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Dueling Pro-, Anti-War Victories in the Senate

2:44 pm in 2010 election, Elections by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

This morning while the Beltway media was covering President Obama’s pitiful attempt to hose and toothbrush the oil off his suffocating administration, they predictably missed a real moment of democratic accountability just a few blocks away. While the press was putting on their concerned eyebrows and asking Obama polite questions (that’ll teach him!), the Senate was taking a big step toward ending the war in Afghanistan. Robert Naiman writes:

Today eighteen Senators voted for Senator Feingold’s amendment to the war supplemental requiring the President to establish a timetable for the redeployment of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan. This could be a turning point in U.S. policy on the war in Afghanistan.

With this vote, the number of Senators on the record in support of the policy of establishing a timetable for military withdrawal just increased from two to eighteen: on Tuesday, Senator Boxer added her name to S.3197, Senator Feingold’s bill that would have the same effect.

Why is this a victory? First off, 18 votes in the Senate is a lot. There’s only 100, so 2 to 18 is a massive jump. But there’s more:

This "surge" in Senate support for a timetable for withdrawal should make it easier to build support in the House for a withdrawal timetable when the House considers the war supplemental, as it is expected to do after the Memorial Day recess.

Already, 92 Members of the House have co-sponsored H.R. 5015, Representative McGovern’s companion legislation requiring a timetable for withdrawal, including members of the House Democratic leadership, like Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. George Miller; if you add in Members who earlier this year supported Representative Kucinich’s withdrawal resolution, more than 100 Members of the House are already on the record in favor of a timetable for military withdrawal.[...]

A handful more of co-sponsors on McGovern’s resolution would virtually guarantee that if the House is allowed to consider an amendment like the one the Senate voted on today, the majority of Democrats would vote no. This would establish "there should be a timetable for withdrawal" as the mainstream Democratic position, pressuring the Obama Administration to create one, just as Congressional pressure helped create the July 2011 deadline for the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to begin.

These 18 politicians aren’t luminous agents of peace working to save the world (Nobel Committee, please wait this one out). No, these are United States Senators. They’re our Americanized version of wealthy, land-owning lords. Their every institutional and professional instinct commands them to side with the elite, with the Commander-in-Chief, with power. Getting 18 Senators to buck the President’s demands for no accountability is a big accomplishment.

And again, these are politicians. They didn’t move to check the President because they’re brilliant, they did it because of you. But there is a bit of bad news here. The unchecked president and his forces in the establishment are fighting this change, fiercely, every step of the way. And they are also achieving victories.

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Rethink Afghanistan: Broken Government’s Body Count

7:00 am in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

One of my biggest pet peeves about war coverage is the constant flow of quasi-racist stereotypes about Afghans. You know, Afghanistan is the "Graveyard of Empires," they’re all xenophobic murderers, they’re "tribal" and backwards and illiterate and can’t handle modernity and on and on it goes. These slurs can work for either side. It’s the Graveyard of Empires, so we should pull out. Or they’re tribal, so we need to kill the bad ones and arm the good ones (great idea!). Obviously, the stereotypes are not true. After all, why is Afghanistan the Graveyard of Empires and not, y’know, the United States? Lots of great imperial powers have gotten their butts kicked there by kooky, backward white people and their slave-holding, witch-burning tribal law. They even have a violent global jihad against anyone who doesn’t willfully submit to their 18th century system of governance. But that’s a hateful and insulting perspective, perverted to the point of dangerous inaccuracy, so we reserve it exclusively for the Afghans (even Iraqis held on to the "Cradle of Civilization"). Here’s a piece, though, that I think might help cut through that, and show us just how much we have in common with Afghans.

However, more personal matters also contributed to [Hezb-e Islami MP Ataullah Ludin's] decision to step down from parliament. “People do not fully realize what our responsibilities as members of parliament are. They are actually three: the legislative function, the monitoring and opposition to government decrees that we do not accept, and the representation of our electorate, so that people’s desires and opinions can be assessed in parliament. [emphasis added]

Sound familiar? You’ve heard it before:

Bayh cited the lack of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill as his main reason for leaving, adding to skepticism that the fractiousness in Washington can be repaired and undermining President Obama’s efforts to build bridges.

