When U.S. Army Capt. Michael Breen was fighting Taliban forces near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan during the summer of 2006, one thought kept recurring: Where was the money coming from to supply his impoverished enemies with guns, ammunition, rockets and bombs?
“Afghanistan is probably one of the five poorest countries on earth,” Breen said. “The money to supply the Taliban doesn’t just come from opium sales; a lot of it comes from donations from oil-rich nations in the Gulf region.”
Breen is one of the war veterans traveling with the American Power National Tour, which stopped at the Schenectady County Veterans Memorial Park Saturday for a rally as part of a tour of 27 states. The tour is a campaign of Operation Free, a coalition of organizations including the Truman National Security Project, a group that recruits, trains and promotes liberal national security leaders. More information about the group is available at www.operationfree.net.
Event organizers said the purpose of the tour is to highlight the connection between America’s dependence on foreign oil, its link to how terrorism is funded and the potential for climate change to destabilize nations. The short-term political goal of the tour is helping to promote clean energy as well as climate and energy legislation in Congress.
Breen said he’s a native of New Hampshire who fought in Iraq from 2003 to 2004 as well as in Afghanistan. Now, he’s a student at Yale Law School. He said he doesn’t agree with those who argue that the U.S. has twice gone to war in Iraq solely because of oil.
“I think we went to war in Iraq for many complex reasons and oil was maybe one of them, but I don’t think you even need to go there with that argument to see the obvious danger of our dependence on foreign oil,” he said. “Nations like Iran use the wealth they gain from oil production to fund terrorism. Iran also uses the money to support its nuclear program.”
Ed Bloch, president of the New York State Council of Veterans Organizations, attended the rally Saturday. Bloch is a Marine who fought in Asia during World War II. He said he’d never heard of the American Power National Tour until he was invited to the rally. After hearing the group’s message, he said he will support a resolution in his organization to endorse the campaign.
“It’s fully correct,” Bloch said. “The more dependent we are on foreign sources of energy, the more vulnerable we are.”
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, spoke at the rally. Tonko, long an advocate for increased domestic production of wind, solar and other “green” energy sources, said dependence on foreign oil is absolutely a bipartisan national security issue. He said it was wrong to continue to pour billions of dollars into the treasuries of foreign nations with hostile intentions toward America.
Also, climate change, which many scientists believe is at least contributed to by man’s overuse of fossil fuels like oil, has great potential to increase conflicts around the world.
“Climate change can lead to drought and famine and flooding, which destabilizes nations and helps to promote the violent agendas of terrorists,” Tonko said.
Albany County Executive Michael Breslin, a veteran of the Vietnam War, said it’s time that Americans stop being inconsistent by consuming oil we know is linked to the terrorism we send our troops around the world to fight.
“We’re hanging our own soldiers out to dry when there is so much we can do to change the world right here,” he said.
Schenectady is the only city the tour is scheduled to visit in New York. Previously, the tour was in Pennsylvania. It will continue on to Maine next week. The tour began Jan. 13 in front of the U.S. Capitol.