This election season, Americans have been looking for pragmatic answers to their anxieties about security, the wars and the global economy. But with most national security issues flying below the campaign radar, too many candidates are offering extreme ideology and flat-out ignorance. After years of failed policy, America continues to face real challenges on the national security front that cannot be fixed overnight. Yet Tea Party and extreme conservatives have labeled the war in Afghanistan a "non-issue," called for privatizing the Department of Veterans Affairs and suggested a sci-fi fantasy of lasers in space to address our security woes. At the same time, Tea Partiers and neocons are ready to be at each other's throats the day after the election. There are solutions to our national security challenges - but we need pragmatic leaders, not extreme ideologues, to implement them.
This week the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America (IAVA), a nonpartisan veteran's advocacy organization, released a scorecard for Congress on veteran's issues. The results are pretty clear: despite conservative rhetoric about supporting the troops, progressives are stronger at keeping America's promises to its troops. Veterans' services took a heavy toll from years of neglect, underfunding and poor war planning. IAVA's scorecard focuses on legislation to clean up the mess and deliver on America's promises. On the issues of education, mental health screening and access to retroactive pay, progressives have demonstrated strong leadership. Yet, disregarding reality, conservatives continue to go on the attack and claim that progressives are "anti-defense" or not "a friend of America's heroes." In fact, on the campaign trail conservatives have actually taken their already unpopular outlook on veterans issues - which led to their poor rating from IAVA - to an extreme. A number of candidates including the Sharron Angle and Ken Buck have called for privatizing and dismantling the Department of Veterans Affairs. And Pat Toomey actually described pay increases for troops as "wasteful." We as a country have work left to do to keep our promises to the troops and makes sure they receive the benefits they have earned. It's our duty.
On Memorial Day we honor the service and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. Throughout wars in Iraq and Afghanistan our troops have performed brilliantly under very difficult conditions. It is up to America to keep its promises upon their return from overseas.
Today, the Pentagon's top civilian and military leadership will announce to Congress the creation of a panel to assess how to carry out a repeal of the decade and a half old "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Today, evidence shows that America and the military have moved forward, beyond this policy.
Tomorrow is Veterans Day, a time when our country honors the sacrifices and service of our men and women in uniform. Our troops have performed brilliantly under very difficult conditions and fully expect the nation to support them on their return from overseas deployments. These past eight years have seen veterans, active service members, their families, and veterans’ service organizations under considerable strain. Multiple deployments have taken a tremendous toll on the military and veteran’s services, as well as the individual soldiers and their families, and our country has failed to keep its promise to support them with the best veteran’s services possible. The system and structure were simply not prepared or properly resourced for the influx of soldiers returning home from multiple wars. Our country must do better on their behalf. After the discovery of problems in health care, most clearly demonstrated at Walter Reed Hospital, the Obama administration has taken great pains of fix the sins of the past. While plenty of work remains to be done in order to help our veterans, since taking office the Obama administration has made advancements to increase funding for veterans services, streamline the Department of Veterans Affairs, and face the difficult mental health issues that those returning home from war face.
For years, conservatives have claimed the mantle of being more pro-military, pro-veterans than progressives. But their actions and record paint a different picture. From the Bush administration neglect of and cuts to veterans’ health—culminating in the exposed tragedies at Walter Reed Hospital—to the underfunding and resourcing of our troops in the battlefield, it’s clear that for years veteran and troop well-being wasn’t a high priority for conservatives in power. Today, even as President Obama is trying fix these failures, conservatives are still preventing our nation’s veterans and their families from getting the support and care they need.
National security experts, retired military officials, and many prominent conservatives are in agreement that the challenge of climate change poses a threat to our way of life, global order, and our security. After eight years of denial and dithering by President Bush, the Obama administration has broad public support for its efforts to revive international climate negotiations. The Obama administration is seeking to make progress on climate change at the Copenhagen talks in December and is also working to increase coordination and collaboration with China on a range of strategic and practical environmental issues. However, for Copenhagen to serve as the launching point for developing a comprehensive and implementable climate change treaty, the United States must lead by example.
We mark Veterans’ Day in order to honor the men and women who have served our country bravely and sacrifice so much. A new generation of service members returning from Afghanistan and Iraq demands renewed commitment from us to keep society’s promise to them – healthcare and education, but also reintegration into a nation that values their sacrifices and uses them wisely