Dec. 10, 2005
I opposed the unprovoked invasion of Iraq before the fact and continue to do so today. The war was and is a mistake. As of this writing, more than 2,100 of our good military men and women have tragically died in Bush's Folly. Our troops have held up their end of the bargain, doing their duty in service to their country. Unfortunately, they are stuck in a situation where they are following the orders of a commander in chief who does not deserve their trust. We need to bring them home NOW, so that Iraq can seek its own destiny.
While resisting calls for a timetable, George W. Bush implies that troops will be withdrawn from Iraq at some point. But listen closely. He has made no commitment to the concept that ALL troops will be withdrawn from Iraq. He has no plan for, nor does he anticipate, total U.S. disengagement. That is unacceptable.
Saddam Hussein was captured two years ago, and is now on trial. So exactly who is the enemy we are fighting in Iraq, and how do we identify them in the field? Are they foreigners who came to Iraq specifically to kill our military men and women? Or are they, as several reports indicate, primarily Iraqis who just want us out of their country?
Either way, if we leave Iraq, the carnage should diminish.
Many Iraqis have reason to want us gone.
American companies contracted to rebuild the Iraq infrastructure that our bombs destroyed are hiring Americans at great expense, while skilled Iraqis are left unemployed, causing understandable resentment among the Iraqi population.
Civilian Iraqi casualties from our bombs and guns have been estimated by foreign non-governmental organizations at between 25,000 and 100,000.
I have read news reports of soldiers ordered on routine maneuvers that would be unconstitutional in this country -- homes invaded and trashed in the often unsuccessful search for insurgents or weaponry; buildings appropriated for military command centers with the residents summarily evicted.
Troubling too are reports of the killing of "suspected enemy insurgents," actions that belie our fundamental beliefs in ordered justice. "Suspected," not arrested, not charged, not tried, but dead nonetheless. Each incident is a breathtaking Queen of Hearts moment.
Add to that the revelations about the systematic prisoner abuse, in Abu Graib prison, in Guantanamo Bay, and now in secret CIA prisons in several foreign countries, and you have an unmanageable volatile situation.
This war has adversely affected our security at home as well. Since an estimated 40 percent of the troops in Iraq are being drawn from the National Guard and Reserves, they are not in position to deal with floods and fires and other disasters in keeping with their real mission, as we saw so tragically in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's sweep over New Orleans. As soon as the extent of the Katrina devastation was known, President Bush should have ordered all National Guard troops home from Iraq, to do the jobs they have been trained to do. The fact that he failed to do so dramatically shows where his priorities are.
Also, many in these Guard units called up to serve in Iraq left jobs as police or firefighters, decimating or severely disrupting local public safety staffing levels. Local economies have been further impacted when small business owners have been deployed, and their businesses have faltered or failed without the daily knowledge and attention to detail only an owner can provide.
In the 1980s, Maine's own Governor Joe Brennan refused a Presidential request to send National Guard troops to Central America -- prompting a change in the law so that governors could no longer be so presumptive. I think Congress should return that authority to state governors, so that Guardsmen cannot be sent beyond our borders without a governor's consent.
The stupendous cost of this war, approaching $300 billion, is also profoundly affecting our national economy. All that federal tax money going to fight the unnecessary war in Iraq is money we don't have to fix our highways, protect our ports, make our courts safe, ensure the safety of our food and water, feed our hungry, house our homeless. Federal funding to states for Medicaid, Medicare, home heating assistance, food stamps, nutrition programs, have all been cut.
The lack of money for basic federal programs has severely impacted our Maine budget, forcing our Legislature to take drastic measures to provide minimal services. A war-ransacked federal budget, coupled with the unjustifiable tax cuts for the wealthy, are sending us into such a profound national debt that it will take decades for us to recover.
And the President of the United States has the gall to cut veterans benefits.
The way to support our troops is to bring them home, back to their families, back to their productive jobs in the United States, and in terms of the career military, back to their jobs of protecting us from real threats to this country.
Last summer I announced my support for HJR 55, a joint resolution which calls for an administration plan for troop withdrawal to be in place by the last day of this year, and for troop pull-outs to begin no later than Oct. 1, 2006. No vote has been taken on that bill.
I support Rep. John Murtha's recent call for troop withdrawal "as soon as practicable." Murtha told Congress that our troops can serve no further military purpose in Iraq, that their job there is done. He's right.
I've been saying for months that the situation in Iraq is now of a criminal, not military, nature. What is needed to restore order is an international police force, to catch and prosecute the criminals who are responsible for the bombings and kidnappings. This requires a major change in focus, and trained personnel from many countries.
That change in focus will not come about with this current Republican domination in Washington. Only a shift in the majority status, wins by Democrats in both the House and Senate in 2006, will allow that to happen.
Olympia Snow voted to give George W. Bush the authorization to go to war, and she has voted repeatedly to fund the continuation of that war. Her Republican seat in the Senate is one of six nationally that Democrats must win to take back the majority. In Maine, hers is the only seat we have next November to deal with.
Help me to win the Democratic nomination in June, and to win against Olympia Snowe in November. Vote in June, in November, and always, for the America you want to live in.