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End the War in Afghanistan Now

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, on Saturday The New York Times reported that our Ambassador in Afghanistan, Ryan C. Crocker, told a group of journalists that U.S. troops could stay in Afghanistan long past the President's 2014 deadline if the Afghan Government asked us to stay.

The very next day, The New York Times reported Afghan President Hamid Karzai blaming foreigners, including the United States, for the corruption that is so rampant in his government. He had the audacity to say this at an event marking International Anti-Corruption Day.

Afghanistan is one of the most corrupt countries on the face of the earth. Transparency International ranks Afghanistan as the second most corrupt government, right behind Somalia and North Korea, which tied for first place.

So I ask my colleagues, why should we shed a single drop more of blood, sacrifice the lives of our service men and women, for a corrupt government that doesn't even have the decency to take responsibility for its own failures.

Enough is enough. We have spent over $440 billion on military operations alone in Afghanistan since 9/11. In 2012 we aim to spend another $113 billion. By this time next year, our total spending on the war in Afghanistan, just the military operations, will be around $557 billion. That's over half a trillion dollars.

And when I say ``spend,'' I really mean borrow, because from day one of the Afghanistan war--and the Iraq war, for that matter--we have not paid for the military operations in these wars. We have borrowed nearly every single penny of that money, put it on the national credit card, let it rack up over a quarter of our cumulative deficit, and help explode our debt year after year for a decade.

Sadly, when it comes to paying for this war, too many in Washington are silent.

Mr. Speaker, over 1,800 service men and women have died in Afghanistan, 42 of them from Massachusetts. Over 14,000 wounded. Husbands, fathers, wives, and mothers. Sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. Holes created in families and communities that can never be filled, losses that will be felt for a generation or more.

Each month the tally of dead and wounded gets higher. 2010 was the deadliest year for American troops in the history of the Afghanistan war. And 2011, a close second.

We have become numb to the numbers. We don't even hear them any more. But these losses resonate around family kitchen tables in the homes of the deployed every day and night of the year.

We all know that the human cost of the war is found not only on the battlefields of Afghanistan. It's also found in veterans hospitals and counseling clinics around the country. We continue to struggle with soaring rates of traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress and suicides among our soldiers and our veterans. So many leave the service or try and carry on military careers wounded in both body and soul.

Even if we were to leave Afghanistan tomorrow--and I'm so very glad to see that our troops are coming home from Iraq--our war debt will continue for decades. And for what? For 10 years of support for a corrupt government in Afghanistan? Ten years of sacrificing our brave uniformed men and women? Ten years of borrowing money we never had? This war is no longer about going after al Qaeda--which I voted to do. Osama bin Laden is dead. Instead, we're now bogged down in a seemingly endless occupation in support of an incompetent and corrupt Karzai government. This is not what I voted for.

So yes, I'm really worried when I pick up the newspaper and read Ambassador Crocker saying we may be in Afghanistan for years beyond 2014. The American people are way ahead of the Congress and the White House on this issue. They want this war ended now. But it seems that Washington just doesn't get it. But when all is said and done, the responsibility for continuing or ending the war is right here in this Chamber. We approved this war, we must now take the responsibility to end it.

This is why, Mr. Speaker, I will vote against the conference report on the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization bill. The defense bill includes many good and important provisions, but it does nothing, absolutely nothing to wind down the war in Afghanistan.

It's way past time to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. I can't authorize any more funding that doesn't explicitly call on the President to plan and carry out the accelerated removal of our troops.

Bring them home, Mr. President. Bring them all home now.


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