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For Mother's Day: End the Wars

For Mother's Day I'd like to make an observation, which is this: the sun rises and sets on my 7-year-old son, Henry. Now you may or may not agree (though most who have met him can see my point); you may think I'm biased (though such bias is clearly defensible as fundamental to motherhood). But I would swim an ocean, cross a desert, move a mountain, even talk to a roomful of strangers to give him the opportunities he deserves in his life. And really, what mother wouldn't? We are fierce beasts.

My boy can't afford these wars we're embroiled in, and neither can the other children in our country. What they are costing us in blood and treasure is damaging his future, a concern I share with many other mothers.

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Henry was a baby, two months old, bald-headed and never wanting to be put down, when I packed my first care package for my brother Jay, who was part of the Army's initial invading force in Iraq.

I vividly remember the baby smell of Henry's head, the feel of the packages of candy I put into the box, and the dawning realization: none of the choices about parenting I'd been focused on were going to matter. We'd been talking about what school district we should live in, whether we needed to eat only organic produce, whether every boy needed a dog - and my son's future would be determined by wars.

Our world is increasingly interconnected. Technology and globalization rule out isolationism as a viable long-term strategy. The world is changing, and we are in a position to influence how it changes. But we have chosen to engage with this changing world through the horror of war.

Although we know that power corrupts, we have watched as the rule of law and the limits on the power of our elected officials were abridged again and again in the name of national security over the last decade. We can't afford to say that Constitutional protections don't apply just because a politician says they don't - because to offer that level of power to any politician is inherently corrupting.

Although we know that the future of our country will be affected by how people in the rest of the world view the United States - whether they view us as their friends and allies that they should work with and help, or instead as a lawless empire that bombs innocent civilians and tortures people - we have squandered our moral authority and endangered the people of our country.

It might be my son someday wandering in a foreign land and needing help. When the person he asks is deciding whether to help the American boy, I want them to say yes, to think of a country that has helped the people of the rest of the world when they have needed it, which has invested in a future for us all, which brought country music and jazz and Star Wars and democracy. I don't want them thinking of drone strikes, of helicopters gunning down journalists, of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

And yet, here we are in a country where war drives us. Every day there are newly grieving mothers and wives and children in this country. Every day there are budget cuts to schools, to parks, to law enforcement and firefighters, to hospitals, to libraries - and we've spent $991 billion on these wars, more than $3000 each for every man, woman, and child in our country.

Our military is planning to stay in Afghanistan for many decades.

When my son asks me why, it's very difficult to come up with an answer for him.

It is not difficult to explain why we went there. Al Qaeda attacked us on September 11th, and they were training and hiding in Afghanistan. We sent our military in to take out Al Qaeda. And they did: estimates are that there are only about 30 al Qaeda leaders left in the world.

Here's the part that's very hard to explain: there are 30 people left that we're chasing, and we're spending $100 billion per year on the military in Afghanistan.

Anyone think the math is a little off there?

Afghanistan has problems, but the military is not the solution to those problems. It's time we employ the other components of American power. It's time we brought our troops home. It's time we stopped spending $100 billion per year on the military in a country whose GDP is estimated at $12 billion. We can't afford it.

I ran for Congress to do everything I could to give my son the kind of life he deserves, and I get up every day and go to work in my nonprofit to fulfill the same pledge.

On Mother's Day, I ask this for my child and all children: let us end this and come home.