President Obama delivered a historic statement this week, fulfilling his promise to withdraw combat troops in Iraq by August 31.
Make no mistake about it, the President announced the withdrawal of troops; it was not a misplaced "victory speech" as was delivered by an overly-confident President Bush aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003 announcing "mission accomplished".
The war in Iraq has dragged on for eight years now -- longer than WWII and any war engaged in by the U.S. Make no mistake about this, too -- the war -- now "undeclared" continues. Left behind in Iraq are 50,000 US troops, supposedly to provide only advice and training.
Left behind is a fragile and fledgling democracy -- there still is no government five months after national "elections" were held. Left behind is a growing force of private contractors, some of whom have been responsible for the unwarranted murder of Iraqi civilians. While Iraq remains unstable and as Iraqis flee to Iran, Iraq no longer serves as a reliable buffer to Iran. And thus Iran becomes an even greater danger to the world.
The loss of life on all sides will continue. The occupation of Iraq has claimed the lives of over 4,400 U.S. troops, wounded thousands physically and psychologically, and left hundreds of Iraqi civilians killed, wounded or displaced.
Underscoring this reality was the coordinated insurgent attacks across the country last week that killed at least 56 Iraqis. Our troops -- and Iraqi forces and civilians -- will remain at risk.
Yes, we honor our troops who risk their lives for our country on the battlefield. We honor them and their families who have paid the ultimate price. But we remain convinced that not a single life should have been lost. The lesson to be learned is that we should withdraw completely from Iraq AND Afghanistan and not place another soldier's life at risk.
The war in Iraq is a war of choice that should never have been started. It was based on false intelligence leading President Bush to declare that Iraq and Saddam possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction -- the WMD's never to be found. The neo-cons inside the Bush administration, pursuing policies of preemptive strike and regime change, drove the nation into a senseless war. It was been one of the most disastrous, misguided, and dangerous military actions in our history. Congresswoman Lee was right when she stated, "I opposed the war and occupation from the start, and have worked consistently to end it."
The Iraqi war of choice has cost money, lives and international honor. Just a month ago, Congress approved another supplemental appropriations package that will provide another $33 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have already cost this nation more than $1 trillion. As Dr. King warned, the resources for the war on poverty at home -- resources needed for jobs, health care and education - are being diverted to fund unnecessary wars abroad.
But this has only made us less safe, and the world less secure.
Critical questions remain about continued U.S. occupation in Iraq. We must ensure that no permanent bases be built in Iraq. We must advocate for Iraqi self-determination, politically and economically -- so that Iraq's oil and other resources are controlled by Iraqis, and not U.S. multi-national corporations.
Let's not forget the war in Afghanistan is escalating, seemingly spinning out of control. It too is a war that cannot be won through military force and occupation. U.S. combat operations are supposedly over in Iraq -- but U.S. casualties in Afghanistan under Obama have now surpassed those under Bush and continue to climb. "Our brave men and women in uniform have been put in an impossible situation in Afghanistan where there is no military solution," according to Rep. Lee.
U.S. troops have suffered more than 1,100 fatalities in Afghanistan since fighting began in October 2001, including a monthly record of 66 this past July.
The latest polls show 60% of the U.S. people opposed to the war. We welcome the President's official statement to withdraw US military troops from Iraq. It's time to bring ALL of our troops home from Iraq, and move swiftly but carefully to end the war in Afghanistan.
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