You might not know it from national press reports, but there are plenty of Members of Congress of both political parties who think that cutting the military budget is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and have concrete ideas for doing so.
(The New York Times did note last week that the leaderships of both parties are content to let stand the automatic cuts to the previously projected military budget mandated by the Budget Control Act.)
You can see that Senators have ideas for cutting the military budget from the list of amendments filed in the Senate to the National Defense Authorization Act, currently under consideration. [To weigh in with your Senators on these amendments, you can use the toll-free number established by the Friends Committee on National Legislation: 1-877-429-0678.]
Even if many of these amendments don't pass in the next few days, these ideas will still be nominees for consideration as the Pentagon considers how it wishes to cough up an additional half trillion dollars in savings from previously projected spending over the next ten years, as mandated by the Budget Control Act.
Today Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) announced he is introducing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act calling for an accelerated drawdown in Afghanistan.
The bi-partisan amendment is currently supported by:
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)
Resolution on Afghanistan
To be offered to National Defense Authorization Act
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, the Afghanistan War is now the longest in American history;
Whereas, United States’ troops, intelligence personnel and diplomatic corps have skillfully achieved these objectives, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden;
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;
Earlier today, President Obama announced that all US troops except for about 150 attached to the US embassy will leave Iraq by the previously agreed upon deadline of December 31.
This is welcome news. Until this month, the US was in negotiations with the Iraqi government to leave thousands of US troops in the country indefinitely. The snag in the plan was the non-negotiable (from the US perspective) stipulation that US soldiers who remained be granted legal immunity. Apparently, members of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's own coalition could not stomach the demand.
Now that he has been forced to accept an immediate withdrawal, Obama is spinning this as fulfillment of his campaign promise to end the war in Iraq. But Obama won't be able to claim this particular achievement until he removes all contractors from the country. While the President did not address the issue of contractors in his speech, it is being reported that around 9,500 contractors--including 5,000 security contractors and 4,500 "general life support" contractors--will remain in Iraq after the remaining US troops depart.
So, while the roughly 39,000 US troops left in Iraq are coming home, over 9,000 contractors will remain.
This weekend marked a new milestone for the war in Afghanistan: the number of US troops killed in the war since President Obama took office is now twice the number that were killed during Bush's term, according to icasualties.org and our US Troops in Afghanistan: Obama vs Bush web counter. That means that two-thirds of the total US troop deaths have occurred in the last two years and eight months, which accounts for roughly a third of the duration of the war to date.
1728 US troops have died in Afghanistan since October 7, 2001, with 1153 of those deaths having occurred since President Obama's inauguration. 575 US troops died in Afghanistan during President Bush's term in office.
We've all heard the argument before: Bush ignored Afghanistan, Obama did what he promised by escalating the war, and since more troops means more deaths, we shouldn't be surprised by the increased death rate.
Back in June, when US deaths in Afghanistan under Obama reached 1000, I wrote a piece about this argument. I'm not going to address it further here, because there are more pressing issues of concern than looking to the past.
Report back here concerning your call to Congress on this the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan.
In an interview today, Just Foreign Policy explained to RT why ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would save at least 400,000 jobs:
Rep. Lynn Woolsey is circulating the following Dear Colleague and Sign-On letter to the Super Committee urging them to end funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the debt deal.
Urge your representatives to sign the Woolsey letter here.
Letter to Super Committee: $1.8 Trillion in Savings
August 12, 2011
As the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also referred to as the “Super Committee,” begins its work, we must remind its members of the overwhelming costs due to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I urge you to join me in cosigning the letter below to the Co-Chairs and members of the Select Committee noting the $1.8 trillion that could be saved by ending the wars. To cosign or for additional information, please contact me or Jennifer Goedke (5-5161) on my staff.
Member of Congress
September 9, 2011
The Honorable Patty Murray
The Honorable Jeb Hensarling
Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction
The Honorable Xavier Becerra
The Honorable Dave Camp
The Honorable James E. Clyburn
The Honorable Fred Upton
The Honorable Chris Van Hollen
The Honorable Max Baucus
The Honorable Jon Kyl
The Honorable John Kerry
The Honorable Rob Portman
The Honorable Pat Toomey
Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction
Dear Co-Chairs and Members,
Congress and the American people have entrusted you with a great responsibility – ensuring the economic well-being of our nation. This is no simple task and will require both bold decisions and fair compromises.
UPDATE ON 3 KEY VOTES WE HIGHLIGHTED IN DEFENSE APPROPS DEBATE:
Rep. Conyers' amendment to prohibit funds for ground troops in Libya, "unless the purpose of such deployment is solely to rescue members of the United States Armed Forces", was approved by voice vote!
Rep. Lee's amendment to cut funds for the war in Afghanistan failed by 97-322. Find out how your member voted here.
Rep. Kucinich-Amash amendment to cut all funds for the war in Libya failed by 199-229. Find out how your member voted here.
The Defense Appropriations bill as a whole was passed 336-87.
Below is a list of votes on other amendments to the Defense Appropriations bill relevant to the wars and Pentagon spending, provided by Council for a Livable World.
LIBYA WAR VOTES:
Rep. Cole (R-OK) amdt: “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Department of Defense to furnish military equipment, military training or advice, or other support for military activities, to any group or individual, not part of a country's armed forces, for the purpose of assisting that group or individual in carrying out military activities in or against Libya.”
Rep. Gohmert (R-TX) amdt: Limits spending on Libya operations. None of the funds made available by this Act may be obligated, expended, or used in any manner to support military operations, including NATO or United Nations operations in Libya or in Libya's airspace.
Libya and War Powers: Offered by Sherman (D-CA): bars spending that violates the War Powers Act, which, according to Sherman, would limit the Administration from spending on any military activities not currently underway. On June 13, the House voted 248-163 for a similar Sherman (D-CA) amendment to the Military Construction appropriations bill.
Just Foreign Policy distributed a press release today announcing an imminent milestone for the Afghanistan war under the Obama administration: within the next few days, 1,000 troops will have died in Afghanistan under Obama's watch. Post and watch our counter and read our press release.
Only a week after the President stood before the nation to proclaim the successes of the war in Afghanistan under his guardianship, the Obama strategy is set to reap one of its most grisly rewards: within the next few days, 1,000 U.S. troops will have died in Afghanistan since President Obama took office, according to iCasualties.org and our counter, "U.S. Deaths in Afghanistan: Obama vs. Bush" (right). By comparison, 575 U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan under President Bush. In other words, after managing the war for a mere quarter of its duration, Obama is responsible for nearly two-thirds of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan.
What is that I hear? Ah, it's a groan coming from up in the balcony. I believe they're saying, “of course more troops were going to die under President Obama's Afghanistan strategy than President Bush's. More troops means more deaths. It was only because Bush ignored Afghanistan that Obama had to expand the U.S.'s troop commitment in the country. And now you're blaming him for it?”