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Afghanistan

Uncounted casualties of war: Children left behind

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 08:20:00 AM CDT

April is designated the "Month of the Military Child," with many events and activities scheduled to honor the occasion.

A new study from the University of Iowa indicates that children whose parents are deployed have higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse--another reminder of the massive hidden costs associated with U.S. military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

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Iraq War 10th anniversary links and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 19, 2013 at 16:32:00 PM CDT

Ten years ago, President George W. Bush made the disastrous mistake of taking this country to war against Iraq. I've posted some links about the costs and casualties of war after the jump.

Any relevant thoughts are welcome in this thread. I appreciate the work and commitment of those who tried to derail the speeding train toward invasion, and of those who protested the war after it began. I did nothing to stop the war in Iraq--just sat in a rocking chair cradling a new baby, feeling horrified while watching the news on television.

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IA-Sen: Labor unions lining up behind Bruce Braley (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 14, 2013 at 08:38:00 AM CDT

Iowa's largest labor union, AFSCME Iowa Council 61, announced its endorsement of Representative Bruce Braley for U.S. Senate yesterday. A press release from the Braley campaign noted that two other labor unions have previously announced their support: Iowa State Council of Machinists and the Great Plains Laborers' District Council. As a member of Congress, Braley has a strong voting record on labor rights, as does retiring Senator Tom Harkin.

Endorsements this early in the cycle are another sign that Braley will not face real competition for the Democratic nomination next year. During Iowa Democrats' last hard-fought statewide primary, the larger labor unions endorsed either Mike Blouin or Chet Culver for governor only a few months before the 2006 primary.

UPDATE: The non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group Council for a Livable World endorsed Braley for Senate on March 14. I've added their press release and some background after the jump.

SECOND UPDATE: Service Employees International Union Iowa - Local 199 endorsed Braley for Senate on March 15. A press release from the campaign comments, "SEIU Local 199 represents over 5,000 nurses, school employees, childcare workers, and county employees across the state of Iowa."

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State of the Union and Rubio response discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 18:43:08 PM CST

President Barack Obama delivers another State of the Union address tonight, and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is set to give the Republican response. I will miss most of the president's speech but plan to watch the replay later and will update this post with highlights. Meanwhile, feel free to comment on any topics raised during the speeches in this thread.

UPDATE: Highlights from the speeches and reaction from the Iowans in Congress are after the jump.

I find it depressing that when I came home to catch up on the news, the blogosphere and twitterverse were obsessing over Rubio taking a drink of water during his remarks. So sue him, he's not the most camera-savvy politician in Washington (yet). Who cares?

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Grassley among senators seeking memos on targeted killings (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 10:50:00 AM CST

A bipartisan group of senators including Iowa's Chuck Grassley sent President Barack Obama an open letter this week asking for access to "secret legal opinions outlining your authority to authorize the killing of Americans in the course of counterterrorism operations."

UPDATE: The Obama administration will provide "classified Office of Legal Counsel advice" on this issue to members of Congressional intelligence committees. I agree with Grassley that judiciary committees should be included as well, since they oversee the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Harkin, Grassley vote no as Senate passes defense authorization bill

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 23:40:00 PM CST

Earlier this month, U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin both voted for the Senate's version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013. But on Friday the Iowans were among just 14 senators to oppose passage of the final conference agreement on the defense authorization bill.  
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How Grassley and Harkin voted on the Defense authorization bill (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 12:13:24 PM CST

Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate approved its version of a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2013, outlining $631 billion in spending and setting policy in several other areas. The vote on final passage was unanimous, 98 to 0, but during five days of floor debate the Senate considered many amendments. After the jump I've summarized the important provisions of the NDAA and how Iowa's Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin voted on the most contentious amendments.

A conference committee will work out differences between the Senate's bill and the defense authorization act the U.S. House approved in May. More details on those differences are below.

UPDATE: Added a statement from Senator Grassley.

