Afghanistan War: Why Are We Doing It?

Statement in the House by Rep. Tim Johnson of Illinois on funding the war in Afghanistan.

I stand in opposition to this rule and in sincere but deep opposition to this $63 billion massive spending bill, and particularly the war spending component of the bill. 

I speak, I believe, on the behalf of the hundreds of thousands of brave men and women who serve America in the Middle East with neither a defined objective nor the ability to assess victory or defeat; and on behalf of families of our military personnel around the world who have lost their fathers or their mothers or their sons or their daughters in a valiant but shortsighted effort and battle that can never be won; and on behalf of the American taxpayers who have seen more than $1 trillion poured into an attempt to fight terror, where there is not even a remote relationship to the welfare of the American people; and really, also, on behalf of the innocent children who have had the misfortune to simply be in the ever-changing line of fire and the vicinity of terrorists who move effortlessly from Iraq to Somalia to Yemen to Paraguay to Afghanistan like the Whack-a-Mole at the county fair in the form of unconventional and ill-defined tribal warfare that 2,000 years have taught us we simply cannot fight. 

I think it was November of 1952, when I was about 6 years old, that Charles Schultz and his Peanuts comic strip came out with the annual saga where, every year, Charlie Brown comes up to the football, and Lucy tells Charlie Brown year after year, "Just one more time, we’ll let you kick ball." And each year, she pulled the football out, only to find Charlie Brown on his rear end. 

I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker and Members of the House, in this somewhat stretched analogy, that a series of Commanders-in-Chief are Lucy, and we’re Charlie Brown, and the football is the illusive promise of a goal that we simply cannot reach. We cannot force a culture to accept our values, and we cannot impose Western democracy on a people who don’t understand or accept it and whose leadership is corrupt and antidemocratic beyond repair. And we cannot continue to spend the billions and, arguably, trillions of dollars of the hardworking men and women in this country in a venture that has no objective, no end game, and no proximate connection to the well-being of our Nation. 

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker and Members of the House, we cannot afford economically, we cannot afford militarily, and we cannot afford as a people to pass this bill. This President who, frankly, won an election based on his strong antiwar message, like many of his predecessors, asked us one more time to spend a few more billion dollars — in this case $38 billion — and a few thousand more men and women in an effort to kick the football just one more time. It simply isn’t doable. 

I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker and Members of the House, that this rule underlies a bill that the vast majority, I believe, of the American people don’t want. I represent a district in central Illinois, and I think I speak in many ways for middle America. I voted for the authorization of force in Iraq and, frankly, Afghanistan; and I believe, like many of us, I may have questioned my vote. But I believe that we’re the greatest nation on Earth, thanks in large part to the generations of fighting men and women who have given their lives to this great cause and democracy and this great Nation of ours. 

As we prepare to celebrate our independence in a few days, I think I speak on behalf of the average American citizen who says, For what? What is this money being expended for? Why are we doing it? And what’s the end game? And I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker and Members of the House, that there is no end game, and I would respectfully ask that this rule and the underlying bill be defeated.

Author: Rep. Tim Johnson

Rep. Tim Johnson represents Illinois in the US House of Representatives.