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Hat tip to Robert Naiman and the good folks at Just Foreign Policy for alerting about Senator Merkley's bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.

Co-sponsors as of Nov 21 include Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

Update:  An email from Just Foreign Policy identifies additional co-sponsors:

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Sen. Bernard Sanders (D-VT)

Let's look at the text.

Resolution on Afghanistan

To be offered to National Defense Authorization Act

Whereas, after al Qaeda attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, the United States rightly sought to bring to justice those who attacked us, to eliminate al Qaeda’s safe havens and training camps in Afghanistan, and to remove the terrorist-allied Taliban government;

Whereas, the Afghanistan War is now the longest in American history;

Whereas, United States’ troops, intelligence personnel and diplomatic corps have skillfully achieved these objectives, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden;

Whereas, national security experts, including Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, have noted that al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has been greatly diminished;

Whereas, over the past ten years the United States' mission has evolved to include a prolonged nation-building effort, including the creation of a strong central government, a national police force and army, and effective civic institutions;

Whereas, such nation-building efforts in Afghanistan are undermined by corruption, high illiteracy, and a historic aversion to a strong central government;

It sounds as if these senators have awakened, and have smelled the coffee.  They are spelling out flaws in the concept of nation building in Afghanistan. Corruption.  High illiteracy.  Historic aversion to central government, to put it mildly.  There has never been a central government in Afghanistan that has had a presence and reach across that huge landscape with all those tribes, remote valleys, and remote villages, the residents of which are highly motivated to repel outside invaders.  "Central government? Say what?"

They're aware that AQ has been run out of Afghanistan.  Good going!  Of course, AQ doesn't need Afghanistan.  There's other places they could regroup, and why they'd want to go back to Afghanistan, or why any Afghans would want or allow them back, is a mystery.  Afghanistan served AQ's purpose at a point in time, as did Hamburg (to coordinate the 9/11 attacks) and as did the U S of A (for the flight schools).  For what would AQ want or need Afghanistan, specifically, again?  

Whereas, members of the United States military have served in Afghanistan valiantly and with honor, and many have sacrificed their lives and health in service to their country;

Whereas, the United States is now spending nearly $10 billion a month in Afghanistan at a time when at home there is high unemployment, a flood of foreclosures, a record deficit, and a debt that is over $15 trillion and growing;

Yep, the senators recognize that this war crap is damned expensive, in our own people's lives, and in your tax dollars, even though it's all floated on a loan from The Bank of China Master Charge Card.  No war tax from Repubs or from Dems.  Don't it make ya wonder how long these wars would go on if Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer actually got billed for it?

Whereas, the United States has now accomplished its original objectives in Afghanistan;

Whereas, the continued concentration of American and NATO military forces in one region, when terrorist forces are located in many parts of the world, is not an efficient use of resources;

Whereas, the battle against terrorism is best served by using our troops and resources in a counter-terrorism strategy against terrorist forces wherever they may locate and train;

Excellent!  The senators recognize that the big-footprint counter-insurgency approach against "the Taliban" is misdirected, and that a counter-terrorist focus against a few actual jihadists is what makes any sense.  After all, OBL was taken out by intelligence and a small focused counter-terrorist operation in Pakistan, and NOT by a massive military operation in Afghanistan.

Moreover, though the senators don't mention it here, we are NOT following counter-insurgency doctrine in Afghanistan, which dictates that you have to be partnered with a legitimate and viable host government to which the populace will come; otherwise, you're just supporting one group of bad actors over another group of bad actors.  When you have a corrupt host government (you don't think Karzai's government is legitimate and viable, do you?) then you aren't doing counter-insurgency, and if you're not doing counter-insurgency, what in gawdsname are you doing, eh?  This same fatal flaw was present in our protracted war in Vietnam.

