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      What to Do, An Action Plan: Talking Points for Ending Two Quagmires by 2012

      It’s time to focus on ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We can and must keep criticizing the drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere, but right now there is a chance to make major progress towards withdrawing the 109,000 American troops in Afghanistan and the 50,000 in Iraq.

      For background, see my op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, "With Afghanistan, a moment of opportunity for Obama." Also, please see Larry Korb’s Boston Globe article on remembering to get out of Iraq, "Leave Iraq on time, with diginity."

      The most important tactics you can employ are:

      1. Send a letter to your Congressmember along with a copy to the District Office.
      2. Obtain endorsements of your position from local clergy, labor councils, rank-and-file Democratic clubs, women’s and environmental networks.
      3. Send copies of your letter to your local media outlets.
      4. Emphasize that your votes will be deeply influenced by whether the President makes a significant and substantial reduction starting no later than this July.

      In every message include the urgent need to leave Iraq on schedule by the end of this year.

      Turn back the hawks in both parties and the media who are lobbying relentlessly to keep tens of thousands of troops and bases in Afghanistan and Iraq. The initiative is ours. Seize the time!

      Here are some facts for your use:

      • Current number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan: 109,391. [1]
      • Current number of U.S. troops in Iraq: Approximately 47,000. [2]
      • Budget cost for Afghanistan: $10 billion per month; $118 billion in direct costs per year, at the current troop level. [3]
      • Budget cost for Iraq: $5 billion per month; $60 billion year to sustain, at the current troop level.
      • Total costs of Afghanistan since 2001: $401.1 billion; Under Obama since Jan. 2009: $271.9 billion. [4]
      • Total costs of Iraq since 2003: $788.3 billion; Under Obama since Jan. 2009: $216.1 billion.
      • These costs are “direct” only, excluding such costs as VA health care. The cumulative costs will more than triple, resulting in two multi-trillion dollar wars. [5]
      • American soldiers killed in Afghanistan: 1,560 total; per month 30-50; per year almost 500. [6]
      • Americans wounded in Afghanistan: 11,191 total; per month 300-500.

      Troop withdrawal proposals:

      Center for American Progress [CAP] [7]

      • Drawdown U.S. forces to 40,000 by the end of 2012, a reduction of 60,000 going through the coming election year.
      • Drawdown U.S. forces to 15,000 or less by 2014, the year of the next Afghanistan presidential election. 

      Afghanistan Study Group [ASG]

      • Remove 33,000 U.S. troops between July and October 2011, effectively ending the 2009 surge.
      • Reduce troop levels to 30,000 by July 2012, for a total of 70,000+ reductions.
      • Savings estimated at $60-80 billion per year.
      • A residual force of 30,000 troops would remain in Afghanistan through 2014.


      [1] Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). "Quareterly Report to the United States Congress." April 30, 2011. Page 67.

      Afghanistan Internationals Security Assistance Force. "Troop numbers and contributions." May 4, 2011.

      [2] Arango, Tim and Michael S. Schmidt, "Iraq Must Decide Witin Weeks if U.S. Troops Will Stay Past 2001, Top Official Says." New York Times, April 23, 2001. Page A4.

      [3] Belasco, Amy. “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11,” Congressional Research Service, March 29, 2011. Page 3.

      [4] The Cost of War. National Priorities Project. May 4, 2011.

      [5] Stiglitz, Joseph, and Linda Bilmes. “Human and Economic toll of Iraq War on 8th anniversary,” 19 Mar. 2011

      [6] Department of Defense Personnel & Procurement Statistics. “Global War on Terrorism: Casualties by Military Service Component” Statistical Information Analysis Division.  Defense Manpower Data Center: Data, Analysis, and Programs Division. May 4, 2011.

      [7] John Podesta’s group, which opposed the Iraq War, originally supported the Afghanistan-Pakistan War.

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      Reader Comments (1)

      Until we address the basic problem of production of weapons of war, we will simply move on from one war to the next. We must find ways to turn a war economy into a peace economy without throwing a million workers in the weapons industry to the mercy of the fast-food joints. Millions of jobs surrounding these production facilities depend on those weaponsmakers getting paychecks to spend in their communities. Why not make aircraft carriers outfitted for emergency response to natural disasters? These are intelligent, educated, hardworking people; but their talents are being wasted and need diversion away from weapons of war to tools of peace. Why not make submarines that can explore and mine the ocean depths? Why not make ICBMs aimed at the asteroid belt and unprogrammable for any spot on earth? Why not make robots that can go into an ongoing nuclear meltdown and perform the necessary tasks to prevent it? We need specific proposals for a changeover. Otherwise, it is the same old game: from Iraq to Afghanistan to Pakistan to Libya. We must attack the basic cause of these wars; it is not only oil; it is the production of weapons and the alliance between the military-industrial-congressional complex. War must be the most-profitable business in the world.

      May 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike Havenar
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