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Bernie Sanders, Barbara Lee Call for Opening US to Refugees From Afghanistan

Progressives argue that the U.S. has a responsibility toward “refugees fleeing the consequences of our actions.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), talks with reporters while leaving the U.S. Capitol on Monday, August 9, 2021.

Progressive lawmakers are calling on the U.S. to accept Afghan refugees as the Taliban has taken over the country, forcing at least thousands of residents to attempt to flee.

After the Afghanistan government collapsed, the Kabul airport has been flooded with Afghans desperate to flee the country. Particularly striking footage Monday showed hundreds of Afghans attempting to cling to a U.S. Air Force plane that was taking off. Meanwhile, earlier that day in Afghanistan, five people were killed at the Hamid Karzai International Airport amid chaos.

The United Nations (UN) has warned of a coming refugee crisis as conditions worsen drastically for the people of Afghanistan. It also said that the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees who have fled the country over the past months have been women and children.

Some countries are bracing for the sudden influx of refugees; Canada last week announced that it would be offering refuge to 20,000 Afghans, with an emphasis on women, children and LGBTQ people. Mediterranean countries have requested European Union-level talks on the situation.

But the U.S. has yet to announce any mass refugee resettlement plans. President Joe Biden has been relatively quiet and, on Friday, Reuters reported that the U.S. is searching for countries willing to temporarily house Afghan refugees who have worked for the U.S. government. The U.S. is reportedly considering other resettlement plans but officials are still discussing details.

Biden has announced that he will address the nation on Afghanistan on Monday afternoon.

Progressives on Twitter say that the U.S. should open its doors to refugees immediately — not just because of the morality of the matter, but also because of the U.S’s role in imperializing the country and killing civilians, adding to chaos and destruction in the country over the past two decades.

“Foreign policy matters: After 20 years of U.S. effort,” wrote Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), “Afghanistan was left with a corrupt government and an ineffectual military. At this moment, we must do everything we can to evacuate our allies and open our doors to refugees.”

“If we don’t start putting everyday people first, no matter what country they’re born in, this will keep happening,” wrote Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) on Sunday. “Let’s start by opening our country to shelter refugees fleeing the consequences of our actions.”

Tlaib also pointed out that, while the U.S. has waged its forever war in Afghanistan, politicians and arms dealers have profited greatly from the conflict. “Innocent people suffer the horrors of war while political leaders and arms-dealing corporations sit back and make billions,” she said.

Indeed, on top of the hundreds of thousands of people killed over the past 20 years in the country, the U.S. has also spent over $2.2 trillion on the war, according to research from Brown University.

Defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have profited massively from the U.S.’s military spending over the past decades. Members of Congress with stock in such companies, meanwhile, have profited from the aggressive U.S. defense spending — spending that the lawmakers themselves authorize.

As Republicans scramble over messaging on Biden’s troop withdrawal from the country, liberal and Republican war hawks alike are saying that the Taliban’s takeover is justification for the U.S. troops to stay in the country, citing lies from American officials that the war is effectual in preventing terrorism.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) pushed back against that idea over the weekend. “What’s happening in Afghanistan currently is a humanitarian crisis. Let’s be clear: there has never been, and will never be, a U.S. military solution in Afghanistan,” she wrote. “Our top priority must be providing humanitarian aid and resettlement to Afghan refugees, women, and children.”

Indeed, many progressive advocates have said for decades that the U.S. should never have engaged in war in Afghanistan to begin with, arguing that the war would and has done more harm than good, especially to the citizens of Afghanistan.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) argued as such last year when she introduced a proposal to accelerate the U.S.’s withdrawal from the country and end the war. But she was shot down by Republicans and a whopping 103 Democrats in the House who voted down her proposal.

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