By David Swanson
If you were to call your congress member’s office at 202-224-3121 and ask them to vote against spending $33 billion to escalate the war in Afghanistan, they would give you one of several common excuses.
If they refuse to tell you what they plan to do, you can let them know that they work for you and that you are going to vote against them in November unless they commit to opposing the funding of this escalation now. Sure, their opponent could be worse, but not much, and decent representation will only be possible if representatives fear the public more than they fear the funders, media, and parties. Ultimately, this is the only thing you can tell them that they might care about. Still, it helps for them to know that you understand the issue and will not be easily swayed. So . . .
If they tell you (as Rep. Delahunt told me) that they like the attention that comes from remaining undecided, ask them how they think that sounds to the loved ones of those killed. Let them know they could get even more attention by tattooing "Loser" on their forehead.
If they tell you they want to vote for aid to Haiti or some other lipstick included in the bill, or they want to wait and see what sweet-smelling things are packaged into the bill, tell them those things can pass separately and constitute no excuse. You want a commitment now to vote No no matter what. This is life and death. They need to be trying to block the bill, not just considering the possibility of individually voting No if it looks like no one will mind.
If they tell you this is the very last off-the-books war supplemental, tell them you didn’t believe that BS last June and won’t believe it now, and that it never constituted any excuse for funding war or escalation.
If they tell you they want to obey the president, ask them to read the U.S. Constitution and see what’s in Article I. Ask them why they think the framers put the war power in the Congress.
If they tell you they want to "support duh troops," tell them that a No vote merely avoids or undoes an escalation, thus preventing troops from being sent to risk their lives under illegal orders.
If they tell you they’re voting for a toothless non-binding request for an exit time-table, tell them a growing causus opposing the funding sends a stronger message and builds toward the ability to actually end the war. Tell them the exit strategy approach, last summer, was rightly delayed until after the funding vote, and then garnered 138 votes, to which the president merely gave a one-finger salute. Let them know that ineffective rhetoric is no substitute for action, and that you see through the use of this "timetable" vote as cover for funding an escalation. If they point to peace organizations that will accept that excuse and only want their support for the "timetable" make clear that those organizations do not speak for you.
If they tell you they’re waiting to see who else will vote No before they decide to vote No, point them to the list at defundwar.org and point out that the Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee is on it, but also ask them whether they represent their constituents or their colleagues.
If they tell you that they’re afraid Fox News and the rest of the "media" would attack them, let them know that Glenn Beck has been opposing war funding, that this is escalation funding, and that if they say they want the money for jobs at home nobody can touch them. On top of which, we’ll have their back with independent media and media activism. They can encourage media outlets to ask President Karzai, when he’s in town next week, whether he supports an escalation — if they’re not afraid of the answer.
If they make clear that they’re afraid of losing funding, directly from the war profiteers or laundered through a political party, point them to the fundraising that members like Grayson and Kucinich are able to do on their own. Ask them if they will be able to live with having funded death for the sake of blood money.
Now, it’s just conceivable that they will also try a more substantive excuse on you, so be prepared.
If they tell you they’re concerned for the safety of the country, point out that terrorism has been increased by the global war on terrorism and that there is no way escalating a war in Afghanistan doesn’t make us less safe. We escalated it last year and saw violence increase, with nothing else accomplished. Last week, the Pentagon issued a new report finding that one in four Afghans in important areas support Karzai’s government, violence is up 87% in the past year, European allies are bailing out, corruption runs rampant, insurgents still control Marjah, the Taliban is growing, and the Afghan government is getting weaker. Our military experts say we would need hundreds of thousands of troops and millions of civilians to accomplish anything. An inadequate escalation is an end in itself, quite literally for those it will kill.
If they tell you the U.S. public supports the war, ask them about polling in your district. And tell them this: Back in December, U.S. pollsters asked Americans if they supported funding an escalation, and in several polls a majority said No. So a lot of congress members voted for more war funding but promised to oppose the escalation funding in the spring. Then the White House began the escalation, and the pollsters (apparently assuming that our servile congress would fund anything the president had already begun, even if the people opposed it) stopped polling on the escalation. Polling just on the war, pollsters find the US public evenly split or leaning slightly in support. But they ask whether people support the president, not how much longer they want the war to last or whether that’s their top choice for where to spend a trillion dollars. Many Americans think they are required to say they support the president, and others choose to support a political party, but both big parties support the war (which, by the way, will cause a lot of Democrats to stay home in November). When Democrats.com funded polling on Iraq that no one else would do, we found a majority in favor of Congress cutting off the funding. I’m confident we could find that on Afghanistan at least following the coming rise in deaths. And this supplemental is not to keep the war going but to escalate it, which the American people opposed when asked. Also, nobody has polled on the popularity of a congress member saying they want to fund jobs instead of wars. And what about the people who are best informed? A recent survey of Kandahar, the area where the escalation is planned, found that 94% of the people there prefer peace negotiations to U.S. attacks, and 85% see the Taliban as "our Afghan brothers." The survey was funded by that radical pacifist organization, the United States Army.
If they tell you they have to keep weapons jobs funded to benefit the economy, tell them we could have 20 green energy jobs paying $50,000 per year for every soldier sent to Afghanistan: a job for that former soldier and 19 more, and reduced demand for the oil and gas and pipelines and bases. We’re spending as much as $400 per gallon to bring gas into Afghanistan where the US military used 27 million gallons of the stuff last month. We’re spending hundreds of millions to bribe nations to be part of what we pretend is a coalition effort. We’re spending at least that much to bribe Afghans to join the right side, an effort that has recruited 646 of the Taliban’s 36,000 soldiers, but then lost many of them who took the money and ran back to the other side. We’ve spent $268 billion on making war on Afghanistan, and using Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz’ analysis of Iraq we need to multiply that by four or five to get a realistic cost including debt, veterans care, energy prices, and lost opportunities. Public investment in most other industries or in tax cuts produces more jobs than investment in military. In fact, military spending is economically, as well as morally, the worst thing Congress can do. And this is economically the worst time in many decades to be doing the worst thing you can do.
Call Your Congress Member at (202) 224-3121 and tell them that you will vote against them if they vote to fund an escalation in Afghanistan. Tell them you will stand for no excuses.