The deficit hawks roaming the halls of Congress seem to have no problem reaching into our pockets to fund a war that is now the longest in U.S. history and shows no prospect of success. Oregonians have sent more than $2.8 billion of their tax dollars to fund the war in Afghanistan, and like most states they are struggling to keep up basic services and meet the needs of their most vulnerable citizens. A group of more than 25 state and local elected officials is marking the 9th anniversary of the war with a letter to the Oregon congressional delegation urging them to take advantage of every available opportunity to bring this misguided war to an end:
After nearly nine years of war in Afghanistan, we have not seen evidence that the war is making Americans or Afghans safer. While the main objective of the war is stated as “disrupting, dismantling and defeating Al Qaeda,” the Obama administration acknowledges that there are between 50 and 100 Al Qaeda fighters currently in Afghanistan. It is a waste of precious lives and resources to send 100,000 U.S. soldiers to defeat a small number of stateless fighters. The U.S. can use civilian policing and intelligence to address threats to the United States at far less cost and risk to the American people.
The costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have now passed $1 trillion, are felt deeply by those we represent in Oregon. Oregon schools have already shortened the school year, and may have to lay off teachers and staff. Programs for the elderly, disabled and poor families could be cut by as much as $158 million, raising health care costs and eliminating much‐needed in‐home care. More than 400 state workers are facing layoffs. Congress has struggled just to pass funding for programs like unemployment benefits that help our most vulnerable citizens, while easily passing billions of dollars to fund a misguided war. The Oregonians we represent need a congressional delegation fighting for policies like health care, education and jobs that will bring them real security and improve their lives.
While it is unusual for mayors, state legislators, county commissioners and city councilors to speak out publicly on a foreign policy issue, these elected officials were compelled to raise their voices after seeing the impacts of the war at home in their districts and abroad.
“Oregon is laying off teachers, shortening the school year and cutting programs for the elderly,” said signer State Senator Bill Morrisette (D-6). “Congress has struggled to offer any help, but they’ve seen fit to spend billions and billions on a failing war. The future of Oregon depends on our representatives going to DC to stop wasting billions on war, and instead use those resources to rebuild at home.”
Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson added, “Lane County taxpayers have paid out $231.9 million for the Afghanistan war. In these tough economic times, we could have put the money to better use creating jobs in our own community, supporting public safety and providing food and medicine for Lane County citizens.”
Most of the House delegation and both senators voted in favor of requiring a timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2010, and several members of the Oregon delegation have opposed funding for the war in recent months. This letter, in showing support for strong action from key leaders in the state, should encourage those who are doing the right thing to be even more proactive in speaking out for a new approach, and push the stragglers to get on board with a smarter and more cost effective strategy in Afghanistan.