The Holidays are a time for fellowship and coming home. It's a time where families join together and are reminded of what they have. But for many of the families of our brave men and women, it's a difficult and poignant reminder that they're spending one more holiday away from loved ones.
I am grateful and humbled by the heroism of our military and their families who have sacrificed for our freedom and democracy. Freedom isn't free and there are times when we must use our military in support of American ideals. However, this is no longer one of them. It's time for America to bring our troops and money home. This should be the last holiday season our troops are separated from their families.
The Bush Administration misled the country into a six-year war in Iraq with questionable intelligence, insufficient resources and no strategy to win or for exit. This cost our country more than 4,000 American lives and more than $935 billion for both wars. We have started to move out of Iraq and we should start to move out of Afghanistan -- now.
Soon, President Obama will decide whether to send additional troops to Afghanistan or begin to bring our brave men and women home. So far, Afghanistan has cost over 800 lives and $228 billion. Even the smallest increased deployment being considered would cost another $20 billion. If 40,000 additional troops are placed at risk, the price could double to $40 billion. This is not an easy decision, but choices about war never are.
Here, history can serve as a guide. In the 1960s, America had Vietnam; a guerrilla war, a world away against an enemy defending its homeland for vague American national interests. In the 1980s, the then-Soviet Union engaged in a nine-year war in its own backyard facing the same Afghan nation. The results in both were similar -- many lives and treasure lost with no clear victory. We can learn from history and choose to act differently.
I am concerned that our mission in Afghanistan is unsustainable in light of corruption and instability in the Karzai government and the Taliban's control of much of the country. The U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, retired Lieutenant General and former top military commander in Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, said recently that he had deep concerns about sending more troops unless President Karzai commits to ending corruption and mismanagement. I share this view and believe we must get out of this quagmire.
It's time to take care of America again and it's time to bring our troops home. In Illinois, some soldiers are facing their third or fourth deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq. These deployments not only put the lives of our soldiers at risk, but they also create economic hardships on working families. We are in the midst of the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression and our unemployment rate, at almost 10%, is expected to remain so for some time. Until we stop spending hundreds of billions on wars, we will not have the focus or money to solve the challenges we face at home.
The United States should set an aggressive timetable for full withdrawal from Afghanistan to force its government to end corruption and establish military and police security in the country. As an American, I will always support our brave servicemen and women. As a United States senator, I will back military engagement only with clear objectives, carefully considered, and fully explained to the American people. I will always serve as a voice for working families struggling to make ends meet. It is time to focus on America. It is time to come home.
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