Traveling the road away from war

NATO’s pledge, at its Chicago summit, to turn over the lead in combat operations to the Afghan National Security Forces by the middle of next year, and end the alliance’s combat mission by the close of 2014, sets up a new signpost on the road to ending our country’s longest war.

But NATO’s stated commitment to “enduring partnership” with Afghanistan, and the new U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement which could stretch out U.S. military involvement long after 2014, should dampen any optimism that the war is really coming to an end.

What NATO’s commitment does reflect is the continued and growing opposition to the war among people in the NATO countries, symbolized by new French President Francois Hollande’s decision to withdraw French combat troops a year ahead of schedule.

And, the ever-growing opposition here at home, with over two-thirds of the U.S. people now saying it’s time and past time to leave.

A fascinating drama took place in the U.S. House of Representatives last week, as the Republican leadership refused to allow a vote on an amendment to the 2013 Defense Authorization Act.

The bipartisan amendment, introduced by Representatives James McGovern, D-Mass. and Walter Jones, R-N.C., would require President Obama to stick to his pledge to end all military and security operations by the end of 2014, and to get Congress’ okay if any troops were to stay beyond that deadline.

A similar measure nearly passed last year, and House Republican leaders reportedly worried that it might actually pass this time. Rep. Jones told CNN his colleagues said another seven or eight Republicans were prepared to vote for the amendment. He said he believed it wasn’t brought up because this time it would have passed.

The vote the Republican leadership scheduled instead held its own drama. The amendment first introduced two years ago by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., to limit spending on the war to that needed for the safe and orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops and contractors, predictably failed. But for the first time a majority of House Democrats voted for it, by a margin of 101-79.

Tens of thousands of anti-war protesters are surging through Chicago streets this week, led by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, dozens of whom have thrown away hard-earned medals in protest 

As the enormous costs in money and lives continue to soar, it is more urgent than ever to end a war which is only making conditions worse for the Afghan people.

The only way forward lies in bringing all the U.S. troops and contractors home, negotiations involving all parties to the conflict and all countries in the region, and international aid to help Afghans rebuild their country and achieve a viable economy.

It’s now the job of everyone among the two-thirds of the American people opposed to the Afghanistan war, to roll up our sleeves for a complete end to the conflict.

The determination and commitment to ending the war that’s being shown by the demonstrators in Chicago points the way.

Photo: At a NATO protest, Chicago, May 20, 2012. Teresa Albano/PW




Marilyn Bechtel
Marilyn Bechtel

Marilyn Bechtel writes for the People’s World from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986, and currently participates as a volunteer.