Whereas, the United States will continue to support the development of Afghanistan with a strong diplomatic and counterterrorism presence in the region;

Whereas, the President is to be commended for announcing in July that the United States would commence the redeployment of United States troops from Afghanistan in 2011 and transition to Afghan security control; and

Whereas, the President has established a goal of removing all United States combat troops by December 2014;

Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that—

1) the President of the United States should expedite the transition of the responsibility for military and security operations to the Government of Afghanistan;

2) the President shall devise a plan based on inputs from military commanders, the diplomatic missions in the region, and appropriate members of the cabinet, along with the consultation of Congress, for expediting the drawdown of U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan and accelerating the transfer of security authority to Afghan authorities prior to December 2014; and

3) and not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Resolution, the President shall transmit to Congress a plan with a timetable and completion date for the accelerated transition of all military and security operations in Afghanistan to the Government of Afghanistan.  [italics by the diarist]  

Expedite.  Accelerate. The concept of "get moving on this" appears four times in the above three paragraphs.

"Expedite" and "accelerate" aren't defined, but it looks pretty clear to me that the senators think the President needs to move this thing along and get our people out of there.  They're saying it makes sense, to them at least, to pick up the pace, and they're urging the President to get to it.

I sure can't argue against the reasoning that's presented.  I've been pounding on Sen. Durbin's table on these same points and other related ones for years.  At this time, it looks as if he's getting it, as they say.

Back in May, Sen. Durbin asked some sharply pointed questions at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, as reported in The Nation:

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Democratic Party whip, asked by far the hearing’s most important question and one of the most pointed by a Democratic leader to date: “If you believe that resolution of this conflict by military means is highly unlikely and not a realistic basis for US policy, how can we send one more American soldier to fight and die in Afghanistan?” he said.

Durbin noted that “Afghanistan has been a graveyard of empires,” and repeatedly invoked the human cost borne by American soldiers. “We are now in a very sterile conversation about diplomacy and foreign policy,” he said. “The reality is they’re fighting and dying over there. And the question is—how long will we keep sending them?”

"How can we send one more American soldier to fight and die in Afghanistan?", he asked.  

Well, Senator, how we can do that is when YOU keep shoveling the money for it, that's how.  In different kinds of literature, you encounter people who are desperately trying to wash blood off their hands, and the odd thing is that it never seems to work very well, ya know?

And, Sen. Durbin has gone on record recently about redeploying our troops. Here's what he said in WaPo about the recent incident where 24 Pakistani troops were killed:

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat, said Pakistan’s latest move to punish coalition forces for the airstrikes is further evidence that the U.S. must end its military involvement in the region and bring troops home.

“As difficult as it is to fight our way through this diplomatic morass between the incompetence and maybe corruption of Afghanistan and the complicity in parts of Pakistan, our soldiers are caught right in the middle of this at a time they are trying to bring peace to the region,” Durbin said.

Yep, if you want something destroyed.....absolutely, positively overnight, send in the Army, Marines, and Air Force.  That's what they're trained to do, and they do it well.  Who would mistake them for international constables and social workers?  And when you deploy these military forces, shit is guar-an-teed to happen.  People who shouldn't get killed get, ah, killed.  Those are damned good reasons to not deploy them unless it's to actually defend our country, and not for some bizarrely conceived experiment in building nations at the point of a gun.

.     .

But hold on, the Merkley amendment is only a Sense Of The Senate thing.  No teeth in this, no serious action.

Maybe I'm wrong.  If anyone sees any clout, any teeth, anything real and of substance here, I wish someone would point it out.

What is this amendment supposed to, uh, actually do towards actually getting our troops home, sooner rather than later? faster rather than slower?

The senators are acting as if they're "getting it", so why aren't they acting in keeping with their words? Why not walk some walk here, to go with all that talk, hmm? Is this just a public posturing thing, to try to make it look like they're an independent branch of government who are "opposed" to all this unnecessary projection and misuse of military assets, without having to actually act in keeping with same?  Looks to me as if they're blowing some election season political/public relations smoke.  Point it out and correct me where I'm wrong.  I'd like to hear it.

.     .

For a bit of contrast, H.R 780 Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA9) with sixty-four co-sponsors, reads like this:

To provide that funds for operations of the Armed Forces in Afghanistan shall be obligated and expended only for purposes of providing for the safe and orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan of all members of the Armed Forces and Department of Defense contractor personnel who are in Afghanistan.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the ‘Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act’.

SEC. 2. STATEMENT OF POLICY.

It is the policy of the United States to ensure that funds made available for operations of the Armed Forces in Afghanistan are to be used only for purposes of providing for the safe and orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan of all members of the Armed Forces and Department of Defense contractor personnel who are in Afghanistan.

