Wednesday, June 22, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Barack continues to lie with pretty words the press sucks up, it's time to combat his war lies and not just on Iraq, State of Law has already broken the pledge they made this week, more officials are targeted in Iraq (and a mayor is killed), we note the US Army suicide data for the month of May, Troy Yocum continues hiking to raise awareness of veterans issues, and more.
Michael Ratner: On Law and Disorder, we've often brought you up to date news on Guantanamo, the so-called war on terror, military commissions -- all that goes with Guantanamo, torture, indefinite detention -- what I would like to call "The Guantanamo Syndrome" or "The American Operation Condor." If you remember, Operation Condor was when Chilean dictator Pinochet went around the world picking up people, torturing them, murdering them and jailing them. We have our own. Let's call it The Guantanamo Syndrome. Right now as we speak, there's a new national authorization defense act going through our wonderful Congress. It's passed the House, it's now in the Senate. This is the yearly bill that basically funds the empire's wars all over the world. And it's always like a Christmas tree and people put in some of the worst provisions you can imagine. And they're continuing to put in more and more ways of expanding The Guantanamo Syndrome. And the main one is one that we've talked about before in a different context or a different statute but it's now about to be amended. People may not recall but the statute that began the War in Afghanistan was called the Authorization to Use Military Force -- the AUMF. It's a very broad statue. It allowed the president on his own to attack any nation-state, person, individual, whatever anywhere in the world who was in any way involved with 9-11 -- peripherally, in any way at all. But it was linked to 9-11. And it's a terrible statute because that's what the president -- whether it was Bush or Obama -- is now using to go after not just Afghanistan, but to go after Pakistan, to go after Yemen. The AUMF is an awful statute as currently written because the president is using that not just for the War in Afghanistan, which it was originally written for, but the war in Pakistan, the war in Yemen, probably war in North Africa, detention of people he can pick up anywhere in the world, etc. So it's an awful statute. As broad as it is, and as bad as it is and as much authority as it gives the president to make war anywhere in the world without going back to Congress, without going to the American people, it's about to get worse. The House of Representatives just made it worse and the question is whether the Senate will continue with leaving it in the statute as it is. As I said, the old AMUF allowed attacks on any nation-state, etc., involved in 9-11, anywhere in the world. This one takes out any link with 9-11. It essentially says that anyone who's a threat to the United States, involved in an act of terrorism, whether in the US or abroad, can be subject to an attack by the president -- military attack and detention. So it takes out any link with 9-11 essentially broadening the so-called War on Terror even more than President Bush had done. Now it's interesting. The Obama administration says this is unnecessary and I wouldn't say that they're dead against it, but they'd rather not have it in there. And it's not that they're being so wonderful about this. It's just that they're already going way beyond the current AMUF in attacking anybody in the world. So they're essentially saying, "Don't put it in writing and make a red flag out of it, let's keep it away." So they're expanding war powers. So if you look at the American empire as one that is now sustained by war, some 771 military bases plus the power in one person -- the president -- to attack anywhere in the world, you're talking about an empire that's built on tanks, aircraft carriers and the Pentagon and war. And it's not going to be any good going forward. If there's any characteristic of this empire that seems out there and up front right now, it's that this is an empire of war. The National Defense Authorization Act also has some special provisions about Guantanamo. I won't go through all the details but basically we've already said on this show, Guantanamo is becoming a permanent aspect of the detention system in this world or in this country. It's open now forever, it seems. there's laws that say you can't bring people to the US for trial. There's preventative detentions and military commissions. This National Authorization Detention Act -- hard to believe -- but makes those provisions even worse. It now says that any non-citizen held by the US military -- any non U.S. citizen held by the US military in a foreign country cannot be brought to the United States. Not just people in Guantanamo can't be brought here but people in any foreign country. So if someone's picked up -- as they have been in the past -- for like bombing the USS Cole or something -- they can no longer be brought to the United States for trial even though the Cole people were brought to the US for trial -- or at least some of them. That means they have to be tried in the so-called military commissions or rum trials, trials that are completely no good for anything. A pretty amazing bill basically saying "No more Constitutional courts, let's just try these people in some court we set up somewhere in the world." Very, very bad provision. It also says that any non-US citizen in the United States who's involved in a terrorist attack cannot be tried in a regular US federal court but must be tried in a military commission. So there you go. If you thought we were moving towards fascism in this country -- at least certain aspects of it -- there we see it -- open and notorious. Perhaps we'll be lucky and these three provisions that I've talked about -- the broadening of the war, the prohibition on bringing anybody from any foreign country to the United States for trial, and the prohibition on trying any alleged US terrorists non-citizen in the United States in a regular court -- we're hopeful that those three provisions won't pass. But they've passed the House already and it's not clear to me that they won't go through the Senate. So it's not getting better, it's getting worse and worse and worse.
Michael Ratner hosts Law and Disorder Radio with Heidi Boghosian (National Lawyers Guild) and Michael S. Smith (both organizations) -- three attorneys. Michael S. Smith has a website and I'll try to put it on the links when the heavens open up and gift me with time. Until then, click here.
US President Barack Obama has a speech tonight. The snapshot won't go up until after his speech is done. Throughout the snapshot we'll be noting various voices on what's going on in the US in terms of war -- Iraq and others. Today, before the speech, Senator Patty Murray spoke on the Senate floor. Murray is also the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office notes:
Watch Senator Murray's speech here (Senator Murray begins at 2:09:35).
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor to discuss her views on the need for a sizable and sustained troop drawdown in Afghanistan, and to outline her concerns over the unseen human costs of war. During the speech, Murray, who chairs the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, highlighted specific costs of the conflict to our men and women in uniform and called on her colleagues in Congress and the President to consider these costs when making decisions about the global fight against terrorism.
Key excerpts from Senator Murray's speech:
"Last week, I joined with a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues on a letter to the President urging him to begin a sizable and sustained reduction in troop levels
-- and I hope he takes the opportunity to do that tonight.
"But Mr. President, with all of the talk about troop levels -- I want to make sure that we remember that this isn't just about numbers -- it'd about real people, with real families.
"Mr. President -- far too many of our servicemembers have sacrificed life and limb overseas -- and we must honor them and their sacrifices by making sure we take care of them and their caregivers not just today, and not just when they come home, but for a lifetime.
Specialty Media Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
The snapshot will end with Senator Murray's remarks in full.
NPR gave live coverage to the speech and the reason for the live All Things Considered coverage was apparently to propagandize. It's past time for NPR to lose its government funding. Doing so might force it to be honest. Rachel Scott pretended everyone would be pleased with what Barack was offer because . . . -- well because nothing happened. Since NPR's 'analysis' is always the US government line, maybe they need to stick to reporting -- something Rachel Scott and Scott Horsley also mispractice but are semi-trained in at least.
Barack created false choices and straw men. The end result of all his pretty words? 10,000 US troops will leave Afghanistan by the end of the year. That won't even remove the service members he sent in (30,000) in his so-called "surge." It's disgusting.
He loved to intone "responsible end" when there was nothing responsible about the Afghanistan War -- at the start or currently. Nor was there anything responsible about the Iraq War then or now.
His speech was a failure on every level. He declared, "In Afghanistan, we've inflicted serious losses on the Taliban and taken a number of its strongholds." So we're going to go with "kills" to declare a win? Not my way, but okay, let's go with "kills." If you're going to boast about kills, you better have something worth boasting about and "we've inflicted serious losses" is nothing. Not 1 year into a war, certainly not ten years in. Those who measure by kills know that the war is a bit of a joke on that level since the fighters in Afghanistan (various fighters) fighting the US can blend in and disappear so easily and so readily. the US has done little damage to the fighters (despite racheting up a huge number of civilian "kills"). To hear a fancy pants with manicured nails talk about "kills" is, in itself, a study in contrasts. It only becomes more absurd when you realize that outside of the Whole Foods Set, no one would be impressed with the "kills" Barack was so proud of. It's not my system of measurement but it's the one he elected to use and it was a very weak measurement.
President Barack Obama: Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm's way. We have ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country. And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance. These long wars will come to a responsible end.
He has not ended combat missions in Iraq anymore than Bush created a "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED." Both liars think they can bully the public into believing them if they just repeat a lie over and over. 9 US soldiers have died in Iraq so far this month. And they died in combat as Barack should know unless he's too busy golfing to get any briefings.
He declared, "We have learned anew the profound cost of war -- a cost that has been paid by the nearly 4,500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and the over 1,500 who have done so in Afghanistan -- men and women who will not live to enjoy the freedom that they defended." Poor, little, unprepared tyke, he can't even tell you -- in a speech written by others -- in a speech he read off two teleprompters -- the number of US military deaths in the Iraq War. Forget the jounalism outlets that keep their own counts (AP and AFP), the Pentagon keeps a count, the Defense Dept. The number is 4466. (1623 deaths in the Afghanistan War, FYI). Along with 4466, there are other important numbers he refused to note. 45 is the number of US soldiers who've died since Barack declared "combat operations" over (and accomplished?). Today Reuters reports that US forces and Iraqi forces conducted a Kirkuk raid in which they captured 2 al Qaeda members. Sounds like a combat mission. 237 is another important number.
237 is the number of US service members who have died in the Iraq War since Barack Obama -- the peace candidate -- was sworn in as president. (233 on June 6th, four more have died since then for a total of 237.)
To hear him lie that freedom was defended in Iraq was among his more outrageous claims. The Iraq War was based on lies. The Iraq War has also seen religious minorities targeted in Iraq, the LGBT community targeted, women targeted, and much more. There is no freedom in Iraq as Nouri's constant attack on peaceful protesters demonstrates.
Leaving the speech (but this does counter the claims Barack put forward), British citizen Emma Stone was an advisor to US Gen Ray Odierno when Odierno was the top US commander in Iraq. She returns to Iraq for a visit and writes about it at Foreign Policy:
Sitting in the back of the car wearing abaya and hijab, I drive south toward Karbala with two young Iraqi Army guys, both from Baghdad and Shiite. In the national elections last year, one voted for Nouri al-Maliki to be prime minister; the other voted for Ayad Allawi as he wanted a secular man to lead Iraq. They both agree that life was better under Saddam Hussein -- that there was more security before, people could travel anywhere safely, gas was cheaper, salaries went further, there was no "Sunni-Shiite." They tell me that people are very upset with public services, especially electricity, but are too scared to demonstrate. No one likes living under occupation, but people are also worried that the situation might deteriorate if the Americans leave. They both stress that Jaish al-Mahdi is not the right way.
We drive for an hour southward. We pass numerous checkpoints. No one checks my papers. I am the invisible woman in Islamic dress. It is late, so the roads are not busy. Finally, we turn off the main road, down a track, through an orchard, and arrive at a house on the banks of the Euphrates where I meet up with my Iraqi friend, and he introduces me to his companions, male and female. Talbes are arranged, and big trays of food emerge from the house. Fatoush salad. Maqluba - -chicken and rice. We stuff our faces. I sit in a swing chair, chatting with my friend, who talks about his experiences of working with the U.S. military. They have big hearts he tells me, but they are naive. They don't know how to do contracting. They spent lots of money, but so much was wasted. They did not know who was good and who was bad. Many projects were not implemented well. Others were not sustainable. The Brits last century left us with railways, roads, and bridges. What have the Americans left us?
Today Al Mada reports that Parliament's Integrity Commission has officially notified the United Nations in writing that they would like their assistance in finding out what has happened to the $17 billion they saw was lost in reconstruction funds (the money is Iraqi money from the oil-for-food program). The article reminds that the Development Fund was set up by the UN and overseen by L. Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority. In another article, Al Mada quotes Integrity Committee member Jawad Alshahyla stating that the $17 billion is a preliminary number and it may increase as a result of additional information. He also states that prior to contacting the UN, they had notified Nouri al-Maliki's office and the Ministry of Finance. Dar Addustour notes that the original figure -- provided by the US -- was $6 billion and says that it's urgent the money is found -- possibly due to the fact that Iraq's 2012 budget has a shortfall of at least $12 billion dollars (they budgeted close to $100 billion for 2012 and are set to be short at least $12 billion). Last week, Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) reported that $6 billion was missing in food-for-oil money that was supposed to have been used for reconstruction. Mu Xuequan (mu) points out that even if the money did end up stolen, "the CPA issued an order granting immunity to the U.S. personnel and institutions working in Iraq after the 2003 invasion."
Sunday Al Jazeera reported (link has text and video), "Osama al-Nujaifi, the Iraqi parliament speaker, has told Al Jazeera that the amount of Iraqi money unaccounted for by the US is $18.7bn - three times more than the reported $6.6bn. Just before departing for a visit to the US, al-Nujaifi said that he has received a report this week based on information from US and Iraqi auditors that the amount of money withdrawn from a fund from Iraqi oil proceeds, but unaccounted for, is much more than the $6.6bn reported missing last week." AFP notes Osama al-Nujaifi intends to raise the issue while visting DC this week. AP notes al-Nujaifi has a meeting schelued with US Vice President Joe Biden today. Eamon Javers (CNBC) adds, "The New York Fed is refusing to tell investigators how many billions of dollars it shipped to Iraq during the early days of the US invasion there, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction told CNBC Tuesday. The Fed's lack of disclosure is making it difficult for the inspector general to follow the paper trail of billions of dollars that went missing in the chaotic rush to finance the Iraq occupation, and to determine how much of that money was stolen." Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) explains, "The Federal Reserve claims that since the account was from the Oil for Food account the SIGR is not entitled to know anything about the account. Fed officials said they would continue to cooperate in the investigation, without disclosing what appears to be the only useful information they might have."
Violence continues in Iraq today. Fattah Mahmood (CNN) counts 5 roadside bombings in Baghdad today alone. Reuters notes a Mosul mortar attack claimed 1 life and left another person injured, 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left two more people injured, a Mosul hand grenade attack injured four people, a Baghdad car bombing claimed 1 life and left nine more people injured, that 18 people were wounded in 5 Baghdad roadside bombings and a Baghdad sticky bombing targeted "a state bank official" (who was not injured). Reuters adds a Baquba sticky bombing claimed 1 life, a Diwaniya rocket attaack left five people injured, 1 employee with the Ministry of Communications was kidnapped in Kirkuk, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 person and the Mayor of Gatoon in Baquba was shot dead.
Former supporters of Barack Obama, a class that, sadly, includes most of what passes for a Left in the United States, are disturbed, angry, shocked and appalled at his refusal to comply with the War Powers Act by denying that there is a war. In fact, they encouraged President Obama to pretend that there is no war, when they pretended that candidate Obama was not your average, garden variety, center-right Democratic imperialist, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
These Left Obamites held demonstrations against wars in general, without mentioning the name of the War-Maker-in-Chief – denial on a mass lunatic scale. So, why shouldn't Obama take the logic of the pretend anti-war folks to its logical conclusion, and simply pretend not to be waging war on Libya?
The following is not for pretenders:
The United National Anti-War Committee is calling for thousands to say "No to the US/NATO War on Libya," on June 27 in New York's Times Square. Former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and others will report to Harlem on June 25 in the first stop of a national "Eyewitness Libya" tour. A coalition of groups is organizing a Harlem Millions March protesting the attack on Africa, for August 13, at which Nation of Islam Min. Louis Farrakhan will be a speaker. The Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations has called for a day of action on August 20 against the "Other Wars" waged by the United States against people of color abroad and at home.
If you thought the government or 'government' in Baghdad was focused on governing and improving the lives of Iraqis, you are mistaken. Not only are the basic needs of the people (electricity, potable water, jobs, etc.) not being addressed, but Iraq lacks security ministers -- with at least one MP claiming the Iraqi military doesn't have needed equipment or fire arms because the country still has no Minister of the Defense. (Nor do they have a Minister of National Security or a Minister of the Interior.)
What do they have time?
Hoshyar Zebari has time to play footsie with the Iranian government.
Iran's Fars News Agency reports, "Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said his country is in talks with Tehran to decide a future for the terrorist Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO)." The PMOI is approximately 3,000 dissidents from Iran, Marxists, who left their country and came to Iraq following the fall of the Shah. It's interesting that Big Boy Hoshyar is in Iran talking about 3,000 Iranians confined to Camp Ashraf while Kurdish Hoshyar is damn well aware that Kurdish separatists have set up base camp in the mountains of northern Iraq and that they bomb and attack Turkey from that base. It's so very strange that Hoshyar wants to grand-stand on claims of 'addressing' terrorism when he's done nothing to stop them. In fact, grandstanding on the issue of Camp Ashraf not only allows him to cozy up to the Iranian government, it allows him to present a we-will-not-tolerate-terrorists pose. That's a pose that the mountains of northern Iraq -- and reality -- might reject.
While Iraqi's starve for food, Hoshyar shows in Tehran looking as if he's been hoarding and eating months of food rations intended for the Iraqi people. Check out the photo Press TV runs with the story on Hoshyar insisting that Camp Ashraf will close at the end of the year and all the residents will have to find new countries to live in. The Tehran Times adds, "Zebari also said the Iraqi government will spare no effort to help free Iranians being imprisoned in Iraq."
Al Rafidayn offers that the meeting put an end to squabbles between Allawi and Nouri being played out in the media. That seems doubtful and not just because Allawi's very adept at manipulating the media (Nouri's a clumsy ox but he does have many flunkies he dispatches regularly). How can such an agreement be finalized when one of the two parties in the two party squabble is present? Hisham Rikabi (Al Mada) notes a majority present agreed to end to the media campaigns but, again, how can such an agreement honestly be made when one of the two parties engaging in the campaign is not present? Rikabi notes Talabani, Nouri, Ammar al-Hakim and Adel Abdul Mahdi were among those present while Saleh al-Mutlaq was the most prominent member of Iraqiya present.
And that was yesterday. Today the 'agreement' has already fallen apart. Al Mada reports Nouri's State Of Law is again attacking Allawi's Iraqiya to the media as they pin the "crisis" in Iraq on Iraqiya and state that the political slate is what has prevented Nouri from filling the security ministries. It didn't even last a 24-hour news cycle and that does not bode well for the second meeting Talabni's been promoting.
Returning to the War Hawk, Barack claims that the War Powers Act does not apply to his Libyan War insisting that no troops on the ground means nah-nah-nah-I-do-what-I-want. Black Agenda Radio is an hour long radio program airing Mondays at 4:00 pm EST on the Progressive Radio Network and hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey. The most recent broadcast devoted the hour to the many wars being conducted by the US government. On the claim that the Libyan War isn't a war, attorney Bruce Fein had this to say.
Bruce Fein: Well it's a rather paradoxical statement because if it's not war then the United States is committing murder in Libya. War is what makes what is customary criminal homicide legal. So if we're not engaged in war, we're engaged in murder which may be even worse. Moreover, it's a nonsensical statement. Even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that if another country launched a single Tomahawk missile against the United States, we would be at war.
Bruce Fein is a Constitutional Law and International Law attorney who chairs the American Freedom Agenda. Frances A. Boyle is an International Law expert and professor of law. He was also on the program.
Frances A. Boyle: Speaker of the House Boehner said that that argument doesn't even pass the straight-face test. In other words, without breaking out laughing. I read the report that Obama sent to Congress. It's just an insult. There's one paragraph in there dealing with the legal explanation and that's all it says: We're -- these really aren't hostilities. There's no legal argument, justification, nothing.
