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Lawmakers mark decade of war in Afghanistan

Members of the Bay Area’s congressional delegation are speaking out this week on the 10th anniversary of our war in Afghanistan.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, spoke about it on the House floor yesterday:

This morning, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, hosted a Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Task Force hearing entitled “Ten Years On: Why the War in Afghanistan Must End Now.”

“After ten years and $460 billion invested in an unstable country with untrustworthy leadership, it is past time to end the war in Afghanistan,” she said. “Ten years is ten years too long for this wasteful war; it is time to bring our troops and our tax dollars home. That’s why I introduced HR 780 to safely and swiftly redeploy all combat troops and military contractors from Afghanistan.”

Academics, other experts and antiwar advocates discussed the cost of ten years of endless warfare since the overly broad Authorization of Use of Military Force was approved in 2001.

“The costs in blood and treasure in Afghanistan for the U.S., its allies, and for Afghans have been underestimated and undercounted. A comprehensive accounting shows that the intensity of the war is increasing, not decreasing,” said Nita Crawford, a Boston University political science professor and foreign policy expert.

“Afghan civil society leaders want a shift in military strategy,” said Lisa Schirch, Director of 3P Human Security: Partners for Peacebuilding Policy. “Excluding key stakeholders, especially diverse sectors of civil society, will create a recipe for failure.”

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, spoke at the hearing as well as at a separate, bipartisan event discussing the war’s anniversary; among other House members there were Ron Paul, R-Texas, Walter Jones, R-N.C., John Duncan, R-Tenn., and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa. There, Woolsey called the anniversary cause for “sober and solemn reflection:”

“On this occasion let’s remember the 1,800 brave servicemembers who’ve given their lives in Afghanistan over the last decade. Their service and sacrifice couldn’t be more honorable; the mission they were sent on, however, was a moral disgrace.

“Let’s also acknowledge the thousands of Afghan civilians caught in the line of fire and killed for the cause of their so-called liberation. They are casualties of this war and must not be forgotten either.

“We have paid too high a price in blood and treasure over the last 10 years….too high a price for a policy that has not advanced our national security interests.

“This war would be a ripoff at any cost, but when I think about the fact that it’s costing us $10 billion every month, it takes my breath away.

“$10 billion a month! Think of what we could do with $10 billion a month. We could use it to help create the jobs the American people need. $10 billion a month could pay for a lot of Pell Grants, a lot of Head Start slots, a lot of Medicare reimbursements, a lot of school lunches.

“For pennies on the dollar, we can and we must invest in an entirely new approach to protecting America, one that emphasizes diplomacy, multilateral cooperation and peaceful conflict resolution.

“I call this platform Smart Security, and I’ve been promoting it just about every day for the last several years. Instead of invasions and occupations, Smart Security offers other nations partnership and humanitarian aid.

“Instead of a military surge, it promises a much bolder civilian surge that shows American compassion…that embodies the very best American values…that fights poverty, promotes education, rebuilds infrastructure and restores hope.

“The American people have had enough of this war. A new poll even shows that only half of post 9/11 veterans think the Afghanistan war was worth fighting. Isn’t it time we listened to them? Isn’t it time public policy caught up with public sentiment on this life-and-death issue?

“Moral decency, fiscal sanity and public opinion all tell us to do the same thing – after 10 long years, it’s time to bring the troops home.”

Woolsey has contributed to Oakland-based Peace Action West’s effort to mark the anniversary by gathering photos and stories from Californians and others around the nation showing how the war has changed people’s lives.

“Since the war started a decade ago, kids barely old enough to remember the start of the war have packed up to go and fight it,” said Rebecca Griffin, Peace Action West’s political director. “We’re asking people to tell their stories to show what spending a full decade at war really means for our country.”

Woolsey wrote, “Ten years ago, my grandchildren weren’t even born. Since then I have worked in Congress to bring our troops home so they, along with all Americans, can see a time when their country is not at war.”

Kelly Campbell, formerly of Oakland and now of Portland, Ore., wrote, “On the day the US started bombing Afghanistan, we held a memorial for my brother-in-law who was killed on 9/11. Later, I traveled to Afghanistan and joined with others to create 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.”

Sean Alexander of Pittsburg, who was just 11 years old when the war started, joined the Marine Corps at 19 and is now working to end the war. He wrote, “Only 11 years old ten years ago, I was MVP of my Little League baseball team. Now ten years after the war began, I’m fighting for my moral dignity that is to lay down my arms and stand for peace.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.