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D.C. Memo: Squad up north

Withdrawal from Afghanistan; Texas abortion law; and the Squad protests Line 3.

photo of ilhan omar, alexandria ocasio-cortez and rashida tlaib
Rep. Ilhan Omar will be joined by fellow "Squad" members Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, as well as Reps. Cori Bush and Ayanna Pressley, to speak with Indigenous leaders about the impact of the Line 3 oil pipeline.
REUTERS/Erin Scott

Hello and welcome back to the D.C. Memo. This week, you can find me back in the swamp, where D.C. and Arlington have begun to feel some of the strong rains and flooding from remnants of Hurricane Ida, which wreaked havoc on Louisiana and surrounding states earlier in the week. Congress is out of session, but that doesn’t mean it was a slow news week. Here’s what we’ve got: A full withdrawal from Afghanistan, a new abortion law prompts comments from Minnesota’s delegation and Ilhan Omar brings the Squad to protest Line 3.

The end of a 20-year war

As of this week, the U.S. has officially withdrawn from Afghanistan, marking the end of a 20-year war. Everyone has something to say about this, it seems, whether it’s about what some call a botched evacuation effort, the lives lost in the process, the thousands of people who wanted to escape left behind in Afghanistan or emphasizing America’s need to accept and care for Afghan refugees who have arrived here now.

Rep. Ilhan Omar wrote an opinion piece in CNN saying that as a refugee herself, she hopes the U.S. will welcome Afghans to the country.

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“As I heard the news out of Afghanistan—the families scrambling to get on American planes, or the thousands of requests for assistance pouring into my office—I was taken instantly back to my childhood. I remembered sitting in a refugee camp in Kenya when I was about 10 years old and overhearing my father and grandfather discuss how we were going to get out,” Omar wrote. “In this critical moment, we must draw upon the best of our history and open our arms to the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Rep. Pete Stauber released a statement about the Minnesota National Guard servicemembers who were present in Kabul in the days leading up to full withdrawal, including the day an ISIS-K suicide bomber detonated an explosive device at one of the airport gates.

“I was relieved to learn that our Guard Members were not among [the terrorist attack’s] casualties, but I remain concerned for their safety and wellbeing as they continue to carry out the evacuations of American civilians and allies,” Stauber said.

The AP wrote an article about the end of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and the frustrations many feel about the last days there. They included an anecdote from one father of a service member who died during the suicide bombing attack:

“Mark Schmitz had told a military officer the night before that he wasn’t much interested in speaking to a president he did not vote for, one whose execution of the Afghan pullout he disdains — and one he now blames for the death of his 20-year-old son Jared… [B]y his own account, Schmitz glared hard at the president, so Biden spent more time looking at his ex-wife, repeatedly invoking his own son, Beau, who died six years ago.”

A Texas abortion law rocks the nation

A major point of national discussion this week came out of Texas: The state’s legislature just passed a law that bans abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy. In addition to banning most abortions, the Texas law empowers citizens to sue someone who “aids or abets” a person in obtaining an abortion after six weeks in the state.

The Supreme Court could have blocked this law from taking effect, but in a 5-4 opinion issued almost 24 hours after the law went into effect, the Court decided not to intervene. Justice Sonia Sotomayor called this a “stunning” decision in her dissent.

Reporters in Texas have released some shocking stories chronicling the last hours in reproductive health centers before the law went into effect. One clinic in Fort Worth conducted 67 abortions in 17 hours from Tuesday morning up until midnight.

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For more coverage of what’s going on in Texas, I highly recommend reading work from The 19th*, whose reporters have been on the ground at clinics and protest sites in the state.

Despite being a Texas issue, Minnesota lawmakers have weighed in. Third District Rep. Dean Phillips said in a press release that he is “deeply troubled” by the Supreme Court’s “unwillingness to examine a law which I believe is overly restrictive, and I continue to be appalled by repeated assaults on women’s health care in statehouses and courtrooms across the country.”

Sen. Tina Smith, who worked at Planned Parenthood in her pre-political life, said on Twitter that she’s “not blind to what’s happening here.” She called the law unconstitutional and a “direct attack” on Roe v. Wade.

Minnesota’s Republican representatives have been relatively quiet on social media about the situation in Texas.

Omar brings the Squad to visit Line 3

Rep. Ilhan Omar announced that she and members of the Squad — Missouri Rep. Cori Bush, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib — will visit with Indigenous leaders at a Line 3 construction site to discuss the impacts of the oil pipeline on their community. On Saturday, September 4, the congresswomen and tribal leaders will participate in a roundtable to discuss treaty violations. Later, they’ll visit the Mississippi Headwaters and hear from Indigenous leaders on the impact the pipeline will have on their land and the environment.

A recent letter from Omar, Minnesota Fourth District Rep. Betty McCollum and other federal and state officials calling on President Joe Biden to stop the Line 3 Replacement also suggested the presence of federal surveillance around the project posed a threat to local residents.

If you’re not up-to-speed on Line 3, my colleagues Yasmine Askari and Walker Orenstein have been covering the issue. Yasmine also wrote about the treaties being invoked by Line 3 opponents. In short, though, opponents of Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 oil pipeline say it will contribute to climate change and pollution, and violate the treaty rights of Anishinaabe peoples and nations in its path. Supporters of Line 3 say it will create good jobs and contribute to Minnesota’s economy and tax revenue while being safer than the current pipeline.

In response to the Squad’s visit, Republican Reps. Michelle Fischbach, Pete Stauber and Tom Emmer issued a statement saying the following:

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“Even after a litany of court decisions affirming the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline Replacement Project, and even with construction more than 90 percent complete, the misguided push to stop the pipeline using any means possible continues. The multi-billion-dollar pipeline project is the most studied of its kind in Minnesota; a visit by a few out-of-town congresswomen isn’t going to stop it.”

They also said the visit was about seeking soundbites and that “they say it’s about people, but they have not engaged with the cities, counties, and local businesses that have already benefited from the project.”

What I’m reading

  • Long-haulers are fighting for their future,” The Atlantic. Whenever Atlantic writer Ed Yong comes out with a new piece, I know it’s going to be a great pandemic read that both fills me with hope and makes me even more cynical over the state of humanity. This one is no different.

  • Costa Ricans live longer than us. What’s the secret?” New Yorker. Shout out to Jim S., a D.C. Memo reader who suggested this piece to me. It seems that we have a lot to learn from other cultures regarding health and longevity, and Costa Rica may have some answers for us Americans.

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That’s all from me this week. Thanks for reading. As always, feel free to send any questions, comments or who would be in your squad to ahackett@minnpost.com, or follow me on Twitter at @byashleyhackett.