The Administration's actions regarding Iraq have seriously undermined the trust of the American public in their government, and have significantly damaged our nation's standing in the world. As your representative in Congress, I have taken numerous actions to hold the Administration accountable and to demand meaningful Congressional oversight over our actions in Iraq.
As President Bush began making his case for invading Iraq, I was one of the first Members of Congress to declare my opposition to the war, months prior to the vote in Congress to authorize it. I was one of 133 Members of the House of Representatives who voted against the resolution authorizing the President to use force against Iraq. As I weighed the evidence offered by the Bush Administration in support of the resolution, I reached the conclusion that even if everything they said was true, the United States was not in any imminent danger from the threats posed by Iraq. And absent an imminent threat, this would be a war of choice, not a war of necessity. In other words, the United States would be embracing a preemptive strike policy. I believe that the United States must renounce its preemptive war policy, as it undermines our moral authority and sets a dangerous precedent. President Kennedy had this to say about use of America's military force: "The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. We do not want a war We shall be prepared if others wish it. We shall be alert to try to stop it. But we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just."
Following the Congressional authorization for use of force in Iraq--but before the war began--I wrote President Bush a letter, signed by 21 of my colleagues, in which I noted that it is important that this Administration have an exit strategy prior to placing our troops in harm's way. I went on to ask, "Under what circumstances will our military occupation of (and financial commitment to) Iraq end? And how will we know when these circumstances are present?" Unfortunately, I never received a response to these questions, and neither have the American people.
The war has cost more than $320 billion so far. I have heard from many parents who see clearly that it is their children and grandchildren who will pay the cost of this war. In our system of checks and balances, it is the Congress that controls the nation's purse strings. Therefore, Congress must use its war appropriations powers to leverage action, information and cooperation from this Administration. I believe that Congress must demand, as a condition of passing any war spending bills, that the Administration clarify that the United States does not permit or condone torture of prisoners or detainees and that the President articulate a clear exit strategy from Iraq.
The war has also cost the lives of more than 2,600 American soldiers and has resulted in the disability and injury of tens of thousands more. The levels of death and violence visited upon innocent Iraqi civilians have also increased. In 2006, an average of 40 Iraqi civilians are killed each day. I have visited injured servicemen and women at Walter Reed Army Hospital and attended the funerals of fallen soldiers in Wisconsin. I have spent time with and heard from hundreds of constituents with loved ones in harms way. