On September 15, 2001, only three days after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., Congress voted to give the authority for military force to President Bush.
The vote in the U.S. Senate was unanimous: 98-1. In the U.S. House, the vote was 420 to 1. That one dissenting vote was Rep. Barbara Lee of California.
Rep. Lee was opposed to giving President Bush broad and open-ended authority. She would be the lone member of Congress to vote against that authority and she would face death threats and be called a traitor for her vote.
Two decades and thousands of deaths later, Rep. Barbra Lee would be proved correct about what would become America’s longest war.
“I urged caution because I knew even then that there was no military solution in Afghanistan,” Rep. Lee, the one lawmaker who got Afghanistan right, told The Nation on August 30. Lee felt that the 60-word resolution on Afghanistan that she voted against was a “a blank check for any president to use force anywhere in the world.”
In an August 30 statement on the Afghanistan withdrawal, Congresswoman Lee said: “Twenty years ago, it was clear that rushing into war without a clearly defined mission and exit strategy would risk perpetual war. The Special Inspector General of Afghanistan Reconstruction clearly illustrated in recent reports that ‘U.S. officials rarely had even a mediocre understanding of the Afghan environment, much less how it was responding to U.S. interventions,’ and that this ignorance often came from a ‘willful disregard for information that may have been available.’ In a world where the threat of terrorism cannot be ignored, hopefully we will learn the lessons from the past two decades and not repeat our mistakes.”
On August 31, President Joe Biden announced that the United States was exiting Afghanistan.
“Last night in Kabul, the United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan. The longest war in American history. We completed one of the biggest airlifts in history with more than 120,000 people evacuated to safety,” President Biden began.
“Leaving Aug. 31 is not due to an arbitrary deadline. It was designed to save American lives. My predecessor, the former president, signed an agreement with the Taliban to remove U.S. troops by May 1, just months after I was inaugurated,” Biden further explained.
According to an analysis by Forbes, it’s estimated that the U.S. spent over $2 trillion over 20 years on the war in Afghanistan. The math comes to $300 million dollars a day, every single day, for two decades.