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Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I want to speak on the record in support of the Kerry-Lugar legislation that was passed by this body basically without objection--by voice vote. It went through so quickly, to me it demonstrates the power of the bill, and so I want to congratulate Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar for this piece of legislation.
To the public, what I am talking about is an aid package to Pakistan of I think it is over $1.5 billion a year for the next 5 years. I know we need money here at home. Trust me, in South Carolina we have the third highest unemployment in the Nation. Times are tough. But all I can tell the taxpayers and the American people is that what happens overseas does matter.
September 11 was planned in Afghanistan. It was an area of the world, quite frankly, that we ignored. Pakistan has been an ally in the war on terror generally. It is a regime with nuclear weapons. It is a country that has been hit incredibly hard by the downturn of the world economy. There are millions of people in Pakistan who are looking to find a better way. The government is fighting forces that are aligned with the al-Qaida movement--the type of people who would impose a period of darkness in the Middle East that would affect the quality of our lives. So $1.5 billion is a lot of money, but it will do a lot of good in Pakistan and it will help this government and the Pakistan military combat the growing threat of terrorism in Pakistan. The aid package is going to help the government provide a better quality of life for its people. Where the government fails to provide a decent quality of life in Afghanistan and Pakistan, you will have a vacuum that will be filled by the Taliban. The Taliban is not in favor with the Afghan people, but when the government of Afghanistan cannot deliver justice, provide the basic necessities of life, that allows the drug dealers and the Taliban to come along and fill in the vacuum.
Pakistan is a large country with nuclear weapons. It is in our national security interest to make sure that the government is stable, that the military will be supportive of civilian control of the government and will be able to defeat the forces of extremism we have seen. We know what they can do when left unchecked. So this bill is an aid package which focuses on civil capacity.
The bill also makes sure that we know where the money is going to go. It is not a $1.5 billion check to Pakistan that could be stolen through corruption. It is a very accountable system that follows the money. It makes an effort to upgrade the Pakistan military to deal with counterinsurgency, because they do not have the capacity now that they need. Again, it provides assistance to the Pakistani people and the government to improve the quality of their lives.
I think we are getting something for our money. I think we are going to get a good return if we can stabilize Pakistan. It helps us in Afghanistan, where we have thousands of American troops stationed and fighting as I speak.
So to Senators Kerry and Lugar, congratulations on being able to get this bill through the Senate so swiftly. To Senators McConnell and Reid, I applaud them both, the minority and majority leaders, for working for the common good here. The administration has also been very supportive. I have had my differences with this administration, and I will continue to have them, but I want to acknowledge that Ambassador Holbrooke, who is now in charge of monitoring Pakistan and Afghanistan as a unit, has done a good job of focusing on what we need to do in both countries, because one does affect the other.
The Kerry-Lugar bill, according to the Ambassador and General Petraeus, would be the most important thing the Congress could do to aid the Pakistan Government and the Pakistan military at this crucial time. So I am glad to see that in a bipartisan fashion we responded to that call from our general and from our Ambassador, and hopefully this will become law soon.
To the American taxpayer, I know times are tough. I know money is in short supply. But quite frankly, this is an investment we have to make. We have soldiers serving in Afghanistan. If we can make Pakistan more secure and less of a safe haven for terrorists who are attacking our troops, that makes their lives better. If we can stabilize Pakistan and put it in the column of moderation and not extremism, not only will our Nation prosper now, but future generations will be able to prosper.
It is impossible for us as a nation to have a strong, vibrant economy and to enjoy the freedom we enjoy today and pass it on to our kids and grandkids without confronting these problems head on. Anytime you ignore problems such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, they always come back to bite you.
This is a wise investment at a time that it matters. The tide is turning in Pakistan, it is turning our way, and I hope this aid package will allow it to accelerate and get a result in Pakistan that helps us in Afghanistan.
Every American should be proud of the history and tradition of our country. We have been blessed in many ways. The challenges we face are enormous, but we have to remember we are the most blessed nation on Earth and this is a chance for us not only to help ourselves but help the world at large.
I am proud of the Senate. I look forward to working in the future with Ambassador Holbrooke and the administration on Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, to find ways to make sure we are successful. This is not a Republican or Democratic problem, this is a problem for anyone who loves freedom. This is a problem that needs to be addressed and the Kerry-Lugar bill does address the problem of Pakistan in a reasoned way.
With that, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
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