Aug 26 2008

Russia's Aggression Is a Challenge to World Order

By U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman

In the wake of Russia's invasion of Georgia, the United States and its trans-Atlantic allies have rightly focused on two urgent and immediate tasks: getting Russian soldiers out, and humanitarian aid in.

But having just returned from Georgia, Ukraine and Poland, where we met with leaders of these countries, we believe it is imperative for the West to look beyond the day-to-day management of this crisis. The longer-term strategic consequences, some of which are already being felt far beyond the Caucasus, have to be addressed.

Russia's aggression is not just a threat to a tiny democracy on the edge of Europe. It is a challenge to the political order and values at the heart of the continent.

For more than 60 years, from World War II through the Cold War to our intervention in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the U.S. has fostered and fought for the creation of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace. This stands as one of the greatest strategic achievements of the 20th century: the gradual transformation of a continent, once the scene of the most violent and destructive wars ever waged, into an oasis of peace and prosperity where borders are open and uncontested and aggression unthinkable.

Russia's invasion of Georgia represents the most serious challenge to this political order since Slobodan Milosevic unleashed the demons of ethnic nationalism in the Balkans. What is happening in Georgia today, therefore, is not simply a territorial dispute. It is a struggle about whether a new dividing line is drawn across Europe: between nations that are free to determine their own destinies, and nations that are consigned to the Kremlin's autocratic orbit.

That is the reason countries like Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic States are watching what happens in the Caucasus so closely. We heard that last week in Warsaw, Kiev and Tbilisi. There is no doubt in the minds of leaders in Ukraine and Poland -- if Moscow succeeds in Georgia, they may be next.

There is disturbing evidence Russia is already laying the groundwork to apply the same arguments used to justify its intervention in Georgia to other parts of its near abroad -- most ominously in Crimea. This strategically important peninsula is part of Ukraine, but with a large ethnic Russian population and the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol.

The first priority of America and Europe must be to prevent the Kremlin from achieving its strategic objectives in Georgia. Having been deterred from marching on Tbilisi and militarily overthrowing the democratically elected government there, Russian forces spent last week destroying the country's infrastructure, including roads, bridges, port and security facilities. This was more than random looting. It was a deliberate campaign to collapse the economy of Georgia, in the hope of taking the government down with it.

The humanitarian supplies the U.S. military is now ferrying to Georgia are critically important to the innocent men, women and children displaced by the fighting, some of whom we saw last week. Also needed, immediately, is a joint commitment by the U.S. and the European Union to fund a large-scale, comprehensive reconstruction plan -- developed by the Georgian government, in consultation with the World Bank, IMF and other international authorities -- and for the U.S. Congress to support this plan as soon as it returns to session in September.

Any assistance plan must also include the rebuilding of Georgia's security forces. Our past aid to the Georgian military focused on supporting the light, counterterrorism-oriented forces that facilitate Tbilisi's contribution to coalition operations in Iraq. We avoided giving the types of security aid that could have been used to blunt Russia's conventional onslaught. It is time for that to change.

Specifically, the Georgian military should be given the antiaircraft and antiarmor systems necessary to deter any renewed Russian aggression. These defensive capabilities will help to prevent this conflict from erupting again, and make clear we will not allow the Russians to forcibly redraw the boundaries of sovereign nations.

Our response to the invasion of Georgia must include regional actions to reassure Russia's rattled neighbors and strengthen trans-Atlantic solidarity. This means reinvigorating NATO as a military alliance, not just a political one. Contingency planning for the defense of all member states against conventional and unconventional attack, including cyber warfare, needs to be revived. The credibility of Article Five of the NATO Charter -- that an attack against one really can and will be treated as an attack against all -- needs to be bolstered.

