It’s Time To End The Conflict In Afghanistan

Nine years ago, we were told we had to go to Afghanistan to capture Osama bin Laden and destroy al Qaeda. There was virtually no discussion of what the potential consequences of invading Afghanistan would be, but following the attacks of 9/11 most Americans favored the move.

Few of us imagined that a decade later we would have nearly 100,000 troops remaining in Afghanistan, especially when the CIA now estimates there might be less than a hundred al Qaeda in that country.

Soon the war in Afghanistan will enter its 10th year. It is already the longest war in our nation’s history, longer than Vietnam. Longer than World War I and World War II combined. One thing remains clear — there is no end in sight.

The Afghan government is plagued by incompetence and corruption. President Hamid Karzai has been erratic and has reportedly been in secret negotiations with the Taliban and Pakistan to broker a deal for security without the input of the United States. He recently ordered that all private security contractors must leave the country by the end of the year which will likely slow many foreign projects and potentially delay some day-to-day military activities. Yet, the Afghan security force is in shambles with high rates of attrition and defection.

Our men and women in uniform have performed with incredible courage and commitment and have this nation’s gratitude — but they have been put in an impossible situation. I believe, as most people do, that our military can do everything we want them to do … But we’re asking them to fight a war that is not very well-defined and we are asking them to do it with one arm tied behind their back.

I wish I could believe that, if we stay in Afghanistan, a year or even five years from now, the country will have a stable, functioning government. But I see no evidence this will be the case. It is likely the generals will come back next year and ask for more time and more troops — regardless of whether the situation is getting better or worse.

Reality is grim and often painful. If it is allowed, the conflict in Afghanistan will be an endless war in the name of the war on terrorism. Afghanistan is a mess because our leaders have lost sight of the original mission that was described and approved by Congress – to seek out those who attacked us on 9/11. Instead, they have become sidetracked with such nebulous tasks such as promoting democracy and nation building. The Soviets bankrupted themselves fighting in the mountains and caves of Afghanistan and we’re about to do the same. There is nothing left for our military to win in Afghanistan, and everything to lose. Most of all, we need to come to the realization that we don’t understand Afghan culture and politics, and for that reason alone, intervening in their affairs is unlikely to produce positive results.

It is time to bring our military men and women home.

I do not want — as I believe most Americans do not want — to sell out American interests, to simply withdraw, to raise the white flag of surrender. That would be unacceptable to us as a country and as a people. But I am concerned that our present course will not bring victory. Nor will it bring peace or advance the interests of the United States. Indeed, I quite frankly do not see or understand what victory in Afghanistan looks like and I do not see how a continued presence in Afghanistan or Iraq serves to advance the interests of the United States. While we have not found Osama bin Laden or his body, we have succeeded at the rest of the original mission and then some.

Let us have no misunderstanding. Terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda are brutal enemies indeed. Time and time again, they have shown a willingness to sacrifice innocent civilians, to engage in torture and murder and all means of despicable terror to achieve their goals. There can be no easy moral answer to the war on terror, but al Qaeda and the Taliban who supports them are not in Afghanistan any longer. In that, our military has been successful.

By ending our involvement, first in Iraq and then Afghanistan, it will permit us to concentrate on mending badly damaged relationships around the world and give the proper attention and the moral energy to begin dealing effectively with the pressing domestic problems of the United States here at home.

Federal Government’s Land Grab

On April 16th, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum launching his “21st century strategy for America’s great outdoors.” It was addressed to the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and the chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality.

The memorandum calls on the officials to conduct “listening and learning sessions” with the public to “identify the places that mean the most to Americans, and leverage the support of the Federal Government” to “protect” outdoor spaces. Eighteen of 25 planned sessions have already been held. But there’s much more to the agenda than simply “reconnecting Americans to nature.”

The President said that the initiative is not a “big federal agenda being driven out of Washington,” but an effort to collect the best ideas on conservation that local communities support and reconnect Americans to the outdoors. He explained that the initiative will build on successful conservation efforts being lead by local and state governments, tribes, and private groups, while helping farmers, ranchers, and property owners to protect their lands.

Is that so? Hmmm…

The federal government, as the memorandum states, is the nation’s “largest land manager.” The government currently owns 650 million acres, or 29 percent of the nation’s total land.

This is apparently not enough for them.

This power grab, masquerading as a feel-good, all-American recreation program, comes on top of a separate, property-stealing plan exposed by Rep. Robert Bishop (R-UT) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) earlier this spring.

