As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, October 05, 2009

Meetings On Endless War

The President abruptly summoned Congressional leaders in both parties to the White House for a meeting tomorrow about Afghanistan. This is the first bipartisan White House meeting in months, and considering that Republicans support the war far more strongly than Democrats, that stands to reason.

The White House does want everyone to know that they're not leaving, however.

Obama may take weeks to decide whether to add more troops, but the idea of pulling out isn't on the table as a way to deal with a war nearing its ninth year, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

"I don't think we have the option to leave. That's quite clear," Gibbs said.

Of course we can't leave. We can't seem to leave anywhere. US troops still live in Germany and Japan and Korea. America is the house guest that overstays its welcome by 50-60 years.

Maybe instead of the Congresscritters, Obama could invite Peter Galbraith to the meeting. He was the UN official who witnessed the fraudulent Afghan election and got fired for having the temerity to want to address the situation realistically instead of handing the country to Hamid Karzai. Maybe lawmakers could benefit from his experience in the country. He certainly has some settled views:

GALBRAITH: In the absence of having a credible Afghan partner…it makes no sense to ramp up. On the other hand we cannot afford to pull out. … At this point, no surge. … [W]e also don’t have unlimited resources and unless those troops can secure an area in a way that then Afghan partners, the government, the Afghan army, the Afghan police can come in and fill in after them, we’re going to be there as an occupying force for a very long time and that to me doesn’t make sense [...]

Unfortunately, there is no analogy between what happened in Iraq and what’s going on in Afghanistan. In Iraq in the Sunni areas of the country, the al Qaeda element, the fundamentalists, moved from attacking the Shiites to attacking the tribal sheiks themselves so this was a matter of their self-defense.

In Afghanistan the tribal elders, many of them are supporting the Taliban, they are the Taliban or and this is the more common situation, they are neutral. They see no reason to choose a government which they experience as inexperienced, corrupted and abusing power.

Galbraith isn't advocating an immediate withdrawal, but his logic inevitably leads you to the conclusion that we cannot have an open-ended commitment to fight a war where we have no partner to defend.

Rep. Barbara Lee has introduced a bill to block the escalation. It's HR 3699. There's one problem, however:

However, something she told me at the meeting yesterday put me on DefCon-5 alert. The House has already passed (with Lee in opposition of course)-- and the Senate is considering-- a bill that will exempt Department of Defense from coming under the budgetary pay-go strictures. Let me explain why that is so dangerous for those eager to end the deadly and catastrophic U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.

Bush funded his wars with supplemental budgets which meant he just printed money-- trillions of dollars-- to pay for them without having to worry about raising taxes (on current voters) or about cutting services directly. One result has been the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. Obama campaigned on a promise not use supplemental budgets but to ask Congress for money through established budgetary procedures. That would kick in pay-go and a member of Congress voting for funds to escalate expensive occupations of other countries would have to agree to either raise taxes on his or her constituents-- what do you think Boehner, Cantor, Pence, Ryan and other leading GOP warmongers will think of that?-- or cut back on social programs, a prospect none too attractive to many of the conservative and moderate Democrats who have gone along with Bush's outrageous supplemental budgeting and are thereby complicit in the economic disaster that has ensued.

I really thought "pay-go" was our ace-in-the-hole to stop the war in Afghanistan. Not even a political thug like Rahm Emanuel could bully and bribe enough Democrats and Republicans to go for this, especially not at a point when the war is as increasingly unpopular as it is. If the Senate doesn't kill the legislation that the House passed, it is, in effect, a vote for a war that will last until Obama is voted out of office.

It's not surprising that Congress would willingly constrain itself when it comes to helping provide health care to all or strengthen the social safety net for the needy, but has no problem waiving those constraints when it comes to permanent war and occupation. This is just dangerous. The money will inevitably flow to war as a kind of stimulus package. It's got to be stopped.

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