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Rep. Ro Khanna on Border Guards Whipping Haitians, U.S. Drone Strikes, Afghanistan & Ending Iraq War

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Image Credit: Image right: USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

We speak with California Democratic Congressmember Ro Khanna about border guards whipping Haitians, U.S. immigration policy, raising the refugee cap, investigating the full 20 years of the War in Afghanistan and bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Khanna, I also want to ask you about these shocking images out of Del Rio, Texas, where Border Patrol agents on horseback have been filmed chasing, grabbing and whipping Haitian asylum seekers. One border agent was heard screaming obscenities at asylum seekers, including children, after they attempted to return to the makeshift camp where close to 15,000 people have been staying, under the International Bridge in Del Rio, for days. Your response?

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, that’s not the American way of doing business. We are a nation that respects the rule of law. We respect human rights. And anyone wearing the United States uniform as a Border Patrol agent needs to live up to those highest standards, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

Second, we need an increase in the refugee camp, as your earlier show had indicated. Barbara Lee, myself, other progressives have said that we, this year, need to increase that to 200,000 refugees, given the crisis in Afghanistan and our obligation there, given the crisis in Haiti. It’s 200 million people — 200,000 out of a country of 330 million. We can do that, and we can disperse those refugees across the United States after vetting them.

Finally, I do think we need in-country processing. I mean, we shouldn’t have the surge and rush to the border. That’s not helpful for anyone. It’s not helpful for the protection of human life. We need to be, of course, giving food and water and treating people fairly. But what we really need to say is we need to be processing people before they get to the border, and focus on how we deal with the situation in country.

AMY GOODMAN: The man with the whip on horseback, Border Patrol said welcome — I want to ask you about the issue of immigration overall. You have the Senate parliamentarian saying there can’t be a path to citizenship in the three-and-a-half-trillion-dollar reconciliation bill. You have the situation on the border. President Biden, while introducing extremely sweeping, important legislation domestically, when dealing with immigration, has very much followed in the footsteps of President Trump, sometimes surpassed him, when it comes to expelling people from the United States. There have been hundreds of Haitians daily now that are being deported back to Haiti, even though the president has ruled that they have TPS, for those who came to the United States before August. What do you think should happen right now? I mean, in Haiti, you have the president assassinated; you have the earthquake that just ravaged the country.

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, we first have to increase the refugee camp — cap to 200,000, so that we can take more Haitian refugees. We need to be figuring out a way to have people processed before there is a rush to the border. If they are flying people back and then processing them there, that is fine, as long as people are being processed who are genuine asylum refugees and the cap is being raised.

And then there are certain commonsense things we can do. I mean, my view is we ought to overturn — overrule the parliamentarian and pass a path to citizenship for those undocumented. But even short of that, Zoe Lofgren has a bill that has passed in the House, that was bipartisan, that would allow people, as a work permit, to come to the United States. It’s not a comprehensive solution, but it’s a solution that will lead to less deaths and less chaos at the border. People can come to the United States, work and then leave. And that hasn’t gotten a hearing in the Senate. There are things that we can do at least to make a dent to the problem, that we have done in the House and that are sitting without any action in the Senate.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Afghanistan. On Friday, the Pentagon acknowledged the U.S. drone strike that killed 10 civilians, including seven children — the last drone strike in the final days of the U.S. withdrawal — was a “tragic mistake.” The Pentagon previously asserted the strike as “righteous,” claiming it prevented an imminent threat by ISIS-K fighters, but investigations by The New York Times and other news outlets revealed the victims were instead an aid worker who helped a U.N. aid agency. Zemari Ahmadi and his family members were the ones killed. Ahmadi’s family is demanding a probe into the killing. This is his brother, Romal.

ROMAL AHMADI: [translated] They should accept and pay their damages. They should come to me and apologize and offer their condolences. They should pay blood money. We are innocent. They should evacuate us.

AMY GOODMAN: This is just an astounding story. He drives into their home in Kabul at the end of the day. All of the children, as they did every day, would climb into the car to welcome him home. And that’s when the U.S. drone struck and killed them. Lawmakers now in Washington are saying they’d investigate the deadly strike, while activists are renewing calls for an end to U.S. drone warfare. Your response?

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, it’s an unspeakable tragedy. I mean, we, as the United States, struck a family that was completely innocent. Children were killed. There is no spin or sugarcoating this. This was a brutal, unspeakable tragedy.

At the very least — it shouldn’t even be a debate — we owe compensation. We owe the family evacuation. We owe the family an investigation, so that we understand why this happened.

But it also raises, Amy, broader questions about oversight and transparency on the drone strike program. Senator Warren and I are working on an issue of what is the standard before a strike is ordered, what is the intelligence that is required, what is the process of who needs to sign off on that. This is, as you know, not the first time that civilians have been killed with drone strikes. And we need to have far more oversight and far more standards in conducting over-the-horizon operations which rely on strikes.

AMY GOODMAN: So, President Biden has pulled the U.S. out of Afghanistan. It’s not clear how many mercenaries there, intelligence are still there. The call is for an investigation into the last few weeks of the chaos of the withdrawal. Are you calling for an investigation of the entire 20 years of the U.S. war? We see this drone strike that killed seven children, because so many reporters are there. It’s why the Pentagon was forced to admit this, because they interviewed the survivors, they had the video footage. This is a picture of Afghanistan for 20 years in rural areas.

REP. RO KHANNA: You’re absolutely right, Amy. I mean, how many drone strikes have killed innocent civilians over the last 20 years? And Anand Gopal’s brilliant reporting in The New Yorker, where he talks about how it was actually Ghani’s army, General [Sadat], who The New York Times had as an op-ed columnist, was ordering the killing of civilians. An op-ed — they allowed an op-ed of his, and he was ordering the killing of civilians in these rural communities.

So, we need to ask: Why is it that for 20 years general after general came to the United States Congress and said we were winning when we were not? Why is it that we never accepted the Taliban surrender offer back in the early 2000s? Why is it that we were oblivious to the human rights abuses, not just of the Taliban, but of the Afghan army, in rural America — in rural Afghanistan? And why is it that we weren’t listening to voices like Anand Gopal’s, who has been writing about these issues clearly for decades? Where is the myopia in our foreign policy establishment that these perspectives aren’t getting through?

AMY GOODMAN: So, would you call for an investigation of the entire Afghanistan War?

REP. RO KHANNA: I have. I have called explicitly for an investigation of the 20-year Afghanistan War, including the Afghan Papers, where there is evidence that people like Donald Rumsfeld blatantly lied to the American people, knew we were losing, knew that they were out there on TV basically lying. So, we need to understand the entire context and, in that 20-year context, of course, investigate the withdrawal. No one is saying it was perfect. I support the president’s decision, but let’s investigate that as one chapter in a very tragic 20-year story.

AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly, do you call for an end to the War in Iraq, the U.S. troops to come home?

REP. RO KHANNA: I do. And I think that those troops are sitting targets that are making us less secure. We need to have a responsible way of ending that war.

And, you know, who I would put in charge, actually, of the 20-year investigation in Afghanistan is Barbara Lee. When I saw on cable news for three weeks person after person coming on cable television who was an architect of our failed strategy, I said, “Where is Barbara Lee’s voice?” I mean, she warned us for 20 years that this is what would inevitably happen. Let’s have her be in charge of an investigation over 20 years of the Afghanistan War.

AMY GOODMAN: Ro Khanna, we want to thank you for being with us, Democratic congressmember from California. And you can also go to our website to see our interviews with The New Yorker writer Anand Gopal and with Barbara Lee, the sole vote against war before the Afghanistan War 20 years ago.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go back in time 10 years to the execution of Troy Anthony Davis. Stay with us.

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