Photo: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Antiwar Voice in Congress
What will Congressional
Democrats do now?
By Tom Hayden
Dec. 8, 2009 - Congressional Democrats held a closed caucus Dec. 8 to consider their stance on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and what to do about the president's 30,000 more troops, whose deployment will begin without a Congressional decision or funding.
The majority Democrats are uncomfortable in being caught between their constituents' peace sentiments and the president's deployment of 100,000 American troops.
It's going to get more uncomfortable.
Progressives should be vociferous in opposing the slithering [as opposed to dithering] by which the official deadline for beginning withdrawal keeps being shoved back by several years, if ever, solely under political pressure.
This stretching out of Obama's withdrawal timetable eliminates the primary feature of the President's plan that is attractive to most voters, especially Democrats.
Progressives also must force discussion of the secret CIA war being authorized in Pakistan, where the center of gravity is shifting. See Jane Mayer's "The Predator War" in The New Yorker.
The CIA's secret offensive in Pakistan is likely to produce blowback on a historic scale. It's no secret to the people of Pakistan, who oppose it in recent polls by 67-19 percent. It's proven an embarrassment to American diplomacy since even Hillary Clinton is barred from acknowledging it's going on. The reason for all the secrecy is not to protect American troops, but rather to avoid embarrassing Pakistan's army and government from admitting the violation of their sovereignty - and, perhaps above all, to prevent anti-war sentiment from increasing here at home.
Progressives should nail the costs of Afghanistan should on every Congressional door, if foreheads are impossible. At the present rate of killing, American deaths under Obama will be another 1,100 by the end of 2011, bringing the overall total to nearly 2,000. At the present budgetary cost, the war started by Bush will become a trillion-dollar war under Obama.
Never doubt the ability of the government and media to hide these figures from the distracted public. Apparently the dollar costs were not realized by the president himself until October 25, when his budget office sent a memo at his request. According to the New York Times, our president "seemed in sticker shock [at the news], watching his domestic agenda vanishing in front of him. 'This is a 10-year trillion-dollar effort and does not match up with our interests'", the president said, before setting the wheels in motion anyway.
Every peace advocate should post the costs of this war from their desktop to the highest billboard. Just go to the National Priorities website.
As for the Congress, every peace advocate should say loudly and clearly that two-thirds of their Democratic and independent constituents are unhappy with these wars, and that unhappiness will become a growing danger to many incumbents in 2010 and 2012. Reject the idea of a war surtax except as a rhetorical gesture. Push for Rep. Barbara Lee's bill which will prohibit funding for the additional troops. It won't pass, but is the vehicle for serious hearings and amendments - like forcing a vote on a tougher withdrawal plan. And push for Rep. Jim McGovern's exit strategy resolution. How can anyone oppose the Pentagon reporting to Congress on an exit strategy, which is all the measure does. Just watch - the hawks will go wild at the thought of plan to exit from a stalemate rather than shedding American blood until the last Taliban surrenders.
Meanwhile, keep studying this Long War because it may be around for a while. A very intelligent analysis of what Obama is trying to do - a gradual strategic repeat from an unsustainable future - comes from a pro-war advocate, Peter Beinart, in the current Time.
Step by step, in the formula of Richard Flacks, is the way of social movements that succeed.
And by the way, order, view, and distribute the Rethink Afghanistan package from Brave New Films as a holiday gesture to your friends.
The Peace and Justice Resource Center
Article originally appeared on tomhayden.com (http://tomhayden.com/).
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