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With Osama Found, a Congresswoman Asks: Where's the Afghanistan Exit Strategy? | The Nation

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John Nichols

John Nichols

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With Osama Found, a Congresswoman Asks: Where's the Afghanistan Exit Strategy?

Wasn’t the point of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan to get Osama bin Laden?
 
And if that was the point then, isn’t it time—with the news that Osama has been tracked down not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan—to bring the troops and the war dollars home?

These are the questions that Congress should be asking this week.

While it is appropriate enough to investigate what the Pakistanis knew and when they knew it—as Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin, D-Michigan, suggests when he says Pakistani intelligence and military officials “have some explaining to do”—most members of Congress are avoiding the fundamental issue that is raised by the killing of bin Laden.

But Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, gets it.

“Early in his term, President Obama committed to two goals: hunt down and capture or kill Osama bin Laden and begin an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan in July 2011,” notes the second-term House member. On Sunday, Pingree notes, “he fulfilled that first commitment.”

Now, the congresswoman says: “I am asking the President to keep his commitment to an accelerated withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

And she is not asking on her own.

Pingree has begun a petition campaign, asking her constituents in Maine and citizens across the country to sign onto a statement to Obama that reads:  “We commend you for bringing Osama bin Laden to justice. Please keep your commitment of an accelerated withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan beginning this July.” 

Pingree promises to compile all the signatures and deliver them to President Obama.

“In this time of reflection, I have new hope that we can end a decade of war and bring our troops home quickly,” the congresswoman says. “I hope you’ll take a moment to send the President the message that now is the time to bring home our brave men and women and let our country move on to tackle the many other problems we face.”

Pingree’s push is being paralleled by a new campaign on the part of Robert Greenwald and the Brave New Foundation team that has done so much to expose the folly of the Afghanistan occupation. The folks behind the "Rethink Afghamistan" project have launched an "Osama is Dead... Bring the Troops Home" campaign that is being hailed by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-California, the only member of Congress to oppose the Bush-Cheney administration's endless-war resolution in 2001.

Progrssive Democrats of America has stepped up, as well, with a campaign for California Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s “Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act,” which has attracted sixty cosponsors.

“Bin Laden was an angry, violent man who reaped what he sowed. Now that we have our pound of flesh, we, too, will reap what we’ve sown in the War on Terror unless we tether the dogs of war now and exit Afghanistan, as soon as humanly possible. This long-awaited event will, as Martin Luther King said, “bend the arc of history.” But in which direction? Let’s do everything in our power to bend the arc away from vengeance and towards peace and environmental, economic, and social justice,” writes PDA national director Tim Carpenter. “We no longer have a mission in Afghanistan. We can expect the war hounds to bark out new excuses to stay in Afghanistan and even escalate. We must keep reminding Congress that the mission has ended: It’s time to bring our troops and war dollars home.”

Pingree and PDA are right: it’s time to bring the troops and war dollars home.

Let’s also recognize that, in a city that is awash in spin and spectacle this week, Congresswoman Pingree is keeping her focus on the real issues—and the real opportunities that have arisen for a rethink of “war on terror” policies that were made on the spur of the moment but that can (and should) now be re-examined.

For links to The Nation’s complete coverage of Osama bin Laden’s death, click here.

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