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Post office to be named for soldier slain in Iraq

A Mountain View post office will be named Saturday in honor of a local soldier who was killed in Iraq.

Kenneth BallardRep. Anna Eshoo, who authored the bill to dedicate the post office in honor of U.S. Army Lt. Kenneth Ballard, will attend the 1 p.m. ceremony at which a memorial plaque will be unveiled at the post office at 211 Hope St. Ballard’s mother also will attend.

Ballard, 26, died in Najaf, Iraq on May 30, 2004 when a M-240 machine gun mounted on his vehicle accidentally fired. The Army initially had reported Ballard was killed by small arms fire during a battle with insurgents, and didn’t inform his family of the truth until more than a year later.

Ballard had served in the Army for almost nine years, and was awarded the Purple Heart and three Bronze Stars, two with Valor Device. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Lieutenant Ballard demonstrated great courage and heroism throughout his military career,” Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said in a news release announcing her bill last year. “He made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and he should be remembered and honored by our community.”

Born in Rome, N.Y., Ballard and his family moved to Mountain View in 1981. After graduating from Mountain View High School in 1995, he enlisted in the Army and attended basic training at Fort Knox, Ky. He went on to serve in Germany, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Iraq. He won a “Gold to Green” Army ROTC Scholarship and attended Middle Tennessee State University, but after graduation returned to Germany and was then deployed to Iraq.

Posted on Friday, April 12th, 2013
Under: Anna Eshoo, Iraq, Iraq War, U.S. House, veterans | No Comments »

Thoughts on the Iraq War’s 10th anniversary

These two statements cover some of the same points, but seem so very different in tone.

From President Barack Obama:

“As we mark the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war, Michelle and I join our fellow Americans in paying tribute to all who served and sacrificed in one of our nation’s longest wars. We salute the courage and resolve of more than 1.5 million service members and civilians who during multiple tours wrote one of the most extraordinary chapters in military service. We honor the memory of the nearly 4,500 Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice to give the Iraqi people an opportunity to forge their own future after many years of hardship. And we express our gratitude to our extraordinary military families who sacrificed on the home front, especially our Gold Star families who remain in our prayers.

“The last of our troops left Iraq with their heads held high in 2011, and the United States continues to work with our Iraqi partners to advance our shared interest in security and peace. Here at home, our obligations to those who served endure. We must ensure that the more than 30,000 Americans wounded in Iraq receive the care and benefits they deserve and that we continue to improve treatment for traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. With a strong Post 9/11 GI Bill, we must help our newest veterans pursue their education and find jobs worthy of their incredible talents. And all Americans can continue to support and honor our military families who are pillars of so many of our communities. On this solemn anniversary, we draw strength and inspiration from these American patriots who exemplify the values of courage, selflessness and teamwork that define our Armed Forces and keep our nation great.

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, (in remarks delivered on the House floor):

“Today is a solemn anniversary: a tragedy that began ten years ago today when President George W. Bush launched a war of choice in Iraq, dragging our country into a costly, bitter conflict based on falsehoods and hyperbole. It took President Obama fulfilling his campaign promise to end the Iraq war, and we are grateful that he brought the war to an end.

“But we must not forget how we got into the war in the first place.

“We were told we would find weapons of mass destruction. We were warned about mushroom clouds. I offered an amendment at the time that would have taken us down a different path. It would have required the U.S. to work through the United Nations, using inspectors and maximizing diplomacy and mediation to ensure that Iraq was not developing weapons of mass destruction.

“Unfortunately the amendment failed, by a vote 72 – 355.

“What happened from there? We all know the tragic consequences: President Bush dragged the country into an unnecessary war; no weapons of mass destruction were ever found; the costs of the Iraq war soared far beyond what was projected; and we lost 4,486 American troops in Iraq, and over 32,000 were wounded.

“Ten years later, the full consequences and costs of the Iraq war remain to be seen. According to a new study by the Watson Institute at Brown University, the war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion, with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to our war veterans. And the long term costs including caring for our veterans, which we must do, could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades.