The U.S. must also reaffirm its commitment to allies that have been the targets of Russian bullying because of their willingness to work with Washington. The recent missile-defense agreement between Poland and the U.S., for instance, is not aimed at Russia. But this has not stopped senior Russian officials from speaking openly about military retaliation against Warsaw. Irrespective of our political differences over missile defense, Democrats and Republicans should join together in Congress to pledge solidarity with Poland, along with the Czech Republic, against these outrageous Russian threats.

Finally, the U.S. and Europe need a new trans-Atlantic energy alliance. In recent years, Russia has proven all too willing to use its oil and gas resources as a weapon, and to try to consolidate control over the strategic energy corridors to the West. By working together, an alliance can frustrate these designs and diminish our dependence on the foreign oil that is responsible for the higher energy prices here at home.

In crafting a response to the Georgia crisis, we must above all reaffirm our conviction that Russia need not be a competitor or an adversary. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Democratic and Republican administrations have engaged Russia, sending billions of dollars to speed its economic recovery and welcoming its integration into the flagship institutions of the international community. We did this because we believed that a strong, prosperous Russia can be a strategic partner and a friend. We still do.

But Russia's leaders have made a different choice. While we stand ready to rebuild relations with Moscow and work together on shared challenges, Russia's current course will only alienate and isolate it from the rest of the world.

We believe history will judge the Russian invasion of Georgia as a serious strategic miscalculation. Although it is for the moment flush with oil wealth, Russia's political elite remains kleptocratic, and its aggression exposed as much weakness as strength. The invasion of Georgia will not only have a unifying effect on the West, it also made clear that Russia -- unlike the Soviet Union -- has few real allies of strategic worth. To date, the only countries to defend Russia's actions in the Caucasus have been Cuba and Belarus -- and the latter, only after the Kremlin publicly complained about its silence.

In the long run, a Russia that tries to define its greatness in terms of spheres of influence, client states and forced fealty to Moscow will fail -- impoverishing its citizens in the process. The question is only how long until Russia's leaders rediscover this lesson from their own history.

Until they do, the watchword of the West must be solidarity: solidarity with the people of Georgia and its democratically elected government, solidarity with our allies throughout the region, and above all, solidarity with the values that have given meaning to our trans-Atlantic community of democracies and our vision of a European continent that is whole, free and at peace.

Mr. Graham is a Republican senator from South Carolina. Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut.

(This op-ed originally ran in the Wall Street Journal on August 26, 2008.)

 

Aug 06 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement on the verdict reached by the military commission in the Hamdan case. 

Hamdan was convicted by a panel of six military officers of providing material support for terrorism.  He was acquitted on a more serious charge of conspiracy.  The Hamdan case was the first military commission trial here and the first conducted by the United States since the end of World War II.

Graham said:

“With 25 years of experience as a military lawyer, I have a great deal of confidence in military judges, juries, prosecutors and defense attorneys to fairly and appropriately deal with allegations of war crimes by unlawful enemy combatants.  These are the same lawyers and jurors who sit in judgment of our own troops when they are accused of misconduct.  

“As one of the primary authors of the Military Commissions Act (MCA), I continue to believe the military commission setting is the right venue for these trials, not civilian courts.  Every conviction by the military commission, like Hamdan, can be appealed to federal civilian court and the Supreme Court.  The due process rights granted to unlawful enemy combatants under the MCA are far beyond anything offered in other wars. 

“I was pleased the commission proceedings were open to the public to the maximum extent possible and the judge prohibited the use of evidence he found to be a result of coercive interrogations.   

“I have always believed it would be a major mistake to view those alleged to have been involved with Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations to be common criminals instead of the warriors they claim to be.  I believe military commissions are the right approach to deliver justice and protect our nation in the War on Terror.”

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Aug 01 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) helped draft and signed on to a bipartisan energy proposal that enables our nation become more energy independent.

 

The proposal, New Energy Reform Act of 2008 from the group dubbed the ‘Gang of 10’, contains provisions on offshore drilling, spent nuclear fuel recycling, promotes new technologies and conservation, and requires the oil companies to pay fair market prices for oil leases and drilling rights.

