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.
This morning while the Beltway media was covering President Obama’s pitiful attempt to hose and toothbrush the oil off his suffocating administration, they predictably missed a real moment of democratic accountability just a few blocks away. While the press was putting on their concerned eyebrows and asking Obama polite questions (that’ll teach him!), the Senate was taking a big step toward ending the war in Afghanistan. Robert Naiman writes:
Today eighteen Senators voted for Senator Feingold’s amendment to the war supplemental requiring the President to establish a timetable for the redeployment of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan. This could be a turning point in U.S. policy on the war in Afghanistan.
With this vote, the number of Senators on the record in support of the policy of establishing a timetable for military withdrawal just increased from two to eighteen: on Tuesday, Senator Boxer added her name to S.3197, Senator Feingold’s bill that would have the same effect.
Why is this a victory? First off, 18 votes in the Senate is a lot. There’s only 100, so 2 to 18 is a massive jump. But there’s more:
This “surge” in Senate support for a timetable for withdrawal should make it easier to build support in the House for a withdrawal timetable when the House considers the war supplemental, as it is expected to do after the Memorial Day recess.
Already, 92 Members of the House have co-sponsored H.R. 5015, Representative McGovern’s companion legislation requiring a timetable for withdrawal, including members of the House Democratic leadership, like Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. George Miller; if you add in Members who earlier this year supported Representative Kucinich’s withdrawal resolution, more than 100 Members of the House are already on the record in favor of a timetable for military withdrawal.[...]
A handful more of co-sponsors on McGovern’s resolution would virtually guarantee that if the House is allowed to consider an amendment like the one the Senate voted on today, the majority of Democrats would vote no. This would establish “there should be a timetable for withdrawal” as the mainstream Democratic position, pressuring the Obama Administration to create one, just as Congressional pressure helped create the July 2011 deadline for the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to begin.
These 18 politicians aren’t luminous agents of peace working to save the world (Nobel Committee, please wait this one out). No, these are United States Senators. They’re our Americanized version of wealthy, land-owning lords. Their every institutional and professional instinct commands them to side with the elite, with the Commander-in-Chief, with power. Getting 18 Senators to buck the President’s demands for no accountability is a big accomplishment.
And again, these are politicians. They didn’t move to check the President because they’re brilliant, they did it because of you. But there is a bit of bad news here. The unchecked president and his forces in the establishment are fighting this change, fiercely, every step of the way. And they are also achieving victories.