Article: Progressive Democrats Try to "Complexify" Debate on Afghanistan Occupation (

Progressive Democrats Try to "Complexify" Debate on Afghanistan Occupation
Matt Renner
April 7, 2009

The left wing of the Democratic Party, which coalesced around opposition to the war policy of the Bush administration, is holding a six-part forum for the public and for Congressional staffers on President Obama's plan for the occupation of Afghanistan.

The 77-member Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) has so far held two public discussion panels, which brought together Afghanistan experts in diplomatic service, military, academia and on-the-ground nongovernmental aid organizations.

CPC co-chair Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) described the forum as "the beginning of a conversation," which is intended to "complexify" the current discussion about the future involvement of the US in Afghanistan and Pakistan by adding nuance and looking at the military, political and social dynamics of the region.

Reports from some of the Capitol Hill newspapers indicate that members of the CPC are split over the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan and Obama's strategy.

Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-California), one of the most outspoken opponents of the occupation of Iraq and co-chair of the CPC, told Roll Call that she is "universally opposed to war. Period."

Her fellow co-chair Raul Grijalva authored an op-ed with Congressman Mike Honda (D-California) embracing much of Obama's strategy to add more troops to the region and become more aggressive militarily. Grijalva and Honda would augment the military buildup with additional infrastructure improvement and economic opportunity building for the citizens of Afghanistan.

The structure of the forum so far fits the varied opinions of the members of the Democratic caucus. Only one of the panelists has advocated an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. The others said the country may be able to be stabilized if the Obama administration is willing to spend the money and blood it is going to take, but none were optimistic.

None of the panelists in favor of continuing the occupation could give a timeline or lay out goals or benchmarks that could be achieved which would signal the possibility of withdrawal.

"This budget is a plan that authorizes the expansion of the war. I simply cannot endorse a budget or a plan that sends more of our brave men and women to Afghanistan, a conflict which has the potential to become this generation's Vietnam," Kucinich said in a statement last week after voting against the budget in the House.

Kucinich and Woolsey are the only two members of the CPC who sat through the first panel and asked questions of the experts.
More information about the CPC forums can be found on their web site.

Matt Renner is an editor and Washington reporter for Truthout. He can be reached at