It’s not every day that you wake up in your blue state and learn that one of your newly elected Democratic congresspeople is joining with a Cheney to try to prolong the longest war in American history. But that’s what happened this week, when Colorado’s freshman Democratic Rep. Jason Crow teamed up with Republican Rep. Liz Cheney to advance legislation that would make it more difficult for any president to draw down troop deployments in Afghanistan.
I live in the same media market as Crow’s district. I can tell you that his 2018 campaign was focused on gun control. It was not a campaign promising voters that he would go to Washington to make common cause with Liz Cheney, and help her efforts to glorify and fortify her daddy’s policy of endless war. But that’s exactly what his bill does.
“Crow’s amendment would block funding to dip below 8,000 troops and then again to below 4,000 troops unless the administration certifies that doing so would not compromise the U.S. counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan, not increase risk for US personnel there, be done in consultation with allies, and is in the best interest of the United States,” the Hill reports.
Never Work With a Cheney On War Policy
The first rule for every incoming freshman Democrat in Congress should be that you never work with a Cheney on war policy. The second rule for every freshman Democrat should be: re-read the first rule and make damn sure to follow it. As Adam McKay’s film Vice reminded us, Cheney initiatives that may seem superficially reasonable when calmly uttered by a Cheney usually have an insane ulterior motive.
In this case, that truism applies: The Crow-Cheney legislation may sound like it includes reasonable requests, but they are designed to make the Afghanistan deployment permanent. In practice, nobody can predict with 100 percent certainty what will ensue once a nineteen-year military occupation ends.
What we can know is that it’s a bad idea to continue a policy that isn’t working — and there’s plenty of evidence that it isn’t.
“The War Had Become Unwinnable”
Last December, the Washington Post published its Afghanistan Papers report noting that military planners hid “unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.”
That same month, the New York Times reported: “The cost of nearly eighteen years of war in Afghanistan will amount to more than $2 trillion (and) there is little to show for it … The Taliban control much of the country. Afghanistan remains one of the world’s largest sources of refugees and migrants. More than 2,400 American soldiers and more than 38,000 Afghan civilians have died…the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction described counternarcotics efforts as a ‘failure.’”
Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna — a co-chair of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign — is trying to build a bipartisan coalition against the Crow-Cheney legislation. It’s a worthy effort, but as the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald notes, it may be overpowered.
“This left-right anti-war coalition is no match for the war machine composed of the establishment wings of both parties and the military and intelligence community that continue to use selective, illegal leaks to sabotage any plans to reduce the US military presence around the world,” he writes. “That the Democrats have spent a full decade desperately recruiting former military and intelligence officials to serve as their Congressional candidates has only made the party even more militaristic. … It should come as absolutely no surprise that House Democrats are finding common cause with Liz Cheney and other GOP warmongers to block any efforts to reduce even moderately the footprint of the US military in the world or its decades-long posture of endless war.”
House and Senate Democrats could still use their power to strip the Crow-Cheney amendment out of the final NDAA. Keep your eye on whether or not they do.