Thursday, March 10, 2011

Direct Democracy

...the old-fashioned way. This goes out in tomorrow's mail.

Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler
1130 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515

In all the debate about reducing the federal budget, I hear little discussion of the cost of our endless wars. Over the next ten years, American overseas contingency operations—our new name for war—will cost upwards of $1.2 trillion. General Petraeus and others talk of a generational war so this serious budgetary impact is unlikely to diminish unless Americans make it so.

Even worse, this spending supports policies that harm the United States. Ten years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq have not diminished the threat of terrorism one bit. The US is hopelessly enmeshed in an Afghan civil war that has no military solution and would be far better mediated by the peoples of that region on their own. America and the world can offer support in many ways but military occupation is not one that works in that part of the world. Our interests—including the dreaded “terrorist with a weapon of mass destruction”–can be far better secured without boots on the ground.

The funds we are now pouring into these foreign military operations are a theft from the American people. The more than $1 trillion spent since 2001 would have built a great deal of needed infrastructure, supported many jobs and boosted our civilian economy. Instead, it has been squandered in pursuit of often unclear and dubious objectives. For this reason, I find it disgraceful that Congress is not seriously questioning the need for spending more than $150 billion annually to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The wars have failed—at great cost—to secure any real American interest. If you are serious about looking for genuine reductions in the federal budget, you would end these costly failures.

You can also find over $960 billion in savings over the next 10 years by enacting the recommendations of the Sustainable Defense Task Force, issued in June 2010. The annual savings from these recommendations more than cover your demand for $61 billion in federal budget cuts in 2011 with half again as much added.

Altogether, I have identified over $2 trillion in savings for the next decade. I recommend that you read the task force report and introduce an amendment to implement its recommendations. Then turn your attention to removing American forces from Afghanistan and Iraq.

You will be a true fiscal hero.


Your constituent

This is part of Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation's "Bring Our Billions Home" campaign. We are committed to writing our representatives monthly to remind them of the ongoing cost of these wars.


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Morally Indignant Sharks, Indeed!

A fellow Veteran For Peace sent me this essay about Libya. It's a good reminder of why all the righteous talk of humanitarian missions is suspect.

If you are still insufficiently suspicious, read Tom Englehardt's analysis of why war is always such a preferred option of American foreign policy. Then read how we've all been down this road before.

The (drum) beat goes on.

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

Other Priorities

The US is standing down on womens' rights in Afghanistan. The plight of Afghan women is beyond desperate--30 years of war, denied access to education and medical care severe restrictions on personal choice, subservient to men in all spheres of life. I can't think of a hell on earth that would be less horrible. So improving womens' in Afghanistan has always been the one redeeming feature of US occupation. Even at that, the effort redeemed very little of America's war in Afghanistan but womens' rights were always there as some small salve for the national conscience.

No more.
"Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities," said the senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal policy deliberations. "There's no way we can be successful if we maintain every special interest and pet project. All those pet rocks in our rucksack were taking us down."


"Nobody wants to abandon the women of Afghanistan, but most Americans don't want to keep fighting there for years and years," the official said. "The grim reality is that, despite all of the talk about promoting women's rights, things are going to have to give."

Aside from thinking of womens' rights as pet rocks, I agree with the official. Changing the fundamental laws and customs that govern relationships between men and women in Afghanistan is not a realistic objective for American military policy in Afghanistan. Womens' rights should remain an important objective for our diplomatic and cultural policies but not military and National (in)Security policy. But even at that remove, America may still be "radioactive", unlikely to even have the opportunity to the trust and credibility needed to effect real change. Any American efforts to strengthen womens' rights in Afghanistan will best be pursued through other nations and NGO's.

Now if American political and military leaders would only be so realistic...

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