“Most importantly, we’ve paid for this war most tragically in loss of life and injury. Fighting the war in Iraq has also undercut nation building here at home. Investments we should have been making in job creation, educating our kids, putting cops on the street, and rebuilding our aging infrastructure. Instead of nation building at home, we poured billions of dollars into nation building in Iraq with little oversight or accountability.

“The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction issued its final report to Congress last month detailing billions of dollars lost to waste, fraud, and abuse. Speaking with an Iraqi official, Special Inspector Stuart Bowen was told, ‘You can fly in a helicopter around Baghdad, but you cannot point a finger to a single project that was built and completed by the United States.’

“Unfortunately, these lost opportunities and tragic mistakes are not behind us.

“As the daughter of a 25-year veteran of the armed forces, I am incredibly thankful for the sacrifices our women and men have made in Iraq, and continue to make in Afghanistan. I am also deeply concerned with the widespread, often undiagnosed, incidents of PTSD and the alarming suicide rates amongst our returning soldiers.

“We need to honor our troops who served and show our support by giving our men and women who served the best health care, the best educational opportunities, and the best job training available. They deserve nothing less.

“It is my hope that this reckless and short-sighted decision will mark a turning point in American history, and that we will never again wage an unnecessary war. We must use all the tools of American power in resolving disputes, including diplomacy. And we must have sufficient congressional debate and oversight before ever putting another U.S. solider in harm’s way.

“Finally, just like in Iraq, there is no military solution in Afghanistan. We need to bring the war in Afghanistan to an accelerated end, and bring our troops home now.

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in expressing this sentiment during a different war said, ‘The bombs in Vietnam explode at home; they destroy the hopes and possibilities of a decent America.’

“Let us put this decade of perpetual warfare behind us, invest in our veterans, our children, and get about the business of nation building here at home.”

There’s more, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, Iraq, Obama presidency, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Woolsey gives her 444th, final antiwar speech

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, who is retiring from Congress in a few weeks, this morning delivered her 444th and final special order speech expressing her opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and her support for a “smart” approach to national security:

http://youtu.be/ztGa932tnwc

Woolsey, D-San Rafael, will be succeeded in the next Congress by Rep.-elect Jared Huffman, a fellow Democrat; the newly drawn 2nd Congressional District stretches from the Golden Gate Bridge’s north end to the Oregon border.

Read the text of Woolsey’s speech as prepared, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Under: Afghanistan, Iraq, Iraq War, Lynn Woolsey, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

What they’re saying about the Iraq withdrawal

President Obama has announced that all U.S. troops except about 150 will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year; the few remaining troops will protect the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and serve as trainers.

From Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

“President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“I applaud President Obama for a promise kept. Today is a day to honor our troops and our military families who have sacrificed so much over the last nine years to give the Iraqi people a chance at a better future. It is now up to the Iraqis to secure their country and provide opportunity for all their people.”

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“The continued drawdown of American troops that began under the previous administration wouldn’t be possible if not for the hard work and sacrifice of our service members, diplomats and their families. While on a congressional visit to Iraq this year, several lawmakers and I saw firsthand the progress our men and women in uniform had made. American forces not only freed Iraq from a vicious tyrant, but – under the strategy developed and implemented by our generals, and the leadership of both President Bush and President Obama – ended a violent terrorist insurgency that threatened the Iraqi people, and provided an opportunity for the Iraqi government to build the capacity needed to effectively meet the needs of the country.

“We must never forget the sacrifice of those who’ve served and all who will soon be making the journey home. And we owe it to them to continue engaging with the Iraqi government in a way that ensures our hard-fought gains translate into long-term success. While I’m concerned that a full withdrawal could jeopardize those gains, I’m hopeful that both countries will work together to guarantee that a free and democratic Iraq remains a strong and stable partner for the United States in the Middle East.

“We must also keep working to ensure our veterans have our full support as they return home to a tough economy. That’s why the House recently passed a bipartisan veterans hiring bill that provides training and assistance to unemployed veterans, and breaks down barriers preventing them from finding work.”

From Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont:

“I am happy to hear President Obama’s announcement that our troops will be completely withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year. This is significant progress in the right direction. However, I am still concerned about the thousands of contractors who will continue to work in Iraq, and whether their continued presence constitutes a real withdrawal from the nation. While I hope the transition to a self-governing Iraq is a smooth one, I also hope for a true withdrawal of U.S. involvement.”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Friday, October 21st, 2011
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Iraq, Jackie Speier, John Boehner, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, Mitt Romney, Obama presidency, Pete Stark, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »

House passes Eshoo’s bill on religious minorities

The House today overwhelmingly approved a bill by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, to create a special State Department envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia.

The bill, HR 440, was introduced in January in the wake of increasing violence, targeted attacks and heightened discrimination against Christians in Iraq and Egypt, and persistent concerns in Afghanistan and Pakistan, among other nations. The House voted 402-20 today to approve it and send it on to the Senate.

Wolf co-chairs Congress’ bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, named for the late congressman from San Mateo. Threats against religious minorities have been increasing in recent months, he said, and the United States has an obligation to speak out for the voiceless, to develop policies to protect and preserve these communities, and to prioritize these issues in broader U.S. foreign policy.

“The U.S. government needs an individual who can respond and focus on the critical situation of religious minorities in these countries whose basic human rights are increasingly under assault,” Wolf said in today’s news release. “If the international community fails to speak out, the prospects for religious pluralism and tolerance in the region are bleak.”

Eshoo, who co-founded and co-chairs the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus with Wolf, has long pressed the State Department to develop a comprehensive policy to address the unique needs of small, indigenous faith communities in Iraq that are being targeted for violence.

“In a time of partisanship and polarization, it’s gratifying when members from both parties can come together to address the humanitarian crisis that’s been unfolding in the Middle East, and has not been given the attention it deserves,” she said. “As the daughter of Assyrian and Armenian immigrants who fled the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East, it’s terrifying to see history repeating itself in today’s Iraq. I’m hopeful that the special envoy created by this legislation will elevate the crisis of the Middle East’s religious minorities, giving them the diplomatic attention they so badly need and deserve.”

Reps. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough – Lantos’ successor – are among the bill’s co-sponsors.

Posted on Friday, July 29th, 2011
Under: Afghanistan, Anna Eshoo, International politics, Iraq, Jackie Speier, Mike Honda, Tom Lantos, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

Boxer: Airlines must set military baggage policy

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who co-chairs the Senate Military Family Caucus, wrote today to the Air Transport Association of America asking for the airline industry group to help establish and communicate a clear and consistent checked baggage policy across all airlines for active duty military personnel.

Boxer’s letter was prompted by the recent disclosure that Delta Air Lines charged a group of active duty military personnel a total of $2,800 in baggage charges as they flew home from serving in Afghanistan. Delta already has amended its policies, but Boxer wants the entire industry on the same page.

“I urge you to work with the airlines to communicate a clear, consistent approach to both active duty military and airline personnel, which will help our service members get the treatment they deserve,” the senator wrote.

Read the full text of the letter, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, June 9th, 2011
Under: Afghanistan, Barbara Boxer, Iraq, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

Marin post office renamed for soldier killed in Iraq

Jake VellozaPresident Barack Obama today signed into law a bill renaming the post office in Marin County’s Inverness in memory of U.S. Army Spc. Jake Robert Velloza, who was killed in May 2009 near Mosul, Iraq.

“I am so pleased that the President has chosen to honor the memory of one of the North Bay’s finest by signing my legislation,” Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, said in a news release. “Jake Velloza, like so many brave men and women before him, signed up for some of the most difficult and dangerous work imaginable. He loved his country enough to give his life for it, and his community and the entire nation are grateful. America is strong and great because of selfless patriots like him.

“With his signature today, the President has ensured that Jake Velloza’s name, and a reminder of his service, will be permanently displayed in his hometown. Future generations will now know how Jake Velloza sacrificed for them.”

