Liberal Lawmakers, Activists Chastise Afghanistan Troop Increase

(AP Photo )
At a time of economic hardship that is impacting the budgets of the government and American citizens, President Obama cannot afford to increase the troop levels in Afghanistan, liberal congressmen and activists said today.

The president will announce tonight a troop buildup of more than 30,000 in Afghanistan, a move opposed by groups like MoveOn.org, activists like Michael Moore and lawmakers like Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

Speaking on the House floor today, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) said politicians should be focusing on "what's important here at home," CBS News Capitol Hill Producer Jill Jackson reports.

It is not worth it, he said, to send thousands of troops and billions of dollars to Afghanistan "to prop up a government which most acknowledge is indefensibly corrupt."

"Our national security will not be found by paying off contestants in Afghanistan who are with us one day and who shoot out our soldiers the next," Kucinich continued. "We can secure our borders without expanding them across the world, and we can redefine our national security by making sure that every able body person in America has a job by helping people save their homes and protect their savings and their investments and their retirement security."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who caucuses with the Democrats, also said today that Washington should be focused on the economy.

"My view is that among many other things, in the middle of a severe recession with 17 percent of our nation unemployed or underemployed with one fourth of our kids living on food stamps, I'm not sympathetic to spending $100 billion a year on Afghanistan, plus what we are spending on Iraq," Sanders said, reports CBS News Capitol Hill Producer John Nolen.

Furthermore, Sanders said, the United States cannot ratchet up its efforts in Afghanistan alone.

"And second of all, I want to know where the rest of the world is," he said. "If they're worried about the future of Pakistan, as I am, where is Europe? Where is Russia? Where is China? They're all just sitting back as America pays the bill."

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) released a statement saying much of the president's new strategy is to be applauded. However, she said she opposes sending more than 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.

"Expanding our military footprint in Afghanistan is a mistake," she said. "A larger occupation gives the Taliban an enhanced recruiting tool, continues the dependency of Afghan fighters on our superior training and logistics, and commits scarce U.S. resources ($1 million per soldier annually) at a time when other counterterrorism challenges — including inside the United States — appear more urgent."

After visiting Afghanistan this year, Harman said, she determined that the Afghan military and police forces are nowhere near reaching the number of trained forces necessary to resource the mission there.

"This means that any 'exit' based on a trained Afghan force is years or decades away—and more U.S. troops may be requested," she said. "There are eerie echoes of Vietnam" in the president's otherwise thoughtful strategy.

Other Democrats opposed to the troop buildup include Sen. Russ Feingold (Wisc.) and Reps. Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Jim McGovern (Mass.), CBS News' John Nolen reports.

Activists are urging their supporters to call the White House to protest the troop buildup. Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore listed the White House phone number at the bottom of an open letter to the president he published on his Web site.

"Do you really want to be the new 'war president'?" Moore wrote. "With that you will do the worst possible thing you could do -- destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you."

In an e-mail sent to supporters today, the liberal group MoveOn.org encouraged people to call the White House and "tell the president that we want him to focus on bringing our troops home, not escalating our involvement in Afghanistan."

"After talking to MoveOn members about this possibility for months, it's become clear what most of us think: This is wrong," the e-mail said. "It'll cost the lives of thousands of American troops and Afghan civilians, and it won't make us safer. And with urgent priorities like health care, the climate crisis, and a struggling economy to tackle here at home, it simply does not make sense to divert billions more dollars to this war."

More Coverage of Obama's Speech:

Washington Unplugged: Afghanistan In-Depth
Obama Will Vow Troops Leaving by July 2011
Obama Speech Is First "Address to the Nation"
NATO: Obama Wants up to 10,000 Soldiers
Afghan Plan Revives Nation-Building Debate
Spokesman Robert Gibbs on Afghanistan: Not Nation-Building
Cheney: Obama Showing "Weakness" to Adversaries
Polling Analysis: Afghanistan 2009 Vs. Iraq 2007
CBSNews.com Special Report: Afghanistan

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