FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Will a Congressional Rebellion Bring the Afghan War to an End?

by MARK WEISBROT

Imagine the United States were spending an amount that exceeded 60 percent of its national income on the military and police. (For comparison, the U.S. Department of Defense budget – bloated as it is – is about 5 percent of GDP; and spending on police is less than 1 percent of GDP.) Of course the United States would never reach these levels of spending, but it’s worth thinking about because any population in this situation would be looking for a way out of the horrific civil conflict that got them there. This would no doubt be true even if foreigners were fronting the money.

And so it is true for the people of Afghanistan, where spending for the army and police is programmed for $11.6 billion (61 percent of projected GDP) in 2011. If that doesn’t fit the definition of “unsustainable,” it’s not clear what would.

Not surprisingly, the Afghan people are looking for a way out. They want negotiations to end the conflict. But the United States says no. The U.S. and its NATO allies are preparing for a major military offensive, perhaps the biggest of the war so far, in the southern province of Kandahar.

A poll sponsored by the U.S. Army showed that 94 percent of Kandahar residents support negotiating with the Taliban, rather than military confrontation.

The New York Times reports this week that:

“in some parts of the country, American and NATO convoys are already considered by Afghans to be as dangerous a threat as Taliban checkpoints and roadside bombs, raising questions about whether the damage” to the perception of U.S. forces caused by the continued U.S. killings of Afghan civilians “can be reversed to any real degree.

“ ‘People hate the international forces,’ said Bakhtialy, a tribal elder in Kandahar . . . ‘Their presence at the moment is too risky for ordinary people. They are killing people, and they don’t let people travel on the road.’”

A series of high-profile atrocities by U.S. and NATO forces that have surfaced recently has made matters worse. Three weeks ago NATO admitted that U.S. Special Operations forces had killed five civilians, including three women, two of them pregnant. NATO had previously engaged in a cover-up, claiming that Special Operations forces had “found the bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged and killed.”

Meanwhile in the United States, a rebellion is growing in Congress against the war. Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, House Democrat Jim McGovern from Massachusetts, and House Republican Walter Jones from North Carolina have introduced legislation that would require President Obama to establish a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The bill has quickly picked up 29 co-sponsors, and could reach 100 within the next few weeks.

How does this get us out of Afghanistan? My colleague Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy explains:

“A signal like this is likely to have dramatic political effects in Afghanistan, just as these things had dramatic political effects in Iraq. In 2007, Congress never succeeded legislatively in writing a military withdrawal timetable into U.S. law. But the fact that the majority of the House and Senate went on the record in favor of a timetable had dramatic effects in Iraq. It put pressure on the Bush Administration to compromise its objectives, to start serious negotiations with people it had previously been trying to kill.”

The result was a signed agreement between the U.S. and Iraq for a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops.

That is how the Afghan war will end. The pressure will build until President Obama and his military have no choice but to begin the U.S. exit from Afghanistan.

The majority of Americans are against the war, and every week thousands of Americans continue to put pressure on their representatives in Congress, who can also read the polls in an election year. The war has dragged on long after the public turned against it, and long after Washington abandoned any pretense of a coherent story to justify it – a result of our limited, corrupted form of democracy. But this Congressional rebellion is the beginning of the end of this war.

MARK WEISBROT is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: the Phony Crisis.

This article was originally published in The Guardian.

 

WORDS THAT STICK

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of  Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail