Monday, May 10, 2010

Democracy at work:
Wars are costing us too much at home



This video [8:43] records an extraordinarily dignified and thoughtful conversation among citizens and council members of Portland, Maine, about a resolution asking their federal representatives to move funding from faraway wars to our needs at home.

"Washington seems to be blind to what we sacrifice in health care, education, environmental protection, and public transportation -- in order to mistakenly bomb innocent families at weddings and at funerals, and war on everyone in Afghanistan in pursuit of several dozen terrorists hiding in Pakistan.

"If my Portland friends are an index -- and I think they are -- the citizens of Portland see the connection between the lack of critical government services and this needless war with no end in sight or identified. It's time to bring the tax $$ home."

Ursula Slavick, Portland citizen

"We need to supply to the current administration a clear message that there is strong constituency support for getting out of these wars. I don't want them to be down there engaged in the big issues and lose track of the urgency of moving forward with a policy of disengaging in Iraq and Afghanistan. In my family we have been blessed to have my nephew return from the Iraq conflict, and I know there are other families in my sister's neighborhood whose sons did not return."

Jill Duson, City Councilor

According to Reuters Alertnet, Congress has approved $345 billion for the war in Afghanistan, plus an additional $22 billion for activities related to Afghanistan carried on in other countries. Since these figures are from the Congressional Budget Office, they presumably do not include the CIA's drone war in Pakistan, most likely hidden in some "off the books" budget hideaway. The Central Asian nation is a very expensive place to try to subdue.

Estimates of the cost per troop per year in Afghanistan vary from $500,000 to $1 million depending on whether expenditures on troop housing and equipment are included along with pay, food and fuel. Medical costs for the injured and veterans' compensation balloon as time goes on.

... But future expenses in this area are also a question mark that is expected to linger after the military one. "As President Obama made clear, our civilian engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan will endure long after our combat troops come home," the State Department said in its justification for its supplemental budget request this year.

As Portland's civic authorities so clearly pointed out, there's plenty of need right here in the United States for that money.

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