Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, was the only Bay Area House member to vote in favor of the $33 billion Afghanistan and Iraq war supplemental spending bill yesterday. The bill passed on a 308-114 vote.
I asked McNerney’s office why he voted as he did, and how he felt about this week’s release of classified military documents on the WikiLeaks website.
“The leaking of classified information is a very serious matter, especially if it has the potential to put American troops at risk. I have been following these developments carefully,” he replied in an e-mail this afternoon. “I voted in favor of the supplemental because I believe we must continue to develop an effective strategy to stop terrorists who are attempting to use Afghanistan as a safe haven from which to attack our country.
“Late last year, I traveled to Afghanistan as part of a bipartisan fact-finding trip to see for myself the situation on ground,” he continued. “I spent time with our troops and met with U.S. military and Afghan government officials. I’m impressed by the efforts of our men and women in uniform and grateful for their sacrifice, and I believe our military commanders and our troops in the field should have the resources to defend themselves and execute the mission they have been given.”
Politically, it seemed like a no-brainer. Regardless of how McNerney personally feels about the wars, a “no” vote would’ve been risky for the only truly embattled House incumbent serving the most moderate district in the Bay Area, and it’s not as if he’d have put the Democratic doves’ votes over the top.
Read other Bay Area members’ comments, after the jump…
From Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove:
“Today the House of Representatives voted to lead our great nation down the wrong path in Afghanistan and Iraq. For at least another year, we will continue to spill brave American blood and spend tens of billions of dollars in the longest war in American history. I do not think a large scale military presence in Afghanistan or Iraq is in the best interests of our economy or national security. I want our troops home.
“I recognize that the threat from Al Qaeda is very real. With our allies, we must focus like a laser on eradicating Al Qaeda’s presence wherever it may be. I think a speedy withdrawal of most soldiers from Afghanistan furthers this goal.
“$32 billion is a lot of money. It’s enough to pay for the health care of 12 million children for a year. It’s enough to keep 500,000 police officers patrolling our streets for a year. It’s enough to employ 500,000 teachers for a year. It’s enough to provide 20 million households with renewable energy for a year.
“I am deeply disappointed by the deficit hawks who say that we can’t afford jobless benefits, we can’t afford to keep teachers in our classrooms, we can’t afford the infrastructure investments needed to continue our climb out of a recession, yet we can afford more war.
“We’ve been in Afghanistan for nine years, and it’s come at a tremendous cost. We’ve tragically lost more than 1,100 American lives and spent close to $300 billion. We’ve also been in Iraq for seven years, where we’ve lost more than 4,400 American lives and spent more than $700 billion. I do not want to see one more American lose their life in an internal Afghani civil war.
“I’m a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, and I know that a foreign policy built in mutual respect and assistance can transform hearts and minds. I believe disengagement from war really means a return to the policies that put America’s best face forward in the international community. Diplomacy and development should be our goal in the Middle East, not the continued dragging out of wars without an exit plan.
“Regardless of where we may stand on war policy, we must always honor the troops. Our brave men and women in uniform and their families must always be honored, respected, and treated as heroes. It is an honor and privilege to serve Travis Air Force Base and the thousands of military personnel, veterans, and their families that call California’s 10th Congressional District their home. They deserve everything we can provide to make sure that they can thrive in uniform and in civilian life.”
[Garamendi sent a separate response to our WikiLeaks query.]
“The leaking of classified information is always reason for concern, but most of the revelations in the WikiLeaks documents have been well known for years. The war in Afghanistan is not going well. It’s time to bring our troops home while making sure our brave men and women in uniform have all they require to stay safe during the transition. We must have a laser like focus on Al Qaeda wherever they may be, and I do not think a large scale military presence in Afghanistan furthers this goal.”
From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:
“Less than a month ago, Congress finally began the debate on the war in Afghanistan that should have been held nine years ago. While evidence continues to mount that our military engagement in Afghanistan has become a quagmire of corruption and ill defined objectives, this supplemental appropriations package will provide another $33 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have already cost this nation more than $1 trillion.
