Idaho Republican Party Passes Antiwar Resolutions

Idaho GOP pressures Sen. Risch: Bring our troops home, expose Afghan war corruption, follow Constitution

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BOISE — Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and arguably the most influential foreign policy voice in Congress, Saturday returned home to Idaho, only to find himself under growing public pressure from veterans and even his own party to end America’s ground troops presence in the Middle East.

Initiated by a group of veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars in the heavily Republican state, whose efforts have quickly spread to other states, the Idaho Republican Party’s state central committee Saturday approved two resolutions urging Risch to support President Trump’s efforts to withdraw U.S. troops from the Middle East, hold public hearings to spotlight recent revelations of “constant lies” by U.S. government officials and corruption by military contractors in Afghanistan, and return to a doctrine of deploying U.S. troops for long-term combat duty overseas only after Congress has approved a formal declaration of war as provided by the Constitution.

The resolutions were approved after Risch spoke to Republican committee members, expressing his strong support for President Trump’s fatal drone strike last week on Iranian terror chief Qassem Soleimani.

“We hope Senator Risch is starting to hear us loud and clear, now that his own party has formally added its voice to ours,” Afghanistan war veteran Dan McKnight of Meridian, Id., founder of BringOurTroopsHome.US, said after the vote.

“Polls indicate the message of BringOurTroopsHome.US speaks for most Americans, military and civilian alike, including an overwhelming majority of the tens of millions of Americans who support President Trump, and now a majority of the grassroots leadership of Sen. Risch’s own party here at home,” McKnight said.

“We’re not going away, our voice is only going to grow louder and stronger, and soon it’ll be heard in state capitals all across the country,” he said. “End these endless wars, bring our troops home, expose and hold accountable the bureaucrats and politicians who lied while sending more Americans to die and the profiteers who secretly funded the enemy, and return to a Constitutional standard of asking American troops to do their job only after Congress has done its job by formally declaring war.”

McKnight, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, the U.S. Army, and deployed to the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan from 2005-2007 with the Idaho Army National Guard, also addressed GOP delegates before the vote.

One resolution, urging Risch to hold public hearings based on the Washington Post’s publication last month of findings — acquired through the Freedom of Information Act — of the Congressionally-created office of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), was approved by voice vote of the roughly 150 members of the Idaho GOP state committee meeting Saturday in Boise.

The resolution urges Risch “to cast the white hot spotlight of public hearings on the outrageous disclosures of these newly uncovered government documents, and then – based on the overwhelming weight of evidence these previously secret documents provide to the American people – refuse to continue to be a party to allowing the unmitigated disaster in Afghanistan to continue at the cost of even one more American life.”

The resolution cited SIGAR director John Sopko’s summary of the report — comprised of interviews with high-ranking military, Pentagon, and Congressional officials, in which Sopko said “the American people have constantly been lied to" regarding progress reports and other data being reported from Afghan battlefields. Government officials over eighteen years have assured the American public that the war was being won, while privately conceding in communications to each other that it was not, the report found, sending more Americans each year to their deaths.  

The resolution also urged Risch to hold hearings on the report’s findings that multiple American military contractors secretly funded the Taliban in return for being allowed to conduct their operations in Afghanistan without harassment.

“More than a hundred Gold Star families (survivors of U.S. service men and women killed in Afghanistan) on December 27, 2019, filed a lawsuit alleging that American defense contractors have and are violating the federal Anti-Terrorism Act and protecting their ongoing operations in Afghanistan by secretly making ‘protection’ payments to enemy Taliban forces,” the resolution stated, which “according to our own government’s Congressionally-authorized investigation…undermined the U.S. mission in Afghanistan by fueling grievances against the Afghan government and channeling material support (money) to the insurgency."

The resolution cited media reports that one military contractor responded to the lawsuit by saying in a public statement that its payments to enemy forces “followed the directives of the U.S. government agencies that we served."

“We insist that Sen. Risch, a hard-nosed former county prosecutor here in Boise, hold public hearings and find out if it can possibly be true that our own government used American tax dollars to hire military contractors and then instructed them to give money to Taliban terrorists who used our own taxpayers’ money to finance murdering American soldiers,” McKnight said.

