Friday, August 28, 2009

Audio: Senator Collins on health care reform

Senator Collins discusses health care reform with Ric Tyler and George Hale on WVOM:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Collins takes part in 'Fiscal Wake-Up Tour' forum

Senator Collins participated in a Fiscal Wake-Up Tour event hosted by the Concord Coalition. Senator Collins, former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, Concord Coalition Executive Director Bob Bixby, Stuart Butler of the Brookings Institution, and Will Marshall from the Progressive Policy Institute discussed present and future fiscal policy.

The event is among many similar events hosted by the Concord Coalition throughout the nation to address the mounting federal deficit and policy solutions. The event also came on the day that the Obama administration increased ten-year deficit projections to $9 trillion.

“We need to make some fundamental changes in the way that we have approached spending in this country,” said Senator Collins. “If we don’t, our future commitments and our ever-growing demand for government services will devour our economy. But if we do make some tough choices, we can put this country back on a track so that future generations will be able to enjoy something that every American generation has enjoyed so far - a better quality of life than the generation that preceded it.”

The panel discussed and took questions on issues ranging from the budget, healthcare, and the long-term fiscal health of social security and Medicare.

Here's video from the event:

from the Portland Press Herald:
In Maine, coalition sounds alarm on consequences of debt
Americans should spend less, save more and start thinking about how the nation's mounting debt will affect their children's and grandchildren's quality of life.

That was the message delivered Tuesday by a panel of financial experts and members of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan organization that has dedicated itself to educating the public about the consequences of federal budget deficits.

The panelists came to Maine this week as part of their "Fiscal Wake-Up Tour," a national event organized by the coalition and aimed at cutting through partisan rhetoric and stimulating public debate on ways government can reduce spending.

Members met with the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram editorial board Tuesday morning before traveling to the Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport, where they co-hosted a forum with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

About 200 people attended the forum and listened to the panel discuss ways to reduce the deficit – on the same day the Obama administration predicted a skyrocketing 10-year federal deficit of $9 trillion... Read more >>

Friday, August 21, 2009

Senator Collins' blog - Greece

Our last stop was Rhodes, Greece, where we arrived late Tuesday night from Afghanistan. Rhodes is a pretty town and a major port of call for our Navy. It was also the first place on our trip where we can drink the water from the tap!

The next morning we met with the head of the Navy League whose message was that the community welcomes more Navy ships. The Navy's port visits have helped to strengthen our relationship with Rhodes and, I am sure, put dollars in the pockets of merchants.

We also met and had lunch with Greece's Deputy Foreign Minister Valinaskis, a knowledgeable and urbane former professor, who discussed the Greek commitment to the Afghanistan battle, our joint counter-terrorism efforts, the nation's relationship with the U.S. Navy, and upcoming elections. The Minister also brought up Greece's relationship with Turkey, always a source of friction, and Greece's anger over the name "Macedonia" being used by a country that was once part of what used to be called Yugoslavia. This Macedonia dispute was a new issue for me but clearly is deeply felt by the Greeks.

After a press conference with the Minister Valinaskis, we left immediately for the airport for our return to Washington.

I am so glad to be back home in America.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Senator Collins' blog- Helmand Province

At 7:45 a.m., we board a C-130 leaving Kabul for the two-hour flight to Camp Leatherneck in southern Afghanistan. Although slightly less crowded than usual, the plane is full of exhaust fumes and very hot. The pilot executes a steep, fast, stomach-turning combat landing. Sitting next to me is a big, strong Special Operations Forces guy with an M-4, who also happens to be a medic. He kindly hands me two Dramamine to take before the return trip.

Helmand Province is much hotter, drier, and windier than Kabul. The Marine base is carved out of a featureless desert. Everything from tents to vehicles is coated with wind-blown sand.

Helmand is a Taliban stronghold and part of RC-3 (Regional Command-3.) General Nicholson, the terrific commander of RC-3, has sacrificed a lot for our country. Seriously wounded in Iraq, he recovered and, rather than retiring, is now in charge of the new strategy to reclaim southern Afghanistan from the Taliban.

