Congresswoman Speier believes we went to war in Iraq under false pretenses, but our troops did what we sent them to do. After the failed policies of the Bush Administration, she is glad to see that President Obama is implementing policies to remove all U.S. combat troops out of Iraq, including a definitive timetable to withdraw all remaining U.S. forces by the end of 2011. Our country made great sacrifices in this war. Over 4,400 brave American soldiers lost their lives and we spent more than $750 billion in taxpayer money fighting this conflict alone. Speier believes now is the time for our troops to leave and for the Iraqis to bring peace to their own country.
The Afghanistan war is now the longest running war in United States history. It is also an unwinnable war that is costing more than $100 billion dollars per year at a time when we are borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend. In the wake of the September 11th attacks, the United States went into Afghanistan to eliminate a glaring threat to our national security: the safe haven and protection provided for Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda by the ruling Taliban. Intelligence officials now estimate that there are fewer than 100 al Qaeda members left in Afghanistan. Speier believes the killing of Bin Laden in Pakistan by our talented and brave Navy SEAL troops was a moment of great success for our military and for the country.
However, our military, perhaps now more than ever, still lacks a clear mission in Afghanistan. Speier believes that now is the time to bring our troops home and focus on more targeted, strategic operations to root out enemies who threaten to carry out terrorist attacks. To that end, she is a co-sponsor of H.R. 651, which would prohibit the permanent basing or military presence of U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan and provide for complete redeployment of U.S. Armed Forces, civilian employees and contractors from Afghanistan. She has co-sponsored H.R. 780, which would limit further funding only to the efforts necessary to bring our troops safely home. She has also cosponsored H.R. 1735, which would require the President to submit a plan to Congress for the safe, orderly, and expeditious redeployment of United States Armed Forces from Afghanistan. Finally, Congresswoman Speier has consistently voted in favor of amendments on the House floor that would require President Obama to submit a plan to Congress outlining the timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. These amendments would have required the President to begin the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by July of 2011, as the President had originally proposed.
Speier strongly believes that the current regime in Iran is a profound threat to U.S. national security interests; not only because of its nuclear ambitions, but because of the military assistance Iran provides to armed groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Hamas and Hezbollah. Iran continues to ignore the international community on the issue of nuclear proliferation and has pledged to build new nuclear facilities. Iran is also led by a brutally repressive regime that engages in attacks on its own citizens attempting to exercise their democratic rights.
In an effort to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions and regional destabilization efforts, Speier has supported international sanctions against the Iranian government. Most recently, she cosponsored and voted in favor of H.R. 2194, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, and cosponsored H.R. 1905, the Iran Threat Reduction Act, which would strengthen the underlying Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) and Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act by imposing an array of new penalties aimed at persuading Iran to change its conduct. Targets of the Act range from human rights abusers in Iran to business entities involved in energy transactions with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. It would place the most restrictive sanctions on Iran to date.
For years, Department of Defense spending has skyrocketed at a breakneck pace. Currently, Department of Defense spending accounts for more than 60 percent of discretionary spending in the United States budget. Speier voted against the $680 billion 2012 Defense Authorization bill because the Defense Department is the only part of our budget that Republicans are unwilling to subject to cuts. In fact, this represents an increase in spending. Much of this growth is due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but exorbitant spending on programs of questionable value has further bloated military spending. One example is the V-22 Osprey, an aircraft no closer to being battle-ready after nearly three decades of development, despite the fact that it has cost more than $20 billion and has taken the lives of 30 crewmembers. Missile defense is another money pit that has yielded little benefit and has angered numerous foreign governments. In addition, Defense authorization bills have contained additional unreasonable hurdles for the ending of the military’s destructive Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, failed to include a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces in Afghanistan, and included an expansion of the existing 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, allowing the President to take military action against an undefined enemy in any country at any time, giving unchecked authority to current and future Administrations to wage war without Congressional approval. With a mounting fiscal crisis, we need to rein in defense spending and vastly expand diplomatic efforts to repair our badly damaged image abroad.
The United States is continuing to restore its image after years of bad decisions that have damaged our standing throughout the world and placed our national and economic security at grave risk. Speier believes the need to modernize our foreign assistance programs to better address the global challenges of the 21st century, including terrorism, poverty, pandemic disease, climate change, energy security, failing states, food insecurity, slowed economic growth, and population and migration issues, has never been clearer than now. Foreign aid makes up less than 1% of our budget, but is one of our most effective policy tools.