“If the news media weren’t so busy exhausting themselves on the latest installment of the impeachment story they’ve been running for two years, the lies and corruption exposed by these Afghanistan Papers would be the biggest scandal of our time, and high-ranking government officials and others would actually be going to jail with American soldiers’ blood on their hands, as they certainly should,” he said.

(See full text of resolution below)  

A second resolution approved by Idaho Republicans urged Risch and other members of Idaho’s Congressional delegation “to support President Trump’s attempts to keep his campaign promise to Bring Our Troops Home, by advocating, supporting, and voting for legislation and resolutions that call for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Middle East absent a Congressional declaration of war.”

The resolution quoted President Trump’s statement in support of ending “these ridiculous endless wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home.”

It also quoted Risch’s own comments to the Idaho Falls Post Register, in which he said the U.S. “cannot and will not be the world’s policeman,” and a lengthier statement Risch made last year to the Boise Chamber of Commerce, comparing the U.S.’s success at establishing working democracies in postwar Germany, Japan, and South Korea with the failure of similar efforts in the Middle East.

“We’ve been at this now for over two decades,” Risch told Chamber members, “trying to replicate that success in the Middle East, and what do we have to show for it? A goose egg. … If you’re going to give somebody a gift of democracy, a free market system, human rights, of basic rights stated in our Bill of Rights and Constitution, they’ve got to want it, and if they don’t want it, it doesn’t matter how much you shovel at them, it isn’t going to happen. We’ve spent $2 trillion now in Afghanistan, and we’ve shed lots and lots of American blood there. I am through trying to do nation-building with countries that don’t want it. They’ve got to show some type of an appreciation, some type of an embracement of it, and they simply don’t."

The second GOP resolution also cited multiple polls last year by Smithsonian magazine, Politico, Concerned Veterans for America, and Pew Research Center which found that a majority of U.S. troops, veterans, and the American public believed — depending on the poll — that U.S. occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq have been going on too long, that those wars were not worth fighting in the first place, and that U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, including 81 percent of Trump voters in 2016 who supported the president’s efforts to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Notably, the resolution also urged the Idaho legislature to adopt legislation “requiring that the Idaho National Guard shall not be mobilized for deployment to foreign war zones, combat duty, or support of combat operations except under a formal declaration of war by Congress, as provided by the Constitution.”

The legislation is based on a bill first introduced by state Rep. Pat McGeehan of West Virginia, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and former Air Force intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan.

Idaho’s Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls, in November chaired a conference in Washington, D.C., of state legislators from multiple states who intend to introduce such bills — which they’ve dubbed “Defend the Guard” legislation — when their legislatures reconvene in 2020.

Idaho’s Republican Party is the second state GOP to formally endorse such legislation. Its resolution cited a plank from the Texas Republican Party platform adopted in 2018: “Congress shall not abdicate the war powers to the executive branch except when under imminent threat and not to be used as a preemptive strike unless approved by Congress. The Texas National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard should only be deployed to overseas combat zones under authorization of Congress through a declaration of war."  

(See full text of 2nd resolution below)
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Background material:

RESOLUTION URGING CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS ON THE "AFGHANISTAN PAPERS" AND GOLD STAR FAMILIES LAWSUIT AGAINST MILITARY CONTRACTORS FUNDING THE TALIBAN

Approved by voice vote of the State Central

 Committee of the Idaho Republican Party 1/4/2020

WHEREAS, The Washington Post in December 2019 published a groundbreaking report dubbed the "Afghanistan Papers," based on the findings of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which were acquired via the Freedom of Information Act and comprised of SIGAR’s interviews with hundreds of high-ranking military personnel and others within the Department of Defense, State Department, and the White House over multiple administrations; and,

WHEREAS, SIGAR was created by Congress in Section 1229 of the National Defense Authorization Act Fiscal Year 2008 for the purpose of "conducting audits and investigations to (1) promote efficiency and effectiveness of reconstruction programs and (2) detect and prevent waste, fraud, and abuse" of taxpayer dollars; and,

