Imagine America trillions richer, our sons and daughters returned to us. Imagine America at peace in the Middle East with the moral standing to lead the world. Imagine what could have been if Congress had maintained the courage to say no to the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld war machine. Imagine and demand – never again.The official anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War falls on the day the first bombs dropped: March 20, 2003. But for those of us who served in the United States Congress who cast a vote to decide life or death for millions of people, the tenth anniversary begins today.
Ten years ago today, Congress began debate on legislation that would authorize the Bush Administration to wage war on a nation that did not attack us, had no connection to 9-11 and did not pose a threat to our country.
As one of the first to oppose the war, I recall the intense pressure in Congress to support the war. Leaders of both political parties told me I stood alone and that history would judge me as betraying the memory of 9-11, even though Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with 9-11.
Days before the critical vote, there was a report in mainstream media which said that only 19 Members opposed the war. We surprised the media when we turned out 25 members in opposition at a press conference. Days later, I announced that at least a hundred Members would oppose the war. Yet the pressure to conform continued, stemming from the White House, the media, and party leadership. The effort to manufacture consent within Congress and the nation was in full force.
One hundred thirty two of my colleagues and I stood strong. We saw the truth that Iraq was not a threat and that the war would result in countless deaths, trillions wasted and a step towards permanent war and fear.
Ten years ago today, I took to the House floor and argued against the call for war, addressing every point made by the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld war machine.
“The American people deserve to know that the key issue here is that there is no proof that Iraq represents an imminent or immediate threat to the United States of America. I will repeat: there is no proof that Iraq represents an imminent or immediate threat to the United States. …The administration has refused to provide the Congress with credible evidence that proves that Iraq is a serious threat to the United States and that it is continuing to possess and develop chemical and biological and nuclear weapons.
“Furthermore, there is no credible evidence connecting Iraq to al Qaeda and 9-11, and yet there are people who want to bomb Iraq in reprisal for 9-11. Imagine, if you will, as Cleveland columnist Dick Feagler wrote last week, if after this country was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor in 1941, if instead of retaliating by bombing Japan, we would have retaliated by bombing Peru. Iraq is not connected by any credible evidence to 9-11, nor is it connected by any credible evidence to the activities of al Qaeda on 9-11.
“I want it stated, Mr. Speaker, if I thought for a moment that this country was facing a threat and was under attack, I and every Member of this Congress would rise in a single voice. By voice we would have a unanimous resolution defending this country, because that is our proud tradition. As a matter of fact, that is one of the foundational principles of this country, to provide for the common defense. We have an obligation to provide for the common defense. But we also have an obligation not to let that hallowed principle, that sacred principle of providing for the common defense be misused.-----------
“It says provide for the common defense, not provide for the common offense. It is called the Department of Defense, not the Department of Offense. America is not an aggressor Nation, but the resolution that is brought in this House next week would for the first time in the history of this country make America an aggressor Nation. We have to remember that we are heirs to an incredible tradition, a tradition of standing up for honesty and decency and human rights in this world, a tradition of truth telling, a tradition upon which 226 years rests. In that tradition there are no Democrats or Republicans; there are only Americans. Before this Congress defames the purpose of this country by voting for such a resolution, we owe it to the American people to go over every aspect of this resolution to make sure that we are not making a grievous mistake that would set this country on a path towards destruction.”
Ten years ago, Congress began the debate that resulted in the war in Iraq. Ten years ago, Congress began the journey that led us to four thousand, four hundred, eighty eight killed Americans and more than 33,000 injured. As many as 1,000,000 innocent Iraqi civilians were killed, staining the conscious of our nation. We wasted trillions of dollars while our economy and infrastructure crumbled at home.
Imagine America trillions richer, our sons and daughters returned to us. Imagine America at peace in the Middle East with the moral standing to lead the world. Imagine what could have been if Congress had maintained the courage to say no to the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld war machine. Imagine and demand – never again.