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(A Little) Common Sense in the Senate

Finally, some common sense seems to be taking root in the U.S. Senate. Eighteen members of the Senate, including the 2nd and 3rd ranking Democrats in the chamber, voted yesterday in favor of an amendment to the supplemental war spending bill that would have marked an important step in ending our military commitment in Afghanistan. Introduced by Senator Feingold, the amendment would have required the President to submit a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan:

After almost a decade of war, our service members deserve to know how much longer our military operations in Afghanistan are expected to continue.  And so do the American people.  We have many priorities and many pressing needs, both domestically and abroad.  The American people deserve more information about the administration’s plans in Afghanistan so they can evaluate those plans and weigh them against other priorities, including the need to target growing al Qaeda affiliates around the world.

Although falling short of the necessary votes to pass, this vote was the Senate’s first clear referendum on the Pentagon’s new strategy in Afghanistan and shows growing opposition to the war in that chamber. Two supporters of the amendment, Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), are second and third in the Democratic Leadership and it is widely believed that one of them will be Majority Leader in the next Congress should Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) lose his bid for reelection. Their votes in favor of a timeline for withdrawal sends a clear signal to the Administration of the growing opposition they face.

This vote will also help to build support for withdrawal on the other side of Capitol Hill. As Reuters reported, “Their support could encourage other liberal Democrats who are pushing for a similar proposal in the House of Representatives, where many lawmakers are also under pressure before congressional elections in November.”

Members of both Chambers would be good to take note of a recent ABC News / Washington Post poll, which found 52% of citizens in the U.S. think the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting. With that number likely to grow as violence increases this summer, it’s time for Members to start listening to their constituents and end the war in Afghanistan.

 This vote comes on the heels of reports that the operation in Marja–recently described as “bleeding ulcer” by our top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal–is far from succeeding. For what was supposed to be a test case and a “model for the future” of the surge, it has been the exact opposite, increasing support for the Taliban, quickly becoming a prime example of the military’s misguided policy in Afghanistan. As Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who voted in favor of the withdrawal timeline amendment, said earlier this week, it’s “time to start thinking about a different approach.”

Little by little, our voices are being heard and those in power are rethinking their support for current policy. They realize, as a majority of Americans do, that our current policy only continues to entangle the US in a quagmire with no foreseeable end in site. It is time for Members of Congress to do what is right and end the war in Afghanistan.

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