12/16/2011 11:50 am ET | Updated Feb 15, 2012

The End of the Iraq War: Welcome But Tragically Overdue

Rep. Lynn Woolsey gave the following Floor speech on December 14, 2011, marking the end of the Iraq war:

Mister Speaker, since the spring of 2004 I have stood here in this very spot 415 times to call for an end to foreign wars and the start of a new, smarter approach to national security. In most of those speeches, my tone has been one of insistence and beseeching. Seldom have I been able to echo good news or declare a sense of accomplishment.

But today is different. As the President will reaffirm in a speech at Fort Bragg today -- and it moves me almost beyond words to say this -- the war in Iraq is finally over.

After 105 excruciating months...after so much heartbreak and despair...after so many shameful episodes such as the "Mission Accomplished" banner...Abu Ghraib...the outing of Valerie Plame and so much more - our troops are finally coming home from Iraq - all of them.

Much credit goes to President Obama for making good on his promise. When he was sworn into office, there were 142,000 U.S. servicemembers deployed to Iraq. By the time the calendar turns to 2012, there will be zero. Zero.

But this day would not have come unless some very brave people had spoken up for a peace at a time when the polls and the conventional wisdom said that President Bush and his Iraq policy were unassailable. I've been proud to work in particular with my friends Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congresswoman Maxine Waters in establishing the Out of Iraq Caucus. Many of our colleagues stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us, including our late friend Jack Murtha whose opposition to the war represented a major turning point in the Iraq debate.

Of course, no one displayed more courage than the heroic men and women who served in Iraq with honor and selflessness. They represent the best our nation has to offer. I only wish that their elected leaders had served them better over the last decade.

But Mister Speaker, we must be careful about turning this into an occasion of triumph or celebration. The end of the Iraq war is welcome, but tragically overdue. Too much has been lost - in precious American blood, in badly-needed public treasure, and in our moral core as a nation.

The end of this war comes too late for nearly 4,500 Americans whose parents, spouses, children and friends will miss them desperately this holiday season and every other day of the year.

Many thousands more are home from Iraq with broken minds and bodies, with scars they will carry for the rest of their days -- we must keep our promise to them, to provide the benefits that they so need and deserve. And I don't know how we atone for the deaths of thousands upon thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians.

Our military occupation of Iraq is over, but our bilateral engagement with Iraq most certainly will go on. There is still plenty of human need in Iraq, and we have an obligation to help alleviate that. It is critical that the United States be a peaceful and constructive partner to Iraq -- investing in development, providing the civilian support that will empower their people and strengthen their democratic institutions. Now is the moment, now more than ever, we must move to a Smart Security in Iraq.

Finally, it is critical to remember that the end of the Iraq war does not mean we are a nation at peace. The war in Afghanistan lingers on, violently and senselessly, still undermining our national security and weakening our country. We must, Mister Speaker, move more quickly than ever to end that conflict as well. It is time to bring our troops - all of our troops -- safely home.

See Rep. Lynn Woolsey deliver the speech here: