Politicians, Filmmakers Campaign for End to Afghanistan War

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) today introduced bipartisan legislation that would end combat operations in Afghanistan and provide limited funding for a withdrawal of US forces.

The Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act would ensure that the funds allocated for military operations in Afghanistan would be used for the “safe and orderly withdrawal” of the US Army presence and Department of Defense (DOD) contractors.

Lee introduced her bill on the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s escalated military campaign in Afghanistan. Several other members of Congress, as well as the progressive new media company Brave New Foundation, are also utilizing this week’s timing to intensify their antiwar message.

Brave New Foundation, which operates an antiwar campaign it named “Rethink Afghanistan,” released a Washington, DC-based television ad of US residents telling the White House to end the war. “Because it’s time,” the commercial says. Brave New Foundation also organized what it is calling a “blog blitz” to promote posts written by Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) and Mike Honda (D-California), as well as by Afghanistan Study Group Director Matthew Hoh and Brave New Films founder Robert Greenwald, all calling for the end to the Afghanistan War.

“There’s this several-piece action happening both online and offline,” said Derrick Crowe, political director of Brave New Foundation. The campaign will “draw attention to the fact that Americans are fed up with the war and want it to end.”

Lee was the only member of Congress to vote against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists Act, which passed on September 14, 2001. The resolution gave the president the authority to wage war against suspected terrorists who were involved with the 9/11 attacks. At the time, Lee said the resolution was “a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the September 11 events – anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation’s long-term foreign policy, economic and national security interest, and without time limit.”

While introducing her legislation today, Lee reiterated her original stance on the war, stating, “From the start, I have maintained that this war would hurt our economic and national security, and, unfortunately, time has proven that to be true. A military solution in Afghanistan is neither feasible, affordable, or in the national security interest of the United States. The war in Afghanistan is now in its tenth year, longer than World War II and the Vietnam War, and it is costing us $100 billion per year and countless American lives. It is time to end America’s longest war and bring our troops home.”

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Lee also joined Grijalva and Honda in publishing blog posts opposing the war today. “The trade-offs are clear,” Lee wrote. “The estimated costs [of] the war in Afghanistan in 2011, totaling more than $100 billion, could provide for 1.6 million new police officers on our streets or elementary school teachers…. It could provide for 19.3 million students to receive Pell Grants of $5,550 to assist in continuing their education.”

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) found that monthly costs in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2010 rose to $5.7 billion. The 63 percent increase was high enough to offset the declining cost of the war in Iraq. The CRS report, published in September 2010, estimated that the US had spent a total of $1.1 trillion on both wars.

The price of the war is a central theme of the Rethink Afghanistan campaign, as well. “Our ongoing campaign is to raise people’s attention to … how much this war is costing them,” Crowe said. “A very small, tiny slice of news coverage is devoted to it. But if you look at the polling, 70 percent – including a strong majority across Democrats, Republicans and Independents – want Congress to act this year to shorten the war.”

Gallup released a poll on February 2 showing that 72 percent of Americans favored a swifter withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

“It’s hard when you watch mainstream media to understand whether the message is getting out,” Crowe said. “But when you just ask people, they get it.”

The Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act has 46 cosponsors, including Reps. John Conyers (D-Michigan), Ron Paul (R-Texas), Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) and Walter Jones (R-North Carolina).