WASHINGTON – The Iraq war is stretching Montana emotionally and financially, Gov. Brian Schweitzer told a congressional committee Thursday.
Testifying at a hearing on the costs of the Iraq war, Schweitzer told members of Congress that many veterans in the state have a hard time receiving mental health care because there are too few specialists in rural areas. He told the story of a Montana soldier who committed suicide after returning home from war.
Schweitzer also outlined the state’s efforts to improve mental health care for veterans and discussed the Montana National Guard’s efforts to remain equipped, trained and emotionally stable.
“It is my belief we are only now seeing the tip of an iceberg … and unless we collectively deal with that iceberg, it will indeed sink us,” Schweitzer said.
New York Sen. Charles Schumer, the Democratic chairman of the House and Senate Joint Economic Committee, called the hearing to assess the country’s costs of the Iraq war.
A Republican member of the panel objected to its premise, saying one could not put a price tag on protecting the country from terrorism.
“It seems to me immoral that we are spending time in made-for-TV hearings rather than funding the troops,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas.
Internal party battles, combined with difficult negotiations with the White House, have stalled House action on $165.4 billion in Senate-passed funding for Pentagon operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Schumer said there is a price tag on Iraq.
“Simply to pretend that the costs of the war don’t exist, that’s not acceptable to us or to the American people,” he said.
Schweitzer said the greatest cost to the state is the loss of life.
“If we believe this war is important enough to fight, then let us be sure that we are paying the full costs of that war today,” he said.
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