote of 204-215 <http://capwiz.com/fconl/issues/votes/?votenum=373&amp;chamber=H&amp;congress=1121> , indicating that Congress is simply war fatigued <http://fcnl.org/blog/2c/War_fatigued_Congress_Refuses_to_Authorize_War_in_Libya/> .

Similar votes in past years received nowhere near 200 affirmative votes. The growing opposition is reaching the highest levels of the Afghanistan decision-making process. Yesterday, President Obama met with is National Security team to discuss, among other things, the upcoming Afghanistan drawdown­set to begin this July. Initial reports indicated that a nominal drawdown of some 5,000 troops, a mere 5% of troop strength, would take place in July. However, people within the administration are now pushing for a “steeper <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/06/world/asia/06gates.html> ” drawdown. After the Na tional Security meeting, President Obama said <http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2011/06/obama-us-has-accomplished-big-chunk-of-afghanistan-mission.html> , “We’ve accomplished a big chunk of our mission.” After the killing of Osama bin Laden, recent anti-war votes in Congress and with more than 70% <http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/2011/06/06/AGFZebKH_graphic.html> of Americans in favor of significant drawdown this summer, the president has infinite political space to conduct a major drawdown and policy change this July.

The Pentagon has a problem: we’re winning the argument. Generals across the board are warning the administration that a drawdown too significant will result in a loss of fragile gains made in the last 18 months. Does anyone really expect them to say anything differently? Secretary Gates, on his farewell world tour, told <http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110604/pl_afp/afghanistanunrestus> journalists this past weekend that he’s in favor of a “modest” drawdown. Just last week, articles in several major papers were attempting to make the case that the U.S. war in Afghanistan is still R 20;worth fighting” and the U.S. shouldn’t backtrack now. The Pentagon knows the Obama administration is under immense pressure from all sides to significantly de-escalate this July, thus insiders are compelled to defend the policy in the lead up to Obama’s announcement in the coming weeks.

This is no time for us to relinquish on that pressure­either now or over the next 6-12 months. I am convinced that, for perhaps the first time in its history of the anti-war movement, peace advocates have the Pentagon on its heels. This is a direct result of the movement around the country to end the war and efforts made by FCNL <http://fcnl.org/blog/2c/Spring_Lobby_Weekend_success/> and others in the halls of Congress. We are strategically positioned to influent President Obama’s troop reduction decision and the policy that emerges in the coming months. The question is: will you continue to call for an end to the U.S. war in Afghanistan with us?