 

“There is no greater problem facing average American’s and small business today than high fuel costs and our nation’s dependency on foreign oil, “said Graham.  “Our proposal is not perfect, but it is a bipartisan start on the road to a comprehensive energy strategy leading our nation to independence from foreign oil.  It will create new jobs from new technologies good for American wallets and our environment.  I am proud to be part of this bipartisan effort to address this serious problem.”

 

Among the major provisions of the legislation:

  • Increased Off-Shore Drilling:  The ban on offshore drilling in large parts of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic will be lifted.  States would have to consent to drilling at least 50 miles off their shores.
  • Recycling of Spent Nuclear Fuel:  The recycling of spent nuclear fuel would reduce by 90 percent the waste to be placed in long-term storage at the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada .  Spent fuel rods would be recycled and reused as fuel in commercial nuclear power plants and would help reenergize our nuclear power industry.
  • Strong Conservation and Energy Independence Measures:  The proposal takes strong steps in promoting new technologies that will reduce the amount of foreign oil we consume.  It expands existing incentives to purchase hybrid vehicles, facilitates the development of next-generation batteries, and includes hydrogen infrastructure tax credit to help bring this promising technology to market. 
  • Requires Oil Companies to Pay Fair Market Value:  The proposal repeals tax breaks and incentives for oil companies.  Oil companies will also be required to pay royalty payments due on existing leases where royalties were not previously charged.  The inability to collect royalty payments was a result of poor drafting of leases during the Clinton Administration.  The revenue would be invested in alternative fuels.

"Offshore drilling, with the consent of the states, is an integral part of any energy independence plan,” said Graham.  “There is no doubt we need more domestic exploration.  Every barrel of oil we can find in America will be one less we have to compete with China and India for or be subject to OPEC price setting.  The more domestic energy we can locate and utilize the better.

“Since the 1970s, our country has had an irrational view of nuclear power,” said Graham. “This view is best demonstrated by our nation’s refusal to allow recycling of spent fuel rods. For decades the French, Japanese and British have all been recycling spent fuel.  Surely this is an instance were we can be as bold as the French.

“Our proposal also commits billions for research, development, and purchases of alternative fuel vehicles,” said Graham.  “We call for an ‘Apollo Project’ like effort to support the goal of transitioning 85 percent of American new motor vehicles to non-petroleum-based fuels within the next 20 years.

“Quite frankly, this particular tax incentive was never asked for by the oil companies,” said Graham.  “It is irrational to be allocating around $1 billion per year in tax dollars to assist in production at a time when oil is $124 per barrel and companies are recording record profits.  The proposal also seeks royalty payments due on existing leases where royalties were not previously charged.  The inability to collect royalties was a result of poor drafting of the leases during the Clinton Administration and could result in billions in payments being collected over the next 10 years.  These revenues will be invested in alternative fuel technology.

“It is clear to the American people their Congress is broken.  I appreciate the efforts of my colleagues to try to jumpstart serious discussions on how to solve America ’s energy crisis,” said Graham.  “It is my hope that this group will provide some reassurance to the American people that we still can work together and find common ground on the important problems facing every American family and business.  I hope that over the congressional recess support will build for this common-sense, balanced approach to making our nation more energy independent.”

The members of the ‘Gang of 10’ include Senators Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota), Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia), John Thune (R-South Dakota), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas), Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), and Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska).

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BACKGROUND ON THE NEW ENERGY REFORM ACT OF 2008

Roadmap to a Secure Energy Future

Overview

Knowing that the rising cost of energy is the number one issue facing Americans today, ten Senators from both sides of the aisle have come together to present a proposal to reduce gas prices, lessen our dependence on foreign oil, and strengthen our economy.  The New ERA legislation represents a true compromise, incorporating common sense ideas.

The purpose of the legislation is to transition our economy – particularly the surface transportation sector – to run off alternative fuels other than gasoline and diesel. The legislation dedicates at least $20 billion in the next ten years to this important endeavor.

To ease gas prices in the interim, the New ERA bill includes significant conservation provisions and targeted, responsible measures to increase our domestic production of traditional fuel sources. Any new domestically produced resources must stay in the United States . The bill will also establish a National Commission on Comprehensive Energy Policy to identify critical “inhibitors and prohibiters” to the goals established in the bill and to make recommendations to Congress on policies to overcome these obstacles as well as to address related matters such as carbon capture and storage, nuclear and renewable energy, and the need for upgrading and transitioning the national grid and other energy infrastructure.

The New ERA bill contains three main components:

  • An intensive effort to transition vehicles to non-petroleum based fuels;
  • a robust federal commitment to conservation and energy efficiency; and
  • targeted, responsible domestic production of energy resources.

Converting Cars and Trucks to Non-Oil Fuel Sources to Regain Energy Independence

The New ERA legislation funds a $20 billion “Apollo Project” like effort to support the goal of transitioning 85 percent of America ’s new motor vehicles to non- petroleum-based fuels within 20 years. To accelerate this transition, the legislation includes:

  • $7.5 billion for R&D focused on the major technological barriers to alternative fuel vehicles, such as advanced batteries;
  • $7.5 billion to help U.S. automakers and parts makers re-tool and re-equip to become the world leader in making alternative fuel vehicles;
  • Consumer tax credits of up to $7,500 per vehicle to incentivize Americans to purchase advanced alternative fuel vehicles (those that run primarily on non-petroleum fuels) and up to $2,500 to retrofit existing vehicles with advanced alternative fuel engines.

Enhancing Conservation

To ease gas prices and protect our environment during the transition, the proposal includes a significant federal commitment to promoting conservation and efficiency.  These include:

  • Extending renewable energy, carbon mitigation and energy conservation and efficiency tax incentives, including the production tax credit, through 2012 to create greater certainty and spur greater investment;
  • New consumer tax credits of up to $2,500 to purchase highly fuel efficient vehicles, to help Americans reduce their annual gas costs and reduce oil imports;
  • Extending and expanding the $2,500 tax credit for hybrid electric vehicles;
  • $500 million for R&D into new materials and other innovations to improve vehicle fuel efficiency;
  • $2.5 billion in R,D&D on next generation biofuels and infrastructure;
  • Tax incentives for the installation of alternative fueling stations, pipelines and other infrastructure;
  • Expanding transmission capacity for power from renewable sources;
  • New dedicated funding for the weatherization assistance program.

Responsible, Targeted Domestic Energy Production

To help meet our energy needs until our economy transitions to advanced alternative fuel vehicles, the New ERA bill increases domestic energy production in environmentally responsible ways. The legislation:

  • Provides a CO2 sequestration credit for use in enhanced oil recovery to increase production from existing oil wells while reducing greenhouse gas emissions; 
  • Opens additional acreage in the Gulf of Mexico for leasing (in consultation with the Defense Department to ensure that drilling is done in a manner consistent with national security) and allows Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia to opt in to leasing off their shores.  Retains an environmental buffer zone extending 50 miles offshore where new oil production will not be allowed.  Requires all new production to be used domestically.  Creates a commission to make recommendations to Congress on future areas that should be considered for leasing. Provides for appropriate revenue sharing for states that allow leasing off their shores;
  • Provides grants and loan guarantees for the development of coal-to-liquid fuel plants with carbon capture capability.  Plants must have lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions below those of the petroleum fuels they are replacing;
  • Supports nuclear energy by increasing staff at the NRC, providing workforce training, accelerating depreciation for nuclear plants, and supporting R&D on spent fuel recycling to reduce nuclear waste.

Speculation

The Group decided to focus on increasing supply and reducing demand and will await the mid-September report of the CFTC to consider this subject.

Offsets

The $84 billion in investments in conservation and efficiency in the New ERA bill will be fully offset with loophole closers and other revenues.  Approximately $30 billion will come from new revenues from the oil and gas industry through such measures as modifying the Section 199 manufacturing deduction for oil and natural gas production and other appropriate measures to ensure that the federal government receives its fair share of revenue from Gulf of Mexico leases.  Remaining offsets will be finalized in consultation with the Finance Committee after accounting for interaction effects with other pending legislation.

Jul 31 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) has signed a letter with fellow Senators pressing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to ensure passage of legislation reauthorizing the E-Verify program which is set to expire in November.

 

E-Verify is a web-based tool run by the Department of Homeland Security for employers across the country. The state of South Carolina has also passed into law legislation mandating the use of E-Verify for government contractors and private employers in coming years.

 

Graham noted the comprehensive immigration reform bill Congress debated last year contained an even stronger version of E-Verify for employment verification and mandated all business use the system.  However, Graham noted that even a watered-down version of electronic employment verification, like E-Verify, is better than none at all.

 

“Congress is running out of time to reauthorize and even enhance E-Verify,” wrote Graham.  “The number of employers relying on the program to hire legal workers is likely to grow.  Small businesses and companies that utilize it need to be able to know that Congress is not going to let this program die.”

 

Known as the Basic Pilot Program since its inception in 1996, E-Verify provides employers with a process to verify the work eligibility of new hires.  Right now, nearly 80,000 employers use the program and according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, more than 1,000 employers voluntarily sign up to use E-Verify each week.

 

“Both sides of the aisle would like to see reforms to the electronic employment verification program,” said Graham. “Ultimately, we would prefer to pass a bill requiring mandatory participation in the program. Since there is very little time left in this session, we urge you to support a straight reauthorization of E-Verify.  Extending the program will keep employers accountable while giving them the tools needed to abide by the law in their hiring practices.”

 

The letter was also signed by Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), David Vitter (R-Louisiana), Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia), Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), John Ensign (R-Nevada), Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), and Wayne Allard (R-Colorado).

 

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Jul 30 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement on the current situation on the floor of the U.S. Senate where Senate Majority Leader Reid continues to block consideration and votes on energy proposals to allow additional offshore drilling and conservation efforts.

 

Graham said:

 

“The Senate is reinforcing every day why it is held in such low standing.

 

“We should be solving problems, like our nation’s growing energy crisis, not going out of our way to avoid debating and voting on them.  It’s truly sad the world’s greatest deliberative body has been reduced to deliberately blocking attempts to debate and cast votes on solutions to our broken energy policies.

 

“I support tax extenders for American families and business.  I support the media shield law.  I support some of the other proposals we may eventually debate.  But we should not have to choose between solving these problems and abandoning our attempts to fix our nation’s energy crisis.  Let’s do all of them.  It can be done.”

 

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Jul 18 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement on news President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have agreed to set a conditions-based ‘time horizon’ for the withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq.

 

Graham said:

 

“Before the surge, democratic institutions in Iraq were on the verge of collapse.  Sectarian violence and Iranian influence grew by the day and there existed the real possibility Iraq would become an al Qaeda safe haven and home base for future terrorist attacks.

 

“With today’s agreement on a ‘time-horizon’ for a conditions-based withdrawal of U.S. combat forces, we have reached a point where it can be said the surge strategy articulated by Senator McCain and adopted by President Bush has worked on all fronts.

 

“The surge provided better security allowing Iraqi institutions to grow in capability and afforded the political leadership breathing space from the violence to reconcile Iraq .

 

“Today, the Iraqi government has met 15 of the 18 benchmarks set by Congress.  Violence is down sharply across the board.  Iraq ’s economic future is bright with strong economic growth and a tremendous increase in oil production.  The Iraqi military’s performance in recent engagements against Shia militia and insurgents has been impressive.

 

Iraq has also planned fall provincial elections which make clear the Iraqi people intend to settle their differences -- not with bullets and bombs -- but within the framework of democracy.

