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18 Reps Call for Up-or-Down Vote on Surge. Peace Groups Target 100. Is One of These Your Rep.?

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18 U.S. Representatives led by Jim McGovern, Barbara Lee, and Walter Jones (R-NC) have called on Speaker Pelosi to provide "the opportunity for a separate debate and up-or-down vote on the President's proposal to escalate the United States military presence in Afghanistan." The up or down vote would be stripped of bundling tactics like including unemployment benefits or, as Afterdowningstreet's David Swanson quips, funds to "save the kittens." This comes on the day a new Facebook group Stop the Surge is announcing a call campaign from now until December 24th, targeting the House members who co-signed McGovern's bill HR 2404 demanding an exit strategy, to commit to a "no" vote on escalation funding. It is feared that the additional $50 billion per year for the surge will be the "anvil" upon which any further action on domestic initiatives, such as health care reform, will be crushed. The Facebook group states:

"The following reps have cosponsored McGovern's HR 2404 demanding an exit strategy. They know they didn't hear one in Obama's West Point speech announcing a surge of 30,000 more troops. They now need to cosponsor Lee's HR 3699 blocking the funding of the surge. No money, no surge."

The press release from Rep. Lee's office states:

"President Obama spent three months reviewing and deliberating United States strategy in Afghanistan. At the very least, Congress owes our men and women in uniform an honest debate regarding the benefits, costs, affordability, and strategic importance of a military escalation...combating terrorism around the globe will not be fulfilled by sidestepping this critical debate."

"Those of us who have signed this letter have differing views on how to move forward in Afghanistan," said Rep. Jones. "I, for example, do not believe that 'doubling down' on the strategy of propping up the Karzai regime in Afghanistan is the correct strategy, but rather we should work with and through the tribal structures that have existed in the country for centuries. We can all, however, agree that this is an issue that deserves a debate. The American people deserve a debate on something that could so deeply affect their loved ones and their country."

Text of letter and 18 co-signers HERE. The letter signaled a return of the Legislative Branch into the decision-making process on war, reiterating the importance of Congress' role and responsibility.

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This follows a speech on the House Floor by Cheney-why-don't-you-STFU Congressman Alan Grayson calling for no escalation funding.

The Facebook group strategy of targeting the 100 co-sponsors of HR 2404, mirrors film director Robert Greenwald's Rethink Afghanistan campaign, a large grassroots initiative which demands a civilian solution to a problem which, the group maintains, has no military solution and in fact can only be exacerbated by expanded military operations. "Rethink" has spawned hundreds of Meet-ups and showings of Greenwald's film "Rethink Afghanistan" in homes and in public spaces across the country (full disclosure: I am interviewed in the film.)

An enormously broad range of Afghan women's activists, experts both military and civilian, Afghan elders building tribal coalitions for security, and others have called the troop escalation a bad idea which will turn what is essentially an insurgency driven by hunger, starvation, and the red cape of foreign troops on Afghan soil, into a united, nationalist uprising which will only benefit the Taliban and the Karzai warlord government, not the Afghan people. "Zoya" of the Afghan women's organization RAWA, who has conducted a US speaking tour under a disguised identity for her safety upon her return to Afghanistan has said:

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"RAWA strongly believes that throwing more troops in will not solve the crisis of Afghanistan. It will even make the situation worse than before."

Malalai Joya, the Afghan woman legislator who was thrown out of Parliament upon her criticism of "warlords" in the government, and who has already survived numerous assassination attempts, has called for US withdrawal as the wisest course, and says that the Afghan people are capable of turning on the Taliban themselves if the US would stop making them stronger by its presence:
"[If] these occupation forces leave Afghanistan and their governments leave us alone then we'll know what to do with our destiny - if they leave us a little bread and peace, because these warlords and the Taliban have no fruit among the heart of my people. My people hate them."

Chief Zazai of the Tribal Union in the Zazi valley, whose father was assassinated by Mullah Omar and who has united 11 tribes in his area as guarantors of security who pledge loyalty neither to the Taliban nor the Karzai government, says"

"To send more troops means to create more new battles, I think we have already got a few nasty fronts in the south where the British soldiers and U.S. Marines are fighting almost non-stop and of course more troops means more body bags and that itself would be an alarming sign. In Vietnam the U.S. had over half a million soldiers and still the generals were asking for more. I would suggest that Gen. McChrystal instead explore better alternatives on the ground rather than asking for more troops."

Numerous foreign policy actors have said it is a mistake to believe that there is no means of mounting a civilian assistance solution which would reach the poorest of Afghans. Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank which finances Afghanistan's widely hailed National Solidarity Program, notes:

there are steps one can take to make corruption harder and less likely. Afghanistan's reform-minded finance ministers have taken practical steps to simplify government processes and add transparency to reduce opportunities for corruption...

Zoellick told the Washington Post:

"locally led projects are the most effective. The National Solidarity Program...empowers more than 22,000 elected, village-level councils to decide on their development priorities -- from building a school to irrigation to electrification. So far, the program has reached more than 19 million Afghans in 34 provinces, with grants averaging $33,000. Development owned by the community can survive amid conflict: When an NSP-funded school was attacked in August 2006, the villagers defended it."

And in a remarkable Boston Review article by journalist Nir Rosen, Rosen concludes:

"Afghanistan should have been easier. Eight years after overthrowing the Taliban--the world's most detested and backward regime, which provided no service to its people--the United States has restored many brutal warlords the Taliban expelled. The authority the United States established is a failure, corrupt and brutal. Americans and their allies manage to kill innocent civilians, and the Taliban have once again become attractive to many Afghans. A few tens of thousands of troops will not turn things around."

Rethinkafghanistan and the Facebook "Defund the Surge" are asking citizens to call the following congressmembers, who have demanded an exit strategy, rather than the open-ended commitment "subject to conditions on the ground" which President Obama described in his West Point speech. Calls from constituents are most effective. Is your congressman one of these? Then you have power. Let's give our young brothers and sisters in uniform the best Christmas ever. "Merry Christmas, trooper. You're not going to Afghanistan."

Representative District Phone

Bartlett, Roscoe G. MD-6 202-225-2721

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Berkley, Shelley NV-1 202-225-5965

Berry, Marion AR-1 202-225-4076

Bishop, Timothy H. NY-1 202-225-3826

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Ralph Lopez majored in Economics and Political Science at Yale University. He writes for Truth Out, Alternet, Consortium News, Op-Ed News, and other Internet media. He reported from Afghanistan in 2009 and produced a short documentary film on the (more...)

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