On Aug. 7, First Sgt. Andrew McKenna of Bristol, Rhode Island, was killed by the Taliban, which has been armed and funded by Iran since at least 2007.
The second half of that statement is regularly omitted in reports by local news media.
However, it has been firmly established that the Taliban has been funded and armed by Iran since at least 2007. According to an October 2014 report by the U.S. Department of Defense, “At the same time, Iran continued to provide lethal assistance, including light weapons and training, to elements of the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Since 2007, coalition and Afghan forces interdicted several shipments of Iranian weapons.” (wsj.com/articles/iran-backs-taliban-with-cash-and-arms-1434065528)
The Iran connection is hardly trivial when our Congress is about to vote on releasing $150 billion in cash to Iran with no strings attached. “Secretary of State John Kerry conceded on Tuesday [7/28/15] that Iran ‘may’ use weapons that it will acquire as a result of restrictions being lifted under the nuclear agreement to kill Americans and Israelis” (cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/kerry-acknowledges-iran-may-use-weapons-obtained-through-agreement)
Question: How many more Americans will lose their lives to Iranian-sponsored terrorism if Congress votes to approve the Iran nuclear deal?
Answer: Unknown. “Senior Obama administration officials told a Senate panel Wednesday that it is ‘nearly certain’ Iran will continue funding terrorism with the tens of billions of dollars it stands to gain if Congress approves a nuclear deal that would lift economic sanctions on the country.” (usnews.com/news/articles/2015/08/05/obama-administration-nearly-certain-iran-will-still-fund-terrorism)
At a town hall meeting held by Rep. James Langevin (District 2) on Aug. 13 in East Greenwich, nearly 100 Rhode Island residents turned, virtually unanimous in demanding that the Congressman vote against the deal. They labeled it a “catastrophe.” There was grassroots representation from across the community, including Praise Tabernacle Church, StandWithUs-RI, the Jubilee Sisters Bible Study Group, and Temple Torat Yisrael, among others. They held signs and wore T-shirts stating, “We need a better deal.” They presented a range of arguments: The Iranian mullahs can’t be trusted; they will continue to cheat; they are evil. This is a danger to our own American security, not just our allies like Israel. Iran can’t be allowed to get nukes. Getting a better deal doesn’t mean war, but we still need a military option.
But the argument that was most passionately repeated from speaker to speaker: a $150 billion payment in sanctions relief means more terrorism on American soil and against our military and our allies.
How we got here as a country is a curious story. Early in the negotiations process, the administration promised that sanctions relief would only be phased in as Iran’s state-sponsored terrorism decreased. Before we knew it, “phased sanctions” were replaced by a “signing bonus.” The Cadillac we were offered over the phone turned into a broken-down Ford at the lot. We were sold a bill of goods. And Americans and our allies will pay the price.
Some people across Rhode Island are outraged. There was appreciation that Rep. Langevin was willing to face his constituents. Rep. David Cicilline and Sen. Jack Reed, despite ongoing public pressure, as of this writing have scheduled no public meetings. LuAnn Pezzullo, of Bristol, wrote to this writer on Aug. 16, “I have been in touch with Cicilline’s office re Iran Deal as well as asked for town hall meeting so we as constituents can voice our concerns. I have received an email from him and a letter from Senator Reed! No mention of my requests. I continue to call their offices. It would be nice if someone held a meeting in the Providence area! I continue to talk it up and encourage the calls!! We do our best and won’t go down without a fight.”
National polls are inconclusive as reported by the Washington Post on Sept. 1. “A survey by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation released September 1 finds that Americans narrowly support the deal, with 52 percent wanting Congress to approve it and 47 percent wanting the pact rejected. For example, 55 percent of voters opposed the deal in a Quinnipiac University poll released Aug. 31 – more than double the 25 percent who supported it. With two weeks remaining before Congress votes on Sept. 17, the surveys suggest attitudes toward the complex, nuanced agreement are malleable and could turn against the deal. While the University of Maryland poll found a slight majority supporting the deal, large majorities of respondents said core criticisms of the deal were compelling.” (washingtonpost.com/politics/new-poll-shows-how-sharply-partisan-the-debate-on-iran-deal-has-become/2015/08/31/1f0f0790-501c-11e5-9812-92d5948a40f8_story.html)
They say the public memory is short, but in Rhode Island that isn’t always so. Who among us old enough will forget the terrific image of Joe Garrahy directing emergency blizzard operations in his flannel shirt – in 1978? Those who vote to approve this deal, whose Rhode Island opponents are passionate in their opposition, can expect to be remembered long into the future for that vote. And let us not forget, re-election campaigns for Congress are already underway.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Type has been bold-faced for emphasis by the writer.
HOWARD BROWN lives in North Kingstown, was co-founder of StandWithUs-RI chapter and currently is coordinator of StopIranNow-RI.