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Vets Rally Behind McGovern’s Bill for an Exit Strategy in Afghanistan
Posted by ZP Heller on May 14th, 2009

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U.S. airstrikes slaughtered 95 Afghan children in the Farah province last week, leaving a total of 140 civilians dead. And yet as Tom Hayden pointed out in The Nation this week, our Democrat-dominated Congress seems unwilling to criticize the Obama administration as it rushes to approve $94.2 billion in supplemental wartime funding. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, which has been holding hearings over the past few weeks with U.S., Afghan, and Pakistani military advisers, assessed that the supplemental only “exacerbates” failed strategies by allocating $84 billion to military escalation, leaving $10 billion for foreign aid.

At a time when we’re facing soaring unemployment and an economic crisis, it’s incredible to me that Congress is so quick to simply go along with Obama on this one, particularly when the run up to the war in Iraq is so fresh in our minds and when we’ve seen this pattern before from Democratic Presidents. And there are many who share this incredulity. Here’s a sample of the messages people left for members of the Senate Appropriations Committee:

1) Capturing bin laden will have no more effect than the capture of Saddam; 2) There is no military solution for Afghanistan/Pakistan; and 3) We can’t afford it.” — Bernie Feldman

“I don’t know what to do. I have written the President and my representatives on this subject, just as I did in the run up to the Iraq disaster. Not only does it seem to do no good, I don’t even get replies, even the general bullshit ones.” — Tom S.

“Funding the war in Afghanistan will bring the running tab for Iraq and and Afghanistan to nearly $1 trillion in upfront costs. It will create, as Tom Engelhardt wrote recently ‘a vast financial hemorrhage, an economic sinkhole.’ When my husband and I can’t pay our bills we make changes in our home economy. It is time for our nation to do the same in our defense economy.” — Sophi Z.

As bad as the Congressional support for the supplemental has been, there is a slight glimmer of hope here. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) filed a bill today that will require the Pentagon to set an exit strategy for the war in Afghanistan by the end of the year. Many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, including retired Corporal Rick Reyes, lobbied Congress in support of this bill. According to The Boston Globe:

Realizing that it could not stop the supplemental, the group focused instead on getting more support for McGovern’s bill.

“Without an exit strategy, then the mission is doomed to fail,” said Jake Diliberto, who fought in Afghanistan in 2001 as a Marine. Diliberto, who said he is now getting his master’s degree in ethics from Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., said that he strongly believed in the mission, but that the US presence has grown extremely unpopular among Afghans, as civilian casualties have increased.

Former Marine Corporal Rick Reyes, who also served in Afghanistan shortly after the US invasion, said he never thought he would lobby Congress. But by midafternoon, he had met with representatives from 20 offices. The group planned to fan out and meet with 100 more.

“So far the response has been positive, but you never know how they will vote,” said Reyes, who believes that the United States was made less safe by the operations in Afghanistan. He said his team was ordered to break down doors and beat people who later turned out to be innocent.

McGovern’s bill could prove crucial to curbing military escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, enabling us to have something concrete by which to hold the administration accountable as this war spirals out of control. It could give Congress the cajones to exercise some oversight, thereby keeping Obama from repeating the Bush administration’s heinous mistakes in Iraq. In other words, an exit strategy would really be for Obama’s own good, not to mention Congress’s.

The Globe reports that 60 members of Congress have co-sponsored McGovern’s bill, but it seems that number is now up to 73 and rising. Meanwhile, the supplemental isn’t through Congress quite yet, which means there’s still time to sign the petition urging Congress to vote no until more questions about the war are answered.

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  1. timweber says:

    My concern is that we have Sgts and below (I assume since only one of them mentioned their rank) leading a march on Washington. Although Diliberto appears to have his act together now, his time as a Marine was not so GQ. He was actually sent back to the ship during OEF because he was too incompetent as a Landing Support Marine (logistics) to operate on the ground. Now, all of a sudden he and these other young former service members have all the answers on the best strategy of how to fight terrorism.
    I do have a question for Diliberto, since he was introduced on Larry King as a decorated Marine veteran of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Africa…Where did you serve in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Africa? If you respond, keep in mind I was your Operations Chief and your Platoon Sergeant is one of my best friends. Says above this blog that you “fought” in Afghanistan in 2001. The only ones that I knew fighting at that time were the Marines of 3/6, the Austrailians, the Canadians, 8 other Coalition Forces, and the Spec Forces of the U.S. Your job in country was to run the beach/airfield in Pakistan and the airfield in Kandahar. I think you left shortly after your arrival. I would also like to know what decorations you were awarded, since the rest of us Marines know that decorations are personal awards…National Defense Medal is not a personal Award.
    What is it that you in the civilian world are hearing about what we're doing in Afghanistan? Did you know that the troop increase request has been on the President's desk since Jan 09? Not sure how that's a “President rushes to approve”. Do you know that we have young Americans like you fighting the Taliban as we speak? The indecision and debate you pose only endangers their lives. Vote against the needed troop increase and their blood is on your hands. Not sure how someone on this blog knows that there are only 100 of the enemy left to fight. Maybe I should send that intel over to Gen Nicholson. I wonder if the 3000+ families who lost their loved ones on 911 would vote with you?
    I think what I wish the most is that you all would just exercise your right to freedom of speech and leave out the part that you are all “vets”. Do you wonder why there's only 11 of you? Vets stand tall and quiet and don't like to speak about the things they've seen and experienced. They are respected in today's U.S. unlike in the time of Viet Nam. Please don't take the honor of being called a Vet and turn into your personal gain, especially while you stand on lies.

  2. timweber says:

    My concern is that we have Sgts and below (I assume since only one of them mentioned their rank) leading a march on Washington. Although Diliberto appears to have his act together now, his time as a Marine was not so GQ. He was actually sent back to the ship during OEF because he was too incompetent as a Landing Support Marine (logistics) to operate on the ground. Now, all of a sudden he and these other young former service members have all the answers on the best strategy of how to fight terrorism.
    I do have a question for Diliberto, since he was introduced on Larry King as a decorated Marine veteran of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Africa…Where did you serve in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Africa? If you respond, keep in mind I was your Operations Chief and your Platoon Sergeant is one of my best friends. Says above this blog that you “fought” in Afghanistan in 2001. The only ones that I knew fighting at that time were the Marines of 3/6, the Austrailians, the Canadians, 8 other Coalition Forces, and the Spec Forces of the U.S. Your job in country was to run the beach/airfield in Pakistan and the airfield in Kandahar. I think you left shortly after your arrival. I would also like to know what decorations you were awarded, since the rest of us Marines know that decorations are personal awards…National Defense Medal is not a personal Award.
    What is it that you in the civilian world are hearing about what we're doing in Afghanistan? Did you know that the troop increase request has been on the President's desk since Jan 09? Not sure how that's a “President rushes to approve”. Do you know that we have young Americans like you fighting the Taliban as we speak? The indecision and debate you pose only endangers their lives. Vote against the needed troop increase and their blood is on your hands. Not sure how someone on this blog knows that there are only 100 of the enemy left to fight. Maybe I should send that intel over to Gen Nicholson. I wonder if the 3000+ families who lost their loved ones on 911 would vote with you?
    I think what I wish the most is that you all would just exercise your right to freedom of speech and leave out the part that you are all “vets”. Do you wonder why there's only 11 of you? Vets stand tall and quiet and don't like to speak about the things they've seen and experienced. They are respected in today's U.S. unlike in the time of Viet Nam. Please don't take the honor of being called a Vet and turn into your personal gain, especially while you stand on lies.

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