Dingell Takes Stance On Afghanistan And Voting Rights
Suicide bombers on Thursday hit the airport in Kabul causing injury and death. There has been harsh criticism of the Biden withdrawal plan and its execution. Meantime, a major protest is scheduled for Saturday in Washington D.C. to pressure Congress to pass measures to protect and enhance voting rights. 12th District Representative Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) joined WEMU's David Fair to tackle both topics.
David Fair: [00:00:00] This is 89 one WEMU. I'm David Fair. Evacuation flights from Afghanistan have resumed with new urgency a day after two suicide bombings targeted the thousands of desperate people fleeing the Taliban takeover. And it killed about 150 people. That is just one of the topics we want to cover today in our conversation with 12th District Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. Thank you for the call today.
Debbie Dingell: [00:00:26] Good morning, David. I think we're all just feeling very rocked and sad this morning.
David Fair: [00:00:31] That's right. When I was having a conversation with your staff yesterday about potential topics, this was not among them. This had not happened yet. But now, the U.S. says further attempted attacks are indeed expected ahead of next Tuesday's deadline for foreign troops to leave the country. That would end America's longest war. But President Biden says the U.S. will strike back. And that sounds to me like the potential for an extension of conflict in Afghanistan. What conversations are you having with your congressional colleagues right now?
Debbie Dingell: [00:01:01] I'm having a lot of conversations. I mean, I really have not slept last night. I have been very focused, as you know, from the beginning of this year on getting Americans out of Afghanistan. There are people that are associated with universities that have been there getting them out safe, working with the State Department, working in a process. But there have been other people chartering planes, trying not to harm anybody in the process. And, you know, a lot of questions--many questions. I've been very clear since this all happened that I'm not happy about what has happened. We need to question what happened to our intelligence. We need to be holding people accountable and have because it has been clear. We had a classified briefing--I've got to be careful about what was discussed in it,. A lot of it you've now heard in the last 24 hours. The danger of this what happened yesterday was very real. And I hope, I am someone that hopes, that we cannot have classified briefings on phone calls where we're sitting at home. I hope we are given one, because I think Congress has very serious oversight responsibility now, and we cannot wait till we return.
David Fair: [00:02:24] In addition to the suicide bomb attack, there are reports of the Taliban, well, acting like the Taliban, seeking out Afghans friendly to the U.S., demanding oppressive measures of the women of Afghanistan. And the extraction process, as you pointed out, has clearly been flawed. The mistakes that have been made to this point cannot be undone. Should there be a shift in policy and procedure to go back in until at very least the people allied with the U.S. can be safely extracted and perhaps long enough to get back all of the weapons and technology that has been left with the Taliban to exploit?
Debbie Dingell: [00:02:55] So, David, I'm very...I think we have a moral obligation to the Afghans that helped us as Americans. I'm not on the ground. I do not, I mean, even Seth Moulton and Peter Meijer, who have complicated feelings about they're going. They probably shouldn't have gone because it distracted people who were trying to keep others safe. But they're coming back with good intelligence. And Seth, I heard this morning, I have not talked to them personally yet, said that he understands the August 31st withdrawal date. But, it's just what happened on 9/11 and this country was shaken to the core. They killed Americans yesterday, and there must be retribution. But how that happens, we have to we need...Congress has an oversight responsibility. We need answers. People have got to give us straightforward answers. I don't want to speculate. I don't want to. I think now is the time of simple things to say. People that are in Congress, Republicans and Democrats, should not be political. We should be Americans protecting this country and our national security. Two: We shouldn't play armchair guessing games. We don't have access to the intelligence as broad as it appears to be or the military strategy that goes on the ground there and that the Pentagon gives. I think we need to be briefed. I'm very concerned about what this means for our national security in many different ways. What has happened to our relationships with countries overseas? What's happened to our intelligence gathering? How do we keep the men and women that are in the military that keep us safe? And have we become more vulnerable to potential terrorist attacks, which we already are, from domestic terrorists, but now foreign terrorists again?
David Fair: [00:04:41] We talk about the impressions of the United States outside our borders on the human rights front, knowing the Taliban's expectations and demands that limited women's rights and opportunities. How does the U.S. withdrawal and the manner in which it's being conducted impact perception of the U.S. that we've made a clear decision about women and women's rights to withdrawal, knowing the consequences?
