Rethink Afghanistan: How Long is Now?

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.

Robert Greenwald writes:

On Monday, June 7, 2010, the Afghanistan War will complete its 104th month, replacing Vietnam as the longest war in U.S. history.

That’s an incredible investment of blood and treasure, and one that deepens by the minute. We’re spending $1 million per troop, per year in Afghanistan. To date, Congress has approved almost $300 billion in spending on the Afghanistan War. Combined with the costs for the war in Iraq, we’ve spent more than $1 trillion so far on war since 2001, just in direct costs. Right now, Congress is considering charging the U.S. taxpayer another $33 billion to pay for an ongoing troop increase.

And, don’t forget that more than 1,000 U.S. troops have died so far in this war.

If you’re like most people, the first word that comes to mind when presented with these facts is “depressing.” This really is a tragic and terrible mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, right? There are enormous, critical issues we have to grapple with; Crushing national debt, hellish military occupations, even abstract (though no less “real”) problems like what Tom Hayden calls “superpower arrogance,” the institutionally-embedded idea that the US can enforce its national (i.e., selfish) interests worldwide with overwhelming military violence. One person, you, couldn’t possibly deal with this disaster.

But the truth is it really isn’t all that depressing. The problems are complex, confusing, and paralyzing, but the solutions are actually quite simple. Even as the war in Afghanistan becomes America’s Longest War with “no end in sight,” as Andrew Bacevich says, we find that the key to ending the war has been right in front of us the whole time. There is, in fact, an end in sight and this grim milestone is our opportunity to finally notice it.

For instance, voters in California’s 36th congressional district see an end to the war. Tomorrow is their Democratic primary, and the race has focused on one issue: Jobs, not wars. Candidate Marcy Winograd has offered up a legislative plan to not only end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but to use the dividend from those conflicts to create some 8 million new jobs. She outlines it here:

Here’s How I Would Create Jobs:

Fix our infrastructure – bridges, roads, water treatment plants, ports (employ 2 million) * Create a National Environmental Corps for clean up, maintenance, and prevention of BP-like disasters. (employ 1 million) * Build solar-powered cities and wind farms to end our reliance on polluting fossil fuels. (employ 1 million) * Strengthen our neighborhoods with more farmers markets, senior and youth centers, fully-funded schools and health clinics. (employ 4 million)

Here’s How I Would Pay For Those Jobs:

Bring our troops home from Iraq & Afghanistan and cut the trillion dollar military budget by at least 60-billion per year * Reverse the Bush tax breaks for the rich, generating an additional 45-billion * Collect 100-billion per year in taxes owed by large corporations * Impose a small fee on stock trades to generate another 100-billion per year.

It’s true that this only a plan and may not pass into law, but Winograd’s constituents may have a hedge against this. Winograd has experience as a Democratic organizer, experience that could prove quote potent in whipping a disparate Democratic majority, especially if that majority were to shrink after November. The pendulum will likely swing against the President’s party this year, and progressives in the 36th district seem to have calculated that replacing the anachronistic incumbent with a more steadfast Democratic member of congress would minimize any policy damage from a big minority gain in the fall.

But the important thing to notice here is just how easy it is. Voters don’t have to grapple with “superpower arrogance,” they simply dismantle it through legislation and the normal primary election process. And they accomplish it by doing what they had already set out to do, which is creating jobs. They’ve made it about the jobs, the “not wars” part is just extra. “Depressing” and insurmountable problems like taking sides in an Afghan civil war are taken completely off the table, for the simple reason that we need those resources for other policies.

That’s if California’s Democrats succeed tomorrow. But Marcy Winograd, California, and even the Democratic party aren’t the only options available. There are some 76 candidates running this year, including “28 Greens, 21 Libertarians, 20 Democrats, 4 Independents, 1 Republican, 1 Socialist, and 1 Peace and Freedom Party member,” all of whom oppose what is now our longest war.  It’s easy to see Winograd as just a blip in progressive California, but it’s much bigger than that.