The General talks to us about the tremendous courage of our troops and their progress in clearing the "Big T" Taliban out of the villages. There is no doubt that the Marines are highly effective. They are also suffering tough casualties. While at Camp Leatherneck, I was saddened to learn of the death of Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard of New Portland, Maine, who died a few days ago in combat operations in Helmand. With the deployment of additional troops has come more casualties, which is what makes troop level decisions so difficult.

After hearing the General's briefing, I have two major concerns.

First the ratio of our troops to the Afghan Army members in Helmand makes no sense to me at all. There are some 10,000 American troops in the region, but only about 800 Afghan troops. Why are we bearing such a disproportionate burden in one of the most dangerous regions of the country? While at 90,000 members the Afghan Army isn't as large as it should be, surely more Afghan troops could be deployed to this region.

Second, it appears to me that we don't have enough civilians from America and other countries to work with the Afghans to provide security, basic services, and governance structures once the Marines clear out the Taliban. In other words, the "clear, hold, build, and transition" strategy cannot succeed without more civilians to help with the "build and transition" parts. The Marines battle the Taliban village by village, but then the Taliban return if villages are not secured. A counter-insurgency strategy depends on a unity of effort by both the military and civilian sides. But it looks to me like the civilian side is severely understaffed for the mission.

The two "surges" that I think may be needed are surges of Afghan troops and of American civilian employees. Yet, much of the debate about Afghanistan in Congress seems to focus on whether or not to send more American troops with far less discussion of the levels of Afghan troops and civilian personnel.

We leave the briefing to have lunch with the Marines from our respective state. I enjoy talking with the Marines who hail from several Maine communities well as with a civilian, Dr. Joseph Mickiewicz, who turns out to be the son-in-law of John Dionne of Grand Isle, Maine.

I ask the Marines their concerns. Two of them tell me exactly what I perceived from the briefing: that after they fight to drive the Taliban out of a village, there isn't the follow up that is required to secure and stabilize the town.

The Marines also tell me that when they arrived in May, they did not have the equipment that they needed for some time. This is a disturbing problem that I will pursue with Defense Dept. officials.

On a more positive note, the Marines proudly describe their success in rooting out the Taliban and in working with local Afghan leaders. One quotes a local leader urging residents to work with the Americans as saying: "The Taliban don't build schools; they burn schools!"

The Maine Marines are an impressive group, and I tell them how proud we all are of their sacrifice and service.

After lunch, we visit the field hospital which is operated by a combined team of British, Danish, and Americans. We visit each of the patients which include a badly injured Marine who will be airlifted to Germany shortly for additional treatment. He describes an ambush by Taliban fighters in which he was injured. His spirits seem good, however, and he loves talking with John McCain.

Among the other patients are a young Danish woman solider and an eight-year old Afghan boy in a wheel chair who has two broken legs and a broken arm.

An operation is underway while we are at the hospital, and I am surprised to learn the patient is a Taliban fighter who was shot in the stomach.

After we talked with all the patients and the British hospital administrator, we make our way back to the C-130 for the two-hour return flight to Kabul where we have a press conference. The Afghan press repeatedly asks whether the timing of our trip is intended to boost President Karzai's election chances. We explain that we are not backing any candidate and that we did not meet with Hamid Karzai or any other candidate to avoid giving that impression. (Ironically, President Karzai is angry at our Ambassador for holding meetings with two other candidates.)

American officials do hope that whoever wins can avoid a run-off election which would delay necessary decisions as well as General McChrystal's pivotal report.

Senator Collins' blog - Afghanistan

It's a five-hour flight from Sana'a, Yemen, to Kabul, Afghanistan, and with the 90-minute time change, it is close to 7:30 p.m. when we arrive.

Afghanistan is the most important part of our journey because the United States will soon face a difficult and weighty decision on whether or not to further augment our troops beyond the 20,000 additional troops already deployed by the Obama Administration. This latest deployment brings the total number of American troops in Afghanistan to approximately 68,000.

General Stan McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Iraq, meets us at the airport with helicopters that take us to his headquarters very near where a suicide bomber has caused the death of several people and the injury of about 90 others earlier in the day. It is a unwelcome reminder of how much more dangerous Afghanistan has become since my last visit here in December 2006.