 

“If our nation had taken the ill-advised course charted by Senator Obama -- pulling out troops during the height of sectarian violence – it would have been a death blow to representative government in Iraq .  Al Qaeda extremists and Iran would have rejoiced at our tragic mistake.  Our nation would have suffered a devastating defeat in the War on Terror.

 

“Senator Obama was wrong when he opposed the surge.  Senator Obama was wrong when he said it would fail and make things worse.  Senator Obama was wrong when he said Iraq was not a central battle in the War on Terror.  And Senator Obama continues to be wrong when he unilaterally announces and advocates a 16 month withdrawal of American forces.  Senator Obama’s ill-advised timetable was arrived at without consulting our top generals like David H. Petraeus or the Maliki government.  It is an irresponsible policy decision.

 

“Let’s be clear, the stunning military, economic, and political progress that has been achieved from the surge has come at a heavy price in blood and treasure.  But with its success, the likelihood of a stable, functioning, representative government in the heart of the Arab world is now closer to reality.

 

“All Americans should be proud of the accomplishments of our men and women in uniform, along with the civilian support staff, and hopeful for our friends and allies in the new, democratic Iraq .”

 

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Jul 14 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement on President Bush’s decision to lift the executive ban on offshore drilling.

 

He said:

 

“I applaud the President’s decision to lift the moratorium on offshore exploration.  There is no doubt we need more domestic exploration.  Every barrel of oil we can find in America will be one less we have to compete with China and India for or be subject to OPEC price setting.  The more domestic energy we can locate and utilize, the better.”

 

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Jul 14 2008

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and U.S. Representative Henry Brown (R-Hanahan) today expressed their support for the decision by Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs James Peake to make amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease,” a service connected disability.

 

Graham and Brown have been working with Secretary Peake to make this designation, and Peake informed the lawmakers of his decision on a conference call this morning.

 

“I applaud Secretary Peake’s decision to make ALS a service connected disability,” said Graham.  “This devastating disease occurs in the military at more than twice the rate of the general population.  The Secretary’s decision to find a service connection is justified and the right thing to do.  This decision will provide much comfort to the military members suffering from this debilitating disease.  I want to thank Henry Brown for his leadership on this issue, and General Mikolajcik for his service to our country and heroic stand on behalf of his fellow veterans.”

 

“Today’s decision by Secretary Peake is the culmination of a concerted effort to have veterans with ALS receive benefits they deserve from the VA,” said Brown.  “A growing number of veterans, especially those who served during the first Gulf War, have been diagnosed with ALS, and there is a clear connection between ALS and military service.  Veterans with ALS, such as Charleston ’s Retired Brigadier General Thomas Mikolajcik, have shown the same determination in their fight for this change as they show in their fight against ALS.  I was proud to stand beside them and Senator Graham in getting them the benefits that the evidence shows they deserve.”

 

In addition to working to move the VA towards making today’s change, Congressman Brown introduced legislation (H.R. 5454) that would establish a presumption of service connection for all veterans with ALS.  The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing on Brown’s legislation just a month ago, and it was expected to move to the House floor before the end of the year.

 

According to Secretary Peake, the change should go into effect August 1.

 

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Jul 12 2008

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made the following statement on the passing of Tony Snow.

 

“Tony Snow was one of the most decent and loyal people I’ve ever known in political life.  Tony was loyal to his maker, family, friends, ideals, and profession.  He was one of the smartest and most articulate voices for the conservative cause in the nation.  Tony was a true friend, and will be missed.”

 

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Jul 10 2008

WASHINGTON-  U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement following Senate confirmation of General David Petraeus as Commanding General of U.S. Central Command by a vote of 95-2, and General Raymond Odierno as Commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq by a vote of 96-1.

Graham said:

“I congratulate President Bush for nominating these fine officers for two of the most important jobs in the military.  Generals Petraeus and Odierno are the right people at the right time to lead operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

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