House Holds Rare Debate On Ending Afghan War

Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, one of the more liberal members of Congress, brought up a resolution Wednesday to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of this year at the latest.

Although the measure failed after a 65-356 vote, lawmakers on all sides agree on one thing: Wednesday's debate itself was important for the Congress to have.

Kucinich said he wrote this bill because he wants Congress to take responsibility for the war in Afghanistan.

He said it should "claim responsibility for the troop casualties, which are now close to 1,000; to claim responsibility for the cost, which is approaching $250 billion and, together with the Iraq war, close to $1 trillion."

Help From Libertarians

Kucinich said Congress must also take responsibility for the great cost at home: the money spent on the war that hasn't gone to job creation, housing and public works projects.

It wasn't just liberals arguing this; they found an ally in libertarian Republicans such as Texas Rep. Ron Paul. "This war is an illegal war. This war is an immoral war," Paul said. "This war is an unconstitutional war."

Ultimately though, these liberals and libertarians are outnumbered by members of Congress who support the president and the war.

Memories Of Sept. 11

"Have we forgotten? Have we forgotten what happened to America on 9/11?" asked Missouri Democrat Ike Skelton, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee. "Have we forgotten who did it? Have we forgotten those who protected and gave them a safe haven?"

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, it provided a haven to al-Qaida, which orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Republicans and Democrats alike also said they want to give President Obama time as his commanders carry out his new strategy for Afghanistan.

Now is not the time to give up the fight, Texas Republican Ted Poe said.

"War is hard. It is always hard," Poe said. "We shall not give in; we shall not surrender or retreat. It is in our interest and the interest of America to defeat the enemy. And let them have no doubt in their mind, we will be victorious."

California Democrat Bob Filner responded directly to Poe.

"Yes, Mr. Poe, war is hard," Filner said. "I got news for you: Peace is harder. Talk to Dr. Martin Luther King. Talk to Nelson Mandela. Peace is harder."

An Important Debate

The most striking thing about Wednesday's debate was that the House was having it at all.

This is the first time since Congress voted to authorize the war in 2001 that there has been a clear debate about the policy.

In previous debates, the war policy was always connected to its funding, so if lawmakers didn't support the war, they would have to vote against a bill that included support for the troops. That's a tough position for an elected official whose charge, in part, is to deploy the armed forces responsibly.

But for three hours on Wednesday, Congress had an open, bipartisan debate about war and peace. You can't get much more elemental than that.

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