In September I spent two days with 150 American veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars. Experiencing their comradeship and commitment to their fellow brothers and sisters in arms was a humbling experience. These men and women have suffered firsthand from terrorist attacks, ambushes and the all-too-deadly roadside bombs. They have lost comrades and put their own lives on the line to stand on America’s front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But this gathering was not designed as a simple forum for veterans to come together and get to know each other. Nor was it intended to bolster support for more familiar veterans’ causes, such as access to proper health care or education. This group of veterans descended on Washington to plead with the U.S. government to end America’s slavish dependence on fossil fuels, which puts money in the hands of regimes that wish us ill and terrorists who wish us dead.
Our energy dollars are funding both sides of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it’s those same dollars that support the terrorists who are murdering our young American troops in those conflicts.
It’s no wonder, then, that veterans of these recent wars wish to see an America that is more energy-independent. When we signed up to join the U.S. military, we agreed to put our lives on the line for America — and we’d all do it again. But when the money America is spending on oil is the same money that’s funding the Tali-ban and al-Qaida, there’s something wrong. And we aim to fix it.
Energy independence — that is, reliance on renewable energy produced here in America — has always seemed like a home-grown, environmental issue to me. Listening to these veterans was a revelation, and it made me think twice.
Sixty percent of our oil comes from Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other gulf states. It is no surprise that 15 of the Sept. 11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia — Saudi oil money has been funding terrorists for years. What’s new is that oil money is now funding the Taliban in Afghanistan, and that Shia militias in Iraq — which have claimed the lives of many American troops — are largely funded by Iran, a major oil producer.
How can we Americans continue to allow our energy dependence to supply the bullets and the bombs that our enemies are using against us? It’s time to commit to ending our deadly dependence on Middle East oil. A federal bill that reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions, reduces our dependence on foreign oil and invests in clean energy is a first step in that direction. As the Senate begins its own debate on a clean energy bill, I urge all Americans to show their support for our men and women in uniform and call their senators to demand energy legislation this year.
The quest for greater energy independence will be a generational effort that brings together government and business, as well as public and private actors of all stripes. Freeing ourselves from overdependence on a single energy source won’t take place overnight. But it won’t take place at all if we don’t begin to act now. The 150 veterans I met in Washington last month are a testament to everything that’s great about America. Let’s return the favor of their service by putting ourselves on a path that leads to clean energy produced in America, and never again send another oil dollar to the terrorists who are killing our sons and daughters.
Maj. Gen. Donald Edwards, retired, of South Bristol, is a Vietnam veteran.