Thursday was the fifth anniversary of the day President Bush gave a speech declaring "Mission Accomplished" - that all major combat operations in Iraq were over. It made for a good opportunity for Democratic candidates to speak out against the war.
Adam Cote, a Democratic candidate in the First Congressional District visited the Westbrook Armory and outlined a plan to help meet veterans' needs. Cote was shipped out from the Westbrook Armory in 2004 when he was deployed to Iraq.
The Maine Democratic Party's coordinated campaign also responded to the anniversary, along with U.S. Rep. Tom Allen, who is challenging Collins and Congressional candidate Chellie Pingree.
Also this week, proposals by two members of Maine's Congressional delegation regarding the military were approved.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins touted a decision by the Senate Armed Services Committee, who approved her proposal to make Iraqis assume costs for reconstruction and other projects Wednesday night.
Also, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud helped author two veterans' health care bills that passed this week.
Collins worked with Sens. Ben Nelson, D-Neb. and Evan Bayh, D-Ind. on a proposal to make Iraqis pay for any major reconstruction projects, salaries and training for their troops, and other expenses - and also prohibits American tax dollars from being spent on such proposals. This was part of the Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Authorization Act.
The proposal begins negotiations between the U.S. and Iraqi governments to have Iraq cover other expenses.
"The quarterly SIGIR report released yesterday confirms that the Iraqi government is reaping an unanticipated windfall because of the high cost of oil. There is no reason why the Iraqis cannot bear more of the cost of securing, stabilizing and rebuilding their country. No more American funds should be spent for major reconstruction projects. The costs of the salaries for the Sons of Iraq, for the training and equipping of the Iraqi security forces, and for other costs such as the fuel we use in Iraq should be borne by the Iraqis. It is really difficult for Americans who are struggling with the high cost of energy to pay these costs in a county that has the second-largest oil reserves and a burgeoning budget surplus.
"The Senate Armed Services Committee's approval of our proposal is a great leap forward as we work to advance this important proposal."
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud has recently pushed through legislation pertaining to veterans' health care.
One bill expands the Department of Veterans' Affairs health care services to include substance use disorders. The second bill would authorize major medical facility projects and leases for the VA.
"Over the past several years, Congress has increased funding for VA substance use treatment programs," Michaud said in a statement. "I believe that continued and adequate funding is extremely important to the health and well being of our veterans and their families. Substance use frequently co-occurs with other mental health conditions. VA needs to rededicate itself to providing services that can address both substance abuse and other mental health conditions such as PTSD."
U.S. Rep. Tom Allen is challenging Collins for her Senate seat this year. He released a statement today, discussing his positions on Iraq. Click here for video.
"Today, there are 160,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Many are on their second or third or even fourth tours of duty. Tens of thousands have come home wounded. More than 4,000 have been killed. And American taxpayers are paying more than $10 billion per month in a bloody and endless civil war.
"While my opponent Susan Collins and I were subject to the same pressures in 2002, she voted for the war and I did not. Five years later, she remains steadfast in her support for an open-ended commitment.
"I was against this war from the beginning, and I believe we must set a safe and responsible deadline for withdrawal of our troops. If we are going to change the direction of our country, we first must change our policy in Iraq."
Cote opposes the war and has made veterans' needs a priority in his campaign. He also has an op-ed piece in the Portland Press Herald earlier this week discussing his position on the war.
He outlined six priorities at the Westbrook Armory today:
-Mandatory funding for veterans' health care
-Decrease wait times for severely injured veterans
-Renew the GI Bill for the 21st Century
-Fight veteran homelessness
-Increase local access to care
-Improve VA treatment of PTSD and TBI
"We can and should debate the right way to get out of Iraq. What I don't believe is debatable is the need to live up to our commitments to our veterans when they come home."
Jim Batchelder, State Commander of the VFW and a member of the Veterans for Cote Steering Committee, also spoke at Cote's event today.
"Adam Cote is one of us. He understands the issues veterans are facing because he's been through them. It's time we stepped up to elect one of our own who will go down to Washington and represent our needs," Batchelder said.
Chellie Pingree, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination for the First Congressional District, also released a statement about the anniversary of "Mission Accomplished."
Pingree has joined with other Congressional candidates around the country in support of "The Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq," which calls for an end to the war while also addressing diplomacy and humanitarian concerns.
This week she spoke out against the increased cost of oil, and the amount the government is spending overseas. Her statement:
"In many ways we are far less secure. When President Bush declared Mission Accomplished, gas was $1.57 a gallon. Today it's $3.60. And skyrocketing oil prices have driven up prices on food and other necessities. That sure doesn't make me feel very secure
"I think America is ready for a change in our priorities and investing that money here at home on healthcare and rebuilding our economy and the things that really will make us feel more safe and secure. Not the disaster we've created in Iraq
"When the Bush Administration got us into this war, they promised it would be paid for by oil revenue, in reality it's being paid for by the American people, especially the 4,063 men and women who lost their lives and the 30,000 who have been injured in Iraq."
Maine Democratic Party's coordinated campaign
John Knutson, director of the campaign, sent out a fundraising solicitation, speaking out against the war. He noted how many people have died, and how much the country has spent.
"In the last five years, 4,000 Americans have lost their lives; tens of thousands of Americans have been wounded; we've spent at least $500 billion; and 160,000 troops are still there. Meanwhile, John McCain says keeping our troops in Iraq for 100 years would be fine with him (??!) One of Maine's U.S. Senators has refused to listen to the overwhelming number of Mainers who support withdrawal from Iraq, while also refusing to hold hearings on the waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer money by federal contractors.
"You can help change the direction in Iraq by supporting Victory 2008, the Maine Democratic Party's campaign arm that is 100% committed to electing leaders with the ability and vision to move ahead and put an end to a war that should've never been waged."
Rebecca Pollard, communications director for the campaign, sent out a separate e-mail reminding voters that Collins supported the war. The party wants to see Collins unseated in November.
Pollard notes that Collins voted to go to war and then to block Iraq withdrawal legislation.