David Swanson, the anti-war and executive accountability activist, wants House Appropriations Committee chair David Obey, D-Wisconsin, to leave a final mark on policy making.
Swanson, who led the AfterDowningStreet campaign to expose the lies that were used to justify the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, is the author of the book Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union (Seven Stories) — for which I was honored to pen an introduction. Of late, Swanson has been advocating aggressively for the defunding of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.
Obey, the powerful congressman who will retire at the end of this term, was elected in 1969 as an anti-war candidate and has throughout his career raised concerns about U.S. military adventurism abroad, Last fall, Obey’s was one of the few members of the Democratic leadership in the House or Senate to object when President Obama decided to surge more troops into Afghanistan.
Obey even reminded Obama that Congress retains "the power of the purse" when it comes to warmaking.
So Swanson is saying to Obey: Use that power?
The letter Swanson wrote to Obey outlines the arguments is detail, and with Swanson’s usual mix of precise language and passionate prodding.
It is worthy of consideration by members of Congress, including citizens, who worry that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan seems — for all the president’s pledges to the contrary — to be an open ended one.
Here’s Swanson’s letter:
Congressman David Obey
2314 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-4907
Dear Congressman Obey,
In recent years you’ve expressed your opposition to war spending. I’d like to encourage you to cap off your congressional career by actually refusing to provide the funding for the current escalation in Afghanistan, and by simultaneously introducing a bill to spend $33 billion on green energy jobs, including for former soldiers.
You know better than I do that the power to begin, end, oversee, and control the escalation of wars lies in Congress. That the president has gone ahead with the escalation unfunded cannot legitimate it, and those troops can certainly be turned around and be brought immediately home.
Seven months ago you said of Afghanistan: "we need to more narrowly focus our efforts and have a much more achievable and targeted policy in that region, or we run the risk of repeating the mistakes we made in Vietnam and the Russians made in Afghanistan. There are some fundamental questions that I would ask of those who are suggesting that we follow a long term counterinsurgency strategy."
Needless to say, your questions have not been adequately answered.
And you said this: "As an Appropriator I must ask, what will that policy cost and how will we pay for it? We are now in the middle of a fundamental debate over reforming our healthcare system. The President has indicated that it must cost less than $900 billion over ten years and be fully paid for. The Congressional Budget Office has had four committees twisting themselves into knots in order to fit healthcare reform into that limit. CBO is earnestly measuring the cost of each competing healthcare plan. Shouldn’t it be asked to do the same thing with respect to Afghanistan? If we add 40,000 troops and recognize the need for a sustained 10 year or longer commitment, as the architects of this plan tell us we do, the military costs alone would be over $800 billion. And unlike the demands that are being made of the healthcare alternatives that they be deficit neutral, we’ve heard no such demand with respect to Afghanistan. I would ask how much will this entire effort cost, when you add in civilian costs and costs in Pakistan? And how would that impact the budget?"