Medea Benjamin is cofounder of the women-led peace group CODEPINK and the human rights/fair trade group Global Exchange.
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 labeled 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 Velázquez, 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!
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