SEC. 3. LIMITATION ON USE OF FUNDS FOR OPERATIONS OF THE ARMED FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN.

(a) Limitation- Funds appropriated or otherwise made available under any provision of law for operations of the Armed Forces in Afghanistan shall be obligated and expended only for purposes of providing for the safe and orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan of all members of the Armed Forces and Department of Defense contractor personnel who are in Afghanistan.

(b) Rule of Construction- Nothing in this Act shall be construed--

(1) to authorize the use of funds for the continuation of combat operations in Afghanistan while carrying out the safe and orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan of all members of the Armed Forces and Department of Defense contractor personnel who are in Afghanistan; and

(2) to prohibit or otherwise restrict the use of funds available to any department or agency of the United States to carry out diplomatic efforts or humanitarian, development, or general reconstruction activities in Afghanistan.



Now, we're talking about the funding,
and how it can and can't be used.  This definitely takes a bolder step than the very weak, and hypocritical-without-action Sense Of The Senate thing which the senators have proposed.

.     .

Of course, the simplest thing either the House or Senate could do to end this misuse and abuse of our Armed Forces and get our troops home would be to do........absolutely literally nothing.  In other words, just don't shovel the funds.  Take any war funding bills, stick 'em down a rat hole, put a lid on it, and sit on it. They know ex-actly how to do this, uh, when they want to.  If Congress doesn't shovel the funds, there's nothing anyone can do about it.  Oh, the Pentagon could take some money from this or that, but how long can you conduct a $10 billion per month war out of the petty cash envelope?  But, that would take 1) actually independent members of an actually independent branch of government who 2) have actual guts to 3) actually say no to constant endless war based on specious reasoning.

It's ok to hold your member of congress accountable, and  set the expectation to back up the soft rhetoric with hard action.  They love to say "we don't have the votes!"  Remind your member of congress that he or she most certainly does have a vote, and you expect he or she to use it effectively to end this foreign occupation.

Weigh in on the Merkley amendment. Is it political fluff, or is there something of substance, there?  I'd like to hear it.

.     .

Military Families Speak Out is an organization of military families who support our troops,  who advocate for bringing them home now and for taking care of them when they get here.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    A few give much, a few give all, and most Americans give....NOTHING! ~~~ Support our troops - Bring them home

    by Hound Dog on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 02:20:59 PM PST

  •  I agree with the sentiment (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hound Dog, Horace Boothroyd III

    I wish they would just cut the funding, period. But it reads like it was written by Rand Paul. WTF does the literacy rate and all that other gibberish have to do with anything? Obviously there's no national security objectives being advanced, so stop giving free cash to the MIC already.

    A man, a plan, a canal, Panama

    by Karl Rover on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 02:30:16 PM PST

    •  Thanks for weighing in. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Karl Rover

      It looks like political cocpuffs to me, and I'd be delighted if someone could point out how it's not.

      The literacy issue is real.  Afghanistan has one of the worst rates in the world.  what this means is that so much of the populace is not educated. It means that people can come along and tell others a bunch of crap, and others have no way of knowing if it's fact or fiction.

      The Pashtuns rely on Pashtunwali, which is an oral code of justice, so no one has to be able to read it.  

      And, they just do not get the concept of a central government.

      A few give much, a few give all, and most Americans give....NOTHING! ~~~ Support our troops - Bring them home

      by Hound Dog on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 02:35:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  political coco puffs ; - ) nt (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        claude

        A few give much, a few give all, and most Americans give....NOTHING! ~~~ Support our troops - Bring them home

        by Hound Dog on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 02:36:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  So, paying mercenaries and contractors.. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Hound Dog

        affects the literacy rate or vice versa? That's my point..it's word salad. Either we're doing something there (not) or we're further enriching the .001% and creating more attacks by killing innocents, who always have family members who live by their oral code of justice.

        I have no doubt that the US employs some people who can interact with the Afghan people in a way that is to our mutual benefit and security. The US military in general, and especially Blackwater are not those people. Just look at the record. Pouring more gas on the fire won't usually put it out.

