Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Message from Larry

I am very happy to spend some time with you this evening sharing views on a wide array of issues.

I have spent part of the day reflecting on the true meaning of Memorial Day. We end up the month of May 2007 with almost 120 American deaths in Iraq.

I don't know how exactly to propose this - but I think we should have a few moments of inactivity, silence and reflection on the sacrifices of our brave men and women in uniform serving us today....and those that have gone before them.

I think of the 117 soldiers that died in May so far and the many more that have been wounded. I'm sitting at my desk in Boise knowing that most of America grieves as well, but in a large sense the grieving is local and personal with the families and loved ones of the fallen. Our nation is waging war but not all of us are making sacrifices.

As I sit here waiting for our exchange to begin, I am angry at George Bush for rushing us into this war and for mis-understanding the realities of the situation on the ground in Iraq. His delusional policies have left our reputation around the world in tatters and he has jepoardized the viability of our military infrastructure to fight in other theaters of war. Importantly, George Bush has squandered opportunities to unite our country after 9/11.

As a former US Army military intelligence officer I am very upset at the President's inability to face some hard realities in this war: his policies have failed us and he should set a new course of action.

The recent escalation is not the answer.

I have always tried to interact with Idaho voters and constituents. In 1982, I took a job for approximately one week in each of the 19 counties of the First Congressional District. This approach allowed me to interact with people of all walks of life. I learned a great deal. I loved the town meetings I held when I served in the Congress in the early '90s. In my last statewide campaign I shook 22,209 hands across Idaho to learn what was on the minds of Idahoans. It paid off. I learned a great deal by meeting people where they worked, lived and recreated.

Tonight and in subsequent live blog sessions I hope to continue to learn from you and to share my thoughts on how we can solve some problems in Idaho and in our country.

Many thanks. Larry

24 comments:

Julie in Boise said...

Larry, with the rise in soldiers returning home with PTSD and traumatic brain
injuries, how do we make sure that veterans with these medical issues can
get the care they need, especially when the conditions don't always manifest until months or even years after the injury?

Bubblehead said...

Larry,
While we're waiting for Alan, here's my first question (for my submarine audience). Recently, both the House and Senate passed versions of the 2008 Defense Authorization Act that doubles the Navy's request for new attack submarines from 1 to 2. Will you support an increased Virginia-class submarine build rate, which will keep the SSN force at needed levels?

Alan said...

Larry, thank you for taking the time to discuss issues important to our military. I agree with the thought that a few moments of silence/inactivity to reflect on the sacrifices of our service members is appropriate and respectful.

To get things started, what is your view of the Iraq war? You expressed a bit of them, but perhaps you can talk about how we get out of there.

Irwin Horowitz said...

Congressman,

What is your understanding of what the administratio would consider to be a "win" now in Iraq? The President seems intent on putting more of our troops in harms way, but I do not know under what situation he would (once again) state "mission accomplished" and pull our troops out of that quagmire.

MountainGoat said...

What are your views on what happened at Walter Reed and how can we prevent our veterans from enduring these conditions and delays in receiving benefits once they return?

Julie in Boise said...

Thanks for the questions. Let's give Larry a few minutes to get caught up. (This is his very first time live blogging ...)

Larry LaRocco said...

The answer is that a grateful nation must stay in touch with the vets through a new and extensive outreach program to vets. We must have a new national commitment to mental health services. Also, as we know, many of today's service men and women come from rural America. The VA must establish outreach centers in all of America - not just in urban areas. The multiple deployments and the door to door operations of this war mean that PTSD will surely manifest itself in growing numbers in the years ahead. This diagnosis does not end upon separation. It is the obligation of our country to stay in touch with our vets over the years to see if they are in need. Last year at the Nez Perce County Fair a parent told me a very sad story of her son who was experiencing PTSD while serving. She worried constantly and he eventually went AWOL and was tried for the crime and not treated for his illness. This illness will manifest itself in many ways not just immediately after separation.

Larry

Larry LaRocco said...

Bubblehead: I took a few minutes to review the link you gave us. I would be supportive of the stepped up schedule for the production of the Virginia Class subs. Senator Jack Reed and I entered Congress the same year. Jack is a couple of years younger than me but we're the same height and many people used to confuse us.... in the early days. We became friends because we were both US Army vets. I value his opinion on matters dealing with the armed services and I think he is on the right track here. Yes, I'm concerned about how we pay for larger weapons systems but we have put a great deal of emphasis on land based forces and we have neglected other areas. It looks like the House and Senate are on the right track here. (I do recognize that Rhode Island has a lot to gain from this acceleration but so does the nation and our defense. )

Tara A. Rowe said...

Congressman LaRocco,

First, congratulations on entering the race!

My question is in two parts: In general, what do you feel the relationship between the United States and the United Nations should be in regard to military action? More specifically, should the U.S. use the route of the U.N. and/or Nato when military force is necessary or should we "go it alone" as most would contend we have with Iraq?

Thanks,
Tara

Bubblehead said...

As an add-on to Tara's question, could you also mention how you would respond to those who say that requiring UN or NATO approval for U.S. military action would essentially give France a veto over the use of our military, since they have a veto in the UN Security Council and a vote in NATO (which requires unanimity).

Senate2008Guru said...

Congressman LaRocco:

Two general questions to get a better understanding of your record and priorities.

1) What is the achievement of which your most proud from your Congressional career?

2) Besides the Iraq War, if there was any one Bush administration policy or action that you could simply undo with a snap of the finger, what would it be?

Larry LaRocco said...

Alan & Irwin: I intensely followed the debate leading up to the war. As a former US Army military intelligence officer I was looking for the hard evidence that the Iraq War was justified. I couldn't find it. Of course, I wasn't in Congress and didn't have a vote. Like all of us I was waiting to be convinced. I thought the "mushroom cloud" message was contrived, the tubes weren't used for nuclear weapons and the Powell argument was weak. I sensed we were being "rushed" into war. I could just feel it. When I served in Congress during the Persian Gulf War I could feel public opinion shift immediately to support the troops once action began. It's an important element of our country to support our troops whenever we choose to put them in harm's way. I feel the Administration knew the sooner they began this war the sooner public opinion would shift in favor of the war - no matter what the weak arguments were that led us there. It happened. However, shock and awe didn't produce the quick victory in spite of the "mission accomplished" photo opp. What's more, Bush let the infrastructure of Iraq walk away with the looters and the Baathists were de-mobilized. It was the very worst situation. We must always be careful when we commit troops. I pledge to you that I will do my homework and be cautious when we make this commitment. In 1991 I voted for the Hamilton/Gephardt Amendment to allow the US more time for diplomacy and sanctions. The question was moot when we committed our troops but as a Vietnam-era vet I knew a swamp when I saw one. We can claim victory if the Iraqis can claim any control over their own destiny and the sectarian violence subsides. And, we will know when to claim victory when the electricity is restored, schools are in session, hospitals are functioning, oil is flowing and the streets are safe. And, of course, Saddam is gone.

Larry

Adam Graham said...

Congressman LaRocco,

I'm a Republican, but in support of the blogosphere, I'll try and ask a nice non-snarky question.

Given the mass corruption by members of Congress in both parties, do you support term limits for members of Congress?

Anonymous said...

What's an earmark, and why are they bad? I think?

Larry LaRocco said...

Mountain Goat: Two weeks ago I helped raise money for the Fisher Houses across America. (I'm wearing the shirt right now). Fisher Houses are built on military installations with medical facilities for the families of our wounded servicemen and women receiving care and recovering from their injuries.

I played golf with a 21 year old Army soldier who had a prosthetic leg and severely wounded arm. He has spent two years at Walter Reed recovering from his wounds from a car bomb. I was moved by his bravery and his devotion to service and our country.

He said that the care he received at Walter Reed was good. I believe him. However, we know that there were many who fell through the cracks. This wasn't the bargain or deal we struck with our servicemen when they took the oath of office and we stationed them in harm's way. They deserve the best.

I didn't like the delays in dealing with the situation at Walter Reed. It took too long. It was emblematic of an administration that admits no wrong. Witness how long Rumsfeld was kept in the cabinet in spite of his failings. It took an election to dislodge him.

I truly believe that situations like Walter Reed occur because there is not the necessary oversight by Congress. This is a huge issue whether we're talking about the care of our wounded or the no bid contracts. The role of Congress is to serve as the checks and balances. Accountability is what is needed and the hearings were not held before the change of power in the Congress. I know that sounds very partisan but I will not go back to Congress to be a rubberstamp....no matter who sits in the White House.

We can't have more abuses like Walter Reed.