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Obama-Romney foreign policy debate discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 22, 2012 at 19:57:35 PM CDT

In a few minutes President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will debate for the last time. Bob Schieffer of CBS News will moderate the final debate, which will focus on foreign-policy issues. I imagine the ratings will be much lower tonight than for the previous two debates, partly because foreign policy isn't a priority for most voters, and partly because the debate is up against Monday Night Football and game 7 of the National League Championship Series in baseball.

Any comments about the debate or the presidential race in general are welcome in this thread. I will update later with some thoughts and news clips. Most national tracking polls show Romney and Obama within the margin of error for each other; Gallup continues to show Romney leading and above 50 percent. The candidates haven't focused on foreign policy in many speeches or commercials, but the latest spot from the president's re-election campaign highlights the drawdown of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

UPDATE: Added thoughts and links after the jump.  

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IA-01 news roundup: Radio debate and lots of television ads

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 11, 2012 at 16:40:53 PM CDT

It's time to catch up on news from the first Congressional district campaign between three-term Democratic Representative Bruce Braley and his two-time Republican challenger Ben Lange. After the jump I've posted my take on yesterday's debate on Iowa Public Radio, along with videos and transcripts of the latest television commercials by the campaigns and outside groups. (Bleeding Heartland covered earlier tv ads in the IA-01 race here, here, and here.)  
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Obama in Ames as another poll shows tight Iowa race

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 28, 2012 at 20:55:00 PM CDT

President Barack Obama held a campaign rally in Ames today, drawing a crowd of approximately 6,000 on the Iowa State University campus. I enclosed the transcript of the president's remarks at the bottom of this post. As in all his campaign speeches, he framed the election as a "choice" between two paths, rather than as a referendum on his performance. Obama also emphasized his administration's efforts to make college tuition and student loans more affordable.

The president will need strong turnout in places like Ames this November, because yet another Iowa poll shows the gap between Obama and Romney within the margin of error.

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Weekend open thread: Memorial Day edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun May 27, 2012 at 23:18:21 PM CDT

This is an open thread. What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

For many veterans and their loved ones, Memorial Day is a somber occasion, not a time to celebrate the unofficial beginning of summer. On that note, I posted news and links related to Iowa veterans after the jump.

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How the Iowans voted on the Defense Authorization Act

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 24, 2012 at 08:54:17 AM CDT

Catching up on news from last week, the U.S. House approved the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013. Details on how Iowa's five representatives vote on that bill and on important amendments are after the jump.

I also enclose the statements released by members of Iowa's Congressional delegation. Not surprisingly, several self-styled deficit hawks bragged about supporting a bill that prohibits various cost-saving measures and mandates spending on some items the military doesn't even want.

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Obama on ending the war in Afghanistan, with Iowa reaction

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 02, 2012 at 07:24:28 AM CDT

President Barack Obama outlined plans to "complete our mission and end the war in Afghanistan" in a televised speech last night from Kabul. After signing an agreement with President Hamid Karzai, Obama said 23,000 U.S. troops will come home from the war zone by the end of this summer, and withdrawal will be complete by the end of 2014. Beyond that date, he promised, U.S. troops will have only "narrow security missions" in Afghanistan, "But we will not build permanent bases in this country, nor will we be patrolling its cities and mountains."  

For obvious security reasons, Obama hadn't announced ahead of time his plans to visit Afghanistan on the first anniversary of the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

I've posted the full text of Obama's remarks after the jump, along with reaction from Representative Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02). I will update this post later as other members of Iowa's Congressional delegation respond to the president's speech. Last year Democratic Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Bruce Braley (D, IA-01) advocated bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan more quickly than currently scheduled.

UPDATE: Added comments below from Braley and Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. Both are concerned about our Afghanistan policy, but from very different perspectives.

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Veterans Day discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Nov 11, 2011 at 16:18:06 PM CST

Best wishes to the veterans in the Bleeding Heartland community and others for whom today is especially meaningful.