"There is too much partisanship and not enough progress — too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving," Bayh said in a statement. "Even at a time of enormous challenge, the people’s business is not being done." [emphasis added]

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Election 2010: “Lefty Insurgents” and the Phony Revolution

3:00 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Oh my gosh, did you hear? There’s a revolution happening today! That’s right, you the governed citizens are literally overthrowing your government, and all it took was voting in the party primaries. Here’s Chris Matthews to explain:

Sounds like a revolution all right. Really, voting for Rand Paul is just like shouting "allahu akbar" at Khameini from a Tehran rooftop or getting crushed under the treads of a Soviet tank in Black January. Just like it. But wait, how come Specter is the evil establishment because he has the support of unions, but Halter is part of the "angry grassroots" because he…has the support of unions? Does the support of Daily Kos really qualify as fringey and outsider? Isn’t Markos Moulitsas like the Green Day of activists? Don’t get me wrong, my shelves are packed with his books, but I don’t think it really counts as punk rawk anymore. And how is Rand Paul an outsider? He’s the son of Texas politician Ron Paul, who’s really more of a brand name than a person at this point. There’s too many questions that don’t fit with our absurd narrative, so let’s skip it. Instead, let’s hear about the insurgency:

Next week, if Joe Sestak defeats Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Dem primary, and Sen. Blanche Lincoln is forced into a runoff against challenger Bill Halter, lefty insurgents will have scored two major victories against the Democratic establishment in Washington.

Neato, you’re an insurgent! Phone banking for Halter is kind of like burying an IED on your family farm, and really, isn’t the fact that you disagree with Blanche Lincoln on financial regulation kind of like she’s storming your house at night and gunning down your pregnant wife and young children? I mean you’re not just unseating Specter, you’re setting his dead body on fire and hanging it from a bridge in Fallujah. You didn’t know American politics were this hardcore did you? Thanks a lot media, it’s fun to be an insurgent!

But let’s get real. This media narrative about insurgencies and revolution is just plain bullshit. Today’s elections have nothing to do with throwing out the bum incumbents, and everything to do with affirming the status quo. Not a single candidate who opposes the war in Afghanistan is expected to win today. It will take a lot more than partisan primaries to achieve the changes we want to see. Read the rest of this entry →

Rethink Afghanistan: Gone ’til November?

3:00 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Yesterday we talked about HR 5015, the McGovern bill requiring an exit strategy from Afghanistan. Remember, an exit strategy is easy to do because our strategy is basically a flaming pile of junk anyway, so why not wrap it up? And it’s free because it costs nothing. A phone call, what is that? Five minutes? Four? You’re just asking your rep to co-sponsor a bill (they give them numbers like 5015 to make it easy). And it’s not like you have to explain quantum mechanics, the war in Afghanistan is so obviously awful, you’re pretty much talking in short hand (they’re familiar with the issue). Just requiring a timeline seems like the simplest, least offensive policy ever, right? Actually, David Swanson disagrees:

It’s not that we need 20 more cosponsors of the nonbinding timetable for Afghanistan. The lesson [of Iraq] is that we must tell members of the House of Representatives that they can vote against war funding or we will vote against them.

No way. Now I realize this is probably frustration, I’m as pissed off as anyone about the Iraq extension, but it’s no reason to drop everything and go all extremist. Cutting off funding is important, no doubt there, but there are still lots of other opportunities to accomplish something in Afghanistan besides furiously threatening your member of congress over one issue, the funding. And there’s certainly a lot more to do than just that one, single act of voting. This timeline is not only easy to support, but it’s also a very important step toward ending the war. Missing this opportunity would just be foolish. Read the rest of this entry →

Rethink Afghanistan: The McGovern Bill is Free

1:30 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Mull

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

In the video above, we’re asking you to contact your representative and support HR 5015, a timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan. Now this one seems very easy to support, it’s not an immediate withdrawal, it’s a flexible, open timeline based on set, but by no means concrete, conditions. It’s not leaving tomorrow, it’s just telling the President to wrap it up. My colleague Derrick Crowe laid out the facts on why you should support the timeline. Basically, our strategy is a huge failure:

Last week, the military published an ironically titled “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan” that wrapped blunt admissions of strategic collapse in typical Pentagon happy talk. Short version: Violence is up 87 percent (p. 39), the insurgency has population sympathy/support in 92 of 121 key regions, and local support for International Security Assistance Force’s mission in the toilet (p. 38-39). Oh, and we’re killing more civilians, too. Oh, and Marja is crumbling under NATO’s feet. But worry not! Unnamed senior administration officials tell us, “We are on the cusp! Moving in the right direction!”

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