Progressives joined in the celebration of the demise of Osama bin Laden, but the death of the terrorist mastermind also has prompted renewed calls to end the long-running war in Afghanistan.
President Obama announced bin Laden’s death late Sunday, following a raid by U.S. forces in Pakistan which killed the man who had plotted the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The war in Afghanistan began shortly after those attacks, when the U.S. military invaded the country to oust the Taliban regime which had given bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorists safe haven.
Once in office, Obama continued, and escalated, operations in Afghanistan to root out al Qaeda. More recently, a group of high-ranking former diplomats and others put forward a proposal to initiate an end to the conflict, which has run for nearly a decade.
Many on the left have long opposed Obama’s escalation of the war.
“Thanks to a great deal of hard work and perseverance by our intelligence and military services, the world’s most notorious terrorist has met the same fate he dealt to generations of innocent civilians,” says Rep. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “While we will never calculate the homes destroyed, the lives ruined and the families broken on his account, we know that he will never again direct an attack or plan an operation. I extend my sincere thanks to President Obama and the many brave men and women involved in the operation, who have so diligently sought the final outcome that eluded us for the past decade.
“This is not the end of our fight against terrorists who wish us harm, but it does close a decade-long chapter in that fight. Hopefully we can begin now to look at how we bring our soldiers home from Afghanistan and Iraq,” Grijalva adds. “To the man who claimed that he would never face American justice, we can now say that we have defeated him and are ready to move forward together as a stronger nation.”
Grijalva is not alone. The activist group Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) sent an email to supporters Tuesday titled, “Mission Accomplished.”
“Bin Laden is dead. The US military killed him. Some people rejoiced in the streets. Others felt relief because the manhunt was finally over. And, still others felt a sense of foreboding. We all wonder, ‘What will happen next?'” says the email, signed by PDA Executive Director Tim Carpenter.
“Bin Laden was an angry, violent man who reaped what he sowed. Now that we have our pound of flesh, we, too, will reap what we’ve sown in the War on Terror unless we tether the dogs of war now and exit Afghanistan, as soon as humanly possible,” Carpenter continues. “This long-awaited event will, as Martin Luther King said, ‘bend the arc of history.’ But in which direction? Let’s do everything in our power to bend the arc away from vengeance and towards peace and environmental, economic, and social justice.”
With bin Laden’s death, “We no longer have a mission in Afghanistan,” Carpenter argues.
“We can expect the war hounds to bark out new excuses to stay in Afghanistan and even escalate. We must keep reminding Congress that the mission has ended: It’s time to bring our troops and war dollars home,” he says.
Carpenter urges supporters to contact their members of Congress, pushing them to back several pieces of progressive legislation, including HR 780, Rep. Barbara Lee’s Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act. Lee is a California Democrat.
Introduced earlier this year, Lee’s bill would allow federal “funds made available for operations of the Armed Forces in Afghanistan are to be used only for providing for the safe and orderly withdrawal of all U.S. military personnel and Department of Defense (DOD) contractor personnel in Afghanistan.”
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.