Last year I posted Veterans Day links here and mentioned a friend who had recently come home from Iraq. His brother was deployed in Afghanistan at the time and came home safely this year. He is the focus of Rekha Basu's column in today's Des Moines Register. I've posted some excerpts after the jump.

Todd Dorman wrote here about the origins of Armistice Day and the first Iowans who died in World War I. In the UK, where the "Great War" had a much greater impact on the population, November 11 is known as Remembrance Day. Sales of red poppies to wear on that day are a huge fundraiser for the Royal British Legion.

Share your own thoughts about Veterans Day in this thread.

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CNN/Tea Party Express GOP debate discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Sep 12, 2011 at 17:39:52 PM CDT

Eight Republican presidential candidates will debate for the second time in less than a week tonight at 7 pm central time. I expect former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Representative Ron Paul to have a go at Texas Governor Rick Perry, like they did during last week's debate. Representative Michele Bachmann has been trying to distinguish herself from Perry too lately. I see the other four candidates mainly fighting not to be ignored by the moderators.

I'll update this post later, but meanwhile here's a thread to talk about the debate or the presidential race in general.

UPDATE: First thoughts on the debate and excerpts from the transcript are after the jump.

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Iowa reaction to Obama's Afghanistan drawdown plans

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jun 23, 2011 at 07:30:36 AM CDT

President Barack Obama announced a slight change in our Afghanistan policy on television last night.

[S]tarting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.

He asserted that the U.S. undertakes this drawdown "from a position of strength," as the Al Qaeda terrorist network is now "under more pressure than at any time since 9/11." He said the U.S. can achieve its goal to allow "no safe-haven" from which terorists "can launch attacks against our homeland, or our allies." Obama also linked his gradual drawdown to boosting the U.S. economy:

Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America's greatest resource - our people. We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industry, while living within our means. We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy. [...]

America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.

We'd have more resources to invest in the U.S. economy if we were bringing more troops home sooner. By the end of next summer our troop presence in Afghanistan will still be larger than it was when Obama became president. He ordered at least 21,000 additional U.S. troops to that war zone before the surge of 30,000 troops he announced at West Point in December 2009. Recent polling suggests a majority of Americans support withdrawing troops from Afghanistan at a faster pace.

We'd also be better positioned to "focus on nation building" at home if the president had not agreed to extend all the Bush tax cuts and bought into the austerity politics that makes another federal stimulus package unthinkable.

After the jump I've posted the full text of Obama's televised remarks, along with comments released by Democratic Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Leonard Boswell (D, IA-03). Boswell praised Obama's plan "to significantly reduce troops by the end of the year" as "an important first step in lessening our military presence and financial obligations in Afghanistan." In contrast, Harkin said U.S. troops should be brought home from Afghanistan at a faster pace, saying, "We cannot justify the continued loss of life" and "can't sustain the nearly $10 billion we are spending each month in Afghanistan this year." Harkin questioned our presence in Afghanistan following the killing of Osama bin Laden. He was among 27 U.S. senators (24 Democrats, two Republicans and one independent) who wrote to Obama earlier this month urging "a shift in strategy and the beginning of a sizable and sustained reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, beginning in July 2011."

I will update this post if other members of Iowa's Congressional delegation comment on Obama's speech. Representative Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02) is the only Iowan on the House Armed Services Committee. Last month Representative Bruce Braley (D, IA-01) called for "immediate withdrawal of our combat troops from Afghanistan," bringing them home by the end of this year.

In related news, the U.S. Senate on June 21 unanimously confirmed Leon Panetta as the new Secretary of Defense. Greg Jaffe reported on outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates' reaction to Obama's speech last night:

"I support the President's decision because it provides our commanders with enough resources, time and, perhaps most importantly, flexibility to bring the surge to a successful conclusion." It's clear that Gates would have preferred the surge troops stay in place through the end of 2012. But his statement suggests he still believes that the military will have enough forces to continue with the current counterinsurgency strategy.