WHEREAS, SIGAR reported that American taxpayers are on the hook for a staggering $6.4 trillion for the ongoing War on Terror – specifically, that "$5.4 trillion has funded, and will continue to fund, counterterrorism wars and smaller operations in more than 80 countries, and another $1 trillion will provide care for veterans of those wars through the next several decades"; and,

WHEREAS, SIGAR documented that multiple presidential administrations have been fully aware of our failure to define a clear mission in Afghanistan and of the ongoing fraud, waste, corruption, and inability to build a sustainable central Afghan government and competent Afghan army and police force; and,

WHEREAS, SIGAR documented that U.S. politicians and high-ranking military officers, backed by Pentagon and State Department bureaucrats, knowingly distorted statistics to assure the American people, year after year, that U.S. forces were making progress and that the Afghanistan war — at the cost of over $1 trillion and the lives of nearly 3,000 service members who fought and died there — was worth it, all the while confessing in private communications with each other their certain knowledge that it was and is an ongoing failure; and,

WHEREAS, SIGAR reported comments by former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as far back as 2003, two years after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, in which Rumsfeld admitted that he had "no visibility into who the bad guys are" and lamented that the U.S. was "woefully deficient in human intelligence," and,
 
WHEREAS, SIGAR director John Sopko summarized SIGAR’s thousands of pages of interviews and corroborating evidentiary documents as follows: "The American people have constantly been lied to" regarding progress reports and other data being reported from the battlefield; and,

WHEREAS, based on evidence reported in one element of SIGAR’s investigation, titled "Corruption in Conflict," more than a hundred Gold Star families (survivors of U.S. service men and women killed in Afghanistan) on December 27, 2019, filed a lawsuit alleging that American defense contractors have and are violating the federal Anti-Terrorism Act and protecting their ongoing operations in Afghanistan by secretly making "protection" payments to enemy Taliban forces; and,

WHEREAS, according to our own government’s Congressionally-authorized investigation, SIGAR reported that "corruption undermined the U.S. mission in Afghanistan by fueling grievances against the Afghan government and channeling material support (money) to the insurgency"; and,

WHEREAS, U.S. defense contractor Black & Veatch issued a public statement in response to the Gold Star Families lawsuit, claiming in its defense that giving money to enemy Taliban forces "followed the directives of the U.S. government agencies that we served"; and,

WHEREAS, after eighteen years of war, thousands of lives lost, and trillions of taxpayer dollars expended, the American people and the veterans who fought and died there deserve a public accounting for the lies, deceit, fraud, and lack of adequate Congressional oversight uncovered by SIGAR and the Gold Star Families
lawsuit;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Idaho Republican Party hereby calls on Idaho’s U.S. Senator Jim Risch, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and his counterparts on the U.S. House and Senate Armed Forces and Intelligence committees, to cast the white hot spotlight of public hearings on the
outrageous disclosures of these newly uncovered government documents, and then – based on the overwhelming weight of evidence these previously secret documents provide to the American people – refuse to continue to be a party to allowing the unmitigated disaster in Afghanistan to continue at the cost of even
one more American life.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the State Central Committee of the Idaho Republican Party directs its headquarters to transmit a copy of this resolution to the office of Sen. Risch and the other three members of Idaho’s Congressional delegation.
________________________________

RESOLUTION SUPPORTING PRESIDENT TRUMP’S EFFORTS TO BRING OUR TROOPS HOME

Approved 83-72 by the State Central Committee of the Idaho Republican Party 1/4/2020

WHEREAS, the Constitution of the United States authorizes and requires the Congress of the United States to declare war, and the U.S. should return to the Constitutional standard that American troops can be committed to combat operations only under a Congressional declaration of war, as provided by the Constitution; and,

WHEREAS, Republicans nationwide are rallying to this Constitutional principle, such as the 2018 platform of the Texas Republican Party, which states: "Congress shall not abdicate the war powers to the executive branch except when under imminent threat and not to be used as a preemptive strike unless approved by Congress. The Texas National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard should only be deployed to overseas combat zones under authorization of Congress through a declaration of war."

