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Reminding Congress that It Has the Power to End the War in Afghanistan

March 1, 2010

The House will have a chance to vote next week to exercise its authority under the Vietnam-era War Powers Act to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan within three months. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH) is expected to introduce a resolution later this week providing that:

Pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1544(c)), Congress directs the President to remove the United States Armed Forces from Afghanistan:

(1) by no later than the end of the period of 30 days beginning on the day on which this concurrent resolution is adopted; or

(2) if the President determines that it is not safe to remove the United States Armed Forces before the end of that period, by no later than December 31, 2010 or such earlier date as the President determines that the Armed Forces can safely be removed.

The Kucinich resolution won’t gain a lot of support, both because opposition in Congress to the war in Afghanistan is not strong enough, and because the resolution sets a short deadline for withdrawal that is probably physically impossible to meet. But that doesn’t mean the resolution won’t be an important step in building congressional support for putting the Obama administration on a changed course to end the war.

The resolution is, first of all, an important reminder that Congress holds the power to declare war—to both authorize and end U.S. military adventures abroad. That’s a good reminder to our elected representatives that they as well as the president are responsible for U.S. Afghanistan policy.

Mr. Kucinich’s privileged resolution, moreover, will produce a three-hour debate on Afghanistan on the House floor that supporters of the war would rather avoid. (As a “privileged” resolution affecting the rights of the House under the law, the leadership must bring it to the floor promptly for debate and a vote.)

The resolution and the debate may also help build support for other measures in Congress designed to bring the Afghanistan war to an end. Last year, 135 members of the House voted to require the administration to prepare an exit strategy from Afghanistan. Similar legislation will be introduced again soon and will probably be voted on when the president asks Congress this spring for $33 billion more for the war in Afghanistan. If few in Congress are likely to vote for an immediate withdrawal, a majority may nonetheless be persuaded to make clear that complete withdrawal must be the goal and that it needs to begin in months, not years.

A good idea, then, to write to your representative and urge a vote for Mr. Kucinich’s privileged resolution, to reassert the role of Congress in matters of war and peace and to send a strong signal to the administration on the need to withdraw from Afghanistan. But if the resolution’s short deadline is more than he or she can support—even recognizing that the resolution’s effect will be symbolic, rather than substantive—then urge your representative to speak out in the floor debate on the need to end the Afghanistan war and to support new legislative measures to bring the war to a responsible close in accord with FCNL’s four steps for peace:

  • Begin a withdrawal of U.S. troops now and negotiate a timetable for withdrawal with the Afghan government;
  • Halt offensive operations against the Taliban and focus on political reconciliation among all Afghan groups;
  • Engage Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Iran and Pakistan, to promote reconciliation and regional security;
  • Channel U.S. development aid through Afghan and multilateral organizations.
  1. Ellen N. Duell permalink
    March 2, 2010 8:57 am

    What is “development” aid? How do you envision it? Would the Afghan people, including women as equal in decision power, be able to decide in their own regions what they need for home, food, education, wellbeing?

    I do not want any part of “aid” that would simply commercialize life in Afghanistan or any other country, especially if there are profits that are siphoned out of Afghanistan.

  2. Katrina Schwartz (FCNL Program Assistant for Peaceful Prevention of Deadly Conflict) permalink
    March 2, 2010 4:29 pm

    When FCNL talks about channeling development aid through Afghan and international organizations I think we are envisioning aid that is responsive to needs that the community, including women, identifies and where local Afghan people are doing the work. That way development can also help give people jobs and legitimize the Afghan provincial governments by showing that it can and does work when not being undermined by the US military.

    Our friends Theo Sitther and Lisa Schirch from Mennonite Central Committee and 3D Security Initiative just came back from a trip to Afghanistan where they explored the question of Afghan capacity. One of the things that I found most interesting about their presentation is that Afghan civil society is actively engaged in trying to make peace even amidst war. Lisa described one town where there are separate advisory councils for men and women and that each group identifies its priorities before coming together and sharing ideas. I think that in many cases women are the peace makers and Afghanistan is no exception.

    There is a program that many European nations and the US have supported called the National Solidarity Project that has shown good results in using foreign aid to fund development projects that were identified by local actors and completed using local labor. The money is given to the World Bank and does not have the stain of one country on it, who can then dictate how it is used. The money also comes down through the provincial governments, which helps legitimize those institutions, a very important factor for promoting stability right now.

    I would encourage anyone interested in alternative models of development aid in Afghanistan to check out the National Solidarity Project model (which is pretty popular in Congress), as well as the 3D Security Initiative website for some videos that Lisa Schirch made of Afghan peacemakers and the problems they see now.

    I would add, that while I have cited a few examples of how development aid can be used successfully, it can also be detrimental. The Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), for example, are deeply troubling as a development strategy and FCNL continues to push congressional leaders to see their faults. For more info on the PRTs check out a newsletter article on the subject that Bridget Moix wrote for the September/October edition.

  3. March 2, 2010 4:56 pm

    I am an American citizen born in Germany. After the end of WWII, the American government told the emerging new German government that they would never ever be allowed to have an Army again because of their seemingly inherent warlike tendencies.. Not so long thereafter, however, Germany was dragged into NATO. Now our SecDef Robert Gates comes along and has the gall to decry that Germany has too much of a “peace culture” , with the claim that this is “too dangerous”. They ought to develop more of a “war culture” in his view. Iwould like to tell my former compatriots in Germany to tell Mr Gates to go to hell. Europe has done well practicing a peace culture amongst each other. All of Europe ought to withdraw all their troops from Afghanistan forthwith.

  4. Robert Kline permalink
    March 2, 2010 4:56 pm

    We must find better ways to interact with the rest of the world — killing and war are not solutions.

  5. Joan Walker permalink
    March 2, 2010 5:02 pm

    All I know is that we are engaged in s disastrous, life-destroying, budget-breaking war that we simply CAN’T win and, meanwhile, our country’s needs go into the toilet and the debt for our grandchildren increases by the billions! (That is if the debt doesn’t destroy America before our grandchildren grow up enough to try to assume it!

    As an old Feminist in my mid 80’s, I would agree that we must insist that the rights of women be established if we all didn’t know in our hearts that women’s rights will NEVER come to be in Afghanistan!

    Start a gradual witdrawal now, and use the next batch of money borrowed from China for AID that might possibly improve the circumstances of the lives of those tortured people!

  6. John and Martha Stoltenberg permalink
    March 2, 2010 5:10 pm

    We absolutely must end the wars of fascist capitalist aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, and we must not start wars of fascist capitalist aggression with Iran or Venezuela, in order to save American economically and financially.

  7. March 2, 2010 5:26 pm

    I could not agree more with the comments of this panel.
    War is a very profitable business to a segment of our society and to the detriment of many others!
    Where is the commandment of:Though shalt not KILL?

  8. Gregg Harcus permalink
    March 2, 2010 5:27 pm

    My GOP Congressman Erik Paulson is VERY concerned about deficits but when it comes to war and pork DOD project he forgets how they get paid for. When it comes to supporting programs that benefit the American middle class we can’t afford them. The vast majority of Congre$$ don’t really care about the cost of war including the dead and wounded American military personnel. They are afraid to think out of the box when it comes to fighting terrorism. Unless we are occupying muslim countries and killing muslims and American troops we are being weak. I say we are being STUPID and wasting American lives for very little return.

  9. Patricia A. Chernoff permalink
    March 2, 2010 5:38 pm

    Congressman Kucinich’s proposal is an interesting one. I applaud for being so brave, knowing his colleagues will not support him. I love his independence on the issue of war and health care. I am totally in support. We cannot afford this war given the state of things in our country and the idea that it is a winnable war is absurd. We all know no one ever wins in Afghanistan. and of course as a Quaker I am opposed to war in general.

  10. March 2, 2010 5:56 pm

    The powers that be need to use their powers. Obama needs to slam down hard on these obstructionists instead of playing this polite pussyfooting game, but now we know he is not the progressive we thought. We need to balance our budget by pulling out of these cruel and immoral
    wars; stop mongering; weapons making is our only manufacturing industry left and for what?
    Let’s vote out everyone that is in congress and start with a clean slate. We need to try the treasonists for treason and lock them away forever…Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, Rice, Laura Bush for idiocy, Wolfowitz, Yoo, Gonzales, Pearle, Powell and all the other criminals. Why Obama will not honor our constitutional rights I do not understand. Election reform must be instated. Political advertising no one takes seriously at all. It is just the same old car commercial with a new face. It is just feeding the big media. No one cares about political ads. They are all lies and warped realities. The entire United States of America needs to modernize and overhaul itself from scratch. There is NO WAR TO WIN. WARS are obsolete, destroy our youth and torture people who would never accept a McDonald’s Burger of Pizza Hut in their territory.

  11. March 2, 2010 5:57 pm

    We must end the war in Afghanistan now to protect the U. S. from financial ruin and for the sake of our children and grandchildren who will suffer the animosity generated by our foreign policy. Maintenance of a military posture only increases our vulnerability to forceful reaction.
    Our prosperity will only be maintained if we cease our military efforts and pursue a policy of
    peaceful cooperation with the rest of the world. Each one of us has a responsibility to do all we can to bring a halt to our aggressive military/industrial/congressional consortium.

  12. Robert Stewart permalink
    March 2, 2010 6:04 pm

    This WWII combat vet (8th Air Force B-17 pilot)has been opposed to war for more than 55 years. I applaud Dennis for reminding all that the constitution charges Congress with the repsonsibility to declare war which logically includes the power to end it. The primary reason for differences between US and NATO allies is that the US people have not experienced the same physical effects of war other than the very small minority who served in actual combat. Europeans of my age have vivid memories of WWII and heard about the Great War from their parents. They truly believe WAR is NOT the ANSWER. This is even more true of Russians who suffered the most of any nation. We all must remember Ike’s farewell address on both the stupidity of war and the dangers of the military industrial complex now served too well by our Congress.

  13. March 2, 2010 6:04 pm

    Correction to my Website URL

  14. March 2, 2010 6:05 pm

    this petition is for to stop the war. so please pass it all that you know.

  15. March 2, 2010 6:22 pm

    Deep in the inner city on the West side of Chicago, Illinois State Senator Rickey Hendon has been speaking out against the Afghan war in weekly meetings with constituents. Endless wars, a relentless pipeline channeling youth from schools to prison, no jobs except selling drugs on the street… that’s the reality on the West Side. If white middle class people for peace can join with minority and poor folks, we have a huge majority in this country. Game over! Peace wins.

    Check out my blog as a fan of Senator Hendon’s community organizing:

  16. Kathlyn Lew permalink
    March 2, 2010 6:30 pm

    All these replies are so true, so loving, so deeply felt, so altruistic, so necessary to our species’ survival — how can they be ignored by our government, or for that matter, even by the corptocracy? My heart overflows with sorrow and bewilderment.

  17. anonamouse permalink
    March 2, 2010 8:03 pm

    I for one although no longer a Dem. applaud Rep Kucinich
    for this effort.This human will no longer support the war extortion of taxation without representation.I stopped paying federal taxes when the U.S. invaded Iraq the second time.I will only pay local and state sales taxes until these illegal, resource wars, of choice are ended.

  18. Ann Marie Saidy permalink
    March 2, 2010 8:42 pm

    Dennis Kucinich is the most moral member of our congress, for me, and his leadership in ending the war with Afghanistan is the right one and the only one worth pursuing. We owe the Afghanis a huge debt and should cut our losses to them, and to our soldiers, as soon as possible.

    Thank you, Dennis Kucinich, for keeping justice alive. If we don’t listen to you we are going to sink soon.

  19. Ann Carberry permalink
    March 2, 2010 9:21 pm

    We have a responsibility to model strong but peaceful negotiation and fight violence with methods that do not harm people or the environment of Afghanistan. We have moral leaders over there presently who are building schools and bonds that will last for generations in the minds of hearts of those families who are touched. We can purchase the crops of poppies to prevent sales used to fund the terrorists and use the harvest to makes medicine to prevent pain rather than produce it through the creation of new addicts. I am sure there are lots of other ways to improve the lives of the Afghanis and win their loyalty, encouraging them to improve their lives and give them the courage to stand up to those trying to hurt or dominate them.

    Many moral leaders have shown the way and led their people to win their freedom through nonviolent means and they have become our allies in the cause for peaceful coexistence.

  20. Esther Farnsworth permalink
    March 3, 2010 12:15 am

    There are so many reasons to stop the war in Afghanistan. Documented evidence shows that our military response to conflict around the world has only increased terrorism. It has made enemies, wasted our precious resources, killed and traumatized our young people and innocent civilians, wasted money and labor to destroy instead of providing for the needs of people. The war’s only value is to satisfy the greed of corporations and make a profit for military contractors.

  21. March 3, 2010 1:55 am

    I agree with all the comments that have been posted and can only add that it is curious how we can pay billions of dollars for destruction of countries and their people, killing and maiming thousands of our own young people and we are going bankrupt in the process. We do not have enough money to pay for our schools, infrastructure and the arts, have thousands of homeless on the streets, are seemingly unable to make a commitment to medically insure all Americans and all that for basically two illegal wars! After all, there were a handful of people who we assume to have destroyed the buildings in New York. How logical is it then to fight a whole country, Afghanistan for what a handful of people did? Of course, Iraq was not even involved in this and was found to have had no weapons of mass destruction, the reason given for that war in the first place!

  22. Don McNeill permalink
    March 3, 2010 2:29 pm

    Kucinich has it right. With the recently widely publicized “Marjah” campaign supposedly finishing and a new widely advertised campaign in “Kandahar” soon to begin, the endlessness of this war is evident, without congressional intervention.

    The president has shown that the has neither the will nor the intention of ending this war– he needs help from Congress and the people of this country. This occupation is now in its 9th year, longer than our major involvement in the Vietnam war (which was ended BY CONGRESS, which cut off funding, NOT the administration, which, true to the tradition, would have been happy to carry on). Of course, once the Americans were out, no Vietnamese were killing them any more.
    So it will be when we finally quit Afghanistan (after more than 30 years of intervention there).

