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BY GUTHRIE GRAVES-FITZSIMMONS

August 25, 2021
Rep. Barbara Lee was the only member of Congress to vote against the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
Photo credit: Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call
"Road to vindication for California’s Barbara Lee, the only member of Congress to vote against Afghanistan war" - via the LA Times.

"Twenty years ago, Rep. Barbara Lee stood before her House colleagues and pleaded with them not to give President Bush a blank check to wage war against the remote, lawless nation accused of harboring the Sept. 11 terrorists. 'Let’s just pause, just for a minute, and think through the implications of our actions today, so that this does not spiral out of control,' she said to them days after the attacks."
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" – Matthew 5:43-44
The situation in Afghanistan is a complex issue, and I think we need to be clear about three fundamental issues at play here:

1. President Biden was right to end the war.  

My favorite foreign-policy organization, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, captured my feelings perfectly:

"War is never the answer. From invasion to withdrawal, for 20 years the U.S. government has declined to use the full extent of its diplomatic and humanitarian tools to mitigate harm, to pursue inclusive political solutions, and to address urgent human needs. By prioritizing militarism over diplomacy and consistently heeding calls for more force over calls for more peacebuilding, the United States has exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

Make no mistake: President Biden was right to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and should go further by ceasing all military engagement in the country, including air strikes."

Whether or not you think President Biden could have overseen a more orderly withdrawal, we need to be crystal clear about the morality of the decision to end the war. Rev. Dr. William Barber made this case in The Atlantic: "It was a mistake to believe that bombs and missiles and drones and tanks could ever bring peace." The war should never have been started, and President Biden should be commended for following through on his campaign promise to end the war. 

2. We need to rethink our entire approach to foreign policy.

The U.S. has been at war for the majority of my life. We cannot keep bombing our way to our foreign policy objectives. We must learn from our failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and instead pursue a new era of diplomatic humility and cooperation. Imagine if we had harnessed the goodwill of the war after the September 11 attacks and led the nations of the world to champion human rights and cooperation. Imagine the difference. Instead, we did unthinkable evil by torturing prisoners and inspiring more people around the world to hate the United States.

Consider the costs of our post 9/11 wars:
  • Over 801,000 people have died in the post-9/11 wars due to direct war violence, and several times as many due to the reverberating effects of war
  • Over 335,000 civilians have been killed as a result of the fighting
  • 38 million — the number of war refugees and displaced persons
  • The U.S. federal price tag for the post-9/11 wars is over $6.4 trillion
  • The U.S. government is conducting counterterror activities in 85 countries
  • The wars have been accompanied by violations of human rights and civil liberties, in the U.S. and abroad
Every single one of those lives mattered to God. We must rethink how we view our role in the world. We are not the world's police, and we cannot use force to make other nations behave as we'd desire. Instead, we must start upholding human rights at home and lead through our example. A hallmark of a new approach to engaging with the world should be greatly expanding our refugee resettlement program. 

3. We have a responsibility to welcome refugees — and to stop creating refugees. 

The United States should be the world's leader in welcoming refugees — including those we've put in danger through our endless war in Afghanistan. President Biden has pledged to raise the refugee cap to 125,000 refugees, but the crises around the world demand we accept many more than that. The Biden Administration has its work cut out for it, because the Trump administration dismantled the refugee resettlement program. But the work is urgently needed both as a response to the U.S. war in Afghanistan and because climate change is certain to produce many more refugees in the years ahead. 

In the time to come, we must welcome refugees and stop participating in wars and warlike efforts that create more refugees. If we stop our endless warring, we can help limit the flow of refugees from war zones. And if we lead the world in creating a carbon-neutral climate, we can limit the flow of refugees from climate disaster. We can both welcome the displaced and stop displacing people from their own homelands.
Sign this Faithful America petition asking President Biden to accept Afghan refugees.
Adapted from Rev. Dr. William Barber's op-ed in The Atlantic:  

God, we want to make right the wrongs of our nation's immoral wars. We repent for our thinking, our believing, our insisting that bombs and missiles and drones and tanks could ever bring peace. We are on our knees and pray for your forgiveness. We hope more of our American Christian siblings will join us on our knees. And we pray today that we all leave the political scapegoating behind, to do whatever we can to help our desperate sisters and brothers in Afghanistan. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Help us. Amen. 
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