Image by Jay Inslee via FlickrRep. Inslee represents my district. It would be hard to find a congressperson who is fighting harder to end our senseless occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan I'm concerned that the defense department is pressuring our politicians to extend our stay in Iraq. Fortunately, so far the Iraqis refuse to agree. Please write your congress person encouraging them to remove all US soldiers and contractors from Afghanistan and Iraq. As you can see from the vote counts in his letter Rep. Inslee could use some help bringing our men and women home. We need to build at home not halfway across the world.
Thank you for contacting me regarding reducing the U.S. involvement in Iraq. I appreciate hearing from you.
As you may know, I voted against the authorization to invade Iraq and I organized opposition in Congress to fight that resolution. I am pleased that the Defense Department is on track to fulfill President Obama's promise to draw down the remaining 46,000 troops from Iraq by the end of this year, from the 142,000 American troops that were deployed there when he took office.
You may also be interested to know that as an opponent of the President's costly and dangerous Afghanistan surge strategy, I have voted against war funding and voted for requiring an exit strategy. Most recently, I voted for the Garamendi Amendment (H.AMDT.526) to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for 2012 (H.R. 2219) to reduce U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan to 25,000 by the end of 2012, and cutting $20 billion in war spending. This amendment was not approved, failing by a vote of 133-295.
On March 17th of this year, I voted for H.Con.Res. 28, offered by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, which would direct President Obama to withdraw all U.S. military personnel from Afghanistan. This bill requires an immediate pullout, but stipulates that withdrawal can be delayed until December 31, 2011, if an immediate drawdown negatively impacts the safety of our troops. This bill unfortunately failed by a vote of 93-321.
In February, I joined with 98 of my colleagues in voting for an amendment to the Continuing Resolution for 2011 that would have limited funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to no more than $10 billion from the requested amount of $157.8 billion over the next six months. Furthermore, I voted with 76 of my colleagues to support an amendment to the Continuing Resolution for 2011 that would immediately cut all military spending except troop pay and health care to 2008 levels.
Last Fall, I joined with several of my colleagues in sending a letter to the president opposing a proposed delay in the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan to the year 2014. Our letter called on the president to reaffirm the Administration's stated policy of beginning to redeploy troops and draw down forces beginning this Summer. My colleagues and I sent this letter to oppose extending our military presence because we believe there is no military solution to the situation in Afghanistan.
I have serious concerns about the economic implications of borrowing the roughly $30 billion that the current"surge" is adding to our national debt, to be repaid by future generations of Americans, especially with continuing reports that our security and aid efforts continue to be riddled with corruption and ineffective spending. The Obama Administration was handed a worsening situation in Afghanistan due to years of neglect by the previous Administration, but I believe there were better options than the one the President has taken.
With the death of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, it is more clear than ever that the threat of Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists is not based in any one country or even under a central command structure. Intelligence officials report that there are at most 400 such operatives left in Afghanistan and Pakistan combined. I believe we can prevent future terrorist attacks with the focused methods that we use to locate and eliminate the threat of Bin Laden, without the need for massive deployments of combat troops that only serve to inflame anti-American sentiment. By setting a soft target date to begin withdrawing troops this July, the Administration has acknowledged that our nation's commitment to Afghanistan cannot be open-ended. The sooner we begin to pull out, the sooner we will be putting pressure on the Afghan government to reduce corruption and make the difficult decisions necessary to winning back the favor of the country's citizens.
Instead of extending our involvement in Afghanistan, we must learn from the long history of military struggle in Afghanistan, and not only appreciate tactical lessons from past conflicts, but the basic strategic truths of our risk and reward and the dire human cost of fighting there. I believe the current surge of troops is unsustainable, but I am also pleased that the President has fulfilled his promise to provide increased diplomatic efforts and humanitarian assistance as key tools for peace. As I continue to hold the Administration to account for the costs of the war and the legitimacy of the Afghan government, I will keep your thoughts in mind.
I have taken my votes on authorization of military action very seriously. However, it doesn't stand in the same league with the courage of the men and women who are risking their lives serving in Iraq. That is why I have voted several times to grant our returning veterans greater access to higher education and health care and I previously voted to ensure that only the troops that meet the Pentagon's definition of "combat ready" can be deployed to Iraq and for no longer than recommended under Pentagon guidelines. I will keep your thoughts in mind as I continue to support reductions in our war spending that ensure the well-being of our troops and bring them home responsibly.
Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me about such an important issue. For news on current federal legislative issues, please visit my website at www.house.gov/inslee, where you can also sign up to receive my e-newsletter. My office is here to serve you, so please feel free to contact us in Shoreline at 206-361-0233 or in Washington, D.C. at 202-225-6311 for assistance.
Very truly yours,
Member of Congress