No, this is not a blip

Candidates for U.S. House of Representatives:
Ken Adler, AR-01, Batesville, Green | Statement
Nick Coons, AZ-05, Tempe/Scottsdale, Libertarian | Statement
Rebecca Schneider, AZ-06, Phoenix, Democrat
Richard Grayson, AZ-06, Apache Junction, Green | Statement
Carol Wolman, CA-01, northwest corner, Green
Clint Curtis CA-04, northeast corner, Democrat | Statement
Ben Emery CA-04, Nevada City, Green
Jeremy Cloward, CA-10, Pleasant Hill, Green | Statement
Mark Williams, CA-12, San Carlos, Libertarian
Mary V. Larkin, CA-17, Monterey, Libertarian | Statement
Les Marsden, CA-19, Yosemite/Mariposa, Democrat | Statement
Randall Weissbuch, CA-26, Arcadia, Libertarian
Richard R. Castaldo, CA-30, Peace and Freedom Party
Marcy Winograd, CA-36, Los Angeles, Democrat | Video
William Hedrick, CA-44, Riverside/San Clemente, Democrat
Ken Arnold, CA-46, Orange and L.A., Democrat | Statement
Mike Paster, CA-49, Fallbrook, Libertarian
Tracy Emblem, CA-50, San Diego, Democrat | Statement
Michael Benoit, CA-52, San Diego, Libertarian
Lisa Ann Green, CA-53, Venice, Green
Gary Swing, CO-01, Denver, Green | Statement
Jerell Klaver, CO-05, Manitou Springs, Libertarian | Statement
G. Scott Deshefy, CT-02, New London, Green
Doug Tudor, FL-12, Riverview et al, Democrat
Marleine Bastien, FL-17, North Miami, Democrat
Regina Thomas, GA-12, Savannah, Democrat
Matt Reichel, IL-05, Chicago, Green
Bill Scheurer, IL-08, Lindenhurst, Green / Independent
Rodger Jennings, IL-12, Alton, Green
Doug Marks, IL-14, Carpentersville, Libertarian | Statement
Sheldon Schafer, IL-18, Peoria, Green
John Wayne Cunningham, IN-08, Terre Haute, Libertarian | Statement
James E. “Jim” Holbert, KY-05, London, Democrat | Statement
Philip Dunkelbarger, MA-09, Westwood, Independent | Statement
Peter White, MA-10, Cape Cod, Independent
Charlie Shick, MI-03, Wyoming, Green
Anna Janek, MI-09, West Bloomfield, Republican
Diana Longrie, MN-04, Democrat | Statement
Michael Cavlan, MN-05, Minneapolis, Independent Progressive | Statement
Kevin Craig, MO-07, Springfield, Libertarian
William OBrien, MO-09, Mexico, Libertarian | Statement
Thomas Hill, NC-08, Fayetteville, Libertarian
Lon Cecil, NC-12, High Point, Libertarian
Anthony Gronowicz, NY-07, New York City, Green
Jonathan Tasini, NY-15, New York City, Democrat | Statement | Video
Emin Eddie Egriu, NY-28, Buffalo, Democrat
Chris Henry, OR-01, Portland, Green
Michael Meo, OR-03, Portland, Green | Statement
Ebert G. Beeman, PA-03, Lake Erie, Libertarian | Statement
Vernon Etzel, PA-05, Oil City, Libertarian
Ed Bortz, PA-14, Pittsburgh, Green | Statement
Jake Towne, PA-15, Nazareth, Independent | Statement
David Segal, RI-01, Democrat
Robert A. Dobbs, SC-01, Myrtle Beach, Green | Statement
Eric Schechter, TN-05, Nashville, Democrat
Christopher J. Claytor, TX-03, Plano, Libertarian | Statement
Steve Susman, TX-22, Houston, Libertarian | Statement
Martin Nitschke, TX-23, El Paso to San Antonio, Libertarian | Statement
John Jay Myers, TX-32, Dallas, Libertarian | Statement
Claudia Wright, UT-02, Salt Lake City, Democrat
Gail Parker, VA-01, Green
Ron Fisher, VA-08, Arlington, Independent Green/Progressive
David Gillis, VA-11, Green
Larry Kalb, WA-02, northwest corner, Democrat
Diana McGinness, WA-02, Bellingham, Democrat | Statement
Roy Olson, WA-09, Olympia, Green | Statement

