Preparing the military budget for the United States for a fiscal year is a long process, and in the House’s recently-passed version of 2023 NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) Democrats have matched Biden’s recent rhetoric about “not walking away” from the Middle East.
Some Democrats who maintain an aggressive record of trying to counter militarism during the Trump and Biden years inserted certain provisions that failed enormously, or passed others that seem more like half-measures designed to be easily circumnavigated by the Pentagon or White House.
An example would be several attempts by Barbara Lee, (D -CA) the only one in Congress who voted against the War in Iraq, to try and reduce the sheer enormity of the fiscal figure settled on. Another attempt was a major failure to bring US troops home from Syria where they were engaged in the theft of oil.
However among the most significant included amendments was section 1213, which prohibits any of the money in the NDAA from being spent to “transport currency or other items of value to the Taliban, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, or any subsidiary, agent, or instrumentality of either the Taliban or the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”.
This seemingly wouldn’t be a problem, as it seems only logical not to transport military hardware paid for by the U.S. tax base to an oppressive regime, except that as the premier military superpower, the U.S. State Department, i.e. diplomatic budget, is wrapped up inside the military budget. This includes USAID, which is a branch of State, so in short, no humanitarian aid will now be deliverable to the famine-stricken country, should the Senate version contain this provision and pass.
The UN recently-released a report on the situation of food availability in Afghanistan which stated “high acute food insecurity persists across Afghanistan, as a combination of a collapsing economy and drought is depriving nearly 20 million Afghans of food”.
The executive summary of the report reveals that nearly 6 million Afghans are in a food “catastrophe,” which is referred to as famine-like elsewhere in the report.
Furthermore, the World Bank reports 40% of the GDP of Afghanistan is dependent on foreign aid, and 97% of the population is living in extreme poverty.
Aside from being unconscionable that the US should have spent 20 years conducting open war there, bombing the countryside to rubble, and creating an economy entirely dependent on foreign aid, before cutting them off entirely, igniting a famine will only serve to strengthen the Taliban’s position, as he who controls the guns controls the wheat.
Full of half measures
Elsewhere, Democratic Congressmen have failed to learn from their past attempts to reduce America’s overseas military footprint through the NDAA, namely that they continue to leave loose ends war hawks can cling to.
Three amendments were passed that deal with legislation termed “Authorization for the Use of Military Force” (AUMF) which is as close as Congress has come since World War II to declaring formal war. The amendments repeal the AUMF for the 1991 Gulf War, and the 2002 Iraq Invasion.
Little to no reason exists for these to continue existing, but equally little to no reason exists for repealing them if there is no accompanied repeal of the 2001 AUMF for the Global War on Terrorism.
It is the vague language of the 2001 AUMF that has allowed the near-total majority of US military actions in the last 21 years to be justified under it, as it grants the President power to use military force against things like international terrorist groups, or the malign influence of bad actors, etc.
Rep. Gerry Connelly (D – VA), in whose district the murdered Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi lived, introduced an amendment to restrict the President from selling any “defense articles or defense services” to Saudi law enforcement or intelligence, but that includes a waiver to push through such sales if they are “in the interest of national security,” which is a very easy case for the President to prove.
During his meeting with the Gulf Cooperation Council on his trip to Saudi Arabia, President Biden said regarding the region that the US means to remain engaged.
“We will not walk away and leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia, or Iran,” he said, expressing his commitment to working with the Gulf states, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq to uphold the rules-based international order.
He once again stated as fact, a lie that there were no US troops engaged in combat in the Middle East, despite saying just afterwards that the US military eliminated two ISIS leaders, “on a daring operation” which was conducted through a raid and not an air strike. Furthermore, while he was in Saudi Arabia making this claim, the Congress voted against an amendment introduced by Jamal Bowman (D – NY) to prohibit funds in the NDAA from being used to maintain a US troop presence inside Syria—which there is, and will continue to be after the amendment was struck down.
“I disagree with claims that the 2001 AUMF, which was about responding to the September 11 attacks, authorized our troops to engage in hostilities against these forces which nobody argues had anything to do with those attacks or to guard oil fields,” Bowman argued on the House floor.
“My colleagues who believe that the President does not need specific authorization to deploy US military forces to seize Syria’s oil in an unconstitutional war should just admit that to their constituents”.
The NDAA will now proceed to the equally-divided Senate where a similar draft will be made, before the two Houses of Congress meet to merge the two bills. WaL
PICTURED ABOVE: Afghanis haul off assistance from the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, 2001. Now, as then, Afghanistan is largely dependent on foreign aid. PC: International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent