Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was interviewed on PBS NewsHour today about how his home state of Vermont is dealing with the massive damage caused by Hurricane Irene. When asked how aid is reaching towns that have been completely cut off he said that even though a lot of Vermont’s National Guard’s equipment is in Iraq, they’re managing with what they have and outside state assistance.
Leahy also noted that he won’t accept the argument that the federal government can’t afford to financially assist rebuilding efforts in states that have been hit hard by the hurricane when billions have been spent on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:
- GWEN IFILL: Senator, I know you’ve been keeping track of the debate about federal funding for disasters. How costly does this seem like it’s going to be?
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Well, we don’t have all the figures in yet. It will be costly. You know, it’ll be a big burden for a state of only 660,000 people. So we will need federal disaster area. But we’re not the only ones. Every state hit from the Carolinas up are going to feel it.
Now I take it with a bit of a grain of salt, some of the debate on whether we could afford, as a nation, the money for this. We’ve spent — we’re spending several billion dollars a week in Afghanistan. We spend billions, hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq, a war we never should have been in.
Now if we can spend, well, eventually amount to several trillion dollars in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then say, well, we can’t afford to help Americans in America? No, I can’t accept that, and I can’t imagine anybody that could.
His comments are particularly piercing when considering a report released earlier this month by the International Crisis Group which says that violence is currently at its worse in Afghanistan since the 2001 war began and that
- Despite billions of dollars in aid, state institutions remain fragile and unable to provide good governance, deliver basic services to the majority of the population or guarantee human security.
The report authors also argue that there is “no possibility” that “any amount of international assistance to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) will stabilise the country” before 2014 when most foreign forces will have withdrawn “unless there are significant changes in international strategies, priorities and programs.”