Glen Ford: The president has sent out his apologists from the White House who further elaborate on the position that he put forward and say that it's not a war because there aren't any troops on the ground.
Frances A. Boyle: Well it doesn't matter because the War Powers Resolution is triggered by the word hostilities -- and of any type. And there's also another provision saying anytime we are armed in the airspace of another state, the War Powers Resolution gets triggered. So there are two grounds. And, third, US Supreme Court already dealt with this issue in the Prize cases ruling that a blockade is an act of war. I successfully argued that in another case. So these are hostilities, this doesn't pass the straight-face test.
Hike for our Heroes is a non-profit started by Iraq War veteran Troy Yocum who is hiking across the country to raise awareness and money for veterans issues. He began the walk last April with the plan of 7,000 miles. Last week, his efforts received a major sponsor. Frank Lombardi (New York Daily News) reported Troy Yocum was hiking through NYC yesterday and held a Time Square press conference at Modell's Sporting Goods with the company's CEO Mitchell Modell who announced that in addition to the $200,000 Troy has raised, Modell had raised $260,000 for Troy's cause and "that his 147 stores - and an alliance of other big-name retailers with another 653 stores - will ask their customers at checkout time if they would like to donate $1 to help military families." Maria Diamond (WCBS -- link is text and audio) noted the hike has resulted in Troy going through "eight pairs of hiking boots" and that he's "suffered kidney stones, a neck strain, countless blisters and had his car broken into." Chris Harris (The Record) adds, "Yocum has traveled more than 6,300 miles so far, and still has several months to go before his mission ends in September in Kentucky." John Burgeson (Connecticut Post) reports that today, "under glowering thunderclouds, he strolled into downtown Bridgeport while in the 14th month of his trek for a brief ceremony with Mayor Bill Finch and a score of veterans at the city's war memorials at the corner of Broad and State streets." Burgeson notes an increase in fundraising via "Model's Sporting Goods, U.S. Polo and a raft of other sponsors" and quotes Troy stating, "I now expect that we'll raise about $1.5 million by the finish line, and since New York, we've been able to help one military family every day." Jennifer Amato (North Brunswick Sentinel) reports on how Mitchell Modell first learned of Troy's hike (at a New York Yankees' game from Darren Carroll) and how after speaking with Troy and fundraising $260,000, Mitchell Modell committed to raising even more. Amato also reported, "In addition, during a press conference at the store, members of three different Fire Department of New York firehouses presented Yocum with T-shirts, and Dave Lorenzo, senior vice president of J.P. Morgan Chase, presented Yocum with a $10,000 gift card to help bring down his costs."
Last Thursday, the US Army released their data on suicides for the month of May:
The Army released suicide data today for the month of May. Among active-duty soldiers, there were 21 potential suicides: one has been confirmed as suicide, and 20 remain under investigation. For April 2011, the Army reported 16 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, two cases have been confirmed as suicide, and 14 cases remain under investigation.
During May 2011, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were six potential suicides: none have been confirmed as suicides, and six remain under investigation. For April 2011, among that same group, there were 11 total suicides (two additional suicides for April were reported after the initial report). Of those, four were confirmed as suicide and seven are pending determination of the manner of death.
The Army continues to focus on ensuring its leaders have the training and knowledge to address high-risk behavior and prevent suicide. Company command teams are provided training on the requisite skills to identify and mitigate high-risk behavior. "When it comes to suicide and other high-risk behavior, we cannot afford to relearn past lessons. Incumbent commanders must continue to familiarize new leaders with the principles of leadership in garrison," said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff.
Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained consultants are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and can be contacted by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by visiting their website at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Information about Military OneSource is located at http://www.militaryonesource.com or by dialing the toll-free number 1-800-342-9647 for those residing in the continental United States. Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource website for dialing instructions for their specific location.
The website for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors is http://www.TAPS.org, and they can be reached at 1-800-959-TAPS (8277).