Velloza grew up in Inverness and attended Tomales High School before joining the Army in 2006; he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. He’s buried at Olema Cemetery.

Woolsey’s H.R. 793, introduced in February, is the first post office naming bill to pass Congress and be signed by the President this year. Information on a public ceremony at the post office will be released soon; in the meantime, Velloza’s parents, Bob and Susan Velloza, and fiancé, Danielle Erwin, are declining to be interviewed.

Posted on Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
Under: Iraq, Lynn Woolsey, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Miller, Pelosi, Eshoo just back from Middle East

Three Bay Area House members have just returned from a four-day, bi-partisan Congressional delegation trip to Iraq, Qatar and Israel, where they met with U.S. troops from the Bay Area as well as with military commanders and foreign leaders.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, issued a statement today saying he gained valuable insights on the region.

“I get a lot of good information in Washington, but when it comes to making tough decisions about our troops and our nation’s security it is also essential to get a first-hand view in critical parts of the world like Iraq and the Middle East,” he said. “The opportunity to meet face-to-face with U.S. military commanders and American troops on the ground to better understand the conditions there is invaluable.

“The troops we met with expressed a huge sense of pride over the daring mission that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden,” Miller continued. “Clearly, even the troops that were not directly involved in the raid were proud to be members of the military forces that accomplished it. And they have every right to feel that way. The mission was a huge victory for our country’s security efforts and for President Obama, U.S. military forces and the American intelligence community. And hopefully the death of bin Laden will hasten the return of American troops from the war in Afghanistan.

“Regardless of one’s position on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the men and women who serve this country day in and day out are to be commended. Their sacrifice and the sacrifices made by their families and friends is something that we must always keep in mind.”

Also among the delegation’s members were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md.; Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.; Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.; Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.; Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y.; and Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La.

Read Miller’s travelogue, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, May 11th, 2011
Under: Anna Eshoo, George Miller, Iraq, Israel, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 9 Comments »

McNerney voted for the war supplemental

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.

Jerry McNerney “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…
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Posted on Wednesday, July 28th, 2010
Under: Afghanistan, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Iraq, Iraq War, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Mike Honda, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Brown-bagging for peace

Progressive Democrats of America is planning another round of brown-bag lunch vigils at House members’ district offices – including four in Northern California – next Wednesday, Feb. 17 to demand commitments to vote against more money for war.

brown-bag lunch The first round, on Jan. 20, targeted 22 House members; this round already has 37 events scheduled. And this time, PDA will be joined by CODEPINK, AfterDowningStreet, Democrats.com, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, and United for Peace and Justice. Poster slogans include “Healthcare not Warfare,” “Corporations out of Politics,” “Bailout Main Street not Wall Street,” and “Brownbaggers not Teabaggers.”

In Northern California, the vigils are scheduled for 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Rep. Dennis Cardoza’s office, 1010 10th St. in Modesto; noon to 1 at Rep. Lynn Woolsey’s office, 1101 College Ave. in Santa Rosa; and noon to 2 p.m. at Rep. Barbara Lee’s office, 1301 Clay St., Suite 1000-N in Oakland, and at Rep. John Garamendi’s office, 1981 N. Broadway, Suite 220 in Walnut Creek.

Can you guess which of these is least likely to invite the brown-baggers in? I knew you could.

The activists want House members to vow to oppose any bills that fund wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen, and to publicly urge their colleagues and the House leadership to do the same. They also want members to cosponsor antiwar legislation including Lee’s HR 3699, which would prohibit any increase in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. That bill’s 28 cosponsors already include Woolsey as well as Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, and Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

“We have to choose between jobs and wars,” PDA national director Tim Carpenter said in a news release. “The American people are on one side, but our so-called representatives in Congress are on the other. The Supreme Court is busy increasing corporate control of our elected officials. We need to be busy enforcing the people’s control before it is too late.”

Posted on Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
Under: Afghanistan, Barbara Lee, Dennis Cardoza, Iraq, John Garamendi, Lynn Woolsey, U.S. House | 1 Comment »