General McChrystal is a smart, focused counter-insurgency expert who previously headed the Special Forces Command. A straight-forward leader, he won my confidence with his frank answers to my questions about Afghanistan in a meeting in my office prior to his confirmation.

Along with Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and their aides, the General provides us with a detailed briefing. He begins with his chilling assessment that the situation in Afghanistan "is serious and deteriorating." He shows us a color-coded map that indicates areas of Taliban control, and outlines the new strategy (clear, build, hold, and transition) that began on July 2nd with the deployment of two additional battalions of Marines in Helmand province.

A great deal of the discussion focuses on whether or not more troops are needed. The General says that he has completed his analysis and will report his recommendations through his chain of command to the President in September. It seems, however, pretty clear to me that he will be asking for more troops although he does not say that since he won't preempt his report to the President. I have enormous respect for General McChyrstal but remain troubled by the prospect of deploying more troops.

I ask General McChrystal whether any of the Taliban are reconcilable since I have my doubts. In replying "yes," he makes an interesting distinction (as does General Nicholson the following day) between "Big T," the Taliban leaders driven by extremist ideology and often from outside the region, versus "Little T," the local day laborer who works for the Taliban simply for money.

We also spend considerable time discussing corruption, which is endemic in Afghanistan, undermining public confidence in government and burdening the population. The President's own brother is alleged to be taking bribes from drug traffickers moving the poppy crop.

We discuss the need for an aggressive anti-corruption effort, the urgency of increasing the size of the Afghan Army, the contributions of our NATO partners, and the impact of the upcoming presidential elections which will take place on Thursday.
The good news is that the Afghans are keenly interested in the elections; there have been real debates, and the Afghans have true choices. Not only President Karzai and his closest competitor former, Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, but also about 40 other candidates are on the ballot.

The very bad news: in some villages, particularly in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, the Taliban are threatening to cut off the ink-stained fingers of anyone who votes. Security is so lacking in some areas that the elections commission is not even setting up voting booths, requiring Afghans to travel some distance if they wish to vote. Fraud is also likely to be a problem.

Afghans widely perceive the U.S. as backing Karzai in the election. To avoid fueling that perception three days before the election, our delegation decides not to meet with President Karzai.

Instead, we continue our discussion over a very late dinner at the embassy with the Ministers of various Departments (Defense, Interior, etc.) and the National Security Advisor.

I take this opportunity to talk about the treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan, recalling President Karzai's early commitment to educating girls yet his decision this year to sign a law that was a giant step backwards in the rights of women. The Judicial Minister quickly said that the law had been repealed and had been a "huge mistake."

Tommorrow we will go to Camp Leatherneck, the Marine encampment in Helmand Province, a Taliban stronghold.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Senator Collins' blog- Yemen

On Sunday, we arrived in Yemen, an ancient land said to have been founded by Shem, Noah's son. Being there is like stepping back into an exotic world of several centuries ago. It is also one of the most dangerous places on earth.

Yemen is a tinderbox: the government is fighting two different insurgencies as well as Al Qaeda cells. It's strategically important because of its significant cargo ports and its location adjacent to Saudia Arabia.

Unlike the rest of the Arabian Pennisula, Yemen is extremely poor. It has little oil and has depleted a large amount of what it did have.

The country also faces a demographic time bomb with 60 percent of its population under the age of 25, creating a growing pool of recruits for Al Qaeda and for the insurgents, particularly given the very high rate of unemployment. The birth rate is 6.7 children, one of the highest in the world.

Yemen men often have more than one wife - at the same time. Most Yemeni women wear black abayas with only their eyes visible when they are in public.

Yemen also has a terrible problem with a native drug called qat that is chewed by 70 percent of the men and a growing number of women. Many of the men wear traditional short curved swords held by ornate belts. Envision this: most of the men are drugged with a stimulant every day and are carrying sharp knives!

All these factors combine to make Yemen unstable. The site of the infamous bombing of the USS Cole in the port of Aden in 2000, Yemen continues to be attractive terrority for Al Qaeda, which attacked our American embassy with suicide bombers just last September. Both the Ambassador and his wife, (who is a native of Sanford, Maine,) were at home at the time but escaped unhurt. Guards at the embassy were not so lucky - several died in repelling the attack.

Approximately 100 of the remaining 240 detainees at Guatanamo are from Yemen. What to do with them if Gitmo is closed is a major concern since some of the previously released Yemenis have rejoined Al Qaeda. We discussed this and other challenges with the Yemini President Saleh and separately with our Ambassador and the Embassy staff.

Senator Collins in Afghanistan

Senator Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is part of a congressional delegation that is currently on an official visit to Afghanistan. Senator Collins is joined on the trip by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Their visit comes as millions of Afghanis prepare to go to the polls on Thursday amidst violence that has recently rocked the country. For security reasons, a detailed itinerary of their visit to Afghanistan cannot be released until later.

In April, during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to examine the President’s $83.4 billion spending request to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Senator Collins questioned Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about women’s rights in Afghanistan. Initially, after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the position of Afghan girls and women improved dramatically. But, troubled by a controversial new law that restricts women's freedom, Senator Collins expressed her concern that women's rights are now being rolled back.

"We have seen President Karzai sign a highly repressive law that, among other provisions, actually legalizes marital rape, it's troubling to me that the American taxpayers are being asked to ramp up assistance to Afghanistan at a time when the treatment of girls and women is becoming more repressive," Senator Collins told Secretary of State Clinton.

Senator Collins, and the other delegation members, have visited Libya, Yemen, Kuwait and Iraq. This is Senator Collins’ fourth trip to the region. Her last visit was in December 2006.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Senator Collins' blog- Kurdistan

Saturday began early with "Salute to Our Troops" interviews for all of us on Armed Forces Network. Then we left Badhdad on a C-130 for the one-hour flight to Irbil in the Northern Iraq region known as Kurdistan. Once again, the aircraft is terribly hot and packed with soldiers, marines, and equipment and even a country music singer (Mark Chesnutt) who is travelling to perform for the troops.

We land in Irbil where local leaders take us for a tour of the ancient Citadel, show us the weaving of utilitarian but beautiful Kurdish rugs, and welcome us with Kurdish dancers and singing children.

Irbil is a bustling, relatively prosperous city of about 750,000 people. Construction is underway everywhere with major investments by the Turks and the Lebanese.
It is much more prosperous and much more pro-America than the rest of Iraq.

You won't see an Iraqi flag here anywhere. This region suffered greatly under Saddam Hussein. Kurdistan President Barzani told us that that Hussein destroyed 4500 of 5000 Kurdish towns and villages and used poisonous gas to kill thousands of Kurds in one massacre.

Tensions between Arabs and Kurds are running high in Iraq, requiring our troops to intercede to keep the peace in recent months. The disputed cities of oil-rich Kirkuk and Mosel and the allocation of oil revenues are serious frictions between Baghdad and Irbil. The Kurds want almost complete autonomy from the central government. Even though a Kurd (Talabani) is Iraq's president, it is PM Malaki, an Arab, who controls the levers of power.

One positive development is the great improvement in the relationship between Turkey and Kurdistan that has led Turkey to invest heavily in the region.

We met at length to discuss these issues with both President Barzani and Prime Minister Barzani - his nephew. And that demonstrates a serious problem in Kurdistan: two clans, the Barzanis and the Talabanis, control much of the political power and wealth.

That has given rise to a new reform party called the Change Movement. We met with one of its leaders who said that recent elections in Kurdistan were not "free and fair" as the Barzanis claim. It's difficult to judge who is correct, but the fact that the Change Movement, as a brand new party, won 25 seats in the 111-seat Parliament seems an indication that the elections were at least relatively "free and fair."

The overall message that we received from all the Kurdish leaders was: "Please don't send a signal that the U.S. no longer cares about Iraq and wants to leave at any cost." We indicated that we want an ongoing relationship, but ultimately, the Iraqis must reconcile and take responsibility for their own security.

After the day in Kurdistan, we climb aboard a crowded C-130 once again for the flight back to Baghdad where I had the dinner with the Maine Guard members as described in my previous post.

Senator Collins' blog- Mainers in Iraq

Senator Collins with members of the 101st Air Refueling Wing, from right to left: Senior Airman John Chambers (Old Town), Staff Sargent Stephanie Tracy (Bangor), Airman First Class Luc J. Marquis (Garland), Senior Airman Dwight Evans (St. Albans), Airman First Class Bill Burns (Bangor), and Lt. Col David R. Vashon (Waterville).

Mainers are everywhere.  In Iraq, the State Department security guard assigned to our group is Justin Alderman, a former Portland police officer who grew up in Scarborough and has a home in Windham. At the embassy is Kim DeCesare , the deputy chief of protocal, who is from Kezar Falls.

Serving on a provincial reconstruction team and working on rule of law issues in Diyala Province is Jon Nass, an attorney from York County. Jon worked several years on my staff in Washington, and I am delighted to see him again.

And tonight I had dinner at Sather Air Base in Baghdad with seven National Guard members from Maine.  And is it ever a small world -- one of them is Bill Bruns whose parents I know in Bangor. I remembered that Bill had sent me a military unit coin prior to his deployment a couple of months ago.

I am delighted to see all of these great Mainers serving our country.

I spent most of the day in Irbil, the capital of Kurdistan in Northern Iraq - more on that in the next post.

Senator Collins' blog- Meeting with Iraqi PM Maliki and President Talabani

After the briefing with Gen Odierno and Ambassador Hill, we meet first with Prime Minister Maliki and later  with President Talabani.  I am impressed with the Prime Minister's growth as a leader. As John McCain said to him, "A couple of years ago, everyone worried that you were too weak; now everyone fears that you are too strong."

We discuss many issues from the disputed lands in Kurdistan to the failure of the Iraqis to pass a "hydrocarbon law" allocating oil revenues among the various sects and regions. We also talk about American troop levels and our future relationship. As I had promised the Ambassador and General, I bring up the government's (lack of) effort to encourage the return of Iraqi refugees. The PM dances around in his response, leading me to believe that he is worried about the electoral consequences of an influx of Sunnis prior to the January elections. To be fair, however, there is also  a deep-seated fear among many Shiites that Sunni  Baathist elements (Saddem Hussein's former party) will  return once again to seize control and oppress the Shiite majority.

We then meet with Iraqi President Talabani, a gregarious, warm Kurd and talk about our upcoming trip to Kurdistan in the morning.

Finally at nearly 10 p.m., the meetings are concluded, and we go to the American embassy for soup and sandwiches for dinner.

Senator Collins' blog- Meeting with General Odierno and Ambassador Hill

The helicopter ride from the Baghdad airport to the Green Zone was the first indication that life has improved for the Iraqis. When last I took that ride in December 2006, during what General Odierno refers to as the "dark days," the streets were largely empty, barricades were prevalent, and evidence of explosions was everywhere. Now from the air I could see many cars on the roads, people congregating in front of cafes and stores, and intact buildings and fewer checkpoints.  Still I had only to look at the gunners manning the open  helicopter windows to be reminded that Iraq is still a dangerous country.

Upon arrival in the Green Zone, we went immediately into a briefing with General Ray Odierno, the Commanding General of our forces in Iraq, and our new Ambassador Chris Hill, a 1974 graduate of Bowdoin.

I first met Gen. Odierno in 2003, and he is on his third tour of duty in Iraq, having served 45 months (not consecutively but still an astonishing amount of time.)  Although proud of the progress made by American and Iraqi troops, he looked tired and thin, and I was glad to hear that he was going on leave next week.

He told us that the withdrawal of American combat troops from all Iraqi cities had met the June 30th deadline and generally had gone better than he had expected.  The number of violent incidents is at an all-time low although the number of Iraqi civilian casualties per incident has climbed because the insurgents and Al Qaeda are choosing "soft" (lightly guarded or otherwise vulnerable)targets with lots of civilians.

We discussed the restraint shown by the Shiites in respond to sporadic attacks by Al Qaeda intended to spur retailiation against the Sunnis.

Another topic was the continuing tensions over the future of oil-rich Kirkuk, which is predominately Kurdish.
American troops twice have had to avert clashes between the Kurdish militia and the Iraqi Army in recent months.

