Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day and the Emergency Spending Bill

Arabic Calligraphy of the Opening Line of the Quron.With what's happening in Iraq, it's hard to not feel the power of Memorial Day everyday. This morning is no exception as we receive news of 10 U.S. military deaths in Iraq and scores of Iraqi civilian casualties. Among the civilians dead: Khalil al-Zahawi, one of the Muslim world's most celebrated calligraphers.

There was some closure over the weekend. On Friday, President Bush signed into law the emergency spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan. EPIC began preparing for battles related to the emergency spending bill back in November.

By late January, Congress received the President's initial request for emergency spending. While including nearly $100 billion for U.S. military spending, it only included $30 million to help Iraq's war refugees and $50 million for Iraqi-led development. In comparison to previous spending bills, the President's request represented a substantial cut in U.S. aid to Iraq.

In February, we helped form the Iraq Peace and Development Working Group (IPDWG), a community of more than 40 national organizations working to reduce suffering and conflict in Iraq. EPIC cochairs the working group with NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, and active members include Amnesty International, Mercy Corps and Refugees International. Together, we've been working to:

  • Help 2 million Iraqi refugees who have fled their country and another 1.9 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) who remain inside Iraq;

  • Fully restore USAID’s Community Action Program (CAP), a successful NGO-implemented effort delivering assistance directly to Iraqis rebuilding their own communities; and

  • Support the Marla Ruzicka Iraqi War Victims Fund (Marla Fund), assisting innocent civilians harmed in the conflict and the families of those killed in Iraq.
I am pleased to report that we are seeing results. Thanks to the letters and phone calls of dedicated EPIC members and the efforts of the more than 40 nationally respected organizations that joined our efforts, we got Congress to add $85 million above the President’s request for Iraqi refugee assistance, restore $95 million of funding for one of the few effective development programs in Iraq, and maintain most of the economic assistance requested – including funding to reactivate Iraq’s state-owned factories to rapidly create some jobs and needed stability. Although it’s only 1/3 of what EPIC and the NGO community asked for, it’s a start.

Now, we're gearing up for FY 2008 appropriations, preparing to fight for a more sustainable U.S. policy than emergency supplemental bills and ad hoc policies. Be sure to check back here for regular updates on our progress. To find out how you can make a difference right now, visit EPIC's website and add your voice to our ongoing advocacy initiatives.


Anonymous said...

And the new headline "Cindy Sheehan surrenders".

Anonymous said...

"My son died for nothing"

-Cindy Sheehan

JP said...

RE: Anonymous 2

I found this in Wikipedia re: Cindy's son. It sounds like he'd have a difference of opinion.

"In May 2000, Casey Sheehan enlisted in the U.S. Army as a light-wheeled vehicle mechanic, MOS 63B. It has been reported that he had originally wanted to be a Chaplain's assistant MOS 56M. (Sheehan had acted as an altar server during the Palm Sunday mass on the morning of his death).

Near the end of his tour of duty, the U.S. invasion of Iraq began. Sheehan re-enlisted, knowing that his unit would be sent to Iraq. Sheehan's division, the First Cavalry Division, was sent to Iraq. On March 19, 2004, Sheehan's unit, C Battery, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment arrived at FOB War Eagle in Sadr City. Just a few weeks later, on April 4, 2004, Sheehan was killed in action after volunteering as part of a Quick Reaction Force to rescue American troops.

Casey Sheehan was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal with V for Valor posthumously for actions in Iraq April 4, 2004."

Emily Stivers said...

Casey Sheehan's death was tragic. My heart breaks to think of his mother's loss, as well as the countless Iraqis who have lost friends and family members in this war.

But it doesn't do any good to lament how it started or say it's happening for nothing. This kind of talk is self-defeating. We have to stay focused on the solutions.

The CAP funding and refugee/IDP assistance in the emergency spending bill will help stabilize Iraq through building civil society and protecting the most vulnerable Iraqis. Programs such as these make Iraq more stable and thus make Casey Sheehan's fellow soldiers safer while they are over there.

We can and must do more to fund these programs. We owe the Iraqis, and our own troops, that much.

Anonymous said...

We need to get out of there and concentrate on fixing things here.

Emily Stivers said...

Well, as bad as things can be in this country - and no doubt we have plenty of our own issues - in general the people of Iraq are suffering far more. And what's more, it's our government's fault. We have an obligation to set it right. We can't just leave the Iraqi people in civil war and chaos, and furthermore, we can still repair our own tarnished international image, and hopefully prevent future violence against our country, by doing the right things now.

Geoff Schaefer said...

I fully agree with Emily. While things are bad here, things are worse there and we're the cause of that discrepancy. We have a moral obligation to see it through right. If we just left and didn't work to fix what we broke, could we really afford that hit on America's image? Our low level of regard in the world's eyes is a big reason we can't make the progress we need to be making already. There are people in this country who are working to fix things here and there are people in this country who are working to fix things there. We need to support both efforts. But to think that by walking away our problems will be solved, I feel we are missing the gravity of the situation and the implications it will have on us back home.

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