Iraq War Anniversary
Sagadahoc County Democratic Committee meeting - Bath, Maine
March 21, 2006
My name is Jean Hay Bright and I am a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.
This week we mark the third anniversary of the start of George W. Bush's illegal war in Iraq.
Over the past three years, as the carnage has mounted, as the number of our good military men and women killed in Iraq has climbed past 2,300, as thousands of our idealistic and patriotic men and women in uniform have returned to these shores damaged for life, when even George W. Bush admits that at least 30,000 Iraqis have been killed by our bombing attacks, those of us who opposed the war from the beginning have been joined in our opposition, slowly but steadily, by the majority of Americans.
Some of us came early to our opposition because, growing up in the Vietnam War era, we had learned the lessons of history. For us, the lies of the Bush administration were self-evident.
But for others, it was hard for them to admit that that the values they grew up with were being violated by people they trusted, that politicians who had the power over our lives would not be acting in our best interests, or in the best interests of the country they were sworn to protect and to serve.
I understand that mindset. I grew up in Ohio in the 1950s and 60s, in middle America, in a working class family. My father, a World War II army veteran, worked in a steel mill, on the floor of that mill, not in the office suites. It was from our neighborhoods that the young men were drafted to feed the war in Vietnam.
I left Ohio the young bride of a new inductee, and saw him off to two tours of duty in Vietnam. I witnessed the affects of that war on my then-husband and his military buddies. But it wasn't until we moved to Maine in 1972 to put that war behind us, and I found myself living among of a bunch of pacifists, that the trusting mindset I grew up with was severely challenged.
So I understand that it is inconceivable for many people that the President of the United States would attack another foreign country without provocation. And it was unbelievable that that President, after launching that illegal war, would declare himself to be the "War President." And from that declaration that he would claim all kinds of war powers unto himself. And that he would dismiss all kinds of international treaties as being moot as they applied to him.
So for years now we have seen people declared by the President to be "enemy combatants" who have been held without access to courts or attorneys, in violation of the Geneva Conventions and our own U.S. Constitution.
We have seen pictures and read reports of torture of prisoners authorized at the highest level, to the point that the Senate had to specifically ban it. But faced with that anti-torture law, what did the President do? He issued a "presidential signing statement," exempting him and those under his command from the force of that law.
We have witnessed President George Bush admitting that he broke the law against illegal wiretapping of American citizens, again invoking his "war president" powers to act outside the law.
And we have seen people threatened with prison if they speak out against this government, even by simply writing a letter to the editor or wearing a political tee-shirt.
And we're beginning to realize, collectively, that this illegal war in Iraq is more than just an ill-advised military operation in some foreign country far away. It is more, even, than a financial sink-hole, driving the country into bankruptcy while the rich keep getting their tax breaks.
We are beginning to realize that the war in Iraq is being used deliberately as the vehicle for a total disintegration of the United States of America as we know it. It is being used as a way to destroy the fabric of our lives, to destroy the cohesiveness of all the government programs that keep this country running.
I'm here to say, loudly and clearly, that Social Security is a great government program. Medicare is a great government program, except of course for Medicare Part D. National single payer health care SHOULD BE a great government program, one of our basic entitlements.
And "Entitlement" is not a dirty word. Entitlement is a declaration that a government program is a basic human necessity in a functioning democracy.
What is also troubling to me is that George W. Bush is not pulling this off all by himself. He has had help all along the way, from a lot of his Republican friends and allies. As you know, I've been focusing lately on one particular Bush ally, in the form of Maine's Republican Senator Olympia Snowe.
Olympia Snowe voted to give George W. Bush the authorization to go to war, and she has voted repeatedly to fund the continuation of that war. She voted for the Patriot Act and for its reauthorization. She voted against giving Guantanamo Bay detainees habeas corpus rights to challenge their detentions in federal courts.
And just this month, she joined with three other Senators to formulate a law that would make George Bush's illegal wiretapping of American citizens legal, retroactively and moving forward.
And her law would make it illegal for anyone to talk about the substance of any of that wiretapping.
I have a big problem with my Maine Senator Olympia Snowe actively orchestrating the violation of my first and fourth amendment rights under our great Constitution. What is going on here?
And as a former newspaper reporter, I have a big problem with the concept that leaking information about illegal government activities is a greater offense than the illegal activities that we learn about in the process-from the outing of a CIA agent, to the existence of those CIA secret prisons, and now to the spying on Americans.
But that's where we're headed.
So we need to get out of Iraq. We need to do that NOW. We need to remove our military men and women from harms way and let the Iraqis decide what to do with their own country.
But I issue a caution here. Even if we manage somehow to turn the political tide and actually pull out of Iraq, we cannot let down our guard. We cannot presume that a president who claims his extensive new powers derived from being a "war president" -- to spy on Americans and imprison people at will-- we cannot expect that president to easily relinquish that vaulted authority.
I do not say these words lightly -- we need to actively guard against the United States of America turning into a dictatorship.
Back to this campaign.
I have been saying for months now that, in every election, we need to vet our candidates, to compare their world views with our own. And now, probably more than at any time in my lifetime, we all need to vote for the America we want to live in.
That's the best, and only non-violent, way we have of saving our beautiful and wonderful United States of America.