  23. Michael Monahan permalink
    March 3, 2010 2:40 pm

    “There are none so blind as those who will not see!”

  24. Jennifer LeRoy permalink
    March 3, 2010 11:01 pm

    End the war, for both them and us, and utlimately for all of our children…

  25. Penny Jackim permalink
    March 3, 2010 11:29 pm

    The United States can be effective in Afghanistan and Pakistan by withdrawing our troops and working through diplomacy and economic assistance to improve conditions in these countries. As occupiers, who are at war, we do a great deal of damage, many are killed, and our presence is deeply resented. Our “enemies” are native to these countries, where they have friends and supporters. If we score a victory in one area, they can easily move to another. We are outsiders, as we were in Vietnam and Iraq. When will we learn that WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER? Let’s get out of the Middle East and focus on getting our house in order at home!

  26. Janet Nagel permalink
    March 4, 2010 8:46 am

    I’m against war as a means for solving anything, and I know full well the despicable behavior of those who gain from war financially and emotionally. But when and how are we going to stop it? Not by hand-wringing and empty pleas, I think.

    The Kucinich resolution may have some significance to those initiated in the arcane machinations of Congress, but on it’s face it fails to speak to the current reality. Looks like an empty exercise to me, and at a time when Congress is spinning it’s wheels on addressing so many pressing problems!

    I often wonder why Afghan leaders even try to work with the U.S., given the sorry history of U.S.-Afghan relations. When I was there in the late 1960’s the Afghans were pleading with the U.S. for more development aid to counterbalance the growing influence of the Soviet Union in their country, even as USAID was deliberately reducing it’s presence in Afghanistan. Then came the takeover by Russian-educated Afghans, then the resistance aided by the U.S., then another withdrawal of American support. Will a third withdrawal be a charm? I don’t think so.

    I think calling for another withdrawal from Afghanistan is the wrong emphasis. Demands for faster conversion to peacemaking and appropriate development aid are where our efforts should be focused.

    While there’s a strong affinity between the independent mindsets of Americans and Afghans, Afghan culture is very different from ours and as complex as any to be found in a multi-ethnic tribal society. I continually shake my head over wrong assumptions made about what’s needed in Afghanistan–or so many other places where we try to intervene. How difficult is it really for people in the higher levels of U.S. leadership to sit and talk with people who know Afghanistan? And how difficult to develop more Americans who are fluent in Afghan languages? These basic and reasonable measures seem to be constantly overlooked, resulting in counterproductive and even destructive policies.

    As for the role of women in Afghanistan, it was a complex tapestry when I was there. While the chadri (the term used in Afghanistan for burka) was in evidence, there were also many women who didn’t wear it. My housekeeper, with her twelve children and my household to manage, had too much to do to bother with such a contrivance. And there were significantly more women ministers in the Afghan government than there were women in the upper levels of U.S. government at that time. The young women I knew went to school and mature women had great influence in their families. That’s not to say that other women were not suffering abuse and injustice or that many more are suffering today. But it’s not correct to paint the condition of women with a single brush.

    This is just one example among many of how we need to temper our thinking about Afghanistan (or any other country) with awareness of how much we don’t know and how much our thinking may be colored by the cultural water that we swim in.

    In response to the foregoing despairing comment that Afghan women will never gain their rights, I see that women worldwide are gradually reclaiming their rightful place as half of humanity, with distinctive and important instincts and insights. But militancy, a shortcoming of patriarchal thinking, is probably not the best vehicle for advancing women’s rights.

  27. March 4, 2010 1:28 pm

    We need to shut the war machine down through nonviolent strikes, sit ins, marches, massive phone-ins, fax-ins, emails, and letter writing. If we don’t start actively directing our legislators, they won’t see over the piles of money that the wealthy corporations have heaped around them. This week is International Women’s Day on March 8 for women, and the men who support them,to join on bridges all over the world to express the need for peace and the end of violence. Women and their children are over 75% of people who suffer and die from war. On the 3rd Wednesday of every month, Brownbaggers will share food and ideas with each other and their legislators, highlighting Health care, not warfare, in Washington DC and around the nation people will join in Peace of the Action from March 13-the end of the month, and on March 20 there will be large marches to protest the 9 years of the violent occupation of Afghanistan. Now is the time to start peace talks and bring women to the table. Bless Rep. Kucinich for his courage and dedication working for the interests of the people and resisting the pressure of soulless international corporations and war contractors. Love, Eliz

  28. March 9, 2010 4:11 pm

    This is an outstanding legislative action which we must raise until the United States stops the predator drone bombings and withdraws all troops.

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