I raised the issue of Iraqi refugees.  More than a million educated, middle-class Iraqis fled to neighboring countries, particularly Syria and Jordan, to escape the war.  Since their skills would help to bring prosperity and stability to Iraq, I asked what steps Iraqi officials were taking to encourge their return home.  (I believe the number returning is also an important measure to evaluate how safe Iraq is becoming.)  Ambassador Hill said that only about 20,000 had returned since the beginning of the year. Both he and Gen. Odierno urged me to raise the issue with the Prime Minister whom we would be meeting with next this evening.  They suggested that the Prime Minister, who heads a Shiite political party, is not pursuing the return of the refugees, who are largely Sunnis, because he wants to get past next January's elections first.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Senator Collins' blog- from Libya to Iraq

U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is part of a congressional delegation that has embarked on an official visit to the Middle East. Senator Collins is joined on the trip by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), and Lindsey Graham (R-NC).

After a press conference in Tripoli first thing this morning, we departed for Kuwait where we boarded a C-130 cargo plane to fly into Iraq. The C-130 is jammed full of soldiers and their gear. Along the sides of the plane and in the middle are red webbed canvas and metal frame seats that fold down from the walls of the plane and from the steel posts in the middle.

Every inch of the plane is utilized for equipment and cargo. Gear is suspended from the walls, clipped to the ceilings, and piled high on the metal floor.

Each of us is handed ear plugs and an air sickness bag as we board, and assigned a bullet-proof vest and helmet that we don as we get closer to landing.

The plane is too noisy to talk, too dark to read, and too crowded to move around, so most of the soldiers and Senator McCain, who can sleep anywhere, doze off. The plane is extremely hot.

For me one of the physically difficult parts of this journey is wearing the heavy and always-too-big flak vest. I don't know how our troops manage all the gear they carry.

As we leave the plane, we chat with the soldiers and express appreciation for their service. It is 113 degrees when we land in Iraq.

Then we take a helicopter to the Green Zone. I am off to meetings with General Odierno and Ambassador Hill.

By the way, although I often write these reports in real time, I have to delay sending them until several hours later for security reasons.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Senator Collins' blog- Meeting with Qadhafi in Libya

U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is part of a congressional delegation that has embarked on an official visit to the Middle East. Senator Collins is joined on the trip by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), and Lindsey Graham (R-NC).

The lead-up to our meeting with Colonel Qadhafi was bizarre indeed. Initially we were scheduled to meet with him at 4 p.m. Then the meeting was changed to 6, at which time we received word that it would be 7:30 because the Colonel was fasting in preparation for Ramadan. That time came and went, and we told 9 p.m. Finally at the point that we were close to complete exasperation, we were whisked off at 9:40 p.m. in a convey for a 40-minute drive to a secret location on the outskirts of Tripoli. There an enormous tent had been erected for our meetings, first with Qadhafi's son, who is the national security advisor, and then with Qadhafi himself. The tent was air-conditioned and outfitted with lavish carpets, couches, and coffee tables. Apparently, Qadhafi is on the move constantly and rarely spends two nights in the same place.

We discussed a host of issues. I focused my comments on the need for Libya to proceed with an agreement to transfer highly enriched uranium from his nuclear program.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Senator Collins- Blog from Libya

I am on Senate Armed Services Committee business with my colleagues, John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham. We flew all night and arrived in Tripoli, Libya, this morning where we were greeted by staff from our embassy and Libyan protocol officials.

We are scheduled to meet this evening with Colonel Muammar Qadhafi, who rules Libya, and separately with his son, Muatassim al-Qadhafi, who is the National Security Advisor. Our relationship with Libya has improved dramatically in the wake of Qadhafi's decision to forgo WMD in 2003 and his cooperation with the U.S. on counterterrorism efforts. Qadhafi views the extremist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as a threat to his regime.

Despite these common interests, there are obvious concerns. Qadhafi is a dictator who has ruled Libya with an iron fist for 40 years. Posters with the number 40 and Qadhafi's picture are everywhere in Libya in anticipation of a September celebration of his four decades of rule. Dissent is not tolerated; the press is state-owned, and the country's human rights record is appalling.

Senator Collins will be updating her blog from other locations throughout her trip.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Senator Collins interview on WGAN

Senator Collins discusses healthcare and other issues on WGAN radio.