BBC reported yesterday that roughly 600 people were killed in Darfur in May--a new high since peacekeepers were deployed in 2008. Additional thousands have fled their homes.
Today, the war in Afghanistan becomes America's longest war. Longer than the war in Vietnam. Longer than the Korean War.
That June 7, 2010, marks the 104th month of US military engagement in Afghanistan and, consequently, America's longest war in history (Vietnam lasted 103 months), would be less significant if we were not fumbling on all fronts in Afghanistan, from security to development to governance. The disconcerting indication of this mile-marker is not simply that Afghanistan trumps Vietnam as "longest war in history," but that there is no guarantee that by the 116th month, in July 2011, the bulk of US presence will leave as promised.
One year ago in Cairo, President Obama promised America and the world's Muslims a new beginning "based on mutual interest and mutual respect." Translating this message into better relationships will take action from all of us.
In the coming weeks, I will introduce a bill in Congress to create a new professional exchange program between the United States and Muslim-majority countries. This pilot program would allow young American professionals to spend six months overseas experiencing a new culture in Muslim countries while gaining new work experiences. And it would allow citizens of those countries to spend six months in the United States, where they will gain valuable work skills and see what life in America is all about. In a small but significant way, both journeys will help to lay the groundwork for improved relations going forward.
The following letter is being circulated to Members of Congress for additional signatures:
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
Dear Mr. President,
Israeli commandos, acting at the direction of the State of Israel, attacked and seized a Turkish ship in international waters, in the Mediterranean Sea.
I am alarmed that our long-standing solidarity with Israel has been thrown into doubt by a White House that seems to be playing a proverbial game of jump ball, whereby the world wonders on which side America will stand. Of course, we should stand with Israel. Doing otherwise sends a dangerously emboldening signal to Israel’s enemies.
We should be very clear about who is responsible for the unfortunate loss of life in the attempt to break the blockade in Gaza. Hamas and its allies are the responsible parties for the recent violence and the continued difficulties for the people of Gaza. Israel exercised her legitimate right of self defense.
"I join President Obama in expressing my deep sorrow at the loss of life aboard the Marmara, and hope for a speedy recovery for the wounded flotilla members and Israeli soldiers. However, until the facts of this complex and tragic episode are fully investigated and understood, it is premature to assess blame or call anyone a murderer. The focus now must be on preventing events from escalating and leading to more violence, or scuttling the peace process."