On Tuesday, November 7th the American public sent a powerful, unmistakable message to their elected leaders in Washington -- they want change. They are fed up with the corruption and sick of the infighting. But most importantly voters, with a strong and decisive voice, demanded a change in our government’s Iraq policy.
Americans did not give my party a mandate simply to “work with the President,” or to wait for cues from a blue-ribbon committee. No, the people told us to correct the President, challenge the President, and to confront the President on the moral challenge of our times.
The message is clear - the American public has directed the Democratic Party to be bold, to change course on Iraq, with the main goal of bringing our troops home.
Yet there remains a debate within the Democratic Party on what it means to “oppose the war.” There are some who claim to oppose it, even while arguing that we cannot bring our troops home right away, that to do so would be “catastrophic.”
But how could it get more catastrophic than fueling a devastating homegrown insurgency in Iraq? The catastrophe is continuing to foment a civil war that is tearing a proud nation apart at the seams. This current policy is the catastrophe. Staying the course at this point will only plunge Iraq further into the abyss, costing thousands more American and Iraqi lives.
There are others who claim that while they oppose the war, they support the troops and, they say, supporting a withdrawal would dishonor them. But is it honoring these brave men and women, some of the best America has to offer, to leave them in a dangerous, un-winnable situation? No, honoring them means bringing them home to their families and strengthening a VA health care system that has been all but laid to waste by the Bush Administration in recent years.
Every day that we remain in Iraq is a day that we shortchange our priorities here at home. This war has already cost us over $300 billion, approximately $11 million every hour of every day. The total cost is now projected to surpass the cost of the entire Vietnam War. This is an astronomical, irresponsible sum, which would be better used here at home -- to improve our schools, provide quality health care, put Americans back to work, and help Iraq rebuild its economy and infrastructure.
In January of 2005 I took to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and was the first Member of Congress to demand that we bring our troops home. Since then, I have followed that up with public forums, resolutions, forced votes, and nightly speeches on the House floor -- all designed to build support for a movement to end the occupation.
Many times along the way, and going as far back as 2002 when we first debated the Iraq invasion, the right wing and their media mouthpieces greeted me and other anti-war leaders with the usual smears and jeers. But who will history judge as calling this one correctly? Everyone but the blindest Bush-Cheney loyalist recognizes that Iraq has been an unmitigated debacle, a strategic blunder and moral failing of historic proportions.
Today, because of the pressure applied by those of us in the anti-war camp, I stand with the majority of the American public and with a growing number of elected leaders from both parties in opposing this occupation. I was right in 2002, and we’re still right -- withdrawing our troops is the only humane, sensible option we have left.
Congress has the power to end this occupation. We must stand up to our responsibility and bring every pressure to bear on this Administration. We must use every lever and pursue any avenue to hold them accountable for their immeasurable failures in Iraq. This isn’t just another priority for the new Congress. According to the voters who have elected us, this is the 110th Congress’ most solemn duty.