Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

General David Petraeus is set to testify before Congress today, and he’s expected to again try to put a positive spin on a war effort that’s utterly failing to meet the goals set by its backers. While intelligence assessments show that tactical moves on the ground in Afghanistan have failed to fundamentally weaken the growing insurgency, Petraeus expected to offer “a mostly upbeat assessment today of military progress.” Petraeus’s Potemkin village tours of Afghanistan for visiting dignitaries may have “impressed” people like John McCain, but Defense Intelligence Agency head General Ronald Burgess rains all over the progress talk with the sobering news that the casualties inflicted on the Taliban have caused “no apparent degradation in their capacity to fight.”

As if to underline Burgess’ point, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a recruiting station for the Afghan Army, killing at least 35 people in northern Afghanistan on Monday.

Despite the assurances from the administration, the military and their think-tank allies, the massive troop escalations of 2009 and 2010 have failed to reverse the momentum of the insurgency or protect the Afghan population from insurgent intimidation and violence. From today’s L.A. Times:

A report March 2 by the British Parliament’s foreign affairs committee concluded that despite the “optimistic progress appraisals we heard from some military and official sources … the security situation across Afghanistan as a whole is deteriorating.” Counterinsurgency efforts in the south and east have “allowed the Taliban to expand its presence and control in other previously relatively stable areas in Afghanistan.”

“The Taliban have the momentum, especially in the east and north,” analyst Gilles Dorronsoro of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told the committee. “There is no change in the overall balance of power, and the Taliban are still making problems.”

While the Taliban maintained momentum in 2010 and early 2011, the escalation strategy backed by Petraeus failed to protect Afghans from violence as promised, with 2010 being the deadliest year of the war so far for civilians.

One of the most hawkish of the Petraeus backers in the Senate, Senator McCain, is working hard to set the bounds for acceptable debate in Congress, but he, like the counterinsurgency campaign, is failing:

“I expect certainly some skepticism on both sides of the aisle,” McCain said. “I don’t see any kind of pressure to withdraw immediately.”

McCain only sees what he wants to see, apparently. A Rasmussen poll conducted March 4-5, 2011, found that 52 percent of likely voters want all U.S. troops brought home this year, with more than half of those wanting them brought home immediately (31 percent of likely voters). In January, a USA TODAY/Gallup poll found that 72 percent of Americans want Congress to act this year to speed up troop withdrawals from Afghanistan (including 86 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of independents, and 61 percent of Republicans), with 41 percent strongly favoring such actions. And despite McCain’s efforts to blot it out, there is, in fact, a resolution being offered before Congress “calling for Obama to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan either in 30 days or no later than Dec. 31, 2011.”

Petraeus and McCain can try to spin this all they want, but the fact is that the counterinsurgency gamble failed, and the American people want our troops out, pronto. Nobody buys the counterinsurgency propaganda anymore, and the more these guys trot it out, the more damage it does to their credibility.

If you’re fed up with this war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter, and join your neighbors for a Rethink Afghanistan Meetup in your hometown.

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One of the gems buried in Michael Hastings’ now ubiquitous Rolling Stone article is a senior adviser to General McChrystal thanking his lucky stars for public ignorance of the state of the war:

Even those closest to McChrystal know that the rising anti-war sentiment at home doesn’t begin to reflect how deeply fucked up things are in Afghanistan. “If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular,” a senior adviser to McChrystal says.

Well, mission accomplished, gentlemen. Your little frat party managed to get everyone’s attention and, combined with a never-ending stream of gruesome milestones, it caused the bottom to drop out of public support for the Afghanistan War.  According to the newest polling from Newsweek:

  • Only 37 percent of those surveyed approve of the way President Obama is handling the war. 53 percent disapprove. That’s a major reversal from prior results that showed support/opposition solidly in the president’s favor by a  55/27 margin.
  • Only 26 percent of those surveyed believe we’re winning in Afghanistan. 46 percent believe we’re losing.
  • This crystallizing opposition isn’t due to disagreement with the way President Obama handled the McChrystal/Rolling Stone flap, either. Most Americans agreed with his decision to dismiss the general by a 50/35 margin.

McChrystal’s statements in the Rolling Stone piece probably weren’t enough to cause his ouster on their own, but as the latest in a series of insults and missteps, they were the straw that broke the camel’s back. Similarly, the McChrystal flap probably wasn’t enough to turn Americans against the war, but as a tawdry new development at the end of a string of gruesome events transpiring on the periphery of the national consciousness, the episode was enough to cause the electorate to push their chair back from the kitchen table and stomp over to see just what the hell you kids are doing in here that’s making all that racket?!

Mommy and Daddy obviously didn’t like what they saw:

Pentagon officials are now running around trying on some of their most Orwellian rhetoric to date (No! Really! We’re not bogged down!) trying to sooth Congress and the extraordinarily cranky electorate, but it’s too late. The tanks are rolling into Baghdad, despite Bob’s insistence to the contrary.

For their part, the hawks in Congress are dangerously misreading the tea leaves. Some are calling for scrapping the July 2011 withdrawal date and for staying in Afghanistan indefinitely. Others are insisting that protections for civilians in the war zone should be loosened. But these vicious chest-thumpers are missing the point: Americans don’t want more and more brutal war. We want our troops home, yesterday.