UPDATE: Braley's statement is now also below. He doesn't agree with Obama's plan and wants troops to come home sooner.

LATE UPDATE: Loebsack's statement is now below.

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How the Iowans voted on the Defense Authorization Act

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 31, 2011 at 14:10:00 PM CDT

Catching up on news from last week, Democrat Bruce Braley (IA-01) was the only Iowan in the U.S. House to vote against the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, which passed May 26 on a 322 to 96 vote (roll call). While Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02), Leonard Boswell (D, IA-03), Tom Latham (R, IA-04) and Steve King (R, IA-05) all supported the bill's final passage, their votes broke down differently on a number of important amendments the House considered Thursday.

Follow me after the jump for details on those votes and statements some of Iowa's representatives released regarding this bill.

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Harkin: "Why are we in Afghanistan now?"

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 03, 2011 at 09:41:42 AM CDT

Senator Tom Harkin raised an important question yesterday when speaking to Ed Tibbetts of the Quad-City Times:

Harkin said he's previously called for an immediate exit from Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are scheduled to leave in 2014.

"I think that timeline should be moved up," he said in an interview. "I mean why are we in Afghanistan now? I thought we were in Afghanistan at the beginning to find Osama bin Laden. OK, that's over with. Now, why are we in Afghanistan? Are we there to build a modern, 21st-century democracy?"

Senator Chuck Grassley told Tibbetts that he doesn't seek any change in the U.S. approach to battling terrorists:

Grassley said bin Laden hasn't been al-Qaida's operational leader for years, just its inspirational head.

"The threat for terrorist activity is as great as ever," he said. "It's a setback for al-Qaida, without a doubt, but probably a temporary setback."

I suspect Grassley is closer to the truth than White House chief counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, who on Monday compared the terrorist group to a "mortally wounded tiger":

"We are hoping to bury the rest of al-Qaeda along with bin Laden," Brennan told reporters.

"This is a strategic blow to al-Qaeda. It is a necessary, but not necessarily sufficient, blow to lead to its demise. But we are determined to destroy it."

I don't see how the massive U.S. military presence in Afghanistan (more than 100,000 troops) will further this goal when Al Qaeda operatives are working in many countries.

Escalating military operations in Afghanistan has cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars as well as many lives. I still believe it will eventually be viewed as one of President Barack Obama's biggest mistakes. Members of Congress should insist on answers to Harkin's questions. If past experience is any guide, though, Obama will keep getting blank checks to fund war.

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Honor Staff Sgt. Giunta's feelings as well as his heroism

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 23, 2010 at 06:35:00 AM CST

Today is officially Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta Day in Iowa. Last week President Barack Obama made Giunta the first living soldier since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor. In Iowa today,

A public ceremony begins at 11:30 a.m. in the rotunda of the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines. Iowans can meet Giunta in a receiving line that will go through Gov. Chet Culver's formal office immediately after ceremony.

Then at 5 p.m., there will be a "Welcome Home Parade" in Giunta's hometown of Hiawatha.

The parade will stage in the Go Daddy parking lot on Robins Road, travel west on Emmons Street, then north on 15th Avenue, then east on Litchfield Drive, then south on 12th Avenue, then east on Lyndhurst Drive, then cross 10th Avenue and end at Guthridge Park, according to Iowa National Guard officials.

Iowans understandably want to honor Giunta for his amazing courage in a crisis. After reading and listening to him describe the 2007 incident in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, though, I wonder whether a parade is a respectful way to welcome this hero home.

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Veterans Day links and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Nov 11, 2010 at 14:06:09 PM CST

Some people hardly notice Veterans Day except for the lack of mail delivery. This day reminds others of their own or a loved one's life-altering military service.

A few thoughts and links on the holiday are below.

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