Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says he has “serious qualms” about President Obama’s latest war plans for Afghanistan. In a Tuesday night address, the president outlined how he’s ordering a new surge of 30,000 soldiers into Afghanistan, while setting a troop withdrawal date of mid-2011. Harkin, a Democrat, says he has “severe reservations” about our current military strategy and how it’s putting the nation’s finances into a tailspin.
“I’m just not totally convinced that the process we’re on right now is going to accomplish a great deal,” Harkin says. “I mean, I’m going to continue to have reservations about this. I still think it’s gotta’ be paid for. That was one thing that was left unsaid the other day.”
Harkin says he’s troubled by what he characterizes as “mixed signals” the Obama administration is sending on the war. Just this morning, Harkin says he was watching a televised interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she discussed the date the president proposes U.S. troops pull out of Afghanistan.
“I got the clear impression that the July 2011 date is just sort of a ‘maybe’ kind of thing, we’ll reassess it as we go along,” Harkin says. “This could be an open-ended thing. I mean, how many years are we going to spend in Afghanistan?” Harkin served as a Navy jet pilot during the Vietnam era of the mid-1960s and says he’s concerned America’s current path is far too familiar.
“This has eerie echoes of things I’ve heard in the past,” Harkin says. “We just never came to grips with the facts of Vietnam and I don’t know if we’ve come to grips with the facts of Afghanistan either. I think we’re ignoring a lot of history.” Harkin says the president is also trying to ignore the tremendous costs of the conflicts.
“These wars are going to have to be paid for,” Harkin says. “We’re approaching almost a trillion dollars now in the cost of both the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, one trillion dollars, all basically paid or most of it paid for by deficits.” He says that’s “irresponsible” to continue piling billions of dollars in debt onto the backs of future generations.
Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson is proposing the selling of war bonds, harkening back to the World War Two era, while Wisconsin Representative David Obey has introduced a bill to create a “war surtax” on anyone earning at least $30,000 a year. Harkin says if our country is going to commit itself to the wars, it must also commit to a way to pay for them.