Prior polling had shown a strange dichotomy: Americans didn’t support the Afghanistan War, but they approved of President Obama’s handling of the war. The White House could wave away dismal polling numbers for support/opposition to the war by pointing to the high approval numbers for Obama’s handling of the war, and Congress could hide behind “supporting the president.” No more. Americans are fed up with this brutal, costly war.

Memo to politicians: Love the Afghanistan War in public at your peril.

Had enough? Join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook as we fight back against this costly, brutal war.

…no matter how ridiculous he is, some things need a response before one can sleep.

Beck and U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) went on a self-righteous rant about the upcoming vote on health care reform legislation this weekend, possibly on Sunday. Here’s the transcript:

Speaking on the Glenn Beck show, King said a vote on the Sabbath was sacreligious.

“They intend to vote on the Sabbath, during Lent, to take away the liberty that we have right from God,” he said.

Beck agreed.

“Here is a group of people that have so perverted our faith and our hope and our charity, that is a — this is an affront to God,” Beck said.

“But I think it’s absolutely appropriate that these people are trying to put the nail in the coffin on our country on a Sunday — something our founders would have never, ever, ever done. Out of respect for God,” Beck added.

Here’s the audio.

Now, before I go into this, let me say that, in general, I have no problem with an argument that ties one’s faith and understanding of God to politics (you may have noticed). But I do have a problem, like my priest used to say, with stupid Christians. King and Beck might want to flip through their copy of the New Testament. There are some slightly inconvenient passages in there. For example:

He left that place and entered their synagogue; 10a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, ‘Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?’ so that they might accuse him. 11He said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.’ 13Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other. 14But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

I’m not exactly a fan of the current health care reform legislation. So much was bargained away, or given away for nothing in return. And watching House progressives display their characteristic lack of strategy and backbone was a sight to see, even after the supplemental war funding vote fiascoes of the last year. I certainly don’t cast Democrats in the role of Jesus. But the fake outrage–shouting God’s name from the rafters–over a vote intended to make broken bodies whole on a Sunday…well, Beck and King should think about the role into which they’re casting themselves.

UPDATE: Much has been said already about Glenn Beck’s awful stunt attacking the phrase “social justice” in Christian teaching. I won’t go into the full range of the stupidity here. I’ll just make two observations.

Here’s the video of his little stunt:

Uh, small point, Mr. Beck. If you want to go all “biblical” on us, you’re signing up for a far, far more radical version of property redistribution than that being pushed by the Democratic Party. As part of an ideological movement that loves Leviticus so much, I find it hard to believe you never heard of the year of Jubilee. You know…the twice-a-century reset of wealth and land holdings. This is widely held as being the referent for Jesus’ declared “year of the Lord’s favor” when he begins his public life in the synagogue.

Beck’s assault continued assault on “social justice” degenerated into the sort of name-game hat tricks he’s known for. See here and skip to 1:00 in. (I don’t go in for Lawrence O’Donnell/Keith Olbermann, by the way…this is just the only clip I could find on short notice):

America, I’d like to alert you to another code word:

People’s Republic of China
Democratic Republic of Congo
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

Etc., etc….

So what do we think about Republicans? We should think the same thing we thought about them before, because I’ve just made a ridiculous insinuation.

Kill the Bill!

Posted: June 5, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

A rare opportunity just emerged to kill the supplemental appropriations bill funding operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here’s a quick summary of the politics around the legislation. Here’s a shorter version: items attached to the legislation provoked blocs of Republicans and Democrats into opposition. The White House lobbies hard for this legislation, but if you call in to your members right now, you can help kill this bill and force it to come up for debate again…meaning we get more chances to attach items to the legislation demanding swift withdrawal of our forces.

Locate your member of Congress, call them, and tell them:

Vote no on the supplemental appropriations bill.

Congressional switchboard: 202.224.3121.

But Who’s Counting Anyway?

Posted: September 28, 2008 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

The U.S. Congress continues to burnish its pro-militancy credentials.  They just passed a “record” budget for the Pentagon, which included a 6 percent increase from last year, according to the AP. This huge defense bill was, apparently, barely a blip on the Congressional radar:

Such a huge bill usually would dominate the end-of-session agenda on Capitol Hill. But it went below the radar screen because attention focused on the congressional bailout of Wall Street.

According to the AP, emphasis mine:

Even before passage, lawmakers had backed away from an election-season showdown with the administration over Iraq.

…The bill, which maps $612 billion in defense spending next year, shows how lawmakers would rather go home and campaign than wage a prolonged battle in Washington with Bush over Iraq policy.

In the end, House-Senate bargainers dropped several provisions he opposed. Eliminated was language barring private interrogators from U.S. military detention facilities and giving Congress a chance to block a security pact with Iraq.

The legislation also lacks a call for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq — something Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama long has called for and Republican nominee John McCain has opposed.

The bill envisions nearly $70 billion for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and requires more information on contractors with projects in Iraq. It also paves the way for Bush’s plan to build an anti-missile system in Eastern Europe, a proposal strongly opposed by Russia.

The House approved the bill overwhelmingly on Wednesday. Bush is expected to sign the measure.

This is an authorizing bill, not an appropriations bill, which means that, for the most part, this bill does not actually provide money. This is an oversimplification, but think of an authorizing bill like a credit limit, and the appropriations bill as the actual credit card purchase. Authorization bills set policy; they generally do not actually spend the money.

That said, this is incredibly disappointing.

This is just another reminder that there is no anti-war party among the two major parties in Washington, D.C.