If you have trouble following the 'transitions' my apologies. This snapshot's been edited exremely to include various things. Marcia's "Bad radio" last night addressed two members of the Cult of St. Barack who each week offering "that's not true!" lies to defend their dream lover. We have worked in voices of truth (all more informed than the idiots on the podcast) throughout because it's clear that we need to combat the non-stop lying from the Cult of St. Barack. I'll have to work on that in future snapshots. But as the snapshot winds down, we'll note Senator Patty Murray's speech on the Senate floor today:
"Mr. President, tonight we are going to hear from President Obama about his plans for changes to troop levels in Afghanistan
"Last week, I joined with a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues on a letter to the
President urging him to begin a sizable and sustained reduction in troop levels -- and I hope he takes the opportunity to do that tonight.
"But Mr. President, with all of the talk about troop levels -- I want to make sure that we remember that this isn't just about numbers -- it's about real people, with real families.
"Men and women who are fighting to defend our country, and are depending on us to do the right thing for them now and when they come home.
"As Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, I have an inside look into something that too often doesn't make the front pages: the unseen costs of war
"The costs that come after our men and women take that uniform off.
"We all hear about how expensive war is while we are fighting it -- but for so many of our servicemembers, what happens on the battlefield is just the beginning.
"We are seeing suicide rates that are much higher among active duty servicemembers and veterans than among civilians.
"We are finding they are having trouble accessing the mental health care so many
of them desperately need.
"We are watching as these men and women are sent out on tour after tour.
"Too often, they are having a tough time finding jobs when they come home.
"And we owe it to them and their families to do everything we can to get them the support and services they need.
"Mr. President -- far too many of our servicemembers have sacrificed life and limb overseas -- and we must honor them and their sacrifices by making sure we take care of them and their caregivers not just today, and not just when they come home, but for a lifetime.
"That is going to be expensive -- I am going to fight to make sure it happens -- and I
think it ought to be considered as we think about the war in Afghanistan.
"Mr. President, the enemy we face is real.
"The Taliban and al Qaeda have demonstrated through their actions and their words that they mean us great harm.
"I was sitting in the Capitol on September 11th 2001 when I saw the smoke rising from the Pentagon.
"It's a moment and a day I will never forget.
"As Americans, we know what this enemy is capable of, and we need to do everything we can to make sure something like that never, ever, happens again.
"That's why I believe American forces need to be prepared to fight terror and terrorists
wherever they may be.
"After September 11th, Afghanistan was providing safe haven for them, and we were absolutely right to go in and take them out.
"But we know terrorism isn't a country -- it's a network and a threat that exists around the world.
"We've seen that our terrorist enemies are not tied to a specific location -- and they are not bound by lines on a map.
"They are in Afghanistan -- but they are also in Yemen, in Iraq, in Pakistan -- and beyond.
"In fact, our top target in the war against terrorism, Osama bin Laden, was just killed in a brave operation in a safe house in Pakistan.
"So Mr. President -- I think it is absolutely critical we have a military that is prepared to take on our threats wherever they may be.
"So as we consider the wars we are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, we need to make sure we aren't overextending the servicemembers we are counting on --
"That we continue to have the financial resources available to defend ourselves against the very real threat of terrorism that continues to exist --
"That the cost and resources of boots on the ground for years on end doesn't inhibit our ability to go after terrorists wherever they are --
"And that our military and intelligence operations are nimble and have the
resources they need to keep our nation safe from all threats.
"Mr. President, we have been fighting in Afghanistan for ten years. I voted for this war, and it was the right thing to do.
"Our brave men and women in uniform have done everything we've asked of them
-- including finding Osama Bin Laden.
"But we need to make sure our strategies are adapted to meet the threats of today.
"Leaving large levels of troops in Afghanistan is not the best use of our resources -- especially in tough economic times. It's time to redeploy, rebuild our military and focus on the broader war on terror.
"I am hopeful President Obama will make an announcement tonight that reflects our current realities.
"And I am going to keep working with his administration, the Pentagon, the Department of Veterans' Affairs, and others -- as we fight to keep America safe and take care of the servicemembers coming home.