        A man, a plan, a canal, Panama

        by Karl Rover on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 02:55:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think the senators' (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Karl Rover

          point is that illiteracy is but one of the obstacles to nation building in Afghanistan.

          I definitely agree with the point.   I've been making it myself.  Afghanistan is huge.  It is highly tribal.  There are so many remote valleys and villages.  Most people do not travel very far from them.  Out there, few read and write.  They're dirt poor. They concern themselves with what they can see, and touch and hear.  And they passionately repel outside invaders.  There's never been a central government that has reached them, so naturally they don't see the point or even the concept of one.

          The reasoning the senators are using is good.  So, where's their action?

          A few give much, a few give all, and most Americans give....NOTHING! ~~~ Support our troops - Bring them home

          by Hound Dog on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 03:03:14 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Also, it's only recently that (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Karl Rover

            senators have even had the nerve to just talk about Afghanistan, let alone the flaws in the whole concept.  They know that once they open their mouths, and act as if they get it, they'll be expected to act as well.  so, they've dragged their feet on even talking about Afghanistan.  

            This is where people have to keep up their communication with the senators.  Call.  Write.  Just go to the local office and sit down and say what you need to say.  I've had Durbin's people tell me that Afghanistan barely shows up on their call lists in comparison to jobs and the economy, as if to excuse their lack of attention to the fact we have 100,000 troops there and the body bags which are flowing home.  These folks are pretty good a pulling a dumb act on you, and  I don't let 'em get away with it.  But, you have to keep up your presence.

            A few give much, a few give all, and most Americans give....NOTHING! ~~~ Support our troops - Bring them home

            by Hound Dog on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 03:23:32 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Caerful, Hound. I detect implied criticism of the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hound Dog

    President here, and you should be prepared for scolding from the more athletic supporters of the President.

    don't always believe what you think

    by claude on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 03:02:07 PM PST

  •  Not completely true . . The bit about no central (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hound Dog, a gilas girl

    Government at all, ever.

    In the Early 1910s  thru the next decade, there was mandatory education for all, a rule against burqas for women, and an effort to expand trade and cultural stuff with other nations. In the late 40s, the central government decided that closer ties with the USSR would be in their interest, and by the mid 1950s, those ties were quite solid. The capital underwent huge modernization and rebuilding, and the tribal leaders all expressed support of the capital and leadership (which had been moved to Kabul some years earlier). Things went south witH tHe attacks and murders of the PDPA and some land reform legislation that was DOA, in part because of lies spread by the CIA.

    The PDPA began exterminating potential rivals to power, which led to a huge civil war, ushered in even more soviet input, and eventually ended with a proxy war between the  CIA and the USSR.
    Regional players, Iran, Pakistan, and the Saudis all contoured to the mess we helped create. We may have spent $50 billion in destabilizing Afghanistan even further, and attacking the soviet troops there. By early 1990, when the USSR had already left, the mess was so bad that any organization, including a Wahhabi based ultra conservative Muslim group could walk in and take over. We cut all funds and left them hanging in the wind.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 03:45:19 PM PST

    •  Damn auto spill. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hound Dog

      Not countered, REACTED and took advantage

      What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

      by agnostic on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 03:47:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, I know about (0+ / 0-)

      the modernization of Kabul.  I've even seen those slick tourist brochure photos!

      That was in Kabul.  I've never seen any photos which illustrate a central government's presence w-a-a-a-a-y out in all those remote valleys and villages.  If you have some, I'd be delighted to see 'em!

      A few give much, a few give all, and most Americans give....NOTHING! ~~~ Support our troops - Bring them home

      by Hound Dog on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 03:49:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The concept is fine, the reality is sadder, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hound Dog

    Far sadder.
    This is little more than a version of the balanced budget amendment, with no deadlines, targets, or requirements. It is like standing up and saying, I AM AGAINST CRIME!  Or grime. Yippee. How nice.

    But, it is a start, so that it good.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 04:43:41 PM PST

    •  Thanks for weighing in. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      agnostic

      So far, no one has pointed out any substance to this amendment.  If it's there, it seems to be adept at escaping detection!

      A few give much, a few give all, and most Americans give....NOTHING! ~~~ Support our troops - Bring them home

      by Hound Dog on Mon Nov 28, 2011 at 05:32:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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