Debbie Dingell: [00:05:04] I want to make this very clear that we do need to worry. I don't know what the answer is. It was Laura Bush that first engaged me in active efforts to help women and girls in Afghanistan. And we already know what the Taliban is doing to them. They are being attacked. They are being...we know a couple of instances, people that have had their heads decapitated. I'm working not through any official channels, but with others that I have worked with over the course of years about how some of the women are particularly vulnerable, how do we help them. But then, I think that the world--our multinational leaders that we work with--we need to figure out how we're going to protect women and children. I don't know what the answer is. I am really talking to a lot of people who do this every day. I've always been there as a resource. I've organized. I've been best at the fundraising on the ground. I've met some of these amazing woman. It scares me to death. I cannot lie about it. But I won't get on the radio and tell you I have the answers when I don't have answers.
David Fair: [00:06:14] Our conversation with Michigan's 12th District Congressional Representative Debbie Dingell continues on Eighty-Nine one WEMU. And we will continue together to seek out more answers in the weeks to come. But right now, I want to shift focus to voting rights--again, talking about oppression. On Thursday, the Texas state House of Representatives passed bills containing some of the most restrictive voting measures anywhere in the country. And it's happening elsewhere, including here in Michigan, where the efforts are underway. Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, in which Dr. Martin Luther King addressed the multitudes in front of the Lincoln Memorial. A protest rally is going to be held there tomorrow to demand Congress pass federal voting rights protections to better protect the marginalized. The House has passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act on a straight-line party vote. The hold up in the Senate is the companion measure, which is called the For the People Act. It would provide national standards to make voting easier, but also end partisan gerrymandering and increase transparency in campaign finance. Representative Dingell, power and money seem to be central here. Do you agree with that assessment?
Debbie Dingell: [00:07:19] Yes, I do. I mean, the House has passed both of these bills already. And I want people to think about, you know, I mean, the man I was married to that I still miss every day, the votes that he took in those times were the hardest votes he ever took. He believes that every American has the right to vote. He was targeted by many for supporting those votes and given a 15 to one odds of being reelected after them and still said it was the right thing to do. And he would gladly have given up his seat, so that every American has a right to vote. The most fundamental right we have in this democracy. But people don't understand, I think, like in Michigan, one of the things that Republicans wanted to do--I want to put this in really clear terms. How many seniors do we know that are on a permanent absentee list? Because it's hard for them to get the clerk's office. It's not easy, and they rip that care deeply about what's happening. This would prevent them from doing that without going into the clerk's office and showing they've already done it, they're on the list. But now, they would not be able to cast a vote in any election without going into the clerk's office, invalidating their I.D.. How many seniors? When you start to talk about primaries and other ballot initiatives that are put, let alone a presidential, which I hope that, you know, a lot of people would be able to go out and try to do, they are actively discouraging. We've seen lines. I've stood in those lines where people they've been four or five hour lines to vote. You're not going to be able to drink water. People can't give people food. What happens if you've got to go to the bathroom? I'm talking about really active things that people are trying to do to make it hard for people to vote. You're trying to eliminate drop boxes, which make it easier for people to drop your ballot. People really need to take the time to understand. People are trying to make it difficult for everybody. Everybody should have that right to vote.
David Fair: [00:09:43] Well, when Dr. King made his address in 1963, nearly 60 years ago now, he said, and I quote, "It also makes it tragic that we're at a place where, as my mom used to say, every generation has to re-earn or earn its freedom because, theoretically, we should be beyond voting rights, we should be addressing other issues." We only have about a minute left. But I want to ask this of you. If he were alive, what explanation could we offer him for where we aren't today?
Debbie Dingell: [00:10:14] That complacency--people take for granted the rights that we have. I have to say to you that when we go on automatic vote, when we learn about whether democracy is the freedoms that we have as Americans--freedom of speech, freedom of religion. These last four years have taught me that I can take not one freedom that I have for granted, and that none of us can afford to be complacent or the country we grew up or what our democracy means, what it means to be an American is under attack. And we all have a responsibility to fight for those pillars of our Constitution.
David Fair: [00:10:56] I thank you so much for the time today, Representative Dingell, and I will look forward to our conversation next Friday.
Debbie Dingell: [00:11:05] Thank you, David. Be safe.
David Fair: [00:11:06] That is 12th District Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Dearborn representing portions of Washtenaw County. I'm David Fair, and this is your community NPR Station, Eighty-Nine one, WEMU FM and WEMU HD, one Ypsilanti.
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