“Today is a solemn anniversary: a tragedy that began ten years ago today when President George W. Bush launched a war of choice in Iraq, dragging our country into a costly, bitter conflict based on falsehoods and hyperbole. It took President Obama fulfilling his campaign promise to end the Iraq war, and we are grateful that he brought the war to an end.
“But we must not forget how we got into the war in the first place.
“We were told we would find weapons of mass destruction. We were warned about mushroom clouds. I offered an amendment at the time that would have taken us down a different path. It would have required the U.S. to work through the United Nations, using inspectors and maximizing diplomacy and mediation to ensure that Iraq was not developing weapons of mass destruction.
“Unfortunately the amendment failed, by a vote 72 – 355.
“What happened from there? We all know the tragic consequences: President Bush dragged the country into an unnecessary war; no weapons of mass destruction were ever found; the costs of the Iraq war soared far beyond what was projected; and we lost 4,486 American troops in Iraq, and over 32,000 were wounded.
“Ten years later, the full consequences and costs of the Iraq war remain to be seen. According to a new study by the Watson Institute at Brown University, the war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion, with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to our war veterans. And the long term costs including caring for our veterans, which we must do, could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades.
“Most importantly, we’ve paid for this war most tragically in loss of life and injury. Fighting the war in Iraq has also undercut nation building here at home. Investments we should have been making in job creation, educating our kids, putting cops on the street, and rebuilding our aging infrastructure. Instead of nation building at home, we poured billions of dollars into nation building in Iraq with little oversight or accountability.
“The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction issued its final report to Congress last month detailing billions of dollars lost to waste, fraud, and abuse. Speaking with an Iraqi official, Special Inspector Stuart Bowen was told, “You can fly in a helicopter around Baghdad, but you cannot point a finger to a single project that was built and completed by the United States.”
“Unfortunately, these lost opportunities and tragic mistakes are not behind us.
“As the daughter of a 25-year veteran of the armed forces, I am incredibly thankful for the sacrifices our women and men have made in Iraq, and continue to make in Afghanistan. I am also deeply concerned with the widespread, often undiagnosed, incidents of PTSD and the alarming suicide rates amongst our returning soldiers.
“We need to honor our troops who served and show our support by giving our men and women who served the best health care, the best educational opportunities, and the best job training available. They deserve nothing less.
“It is my hope that this reckless and short-sighted decision will mark a turning point in American history, and that we will never again wage an unnecessary war. We must use all the tools of American power in resolving disputes, including diplomacy. And we must have sufficient congressional debate and oversight before ever putting another U.S. solider in harm’s way.
“Finally, just like in Iraq, there is no military solution in Afghanistan. We need to bring the war in Afghanistan to an accelerated end, and bring our troops home now.
“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in expressing this sentiment during a different war said, “The bombs in Vietnam explode at home; they destroy the hopes and possibilities of a decent America.”
“Let us put this decade of perpetual warfare behind us, invest in our veterans, our children, and get about the business of nation building here at home.”
Congresswoman Barbara Lee is a former Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) and currently serves as CPC Whip and Chair of the Taskforce on Global Peace and Security.