Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ending Our War in Afghanistan

Teaneck, NJ Peace Vigil, March 2013

When the winds of war change in Washington, a great yawn spreads across the national news media these days.

“An unusual groundswell of support from House Republicans for a Massachusetts liberal’s [Rep. McGovern] measure is a stark example of changing sentiments on Afghanistan,” The New York Times reported in a blog post more than a week ago, news that somehow escaped the attention of editors who oversee the front page at the newspaper of record and its fellow mainstream media cohorts.

With no headlines in the major newspapers to trumpet this historic shift, it was left to The Nation, the tiny yet scrappy liberal weekly magazine, to explain the significance:

“ ‘Today is the first time in twelve years of war that a majority of the House of Representatives has voted to end the war in Afghanistan,’ Stephen Miles of the Win Without War coalition said after last Thursday’s vote,” John Nichols noted in a Nation blog post on June 17. “Because the Senate endorsed a similar measure in 2012—by a 62-33 vote—veteran antiwar activist Tom Hayden notes that ‘politically, the development means that the Obama administration effectively lacks any congressional authorization for a permanent military occupation of Afghanistan.’ ”

The House vote to set a timetable for ending the war in that part of the world clearly should be welcomed by millions of Americans who protested the Bush administration’s—and then the Obama administration’s—relentless war in Afghanistan and its spillover, secretive military actions in Pakistan. Given that there are US military forces still stationed in virtually every nation “liberated” by US forces in World War II, this Congressional action on Afghanistan is a very big deal.

Families of soldiers who have served repeated deployments in Afghanistan should be relieved to hear this news—not to mention, the troops themselves. And surely, the American public—whose waning support for the war in Afghanistan has been steadily dropping in the polls—is interested in the House’s politically attuned reading of public sentiment.

Duly noted, stated Roll Call, a leading publisher of Congressional news.

“When the House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved an amendment directing the president to remove all combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, it was far more important in reflecting the nation’s current mood toward the Afghanistan war — and war generally — than in having any practical effect on administration policy,” wrote Roll Call staffer Frank Oliveri.

“The amendment, approved 305-121 as part of the House-passed fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill (HR 1960), nonetheless serves as an important political message to the Senate and the Obama administration about the nation’s war fatigue, particularly as the president contemplates deeper involvement in the bloody Syrian civil war,” Oliveri added.

Ah, now there’s something news editors truly get excited about: The latest war the US government has waded into. The body counts, the grisly photos, the breathless banter about whose side we’re on, is well under way. What will be harder to find in the news is how and when that war will end…er, ebb…er, morph into the next war.