One of my most important priorities as a member of Congress will be to end the war in Afghanistan as safely and quickly as possible. No one questions the bravery and the sacrifice of the countless men and women who have fought for us in Afghanistan. I have met personally with troops in Afghanistan, and regardless of whether they are separated from family and friends for the first time or the fifth, there is a deep sense of patriotism, loyalty, duty and honor. I am proud of their service.
But America cannot afford to spend over $100 billion a year on a war that has now lasted nearly a decade. We need that money here at home to create jobs, to improve education, to invest in the R&D that will again bring us prosperity in the future, and to support other crucial priorities. We need to get our national debt under control, and I believe that the war in Afghanistan is the obvious place to cut military spending while still maintaining a strong defense.
And then there are the human costs of this war.
For many years now, my husband and I have watched MacNeil/Lehrer and now The Lehrer Report together in the evening whenever our busy lives allow. The end of the show features, in silence, the name, age , hometown and a photograph of those who have lost their lives in Afghanistan or Iraq. Mark and I always stop whatever we were doing (usually cooking) and pay complete attention to those lost lives. They come from all over the country. They are white, black, brown, male, female, some only 18, some still serving although they are past retirement age. Many called California home.
From my trip to Afghanistan, I know that the multiple deployments take another kind of toll. It's incredibly hard on families. And the deployment of National Guard troops also hurts the businesses they leave while deployed.
I've seen only fragments of the stories of troops injured in the line of duty -- but I know that both physical injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder can be devastating.
Now is the time to honor those who have sacrificed in this war. We must bring our troops home quickly and safely. We have paid enough for a war we will never "win," and meanwhile, our domestic needs are unattended and our national debt has mushroomed.
We must have a strong national defense, but our engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq are not contributing to our homeland security. I will work with the Obama Administration as the Department of Defense re-evaluates America's deployment and homeland security policies. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is continuing to develop strategies to restructure the military. I support most of what he proposed in his "Statement on Department Budget and Efficiencies" as necessary steps, and will study his recommendations to the U.S. Army on restructuring.