Sanders to vote against $25 billion military request

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(Host) Congressman Bernie Sanders says he won’t support President Bush’s request for an additional $25 billion for the war in Iraq, unless the president outlines a clear plan to withdraw U.S. troops in the future.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Sanders says the Bush administration’s plan to seek an additional $25 billion for Iraq includes very few specific spending requests and essentially amounts to a blank check for the administration to spend the money any way it wants to.

Sanders says he’s concerned that the war in Iraq is becoming a quagmire and that the president’s request doesn’t include a definitive plan to eventually end U.S. involvement in that county:

(Sanders) “We are sinking into a morass. We’re seeing more and more young men and women killed every day, wounded every day. The cost of the war is going up and the president has no exit strategy that I can understand. I think all he is saying is, I want to continue the same despite the fact that anti-Americanism is growing throughout the Muslim world and growing throughout the world in general. And you’re not going to effectively fight terrorism when two-thirds of the people in Pakistan look favorably on Osama bin Laden and seven percent look favorably on George Bush.”

(Kinzel) Sanders says he supports a strong program to fight terrorism, but he says he’s now convinced that the war in Iraq has actually weakened this country’s effort to combat terrorism around the world.

(Sanders) “And you’re not going to fight terrorism effectively if the United States becomes isolated and people look in a negative way towards us. We need international cooperation, including the Muslim countries, to isolate Osama bid Laden and the murderers. And I think the president’s strategy in many ways has made a very dangerous and difficult situation even worse.”

(Kinzel) Sanders says he also concerned that veterans returning from Iraq aren’t going to be getting the health care services that they need on a timely basis because the VA hospital system has been chronically under-funded.

(Sanders) “We already have a crisis in terms of the ability of the VA system to care for veterans today waiting lines in Vermont and all over this country. And now we’re going to have 4,000 more people who are in need of those services. You cannot send – no matter what you might think about this war – you just cannot send men and women over there, they get wounded, and not provide them with the best quality care that we can. And we’re not doing that now and that’s not acceptable.”

(Kinzel) Sanders says he hopes to work with a group of his colleagues in the House to boost spending for veterans health care programs.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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