June 23, 2018
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How to reduce the deficit

By Pam and Phil Person, Special to the BDN

Within the past two months, local people, with the help of social media such as Facebook, Twitter  YouTube and international television channels, have defeated multi-decade-old tyrants in Egypt and Tunisia. Despite setbacks, others are trying to succeed in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain. How much has this cost the United States — nothing. How many U.S. troops have been killed or injured during these uprisings — none. Our leaders have sent messages of support to the protesters, and our technologies have enabled the public to succeed.

On Feb. 25, Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke to cadets at West Point. The most relevant quote from that speech is: “In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.“

This year, the budget for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is approximately $185 billion at the same time Republican leaders urge action on our “fiscal crisis,” yet fail to even speak about the costs  for these wars.

As we enter into year 10 in Afghanistan:

  1. 1,500 U.S. soldiers have been killed and more NATO and civilians are being killed daily (www.icasualties.org).
  2. War and aid costs are $120 billion a year — more than $455 billion since the war began.
  3. More than 98,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan now.
  4. There is no plan to exit, according to Gen. David Petreaus, until at least 2014.
  5. The United Nations reports that, despite the surge, there are few secure (from Taliban) areas of Afghanistan.
  6. We have not found Osama bin Laden.
  7. Al-Qaida is no longer believed to be active in Afghanistan.
  8. The Taliban leaders did not attack us in 2001.
  9. Afghanistan has been able to defeat all foreign invaders for centuries.
  10. What is our purpose in being there in February 2011?

As we approach the eighth anniversary of our attack on Iraq here is what we know:

  1. 4,439 U.S. soldiers have been killed and more than 30,000 wounded in Iraq (www.icasulaties.org).
  2. Iraq did not attack us on September 11, 2001.
  3. Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction in 2003.
  4. Our combat soldiers have left, but we have more than 50,000 troops in Iraq and are still spending about $65 billion this year in Iraq.
  5. A Chinese company got the first Iraqi oil contracts.
  6. Iraqi civilian deaths are over 100,000; 4.6 million Iraqis have been internally displaced or become refugees in neighboring countries.
  7. We have spent well over $802 billion in direct costs plus tens of billions in “additional security” funding.

It will probably cost U.S. taxpayers another $1 trillion when the continued care of all physically and mentally wounded veterans from both wars is counted, not to mention the countless personal tragedies.

Where have we been more successful? In 2011 with our statements supporting democracy in Northern Africa, or in our two wars that have bled our nation dry — physically, financially and

in terms of international support?

As Congress makes budget decisions, we hope they will consider the six months of this fiscal year’s cost of $92.5 billion for Afghanistan and Iraq. Please, Maine congressional delegation, vote to reduce funding and to bring our troops home now.

Pam and Phil Person retired to Maine after public- and private-sector careers in statistics in the Washington, D.C., area. They led the Coalition for Sensible Energy and live in Orland.

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