“Congress cannot continue to write a blank check for the war in Afghanistan that has made our country less safe. Our brave men and women in uniform have been put in an impossible situation in Afghanistan where there is no military solution.
“It is time to provide funding for only the safe and orderly withdrawal. No more funding for combat operations.
“We cannot spend another dollar to escalate America’s longest war. The costs of these wars are too enormous in blood and treasure.
“We must stand in opposition to a policy of war without end and begin to reexamine our priorities.”
[And, regarding WikiLeaks…]
“The contents of the military documents from Wikileaks validate the growing anxiety of the American people with the direction of the war in Afghanistan. Regardless of how this information was released, I do believe that the documents reinforce the need to end the war in Afghanistan.
“The American people are war weary, and these documents serve as additional evidence that our military engagement in Afghanistan has become a quagmire of corruption and ill defined objectives.
“It is past time that we end what has become the longest war in America’s history.”
From Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont:
“The right way to foster democracy and opportunity in the region is to invest in infrastructure like schools and roads. The book ‘Stones into Schools’ details how building schools in remote regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan opened up opportunities for young men and women, and helped promote peace. This is the type of aid we should be giving – not tanks and missiles.
“H.Con.Res. 301 would take a step in the right direction. With drone attacks killing civilians in Pakistan, a Gallup poll from August 2009 shows that 59 percent of Pakistanis see the United States as their biggest threat. The recent documents posted on WikiLeaks shows that Pakistan Intelligence has been working with the Taliban against U.S. troops. We need to stop aggressive military actions in Pakistan before the conflict escalates.
“The supplemental spending bill is the wrong approach. It would add $37 billion to the deficit to finance an additional 30,000 troops in Afghanistan. After nine years at war, we have little to show for our efforts despite $232 billion spent, over a thousand American lives lost, and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians dead.
“I urge my colleagues to stand for peace, vote for H.Con.Res. 301 to withdraw U.S. troops from Pakistan, and vote against the supplemental spending bill.”
From Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ Afghanistan Taskforce:
“This (WikiLeaks) report is just the latest indication that we are fumbling on all fronts in Afghanistan, from security to development to governance, and reaffirms my call for effective and independent monitoring and evaluation of US presence in Afghanistan. Given my concerns with, and votes against, the supplemental war funding – which puts America further into debt, expands the deficit, increase wasteful government spending, undermines our budgetary process, risks Social Security and solidifies debt that military leaders call our number one national security threat – this report must give Washington pause about how we proceed.”
From Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:
“I have grave concerns about the legislation before the House to provide $37.1 billion for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our total war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan including the funding provided by this bill will exceed $1 trillion. Yet this spending comes without a viable exit strategy for the conflict in Afghanistan which is the longest war in our nation’s history.
“The recent publication of tens of thousands of leaked field reports on Afghanistan confirm what we already know: Our continued troop presence is alienating the local population, corruption is rampant in the Afghan government, the Taliban population is stronger than ever, and our Pakistani partners are unreliable at best.
“Afghanistan is known as the graveyard of empires for a reason. No one since Ghengis Khan — not Alexander the Great, not the Persians, not the Ottomans, not the British, nor the Soviets — has been able to succeed in this troubled country. Some have said the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result. We should learn from those who came before us.
“Without an exit strategy, approving billions more of hard-earned taxpayer dollars for the war in Afghanistan is difficult enough to justify. But this cost pales in comparison to the loss of American lives. June was the deadliest month in the war thus far, when 102 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice.
“It is also hard to justify supporting this legislation with billions more for war when the Senate stripped out $10 billion for an Education Jobs fund that the House provided to help our school districts retain and develop their teaching workforce. I cannot cast a vote for war funding when we can’t find the resources to invest in our schools and students.
“Most importantly, the President said our mission in Afghanistan must be definable and winnable. I believe it is neither, and I will vote against funding for it.”