Afghanistan: Two Lonely Acts of Courage

By David Swanson

One member of Congress stood alone 7.5 years ago against the original authorization to attack Afghanistan. And one member of Congress, a different one, stood alone last week against funding a massive escalation of that war.

On September 14th, 2001, Congresswoman Barbara Lee spoke, in tears, on the floor of the House of Representatives. She, alone, would vote No on letting the president decide on going to war in Afghanistan. She, alone, would refuse to authorize the president to use powers the Constitution does not give him, and trust him to use those powers wisely. Here’s video.

Lee made a practical and a moral case against going to war. Military action, she said, would not prevent future terrorist attacks in the United States. In fact we now know that criminal negligence by the president and resentment of past military activities of the United States and Israel, together with suicidal religious beliefs, had led to the attacks of 9-11, and that terrorism has increased as the United States has invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. Lee urged “restraint,” “stepping back,” and the need to “think through the implications of our actions, so that this does not spiral out of control.” Few would argue that things did not, indeed, spiral out of control. “Let us not,” Lee warned, “become the evil that we deplore.”

We are now a nation that regularly bombs civilians, detains the innocent, and tortures prisoners — sometimes to death. We’ve threatening to attack Iran, and nobody in Washington is questioning the legality of aggressive war, because that would mean questioning the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Opinion of the United States around the world has plummeted to the point where we are seen as the most dangerous “rogue state” (Financial Times survey 2007). And this began with Afghanistan, where we have killed and destroyed in great measure, but done very little to either apprehend the criminals we were supposedly there to find, or to benefit the innocent people whose country we have made a more dangerous, more impoverished place to live. Our own puppet president of Afghanistan has long been pushing the U.S. media to cover his demand that the U.S. cease using air strikes against the people of Afghanistan, but he may just add his career to the list of casualties.

Congress just voted on a budget to dramatically escalate the war in Afghanistan, and maintain the one in Iraq, at a cost of $130 billion plus interest to our children and grandchildren, except for the ones who go over there and die. One would think that after 7.5 years of disaster, at a time when budgets are tight, to say the least, and trillions of dollars are desperately needed to fend off any traumatic lessening of gluttony for Wall Street robber barons, one would think there might be some opposition found in Congress. The people of the United States have turned against these wars. Where are our representatives? Well, they now work for two parties. Republicans were required to vote against the budget and all did so. Democrats were required to vote for it, and only 20 broke ranks. Of those 20, it would appear that 19 primarily wanted to vote with their friends the Republicans. But one member of Congress made his vote against the escalation of war and said so in the following statement:

“I am committed to doing everything I can to put our community and our nation on the path to economic stability. I led opposition to the bank bailout program TARP, I worked vigorously in favor of the stimulus package, and I have worked to save the automotive, steel and aerospace industries in America. This budget is a statement of principles for the upcoming year, and I cannot accept it in its entirety. I will not vote for a budget that ties military spending to the operational funding of our government. This year, the budget includes $130 billion for war funding. The Washington Post reports today another 10,000 troops may be sent to Afghanistan, bringing our total number of troops there to as much as 78,000 by 2010 – a more than 100% increase from today’s troop levels. This budget is a plan that authorizes the expansion of the war. I simply cannot endorse a budget or a plan that sends more of our brave men and women to Afghanistan, a conflict which has the potential to become this generation’s Vietnam.”

That was Dennis Kucinich.

Lee and Kucinich stood alone on two separate occasions. History will prove them right. Lee’s vote came in a spotlight and with the public actually against her. Kucinich’s came in a shadow but with his party and the current president against him.

There is another vote yet to come on another $75.5 billion for the two wars in a “supplemental” spending bill. What we need is for one brave and decent member of Congress to introduce an amendment to

1. Devote the $75.5 billion exclusively to withdrawal, and/or
2. Block any funding until Congress ratifies a treaty — the current one with Iraq being unconstitutional, and/or
3. Require a Paygo surtax on millionaires to cover the cost.

The people of this country already see how history will judge what we do, as well as the danger that there will be no more history to judge if we continue down this path.