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.