According to an internal, 21-page Obama administration memo marked “Internal Draft-NOT FOR RELEASE,” has surfaced revealing plans for the federal government to seize more than 10 million acres from Montana to New Mexico as potential federal “monuments,” halting job-creating activities like ranching, forestry, mining and energy development. Worse, this land grab would dry up tax revenue that’s essential for funding schools, firehouses and community centers. The lives of coyotes, deer and prairie dogs would be elevated above states’ needs to generate jobs, tourism business and energy solutions.

Congressman Bishop, made the memo public because he didn’t want another unilateral land grab by the White House, like what happened under former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Using the Antiquities Act, President Carter locked up more land than any other president had before him, taking more than 50 million acres in Alaska despite strong opposition from the state.

President Clinton used the authority 22 times to prohibit hunting, recreational vehicles, mining, forestry and even grazing in 5.9 million acres scattered around the country. The law allowed him to single-handedly create 19 new national monuments and expand three others without consulting anyone.

One of the monuments President Clinton created was the Grande Staircase-Escalante in Utah, where 135,000 acres of land were leased for oil and gas and about 65,000 barrels of oil were produced each year from five active wells. But, President Clinton put an end to developing those resources.

You’d think the Obama administration is busy enough controlling the banks, insurance companies and automakers, but thanks to whistleblowers at the Department of the Interior, we’ve learned they’re planning to increase their control over energy-rich land in the Western United States.

Indeed, the federal government already has enough trouble managing the vast amount of land they already control. As the Washington D.C.-based Americans for Limited Government group, which defends private property rights, points out:

“The [National Park Service] claims it would need about $9.5 billion just to clear its backlog of the necessary improvements and repairs. At a time when our existing national parks are suffering, it doesn’t make sense for the federal government to grab new lands.”

The bureaucrats behind President Obama’s “Great Outdoors Initiative” plan on wrapping up their “listening tour” by Nov. 15. The initiative’s taxpayer-funded web site has been dominated by left-wing environmental activists proposing human population reduction, private property confiscation, and gun bans, hunting bans and vehicle bans in national parks.

President Obama could enact the plans in this memo with just the stroke of a pen, without any input from the communities affected by it.
Americans should be wary of any plans a president – any president – has to seize land from the states without their consent. Any new plans to take away states’ freedom to use land as they see fit must be stopped.

The Constitution provides for the federal government to exercise authority over ten square miles in Washington, D.C. and places for needful buildings like forts, arsenals and dock yards. Nowhere does the Constitution give the federal government authority to regulate conservationism, forestry and wildlife.

It’s time for private property owners to send their own loud, clear message to the land-hungry feds: Take our hands off our land.

America At A Financial Crossroads

I am very troubled by a government that continues spending money it doesn’t have. The total federal debt next year is expected to be more than $14 trillion. That is about $47,000 for every resident of the United States including your children and grandchildren.

In spite of what the administration and the leaders in congress have been preaching that they’ve “pulled us from the brink” and our economy is gaining strength. The mainstream media eagerly sings the chorus that the recovery is under way. It is not. The economic growth that we’ve seen this year is phony.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been rising, but not because the economy is getting stronger. The only reason the GDP is rising is because we are going deeper in debt to spend money. What is happening is that our nation’s debt is growing much faster than our GDP. Money being borrowed from foreign sources is being spent on more government and more consumption. By following the path we are on is sowing the seeds of our own economic destruction.

It appears that every day we are hearing that the political establishment has passed new laws that increase the scope of government and add to an already massive national debt. The government simply cannot continue to grow in size when we are spending close to $4 trillion a year to run it. It is unsustainable and if we, as a nation, do not act soon to change the spending culture in Washington, we will be inviting an economic collapse far more spectacular than what we’ve already seen. To continue down this road of spending money that we don’t have will surely bring disaster. The bond market will collapse. The value of the dollar will plunge. Interest rates will rise. There will be runaway inflation and even higher unemployment.

What is the leadership in Washington doing to solve this economic crisis? Absolutely nothing! When American families find themselves in hard times, they have to make adjustments in how they spend what they have—Congress should be expected to do at least as much. The progressive majority in Congress has had years to address this impending economic disaster but have refused to act. In June, the House leadership announced that for the first time in the history of the budgeting process, they would not set a budget this year.

