Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why is NM Job Growth Non Existent? A Response to Abq Jrnl Winthrop Q

Dear Winthrop, You are one of my favorite writers for the Journal. You always offer a less slanted objective then what the paper is known for. In your piece today regarding job growth you suggest readers offer their suggestions of how to improve job growth in NM. Knowing the Journal is selective over what they publish I figured I would respond here to your request.

There is an elephant in the room you neglect to mention in the article and listing of "It's" (ex. It's the Labor Pool?). It's the war and the size of the defense budget.

It's the cost of the wars we have been in since October 7, 2001, for 11 years and counting. The Afghan and Iraq wars have cost our country 2 billion dollars a week. $2bil per WEEK. Staggering costs, no one mentions this cost anymore. How much is the cost of the Afghanistan war now? Last I heard it is costing 1.5bil per week.

These are enormous numbers of which no one mentions. No politician, no media. The real cost is calculated out in trillions, which includes taking care of the wounded soldiers for years and the hard costs of these wars in dollars expended, hard earned dollars which could have been used in this country

The following article featured on TruthAlliance.net dated July 17, 2012 starts to expose some of the reason we are screwed as far as job growth here.

Photo above is “The Khan Bani Saad Correctional Facility, about 12 miles northeast of Baghdad, is seen with unused building materials nearby. The site is a chronicle of U.S. government waste, misguided planning and construction shortcuts costing $40 million. The official in charge of monitoring America’s $51 billion effort to reconstruct Iraq has estimated that $6 billion to $8 billion of that amount was lost to waste, fraud and abuse.”

The article goes on to say “In Friday’s report, Bowen said the exact funds lost to fraud and waste “can never be known,” largely because of poor record-keeping by the U.S. agencies involved in the effort. These include the Departments of State and Defense, along with the U.S. Agency for International Development.”

And these articles from Judicial Watch: “Billions for Iraq reconstruction lost to fraud", highlighting an audit done by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) dated July 13, 2012. And this arictle The largest theft of funds in history. And in 2008 this article "Pervasive fraud and waste in Iraq reconstruction efforts. “

So here we have it we were ripped off and no one has the will to stand up and say this, the political will or the media will. Where does 2 bil per week go for years and years? We at DFNM have been asking this question for years. Mr Quigley we suggest you look into this and see what you come up with, just a suggestion. See if you as an american citizen can find where this gross amount of money could have gone. How could we spend 2 billion dollars a week? Let's see a breakdown of costs for one week in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I have worked on public design and construction projects most of my adult life and I know when I work for the US or State government, I am held accountable for every dollar and to every dollar for the work I produce. And if the media or regulatory agencies find out otherwise there is hell to pay.

To surmise the cost of these wars at 2 billion a week has destroyed our prospect of jobs for years to come. The elephant in the room is the cost of the Afghan and Iraq wars, the cost of the actual war and the cost of the reconstruction both of these having no restrictions for costs and billions of dollars of waste and fraud.

Our military spending is totally out of control. We as a country have no money for other matters and concerns, like taking care of our seniors and building schools for our children. All our tax dollars go to the War Machine, if you are not part of the war machine business you have no work, both in the public sector and the private sector.

What to do now? Get out of Afghanistan. Stop spending our tax dollars over there. Let’s start a reconstruction effort here in this country. Let’s start with New Jersey and New York.

And if I was a real journalist and not an architect pretending to be a journalist while looking for real work myself, this story of the fleecing of America from 2001 to 2012 would be my passion to expose. To have it be known in every household what has occurred these critical years, and the lack of accountability of our elected officials and media.

PS. Please take a look at the SIGIR audit linked to above and here for your ease, just this report alone only 31 pages long is so light weight as to the corruption and robbery that has taken place. Meanwhile many people go yet another day without full employment.

December 11, 2012 at 02:31 PM in Afghanistan, Economy, Populism, Iraq War, Jobs, Military Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

General Petraeus General Betray Us Now

Remember the General Petraeus, General Betray Us MoveOn ad controversy?

From Wikipedia:
The MoveOn.org ad controversy began when the US anti-war liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org published a full-page ad in the NY Times on September 10, 2007 accusing General David H. Petraeus of "cooking the books for the White House". The ad also labeled him "General Betray Us". The organization created the ad in response to Petraeus' Report to Congress on the Situation in Iraq. MoveOn hosted pages on its website about the ad and their reasons behind it from 2007 to June 23, 2010. On June 23, 2010, after President Obama nominated General Petraeus to be the new top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan (taking over the position from retiring General Stanley McChrystal), MoveOn erased these webpages and any reference to them from its website.

Democracy for New Mexico wrote about this back on Sept. 26, 2007. Barb wrote a pointed piece back then, and the piece received a few great comments, even by the now late PlacitasRoy. Roy passed away only a few weeks ago and his rebel voice is missed.

Fast forward to now

Current Cost of Iraq and Afghan Wars: $1,393,007,867,900.00
Current Cost of Iraq War: $808,617,213,890.00
Current Cost of Afghan War: $584,390,833,930.00

It is important to remember where our hard earned tax dollars are going as we approach the perverbial fiscal cliff. The National Priorities project is still a great Cost of War tracker of this obscene number. Our tax dollars keep on flooding out of this country like a fire hydrant turned on full blast, or the Hoover damn in overflow position.

We have written about this outrage before, almost one year ago DFNM had this post "Military Budget Fraud and Waste No One is Talking About" on the obscene amount of money flooding out of our country. How is this sustainable? And to make matters worse it appears the GAO issued a report on August 1, 2012 showing little enthusiasm by agencies to make changes to the rip-off happening with War Time Contracting. For really good maddening reading see the final report to Congress on the War Time Rip-off waste.

And now we find out that General P was getting his rocks off. While the thieves and robbers are ripping us off blind. If General PP did not Betray us back in September 2007, he most certainly has betrayed us now.

And just to think of the human life's lost. And there is a business as usual theme still continuing. Why do we have such a huge debt? Why are there no jobs? Just watch the Cost of War ticker and think how and when will this stop.

Our Country is in the need of leaders now! Not cover up, go along to get alongers. The war was no issue in the past election, shameful. NO one even tried to tie the cost of war to the lack of jobs in our own communities. What is the actual monetary cost of this war every week now? This information is unattainable to my knowledge and searching. We Americans are asleep, like serious amnesia, and denial. Is anyone listening or paying attention? Let's all hold our newly elected Congressional and Senatorial leaders accountable to answer these questions. Where is this money going?

November 14, 2012 at 03:19 PM in Afghanistan, Iraq War, Military Affairs, National Security, NM Congressional Delegation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

HEINRICH: Accelerated Drawdown in Afghanistan Needed

On August 23rd, U.S. Representative Martin Heinrich (NM-1) released the following statement in response to recent news reports that 2,000 Americans have now died fighting the war in Afghanistan:

“Recent reports that 2,000 Americans have now died in the Afghanistan War underscores the dire need for an accelerated drawdown of American forces in the region. I have long supported an accelerated, safe and orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan, and I will continue to support our men and women in uniform. I commend them for their bravery and sacrifice in defense of our nation.”

Rep. Heinrich, currently serving his second term on the House Armed Service Committee, traveled to Afghanistan in 2010 where he visited Kabul and Kandahar, and met with troops, military and diplomatic leaders, and humanitarian workers in the region. Last year, he sent a letter to President Obama expressing his desire that we begin the drawdown of military forces in Afghanistan in July 2011.

September 4, 2012 at 04:04 PM in Afghanistan, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Heinrich Statement on the President's Speech in Afghanistan

U.S. Senate candidate Martin Heinrich released the following statement in response to President Obama's address from Afghanistan tonight:

It is time to end the combat operations in Afghanistan. A nation at war comes at a great cost to its people. Our brave men and women in uniform have made incredible sacrifices over the last decade. It is time to bring them home to their families.”

Heinrich, currently serving his second term on the House Armed Service Committee, traveled to Afghanistan nearly two years ago to Kabul and Kandahar to meet with troops, military and diplomatic leaders, and humanitarian workers in the region.

May 2, 2012 at 10:50 AM in 2012 NM Senate Race, Afghanistan, Military Affairs, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Veterans | |

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bipartisan Amendment Calls for Accelerated Handover in Afghanistan

UdallTen years after the start of the war in Afghanistan, more than one hundred thousand American troops remain in that nation, providing military and security assistance to the Afghanistan government.  A bipartisan group of senators today offered an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill to urge the president to accelerate the timetable for transitioning to Afghanistan control over their own security.  The effort is being led by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

“We went to Afghanistan to destroy al Qaeda training camps and bring to justice those responsible for the September 11th attacks.  With the death of Osama Bin Laden, we have now accomplished those goals.  It is time to end our presence in Afghanistan and refocus our attention on fighting terrorists wherever they may be,” said Merkley.  “At a time of high unemployment, a wave of foreclosures and growing debt, we need concentrate on nation-building here at home.”

“It is time to have a clear missive from the President on how he plans to end our presence in Afghanistan. We cannot continue endless nation-building efforts overseas while here at home we face expounding national debt, crumbling infrastructure, and out-of-control spending in Washington,” Sen. Paul said.

"For more than a decade we have invested precious lives and resources in Afghanistan to eradicate terrorism and bring to justice those responsible for Sept. 11," said Sen. Tom Udall. "Thanks to the brave work and dedication of our military, intelligence and diplomatic personnel, al-Qaeda no longer has a significant presence in their country and Osama bin Laden is dead. Setting an accelerated timeline to drawdown our troops gives the Afghans strong incentive to take over their security, and it allows us to concentrate on terrorist organizations with global reach.”

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama began the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan with the goal of removing all combat troops by the end of 2014.  However, that would mean that tens of thousands of troops will remain in country for three more years with many support and training personnel remaining beyond that. 

Given that America has largely accomplished the goals set out at the onset of the war and that the chief mission has morphed into a wide-ranging “nation-building” effort that is costing our country nearly $10 billion a month, the senators believe that we need to rethink this use of our military resources and speed the handover to the Afghanistan government.

The resolution calls for the President to expedite transition of responsibility for military and security operations to the government of Afghanistan and provide a plan to Congress within 90 days of passage of the resolution of a timeframe and completion date for that accelerated transition.

Full text of the resolution is below.

Whereas, after al Qaeda attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, the United States rightly sought to bring to justice those who attacked us, to eliminate al Qaeda’s safe havens and training camps in Afghanistan, and to remove the terrorist-allied Taliban government;

Whereas, United States’ troops, intelligence personnel and diplomatic corps have skillfully achieved these objectives, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden;

Whereas, the Afghanistan War is now the longest in American history;

Whereas, national security experts, including Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, have noted that al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has been greatly diminished;

Whereas, over the past ten years the United States' mission has evolved to include a prolonged nation-building effort, including the creation of a strong central government, a national police force and army, and effective civic institutions;

Whereas, such nation-building efforts in Afghanistan are undermined by corruption, high illiteracy, and a historic aversion to a strong central government;

Whereas, members of the United States’ military have served in Afghanistan valiantly and with honor, and many have sacrificed their lives and health in service to their country;

Whereas, the United States is now spending nearly $10 billion a month in Afghanistan at a time when at home there is high unemployment, a flood of foreclosures, a record deficit, and a debt that is over $15 trillion and growing;

Whereas, the continued concentration of American and NATO military forces in one region, when terrorist forces are located in many parts of the world, is not an efficient use of resources;

Whereas, the battle against terrorism is best served by using our troops and resources in a counter-terrorism strategy against terrorist forces wherever they may locate and train;

Whereas, the United States will continue to support the development of Afghanistan with a strong diplomatic and counterterrorism presence in the region;

Whereas, the President is to be commended for announcing in July that the United States would commence the redeployment of United States troops from Afghanistan in 2011 and transition to Afghan security control;  and

Whereas, the President has established a goal of removing all United States combat troops by December 2014;

Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that—

  1. the President of the United States should expedite the transition of the responsibility for military and security operations to the Government of Afghanistan;
  2. the President shall devise a plan based on inputs from military commanders, the diplomatic missions in the region, and appropriate members of the cabinet, along with the consultation of Congress, for expediting the drawdown of U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan and accelerating the transfer of security authority to Afghan authorities prior to December 2014; and
  3. not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Resolution, the President shall transmit to Congress a plan with a timetable and completion date for the accelerated transition of all military and security operations in Afghanistan to the Government of Afghanistan.

November 18, 2011 at 09:23 AM in Afghanistan, Sen. Tom Udall | |

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Military Budget Fraud and Waste No One is Talking About

This commentary post is by Mary Ellen Broderick. It encompasses material about military fraud and waste that is not being talked about, anywhere. 

The following press release was provided by the Whitehouse on 11/15/11: “We Can’t Wait: Agencies Cut Nearly $18 Billion in Improper Payments, Announce New Steps for Stopping Government Waste”.

The first two paragraphs of the report state the following: “Office of Management and Budget (OMB) today announced that the Administration cut wasteful improper payments by $17.6 billion dollars in 2011 as part of the Obama Administration’s Campaign to Cut Waste, fueled by decreases in payment errors in Medicare, Medicaid, Pell Grants, and Food Stamps.  Combined with the improper payment cuts in 2010, agencies have avoided making over $20 billion in improper payments in the two years since President Obama issued an Executive Order initiating an aggressive campaign against wasteful payment errors.

“When the President and I launched the Campaign to Cut Waste we knew success would be measured by results, not rhetoric,” said Vice President Biden. “The sharp reduction in payment errors announced today demonstrates this Administration is serious about cutting waste,” he added.

Although it is commendable to be finding fraud in the programs that serve the poorest and most in need in our nation -- Medicare, Medicaid, Pell Grants, and Food Stamps -- there is no mention in this release regarding the obscene Military Waste and Fraud. This report, “Wartime Contracting Commission releases final report to Congress” , starts out with these 4 bullets:

• Pegs waste, fraud in Iraq, Afghanistan at >$30 billion

• Sees threat of more waste in unsustainable projects

• Faults both government officials and contractors

• Offers 15 recommendations for contracting reform

This report was issued back on 8/31/11, and there has been no discussion of this fraud and waste anywhere. Here is the entire report, with great waste graphs and photos on everything, as well as who is doing the most stealing. I have not seen a single member of Congress comment on this report and its findings. None of our elected officials in NM have commented on this report.  Did our elected officials not see this report -- nor did any of their staff? Well, here it is and I am asking for more motivation from our elected officials to start pushing for this waste and fraud to be addressed. This whole website -- Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan--  is full of interesting maddening, information, yet no one is saying a word about it.

Occupy Congress
Remember this ticker many blogs had up when the Afghanistan and Iraq war started? Cost of War Ticker. Well, it is still ticking away -- to the tune of billions. Every minute of every day the people of this country are struggling while these billions go out into unknown places and pockets, with zero accountability. This link, Ten Years After 9/11: The Dollars and Sense of War, is also informative on where our tax dollars are going and what the funds could be doing if spent here in this country.

It is staggering that we have this amount of our tax dollars leaving our country not accounted for and with no one even mentioning it. We need some of our Senators and Representatives to start camping out on the floor of the people’s house. Camp out until someone listens.

Estimated War-Related Costs, Iraq and Afghanistan
According to the Center for Defense Information, the estimated cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will reach $1.29 trillion by the end of fiscal year 2011. The chart below shows yearly expenditures for the Iraq and Afghan wars. 

War spnding chart 001

1. Includes $5.5 billion of $7.1 billion appropriated in DOD's FY2003 Appropriations Act (P.L. 107-48) for the global war on terror that CRS cannot allocate and DOD cannot track.

2. Of the $25 billion provided in Title IX of the FY2005 DOD appropriation bill, CRS includes $2 billion in FY2004 when it was obligated and the remaining $23 billion in FY2005. Because Congress made the funds available in FY2004, CBO and OMB score all $25 billion in FY2004.

3. Includes funds in the FY2007 Supplemental (H.R. 2206/P.L. 110-28), Title IX, P.L. 109-289, FY2007 DOD Appropriations Act (H.R. 5631) designated for war and funds for other agencies in H.J. Res 20, P.L. 110-50, the year-long Continuing Resolution. VA Medical estimates reflect VA FY2008 budget materials and CRS estimates. Amounts for foreign and diplomatic operations reflects State Department figures.

Source: "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11," Amy Belasco, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, RL33110, p. CRS-9).

Read more: Estimated War-Related Costs, Iraq and Afghanistan — Infoplease.com https://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0933935.html#ixzz1dyw8JIFR.

Where is All This Money Going?
Besides the wartime contracting fraud report linked to above, I see no other place where these dollars are being accounted for. This report is just dealing with that one portion of war funding too -- needless to say the tip of the iceberg.

I am an architect and in my career I have worked on many public sector projects, many federal projects. And it is my experience that the contractor is held to high scrutiny when working for the federal government, both on ensuring accuracy within documentation and accountability in terms of actual production. I do not see how this Iraq-Afghan boondoggle is being managed at all, and yet just the pure volume of 2 bil a week leaving our country is a huge undertaking to account for. There should be scores of people tracking these monies -- and reporting on them in a timeless and honest manner. I like the saying I encountered recently: Let's invade the US so we can have massive Wartime Contracting Spending rebuilding this country.

Just remember, every week 2 bil dollars leaves this country that could be being used to put our people back to work. 

Defense Spending Cant' Be Immune
This article, "Dire warnings from Pentagon over potential defense cuts", reports what Defense Secretary Leon Pannetta said recently to the Super Committee about any cuts to defense spending.  Paraphrasing -- don't do it or we will not be prepared for the boggie men. Leon, my bad dreams are not about the boogiemen invading this country or the so-called freedom haters; my worries first thing in the morning are about jobs, money, healthcare.

Yet since September 11, 2001, the Military Industrial Complex has had free reign. A bonanza of fraud and waste. Sinful really. Read this report: The Military-Industrial Complex Revisited: Shifting Patterns of Military Contracting in the Post-9/11 Period. The companies listed should be prosecuted for treason. Not given more contracts. They are part of the problem. They and their investors are the controllers of that 1% of all the wealth in the nation. This is one of the major issues of the Occupy movement. How can we as the 99%'ers ever get our message heard as long as our elected officials refuse to face realities and talk about it.

To Remain Silent is to Condone This Waste and Fraud
The silence around this military spending matter is deafening. Why? Because the war profiteers and crooks own the elected officials. From Kucinich to Boehner. From McCain to Schumer. Bought, owned. The only elected official with a soul talking about these matters in depth seems to be Sen. Sanders. I challenge our Senators and Congressmen to break their silence on these outrages. Take action, and do not mention cutting the people's programs without -- in the same sentence -- talking about cutting the military programs that are draining our nation's treasury and enriching crooks. And that just might mean no more "Tacos" and other unnecessary and wasteful military and lab spending here in New Mexico. There is no more of a lot of what we used to have. Why should military spending be immune?

Lab Spending
One last point. It was reported in this morning's Albuquerque Journal that LANL has almost 50% of its funding going towards administration.  HALF!! You can’t tell me there isn't any fraud or waste in that bloat. I suggest our Congressional delegation and the rest of Congress set about finding it.

November 17, 2011 at 03:17 PM in Afghanistan, Iraq War, Military Affairs, Occupy Wall Street, Super Committee | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rep. Heinrich holding a Veterans Telephone Town Hall Meeting

Heinrich with troop
PHOTO ABOVE: Martin Heinrich meets with troops in Afghanistan, June 2, 2010. Rep. Heinrich, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, traveled to Kabul and Kandahar with a bipartisan congressional delegation to meet with military and diplomatic leaders in the region, and U.S. troops and humanitarian workers from New Mexico.

Congressman Heinrich invites you to participate in a special telephone town hall meeting with me on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss issues of importance to New Mexico’s veterans and their families. Register by Nov. 14 online or call (505) 346-6781

With one-in-five veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 returning from Iraq and Afghanistan looking for work, I'm focused on making sure our veterans have the necessary tools to navigate a difficult labor market and succeed in the civilian workforce. Last week, I introduced the Wounded Warriors Employment Opportunity Act to provide a tax credit to employers that hire service-disabled veterans. And earlier this year, I introduced the Jobs for Veterans Act of 2011, which would provide entrepreneurial training, counseling, and procurement assistance to veteran-owned small businesses.

Our troops develop valuable skills and professionalism while in the armed forces, yet they still face difficulty when applying for jobs in the civilian workforce. This is especially true for our wounded warriors. As more and more troops come home and transition into civilian life, it is our duty as a nation to honor their sacrifices and help them find jobs.

I thank our veterans for their immeasurable service. It is an honor to represent you in Congress. My staff and I are always on-hand to provide top-notch service and assistance with accessing veterans benefits and programs. Please continue to keep me informed of the issues important to you and how we can do more for New Mexico’s veterans.

November 13, 2011 at 01:26 PM in Afghanistan, Iraq War, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Veterans | |

Thursday, October 06, 2011

10/8: ABQ Rally and March to End the Wars, Occupy Albuquerque

From ANSWER Coalition NM:
On the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan war on Saturday, October 8, gather at the UNM bookstore at 11:00 AM for a PROTEST and DIE-IN, then March to University and Central in solidarity with the Occupy Albuquerque Encampment and Occupy Wall Street. We are the 99% -- Occupy Albuquerque!

Act Now to Stop War, End Racism, Stop Corporate Greed: $3 billion per day for war, 30 million unemployed. It's time to act! Sponsored by Albuquerque Coalition to Stop the Wars, ANSWER Coalition, Stop the War Machine, Vets for Peace

Help With Preparations: Come help build the October 8 protest. Banner and sign-making, phone banking -- Friday, October 7, starting at 6 PM at the ABQ Center for Peace and Justice, 202 Harvard (at Silver).

To get involved, to endorse, or for more information call 268-2488.

October 6, 2011 at 10:34 PM in Afghanistan, Corporatism, Economy, Populism, Events, Occupy Wall Street (Everywhere), Peace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

NY Times Op-Ed by Senators Tom Udall, Jeff Merkley, Rand Paul: Let's Not Linger in Afghanistan

Udall outlines Afghanistan position in May YouTube Town Hall

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) has been one of the most outspoken members of the Senate advocating for a genuine and timely troop departure from Afghanistan that fulfills President Obama's promise to the American people for a meaningful July 2011 start to the transition. Last month, he joined a group of 24 members of the Senate who sent a letter to Obama urging an end to US military involvement in Afghanistan, arguing that the primary objectives of “destroying al-Qaida’s safe haven and removing the Taliban government” have been accomplished. “The costs of prolonging the war far outweigh the benefits. It is time for the United States to shift course in Afghanistan,” the letter said.

Op-Ed: Remove All Combat Troops by 2012
Sen. Udall continued that advocacy this weekend with a July 4th op-ed in the New York Times entitled "Let's Not Linger in Afghanistan" that was jointly written with Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY). Udall and the other Senators tell it like it is:

"LAST month President Obama announced plans for withdrawing by next summer the approximately 30,000 American troops sent to Afghanistan as part of the 2009 surge.

"We commend the president for sticking to the July date he had outlined for beginning the withdrawal. However, his plan would not remove all regular combat troops until 2014. We believe the United States is capable of achieving this goal by the end of 2012. America would be more secure and stronger economically if we recognized that we have largely achieved our objectives in Afghanistan and moved aggressively to bring our troops and tax dollars home. [emphasis added]

"After Al Qaeda attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, we rightly sought to bring to justice those who attacked us, to eliminate Al Qaeda’s safe havens and training camps in Afghanistan, and to remove the terrorist-allied Taliban government. With hard work and sacrifice, our troops, intelligence personnel and diplomatic corps have skillfully achieved these objectives, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden.

"But over the past 10 years, our mission expanded to include a fourth goal: nation-building. That is what we are bogged down in now: a prolonged effort to create a strong central government, a national police force and an army, and civic institutions in a nation that never had any to begin with. Let’s not forget that Afghanistan has been a tribal society for millenniums.

"Nineteen months ago the president announced the surge strategy in hopes of stabilizing Afghanistan and strengthening its military and police forces. Today, despite vast investment in training and equipping Afghan forces, the country’s deep-seated instability, rampant corruption and, in some cases, compromised loyalties endure. Extending our commitment of combat troops will not remedy that situation.

"Sometimes our national security warrants extreme sacrifices, and our troops are prepared to make them when asked. In this case, however, there is little reason to believe that the continuing commitment of tens of thousands of troops on a sprawling nation-building mission in Afghanistan will make America safer.

"National security experts, including the former C.I.A. director Leon E. Panetta, have noted that Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has been greatly diminished. Today there are probably fewer than 100 low-level Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has a much larger presence in a number of other nations.

"Our focus shouldn’t be establishing new institutions in Afghanistan, but concentrating on terrorist organizations with global reach. And our military and intelligence organizations have proved repeatedly that they can take the fight to the terrorists without a huge military footprint.

"We have urgent needs at home: high unemployment and a flood of foreclosures, a record deficit and a debt that is over $14 trillion and growing. We are spending $10 billion a month in Afghanistan. We need to change course.

"A week before the president’s speech, 24 of our Senate colleagues joined us by signing onto a bipartisan letter urging the president to announce a sustained and sizable drawdown from Afghanistan with the goal of removing regular combat troops. This group includes progressives, moderates and conservatives united behind one conclusion: we’ve accomplished what we set out to accomplish in Afghanistan, and we can no longer afford the lives and money it is taking to pursue an ambitious open-ended nation-building mission.

"It is not too late to change course in what has become the longest American war in history. In light of our considerable national needs, both security and domestic, we urge the president to bring our troops home at last."

Well said, Senators. Keep the pressure on for a much-needed end to the longest war in American history!

July 5, 2011 at 09:43 AM in Afghanistan, Economy, Populism, Military Affairs, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

NM Congressional Delegation Responds to Obama's Speech on Afghanistan

Click image for larger version

In a prime-time, 12-minute, televised speech (see transcript and video) to the nation tonight, President Obama outlined a plan for beginning troop withdrawals from Afghanistan. The President said he intends to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and that the remaining 20,000 troops from the 2009 “surge” would leave by next summer. This would amount to a reduction of about one-third of the 100,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan. Obama also said the troop reductions would continue “at a steady pace,” bringing to an end America’s longest war.

The conflict has so far resulted in the loss of 1,500 American lives, as well as countless others, and the cost to U.S. taxpayers has been astronomical.

Obama also said that, “Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource: our people.” It's about time he is at least saying these words.

Here's a sampling of opinions of politicos on the speech. So far, members of New Mexico's congressional delegation responded this way:

U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "I commend President Obama for sticking to the July 2011 timeline he outlined in 2009 to begin transitioning security responsibility to the Afghans. Our military, intelligence and diplomatic corps have made tremendous strides in the effort to eradicate al Qaeda and prevent Taliban safe havens in Afghanistan, culminating with the killing of Osama bin Laden. 

 "In the face of urgent needs at home, American families continue to sacrifice precious lives and $10 billion a month in Afghanistan. Our nation's longest war has evolved into a prolonged counterinsurgency operation, combined with an attempt to install civic institutions and a central government into a tribal society that has never had any. While the president is making good on a promise to begin the transition of combat troops, I would urge him to institute a 12 to 18 month flexible timeline for the Afghans to take control of their own security.

It should be noted that Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman joined a group of 24 members of the Senate who sent a letter to Obama last week urging an end to US military involvement in Afghanistan, arguing that the primary objectives of “destroying al-Qaida’s safe haven and removing the Taliban government” have been accomplished. “The costs of prolonging the war far outweigh the benefits. It is time for the United States to shift course in Afghanistan,” the letter said.

Representative Martin Heinrich (NM-01): “I commend the President for honoring our men and women in uniform and acknowledging their bravery and sacrifice over the last decade. A nation at war comes at a great cost to its people. “While I’m encouraged that President Obama is keeping his word to bring our troops home, I believe the time is right for a more accelerated drawdown. We must have a fundamental change in mission in Afghanistan focused on counter terrorism just like what we saw work with the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.”

Rep. Heinrich sent a letter to President Obama this past April expressed his "strong support" for starting the drawdown of American military forces in July 2011 ... challenges remain that no amount of American blood or treasure will completely solve. Indeed, we must be realistic about what is achievable and what is not." Heinrich added, "I also request that the reduction of forces not be limited to support forces such as logistics specialists but also include combat troops."

Congressman Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03): “With the death of Osama bin Laden and the weakening of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, it is time to prepare to bring our young men and women home and bring an end to a war that is costing our country $10 billion a month. I believe that we need to take more significant steps than the President announced tonight in order to wind down this war and send a clear signal to the people of Afghanistan that the future of their country rests in their own hands. Those who bravely wear the uniform have served heroically in harm’s way, making great strides under difficult conditions, and I look forward to welcoming our returning troops home in the coming months.”

I will add more responses when I receive them.

Update: State Auditor Hector Balderas, a Democratic primary candidate for U.S. Senate has released this statement:

"I commend our Commander in Chief for his order to withdraw 10,000 U.S. troops this year and another 23,000 by the end of September 2012 from Afghanistan. I'm confident that President Obama and General Petraeus, along with the rest of the national security team, have determined that a reduction in American troops benefits the United States, Afghanistan and the entire region. The President's steadfast commitment to defeating al-Qaeda and ensuring that Afghanistan does not turn back into a safe-haven for terrorists has been critical to keeping our country safe.

While this reduction is a positive step, we must remember that close to 70,000 troops will remain in harm's way in Afghanistan and our commitment to supporting them and our mission must not waver. The sooner all of our troops are out of Afghanistan the better. But it cannot be done at the expense of our country's safety. As President Obama made clear tonight, we still have a tough road ahead. Tonight my thoughts are with our brave men and women in uniform, and their parents, spouses and children."

June 22, 2011 at 07:51 PM in Afghanistan, Military Affairs, Obama Administration, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Sen. Tom Udall | |

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

YouTube Town Hall on Afghanistan: Sen. Tom Udall v. Sen. John McCain

YouTube just launched a new page called YouTube Town Hall, which is an online platform for members of Congress to debate and discuss the most important issues of the day. Visitors can select an issue, watch two short videos expressing competing ideas, and then support the one they agree with most. To help people focus on the merits of the idea and not the party of the speaker, the speaker's party isn't revealed until after a user decides which video to support. The most supported videos will be highlighted on the YouTube Town Hall Leaderboard.

Today, Senator Tom Udall has a video on the Town Hall site calling for an accelerated transition in Afghanistan. You can check it out and vote on whether you agree with his position, or that of his opponent, Sen. John McCain. No contest there for most readers of this blog! 

Hope you'll go check out the Afghanistan Town Hall videos and vote to support Sen. Udall's position. It's also easy to share the Town Hall videos on Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter. Very cool that Sen. Udall is participating, don't you think? Please help spread the word.

May 18, 2011 at 10:44 AM in Afghanistan, Sen. Tom Udall, Web/Tech | |

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

05/19-05/22: National Gathering in ABQ of GI Rights Hotline Network

From the GI Rights Hotline:
The GI Rights Hotline -- including the local branch here in NM that many of you helped to launch -- provides information, referrals and support to members of the military, veterans, military-aged youth and their families. This year, the local group in Albuquerque will host the annual national conference, and you are invited to take part!

The conference dates are Thursday evening, May 19 (arrival, welcome), through Sunday afternoon, May 22, with the conference workshops beginning on Friday. For a full schedule, please contact Maria Santelli: 505-410-7657 or mjs1126@hotmail.com. Events will take place on the UNM Campus and at the Peace and Justice Center in Albuquerque.

You can learn more about the work of the hotline, meet network members and fellow peace workers from all around the country and hear about the work of incredible local and national organizations, including:

  • Civilian Medical Resources Network (CMRN), a group founded and based here in 'Burque that connects military members with civilian medical professionals who can provide objective evaluations of physical and psychological health;
  • Local and National Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), who will share information about their latest campaign, Operation Recovery, which works to end the deployment of traumatized troops;
  • Courage to Resist, a national organization dedicated to supporting war resisters including Lt. Ehren Watada, will lead a workshop on ways we can support war resisters and whistleblowers like Pfc. Bradley Manning;
  • the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) (invited--not confirmed), founded and based here in NM, working to protect religious freedom in the US Military; and
  • *Franciscan Father Richard Rohr of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC), located in Albuquerque's South Valley.  Father Rohr, who has counseled Military Chaplains, will be speaking on War and the Soul.

Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits will be available by special arrangement. Contact Maria at the number or email above for details. If you would like to join us for meals or if you will attend from out of town and need housing, please register by contacting Maria at the number or email above.

As always, your generous donations of time, money, or other goodies are welcome, too!

If senators won't stop the wars, maybe soldiers will--but they need our support! Thank you!

May 10, 2011 at 01:17 AM in Afghanistan, Events, Military Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)