It takes a long time to fly from Kabul to Washington–but the real distances between the two capitals have little to do with miles.
In Kabul, weeks ago, I caught glimpses of a society reeling from 30 years of war. To visit that city was to see heart-wrenching effects of violence and neglect. The crisis is beyond urgent.
But last week, on Capitol Hill, I searched for signs of urgency at a time of escalating war. Instead, with some blessed exceptions, the congressional attitude was business as usual.
I’d read about the grim U.S. priorities in Afghanistan. Even on paper, the USA is spending just a dime on non-military programs for every dollar on military activities–in a country where the poverty statistics are among the worst in the world.
But the numbers understate the problem. On the ground, the amount of aid reaching its theoretical recipients is actually much lower than budgets indicate. And the consequences of the skewed priorities are horrific.
Despite all the talk about “winning hearts and minds,” the U.S. war effort has little to offer but destruction.
In Kabul, I saw appalling conditions for the 700 families living at the Helmand Refugee Camp District 5–little more than ditches, torn canvas, mud structures and a water pump. Adults and children spoke of losing relatives due to U.S. bombardment of their homes in Helmand province. Now, malnourished and desperate, they depend on scant handouts from Afghan businessmen.
Capitol Hill seems to be light years away–with an atmosphere of acquiescence still dominant while the Afghanistan war escalates. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized the symptoms more than 40 years ago when he decried what he called “the madness of militarism.”
At the Capitol, many of the clearest and most uplifting voices belong to members of Congress who are on PDA’s national advisory board. Last week I spoke with one of them: Jim McGovern, the Massachusetts Congressman who is the lead sponsor of a bill calling for an exit strategy for the United States in Afghanistan.
You can watch a recent video of Rep. McGovern, speaking on the House floor with clarity and wisdom about the tragic folly of the war.
Just a few dozen members of the House, along with only a few senators, have been willing to vocally challenge the momentum of the Afghanistan war. They deserve our strong support.
As for the rest, they need to hear from us--making the case for a drastic change in policy–to escalate with food, medicine and development aid for Afghanistan instead of more troops and bombs.
Co-Chair, Healthcare NOT Warfare campaign
Progressive Democrats of America