THE BLOG
06/10/2005 02:35 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Accountability for Iraq

At this point, it is widely known that the foundation on which the Bush Administration took this country to war against Iraq has crumbled - there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and there were no direct links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Ladin. The revelation of the "Downing Street Memo" fuels the suspicions of many. While President Bush maintained throughout the summer of 2002 that his administration was still exploring all diplomatic options with regard to Iraq, the "Downing Street Memo" clearly asserts that the Administration had already decided to pursue military options in Iraq as early as July of 2002.

The consequences of the Bush Administration’s decision to push our country to war have been great. At least 1,674 U.S. servicemen and women have died in Iraq, and an estimated 12,762 U.S. servicemen and women have been injured. A persistent and strong insurgency remains.

As the country struggles to bear the human toll of this war, it must also deal with the financial cost. To date, the U.S. Congress has approved more than $300 billion for funding for a seemingly endless conflict. Regrettably, when it comes to ensuring that the funds we have appropriated are properly managed, the GOP Majority in Congress shows little to no inclination for oversight or investigation. The standing congressional committees, which have oversight over this issue, have not exercised their responsibilities nearly as often as necessary. Meanwhile, recent and persistent news accounts revealing the mismanagement of funds related to our efforts in Iraq suggest that rigorous oversight is warranted.

To this end, I have offered a bipartisan bill, with my colleague Congressman Jim Leach (R-IA), to reestablish the "Truman Committee," which would ensure that American tax dollars are being judiciously spent in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our efforts echo then-Senator Harry Truman’s successful effort, proposed during World War II, to establish a special congressional oversight committee to investigate how defense contracts were awarded and managed.

Our ongoing efforts to pass our legislation -- which garnered the support of close to 200 Members when it was last considered on the House floor -- have been repeatedly blocked by the Republican Leadership in the House in an effort to simply avoid the embarrassment of having its members support legislation leadership opposes.

As much as we demand accountability from Congress, the President must be held to an equally high standard. Immediate, transparent negotiations between the Iraq government and the U.S. over a timetable for withdrawal, including an end-date, are critical. A clear U.S. statement that it does not intend to indefinitely occupy their country and newly built bases with large military forces will encourage Iraqis to invest in their future and serve to weaken support for insurgency.

The Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill, which the President signed into law last month, included language requiring that the Pentagon submit to Congress a report within 60 days after enactment that must include, among other things, "the criteria the Administration will use to determine when its safe to begin withdrawing our forces from Iraq." It is imperative that this report be complete and submitted to Congress on time. While the Bush Administration has misled Congress and the American people about our country’s involvement in Iraq in the past, this report is a good place for them to start being more transparent about the reality of our future in Iraq.