Candidates for U.S. Senate:
Duane Roberts, CA, Green | Statement
Gail K Lightfoot, CA, Libertarian | Statement
John Finger, CO, Libertarian | Statement
Bob Kinsey, CO, Green | Statement
Richard A. Weir, NC, Green | Statement
Cecile Lawrence, NY, Green
Dan La Botz, OH, Socialist | Statement
Rick Staggenborg, OR, Green
Mel Packer, PA, Green | Statement
Ben Masel, WI, Democrat (2012)

…it’s a movement. Is your local candidate on this list? Why not? Tell them to get on it, you need that $1 trillion for jobs.

And at the risk of coming off as a broken record, I’ll point out once again that voting is not your only option. Even if your district isn’t voting at all this year, and you didn’t even vote for the incumbent you have, an end to the longest war is still in sight for you.

Tattoo it on your forehead: Pressure Works. You can demand that your representative sign on to an exit timetable. You can tell them to block any more debt tacked onto the $1 trillion, including the upcoming $33 billion supplemental. Pressure is easy (Call (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak to your representative), and it really streamlines the whole political process for you. When it comes time for you to make your choice, you don’t have to think about who’s a Democrat or a Conservative or anything like that. It’s only about who best responds to the needs of their constituents.

You already know this is how politicians work, lobbyists have been exploiting this pressure in plain sight. If the politicians don’t give in to the lobbyist demand, they lose the funding and support they desperately need to stay in office. You have the same option, if you choose to take it. Instead of falling for the media game and supporting politicians who offer no results, or worse, results only for their special interest lobbyist friends, we instead can demand accomplishments. “Jobs, not wars,” as the campaign in California goes.

Tell them no more mailers, no more knocking on doors, no more contributions, no more “grassroots outsider” support, no more GOTMFV unless you join the rest of the country and move to end the war. Sure that doesn’t sound like a lot, but even if you’re stuck with the most craven empty-suit fat cat you can imagine, they’ll still hear “no more lobbyist-paid junkets, no more yucking it up on cable news, no more taxpayer funded meal ticket,” and that’s pretty terrifying even to the cold-hearted cynics in congress. There’s a lot of lobbyists, but not enough to matter in an election. Congress still needs you, and whether they do anything for your support or not is entirely your choice.

And it has to be congress, Obama clearly won’t do it on his own. As Daniel Ellsberg says in the video, there isn’t much chance of President Obama being “willing to take the responsibility, and face the charges of weakness and irresolution, that would be involved” in ending the war. It’s going to take some intense pressure to force his hand, and that will happen in congress.

You can help us at Rethink Afghanistan provide that pressure. As it says here, you can contribute to our latest push against congress:

If we can raise $10,000.00 by Wednesday, Rethink Afghanistan and our partners at will buy a full-page ad in Politico telling Congress and the President that we want our combat troops out of Afghanistan by December 2011.

It’s Politico, so you know they’ll see it. See the simplicity? Ending a war sounds impossible, but really all you’re doing is choosing candidates in a primary, asking for job creation policies, or pressuring congress to vote on specific legislation. It’s the same thing you do when you want a new speed bump in your neighborhood. It’s pressure. The Longest War in American history, and the complex, decades-long processes that led to that brutal war, are massive issues to wrestle with. But “wrestling” is as simple as doing what you’d normally do, by participating in the political process and pressuring your representatives.

Even though the challenges of our longest war are enormous, the solutions are numerous, easy, and readily available. This stuff just plain works. Primaries work. Advertising works. Pressure works. There is an end in sight, we just have to stop and notice it. Join us on Rethink Afghanistan’s Facebook page and collaborate with the tens of thousands of others around the country working to bring this war to an end.

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  • I hope you’re right and we can do it that way.

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