Not only are they refusing to set any limits on their own spending, but now they are even talking about putting off the issue of the Bush tax cuts into December so that they can raise our taxes without having to answer to the American voter. In January, if you earn income, your taxes are about to go up. If Congress does not act to preserve current law, even the lowest 10 percent bracket will rise to 15 percent.

The progressive majority in Congress is refusing to extend current law because they believe that these tax cuts are the cause of our trillion dollar deficits. They are wrong. The real cause of our nation’s debt problem is spending and it’s been done by both Democrats and Republicans.

Simply bringing real federal spending back to the inflation adjusted $21,000 per household average that prevailed in the 1980s and 1990s would balance the budget by 2012 without raising a single tax on anyone. Even returning spending to the pre-recession level of 20 percent of GDP would eliminate two-thirds of the projected 2019 budget deficit without raising taxes.

Let there be no doubt. America is at a crossroads and the choices we make at this point in time will determine what kind of country we want to be.

Last Combat Brigade Has Left Iraq!

Seven years and five months after the U.S.-led invasion, the last American combat brigade has departed Iraq on Thursday, ahead of President Barack Obama’s Aug. 31 deadline for ending U.S. combat operations there.

The American presence in Iraq is far from over. There are still another 6000 troops which will be leaving by the end of August. Only a transitional force of 50,000 U.S. troops is scheduled to remain. According to the White House, this force will not be involved in active combat but will “train and advise Iraqi Security Forces; conduct partnered and targeted counter-terrorism operations (if requested); and protect ongoing U.S. civilian and military efforts.” Per an agreement with the Iraqi government, Obama announced that the U.S. is to maintain this force until a planned complete withdrawal of forces from the country by the end of 2011.

So the U.S. death toll – at least 4,415 by Pentagon count as of Wednesday – may not yet be final. The cost in American dollars to support the 50,000 troops remaining in Iraq will most definitely continue.

Why is it necessary to keep such a large contingent of “advisors and trainers” in Iraq. There are only 28,500 American troops currently stationed in South Korea. To leave our military personnel to serve as targets of opportunity for insurgents and terrorists is a mistake. It puts the military in the same basic position as Vietnam in 1965 after President Lyndon Johnson sent Marines to protect the American “advisors and trainers” along with the support personnel in that country.

The White House continues to assure us that the remainder of American forces should be withdrawn by the end of next year. I suspect there could be an unsaid “unless…” at the end of that statement. These men and women have already done the job our nation asked them to do. Then they did more.

It is time to bring the troops home and let Iraqi problems be handled by Iraqis.

Charlie Rangel’s Bill Could Be Used to Staff Barack Obama’s Civilian Security Force

In July of 2008 we heard then candidate Barack Obama calling for a Civilian Security Force to supplement the military. Senator Obama said, “We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.”

The administration’s National Security Strategy, which was released at the end of May, says “Our diplomatic personnel and missions must be expanded at home and abroad to support the increasingly transnational nature of 21st century security challenges,” the National Security Strategy states, “and we must provide the appropriate authorities and mechanisms to implement and coordinate assistance programs and grow the civilian expeditionary capacity required to assist governments on a diverse array of issues.”

During his recent town hall meeting in Racine, Wisconsin, President Obama spoke about the civilian expeditionary force within his National Security Strategy.
“We just got to be smart about using all the elements of American power, not just one element of American power,” he said. “The problem is — is that we don’t have a civilian effort that has always matched up to the military effort. So the military goes in there, they clear out everything, they’re — they’re making everything secure, and now the question is, all right, can we get the civilians to come in to work with the local governments to improve the situation? And a lot of times that civilian side of it has been under-resourced.”

On July 15, Rep Charlie Rangel introduced H.R. 5741, the Universal National Service Act stating on the floor of the House of Representatives, “I have introduced legislation to reinstate the draft and to make it permanent during time of war. It is H.R. 5741, and what this does is to make everyone between the ages of 18 and 42 – whether they’re men or women, whether they’re straight or gay – to have the opportunity to defend this great country whenever the president truly believes that our national security is threatened.”

Congressman Rangel has introduced similar bills in 2003, 2006 and 2007, but with the current administration calling for a Civilian Security Force in addition to the military, this bill could very well be one that passes during the lame duck session.

As Rangel stated, this bill will change the current federal laws for registration with Selective Service to include everyone between ages 18-42 whether they are men or women. Keeping in mind that you can only get financing for college through the U.S. government now and that you are required by law to be registered with the Selective Service bureau to be eligible for student loans, this law has an even broader effect.