WHEREAS, the U.S. military has been fighting in undeclared wars in the Middle East for over eighteen years, in which time more than 7,000 American heroes have died and more than 52,000 have been wounded, and in which over $7 trillion of taxpayers money has been expended; and,

WHEREAS, President Donald Trump said in his 2019 State of the Union Address: "Great nations do not fight endless wars… After two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace… It is time to give our brave warriors a warm welcome home."; and,

WHEREAS, President Trump wrote October 9, 2019, regarding his order to withdraw American troops from combat zones in Syria: “It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous endless wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home.”; and,

WHEREAS, the American people, Republican voters, and U.S. troops and veterans themselves support President Trump’s efforts to Bring Our Troops Home, as evidenced by a Smithsonian magazine poll on Veterans Day 2018 which found that 84 percent of U.S. troops and veterans believe our occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq have "been going on too long," a Politico poll in January which found that 81 percent of Trump voters support withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, and 76 percent from Syria, a Concerned Veterans for America poll in April which found that 60 percent of veterans and military families support removing troops from Afghanistan, and a Pew Research Center poll in July which found that 64 percent of veterans say Iraq was not worth fighting, with roughly 60 percent agreeing in regards to Afghanistan.

WHEREAS, Sen. Jim Risch, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the Idaho Falls Post Register, "We cannot and will not be the world’s policeman."; and,

WHEREAS, Sen. Risch similarly told the Boise Chamber of Commerce — comparing our success at establishing working democracies in postwar Germany, Japan, and South Korea with the failure of similar efforts in the Middle East:

"We’ve been at this now for over two decades, trying to replicate that success in the Middle East, and what do we have to show for it? A goose egg. … If you’re going to give somebody a gift of democracy, a free market system, human rights, of basic rights stated in our Bill of Rights and Constitution, they’ve got to want it, and if they don’t want it, it doesn’t matter how much you shovel at them, it isn’t going to happen. We’ve spent $2 trillion now in Afghanistan, and we’ve shed lots and lots of American blood there. I am through trying to do nation-building with countries that don’t want it. They’ve got to show some type of an appreciation, some type of an embracement of it, and they simply don’t."; and

WHEREAS, those who oppose withdrawing U.S. troops from the Middle East argue that our troops (1) cannot be withdrawn precipitously, but also (2) cannot be withdrawn on some future date specific, meaning – by logical deduction and process of elimination – there is no time they believe our troops can ever be withdrawn, thus continuing an endless commitment to spilling American blood and treasure in such conflicts; and,

WHEREAS, those who oppose disengaging American troops from undeclared foreign wars similarly argue, in a false appeal to patriotism or supporting our troops, that the issue of our involvement in such wars cannot be debated "while troops are in the field," meaning – if the logic of their argument were taken seriously – that as long as U.S. troops are deployed, we cannot advocate for or even discuss ending their deployment, resulting, by further logical deduction, in the ridiculous assertion that there is never a time when the question of withdrawing already-deployed troops can be debated;

WHEREAS, we believe that such circular arguments, even if made with sincere intention, must be set aside for the sake of our troops, their families, and American taxpayers;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Idaho Republican Party hereby calls on Idaho’s Congressional delegation to support President Trump’s attempts to keep his campaign promise to Bring Our Troops Home, by advocating, supporting, and voting for legislation and resolutions that call for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Middle East absent a Congressional declaration of war; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Idaho Republican Party hereby calls on Republican members of the Idaho legislature to (1) propose and support adoption of a resolution to our Congressional delegation consistent with the principles contained in this resolution, and (2) propose and support legislation requiring that the Idaho National Guard shall not be mobilized for deployment to foreign war zones, combat duty, or support of combat operations except under a formal declaration of war by Congress, as provided by the Constitution.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the State Central Committee of the Idaho Republican Party directs its headquarters to transmit a copy of this resolution to the office of Senator Jim Risch, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and to the offices of Senator Mike Crapo, Congressman Mike Simpson, and Congressman Russ Fulcher.