Yesterday we talked about HR 5015, the McGovern bill requiring an exit strategy from Afghanistan. Remember, an exit strategy is easy to do because our strategy is basically a flaming pile of junk anyway, so why not wrap it up? And it’s free because it costs nothing. A phone call, what is that? Five minutes? Four? You’re just asking your rep to co-sponsor a bill (they give them numbers like 5015 to make it easy). And it’s not like you have to explain quantum mechanics, the war in Afghanistan is so obviously awful, you’re pretty much talking in short hand (they’re familiar with the issue). Just requiring a timeline seems like the simplest, least offensive policy ever, right? Actually, David Swanson disagrees:
It’s not that we need 20 more cosponsors of the nonbinding timetable for Afghanistan. The lesson [of Iraq] is that we must tell members of the House of Representatives that they can vote against war funding or we will vote against them.
No way. Now I realize this is probably frustration, I’m as pissed off as anyone about the Iraq extension, but it’s no reason to drop everything and go all extremist. Cutting off funding is important, no doubt there, but there are still lots of other opportunities to accomplish something in Afghanistan besides furiously threatening your member of congress over one issue, the funding. And there’s certainly a lot more to do than just that one, single act of voting. This timeline is not only easy to support, but it’s also a very important step toward ending the war. Missing this opportunity would just be foolish.
Just take a look at Obama’s reasoning behind the Iraq extension:
Obstacles to the orderly reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in the country, and the development of political, administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. Accordingly, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency with respect to this threat and maintain in force the measures taken to deal with that national emergency.
Iraqis are an "unusual and extraordinary threat" to the United States? That’s terrifying! But wait, why? What’s the threat? Is Moqtada al-Sadr going to nuke Boston? Is the ISI sailing up the Potomac? Is the weapons system on Ayad Allawi’s Death Star operational? What the hell is in Iraq that could possibly be so unusually and extraordinarily threatening to the United States so as to make President Obama, elected with a huge mandate to end the war in Iraq, change his mind and delay the withdrawal? If only we had something like HR 5015, which requires the President to explain "variables that could alter that timetable" of withdrawal. Then we’d know for sure what it is that’s so scary to Obama. Maybe he has intelligence about al-Qa’eda planning attacks, maybe he had a scary dream about Maliki, or maybe he’s just a dumbass who thinks Apache helicopters are super good at political reconciliation. How should we know? There’s no "nonbinding timetable" that requires him to tell us.
There is the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq, which has a timeline, but that’s different from one imposed by Congress. How do we know this? David Swanson, same piece from above:
But there’s a broader framework for this withdrawal or lack thereof, namely the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement), the unconstitutional treaty that Bush and Maliki drew up without consulting the U.S. Senate. I was reminded of this on Tuesday when Obama and Karzai talked about a forthcoming document from the two of them and repeatedly expressed their eternal devotion to a long occupation.
The unconstitutional Iraq treaty (UIT) requires complete withdrawal from Iraq by the end of next year, and withdrawal from all Iraqi cities, villages, and localities by last summer. Obama’s latest announcement doesn’t alter the lack of compliance with the latter requirement. Nor does it guarantee noncompliance with the former. But it illustrates something else, something that some of us have been screaming since the UIT was allowed to stand, something that pretty well guarantees that the US occupation of Iraq will never end.
Yep, the SOFA is unconstitutional, pretty much just a piece of paper signed by some guys named Bush and Maliki. But you know what isn’t unconstitutional? Tada! House Resolution 5015 requiring an exit timeline from Afghanistan. If Obama violates the SOFA, who cares, it’s a spit-shake inherited from the last crooked administration. But if he violates the bill from Congress, well then we’re dealing with something we can do something about.
And good luck threatening your member of congress in November, especially the dozens and dozens retiring or stepping down this year. If all you’ve got is not voting, then why in the world would they ever listen to you? But if you work all the opportunities available to you, then they will listen to you, vote or no vote. Guess how I know this. David Swanson.
On Sunday, April 11, 2010, Congressman Bill Delahunt hosted a public forum in Falmouth, Mass., on the question of whether or not he should vote for another $33 billion to escalate war in Afghanistan. Delahunt was honoring a commitment he had made to Cape Codders for Peace and Justice following a sit-in in his office.
Two pro- and two anti-war speakers were scheduled to speak. But Delahunt put out a press release announcing only the two pro-war speakers, and the day before the event disinvited one of the anti-war speakers, Chris Hellman, and communicated that neither of them would be included. After a flurry of Emails and phone calls made clear that this new plan would not be accepted easily, the speakers were re-invited.
Prior to the event, Delahunt said that he would not be announcing his decision that day, but that he would announce it at least 10 days before the vote. He said that he craved the attention that comes from not announcing how you will vote, as if the attention he gets matters more than the lives he funds the taking of. One of Delahunt’s staffers, also chatting prior to the event, said that the Congressman had worried about making his recent announcement of his coming retirement, because he had thought that he would get less attention and the phone would ring less if he were a lame duck, but that happily he gets even more attention now. And you thought our elected officials governed for the greater human good out of selfless devotion?
That’s David Swanson and an army of local constituents kicking the crap out of Bill Delahunt, who is retiring, over his vote on Afghanistan. I did a whole post on it here. It was a highly effective move, and showed that no one, not even a lame duck, is safe from the issue of Afghanistan. There was a lot of good debate at that forum, a lot accomplished, and it had nothing to do with holding out until November. And even if we’re not talking about incumbents, we can likely predict that by the time November rolls around, the election will be focused on sniper fire or lipstick on farm animals or who met Harold at the Playboy party. It definitely won’t be an obscure, $33 billion vote from May on…what was it? Haiti relief? Something about Agent Orange? Who can remember? It’s all lumped together precisely so you can’t use it against them in November. "I didn’t vote for Afghanistan, I voted for earthquake relief, and veterans, and puppies and flowers and blah blah blah," the campaign press release will say.
Our system is so much bigger than voting. We don’t have to cast our vote once and hope that magically our candidate has all the same thoughts and feelings about issues as we do. That’s not how it works. We tell them what to do. Just like Delahunt, if it gets them on TV and lots of attention, they’ll have a whole forum just so you can come tell them how to vote. You can also pick up a phone, or Skype, and call (202) 224-3121. Ask to speak to your representative, then tell them, don’t ask or threaten about votes, tell them to co-sponsor HR 5015. If they hear enough from their constituents, they’ll do it. Pressure works. You can even tell them not to vote for the $33 billion while you’re on the line with them. Your conversation doesn’t have to go anywhere near the elections.
And even beyond just basic civics like calling your congressman, there’s still more to the process than voting. How was Obama elected, or the 2006 Democratic sweep? People knocked on doors, called their neighbors, called strangers, went to rallies, donated tons and tons of money, they made videos, they wrote blogs, they put up signs, they talked to their friends, their family. That’s how you get elected, and nobody is going to want to do that for a warmonger who’s blowing $33 billion in tax money on a stupid, pointless war. Why give money to PACs and party Senate and Congressional campaign committees when they’ll spend it supporting chumps who don’t vote for a timeline?
We have to take every single opportunity presented to us to end this war, be it timetables, funding votes, and yes, at some point, the ballot box. We have one of those opportunities right now, and like I said, it’s easy and it’s free. Call Congress at (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak to your representative. Tell them to co-sponsor HR 5015, the McGovern bill to require an exit strategy. Then join us on Rethink Afghanistan’s Facebook page and collaborate with the tens of thousands of others around the country working to bring this war to an end.