Larry

Alan said...

I understand you achieved the rank of captain in the Army. Could you tell us a bit about your military experience?

Larry LaRocco said...

Tara and Bubblehead:

You really ask a good question about when the US seeks multi-lateral assistance.

I gave a speech in London before the war to a group of citizens interested in foreign affairs. At that time, a hard core group of lawyers from the right were arguing that an invasion of Iraq was not an invasion of a sovereign country but a continuation of the Persian Gulf War because our planes were fired on in the "no fly zone." I mention this argument because there are many ways to rationalize an invasion.

The UN was established to prevent war and it's not a bad idea to use that forum for that purpose.

I also believe that it is wise to assemble a multi-lateral force under our command to show the world that we are not the only ones who believe military aciton is necessary. For example, the Balkans.

I really fault Bush for not putting a multi-lateral force in place that really meant something. It's true that our allies made token contributions, but Bush really wanted this to be his/our war. We strained relations with Canada who would have joined us, but in the "rush" to war Canada was left in the dust and their delays were sold to us as uncooperative.

There is a some anti-UN sentiment in the US, especially on the right. That "base" has been courted in this war by our thumbing our nose at international organizations. We are a sovereign nation. We can go it alone, but it is better to assemble a coalition of the committed and willing as we make our case to the world community.

Larry LaRocco said...

Senate2008Guru: Thanks for following this race.

1. My efforts to balance the budget and restore fiscal sanity to the United States. On a local level, I created the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. It was the last piece of environmental legislation protecting Idaho signed into law in the past 14 years.

I lived by the credo: Do right, risk consequences. I was an active member of Congress. I answered my mail, operated outside my comfort zone to help many and I worked across the aisle.

2. Where do you start? Choosing Dick Cheney was one of the worst actions by Bush. There are many more regarding energy policies created in secret and an open door policy for Jack Abramoff.

Larry LaRocco

Julie in Boise said...

It's almost 9, so we'll have to cut off questions now. Larry is answering the last few ones posted.

Larry LaRocco said...

Adam: I have not supported term limits. I favor the election process. We need accountability in government and our elections are the way to keep folks accountable rather than turning the place over to staff and lobbyists. The average time of service for House Members is about 8 years. The blogosphere is democratizing our system and holding candidates/lawmakers more accountable. That's a good thing.

Larry

Tara A. Rowe said...

Thank you Larry (and much thanks to Alan and Julie for putting this together)!!

Larry LaRocco said...

Alan: Thanks so much for allowing me to share my views with folks tonight.

I entered the US Army as a 2nd Lt. in 1969. My primary MOS was military intelligence and my secondary MOS was tank platoon leader. I made it to 1st Lt. in one year and one year later was promoted captain. I spent 6 months in training at Ft. Holabird in Md and received orders for Vietnam. Just before leaving I received orders for Germany, USAREUR and 7th Army Hqs. I really thought it was an undercover assignment because my German is pretty good and I was in sort of a spooky field. But I ended up as an admin officer at the Intelligence Data Handling Systems where we processed sensitive data on the Warsaw Pact Nations and troop movements. Nine months later I received orders for Vietnam and I was stabilized in Germany due to the sensitive nature of our assignment at the time. It was almost 25 years ago to the day that the Baader Meinhoff Gang bombed my office in Heidelberg, Germany. Three of my fellow soldiers were killed in this act of terrorism. A fellow captain that had swapped security details with me that evening was killed in the bomb blast. It was May 1972 and the terrorism against the US was already beginning. That was my first taste of terrorist activities and it left a deep impression on me. I was discharged as a captain and came home to Idaho. It was my entry into public service and I really haven't stopped.

Larry

Julie in Boise said...

Thanks again for taking part tonight. Larry has two other live blog sessions planned in the coming week:

Friday, June 1, at noon Mountain at New West Boise

http://www.newwest.net/index.php/city/main/C108/L108

and Tuesday, June 5, at noon Mountain at Daily Kos

http://www.dailykos.com/

Thanks again to Alan and IdaBlue for hosting tonight’s event, and to Larry for reaching out to the Idaho and national netroots. With your support, we can turn this into one of the breakout campaigns of 2008. If you’d like to learn more, visit Larry’s website at www.LaRoccoforSenate.com.

Irwin Horowitz said...

Larry,

Not for nothing, but that tragic event was 35 years ago.