February 17, 2011, 09:02 pm
By Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.)
When President Obama announced his troop escalation in Afghanistan one year ago, I wasn't shy about saying the new strategy would make the insurgency worse. I believed the economic and human costs would be far too high, crippling our ability to recover from a deep recession.
Unfortunately, since the escalated campaign began in Marjah last February, those beliefs have been validated. This past year was the most deadly - both for our troops and for civilians - and the most financially costly of the war so far. It's clear that the military escalation in Afghanistan has failed to live up to the promises of its supporters, and it's time to bring our troops home.
Afghanistan was a much more violent place in 2010 compared to 2009, averaging 33 insurgent-initiated attacks every single day. That meant a record 499 U.S. deaths in a single year. More Afghans were killed in 2010 than 2009 as well. Despite the presence of 30,000 additional troops, military reports show that in 2010 the insurgency had a broader presence and could mount more sophisticated attacks.
It’s budget season, and America is tightening its belt. Congress is doing its part by preparing to cut the international affairs budget by close to 20 percent, a move that could undermine national security, defy military leaders’ advice and endanger U.S. interests and core values.
Worst of all, these cuts would be disastrous for women and children—the majority of the world’s poor.
International assistance is less than one percent of the total U.S. budget, something most Americans don’t know. When polled, we say it ought to be slashed, because assistance programs are highly visible and an easy target in times of recession. But in reality, slashing international assistance does nothing to fix our huge national budget deficit and will only create more instability in fragile countries.
February 17, 2011, 08:41 pm
By Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and General James E. Cartwright
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. General Cartwright and I and Under Secretary Burns have just come out of a bipartisan classified briefing with senators, where we talked about recent events in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East. General Cartwright, Under Secretary Burns, and I wanted to come up to Capitol Hill to let our Congressional colleagues know what we’re doing to support Egypt as it works toward an open, accountable, representative government.
It’s very clear that there is a great deal of work ahead to ensure an orderly democratic transition. It’s also clear that Egypt will be grappling with immediate and long-term economic challenges. The United States stands ready to provide assistance to Egypt to advance its efforts. I’m pleased to announce today we will be reprogramming $150 million for Egypt to put ourselves in a position to support the transition there and assist with their economic recovery.
February 17, 2011, 06:47 pm
By Rt. Hon. Baroness Betty Boothroyd
For many years the Iranian regime has been the world's most infamous abuser of human rights. Already we have heard in the early part of this year more than 90 people have been executed. The lives of innocent people are being put at risk, and human life is being ruthlessly violated.
When we analyze the individuals who are targeted, we find them to be those of the Iranian opposition and relatives of Iranian dissidents based at Camp Ashraf, Iraq. In the eyes of the regime, the crime of those executed and attacked is their determination to seek the basic freedoms and democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of association. They are the simple demands of the Iranian people who in the last 18 months have protested in Iranian towns, and these are the values that Camp Ashraf residents were paying and stand with them in their demands.
February 17, 2011, 04:43 pm
By Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.)
This past Sunday, February 13, marked one year since the escalation of the military campaign in Afghanistan. Starting with the assault on Marjah in Helmand Province, the strategy enabled by President Obama's troop increases has continually failed to live up to the promises of its backers.
With human and economic costs rising and without reasonable hope of a military victory, it's no wonder Americans want Congress to act decisively this year to bring our troops home.
When President Obama announced the troop increase, he assured the American people that the new forces would let commanders "target the insurgency and secure key population centers."
February 16, 2011, 03:46 pm
By Bridget Moix, Mary Stata and Alexandra Stark
This month marks an historic anniversary for human rights and the U.S. Congress. 25 years ago, on February 19, 1986, after a nearly 40 year struggle and remarkable Senate leadership, the United States Senate finally ratified the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The Convention defined the crime of “genocide” for the first time under international law and committed states parties to both prevent and punish such acts.
Unfortunately, two and a half decades later, the U.S. and international community still lack the ability to effectively fulfill the promise of “never again” embodied in the Convention.
February 16, 2011, 03:22 pm
By Steven Heydemann and Ellen Laipson
After weeks of excitement and surprise, it is time to try to make meaning out of the momentous events in Tunisia and Egypt.
Are we on the brink of a democratic tsunami across the region? Or will we discover that Tunisia and Egypt were special cases, and street violence in Yemen, Jordan, Iran and elsewhere will not lead to similar outcomes? What is the right balance between seeing each country's unique history and characteristics, while identifying structural similarities and ways in which would-be democrats and dissidents in one place are inspired by other cases?
Let's acknowledge that there are multiple factors driving events in the region. Bumper sticker interpretations - it's all angry young men in search of jobs and dignity, or it's a grand opportunity for non-democratic Islamist forces to exploit, or the military and vested interests will still prevail over the protesters - are to be avoided. Even if they contain a germ of truth, the complicated political, economic and cultural factors at play in the region defy simple slogans. To understand what these two cases might tell us about future trends in the region, we'll be better served by examining relevant lessons from the past and assessing the conditions that drove political change in Egypt and Tunisia.
It would be easier to forgive the Obama administration's lackluster handling of the political crisis in Egypt over the last couple of weeks if things were going our way elsewhere in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, they're not.
Start with Iran. Despite two years of engagement, Tehran is still developing nuclear weapons -- significantly shaking stability in the Middle East as they do.
After so many days of waiting, Egyptians finally have something to celebrate. President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule is over. Egypt's generals, who have taken charge, dissolved parliament, suspended the constitution, and pledged to hold elections and relinquish power, moves that many of the protesters who helped topple President Hosni Mubarak said were necessary to excise a rotten form of government.
In another promising signal, the military chiefs have swiftly moved to overhaul Egypt's constitution, which was designed to stifle political opposition to Mubarak, and appointed Tareq al-Bishry, a retired judge, to head a committee set up to suggest constitutional changes. Al-Bishry was a strong supporter of an independent judiciary during Mubarak's rule and is respected in legal circles for his independent views.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made these remarks today after meeting with House Speake John Boehner on the budget.
Well, first let me say that I just came out of a very productive meeting and lunch with the Speaker. I greatly appreciated his gracious hospitality and the opportunity we had to cover so many issues on the minds of members of Congress, the Administration, the American public, and indeed the world.
As we discussed, this has been an historic several days. All of us have been inspired to see the Egyptian people lay claim to their own future. It’s also clear that Egyptians have a great deal of work to do in order to get the full promise and potential of their efforts realized as they look toward a future that will give each Egyptian the right to fulfill his or her God-given potential. And we look forward to working with the Congress in the coming days to ensure that we have the funding and the authorities necessary to support the Egyptian people.
Events in Egypt show how important it is that we have a global diplomatic presence, a presence that will be ready to handle crises, prevent conflicts, protect American citizens overseas, and protect American economic and strategic interests.