Transcript: Rep. Barbara Lee’s floor remarks on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war

Transcript of House floor remarks by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) on the 10th anniversary of the war in Iraq on March 19, 2013:

Today is a solemn anniversary. A tragedy that began 10 years ago 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 so that these mistakes are not repeated.

We were told there were weapons of mass destruction. We were warned about mushroom clouds.

Now, I offered an amendment at the time that would have taken us down a different path. It would have required the United States to work through the United Nations [weapons] inspectors and maximize diplomacy and inspections to determine whether or not Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately, my amendment failed by a vote of 72 to 355.

What happened from there – we all know the tragic consequences.

President Bush dragged this country into an unnecessary war. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found.

The cost of the Iraq war soared beyond what was predicted, and we lost 4,400 American troops in Iraq and over 32,000 were wounded not to mention Iraqis.

Once the war started, many of us in Congress quickly organized. Led by Congresswoman Maxine Waters and my good friend, former Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, we founded the Out of Iraq Caucus. Over 80 members joined.

Thankfully on May 25, 2005, Congresswoman Woolsey introduced the first amendment to bring our troops home. From what I remember, there were about 132 votes that that amendment received. But that was not enough to stop the war. It was our way, though, to join the hundreds of thousands of people who marched in protest in what they knew was a war based on misleading information by the Bush administration, and many in this House supported my amendment every year to cut the funding for combat operations and only appropriate funding for the safe and orderly withdrawal of our troops and our contractors.

Now, we would have saved hundreds of lives had this body used the power of the purse string to stop this war. Shame on us.

Ten years later today, 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 veterans.

Most importantly, we paid for this war most tragically in the loss of life and injury.

And 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 billion of dollars – billions of United States tax 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 and other cities but you cannot point a finger to a single project that was built and completed by the United States.”

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, these lost opportunities and tragic mistakes are not behind us.

As the daughter of a 25-year veteran of the armed forces, I recognize the sacrifices that our young men and women have made in Iraq and continue to make in Afghanistan. I am deeply concerned with the widespread instances of PTSD and the alarming suicide rate among our returning veterans.

We need to honor our troops who served and show our support by giving the men and women who served the best health care, the best educational opportunities, and the best jobs available. They deserve nothing less.

It’s my hope that this reckless and short-sighted decision will mark a turning point in American history and then we will never again wage another unnecessary war. We must use all the tool in American power i resolving disputes, including diplomacy.

And we must have sufficient congressional debate. We only debated this go-to-war resolution probably a couple of hours. We need more debate and oversight before ever putting another U.S. soldier in harm’s way.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, just like in Iraq, there is no military solution in Afghanistan. We need to bring the war in Afghanistan to an accelerated end and to bring our troops home now. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in expressing his sentiment during a different war said, “The bombs in Vietnam exploded home. They destroyed the hopes and possibilities of a decent America.”

So let us put this decade of perpetual warfare behind us and invest in our veteran, in our children, and get about the business of nation-building here at home.

Thank you.


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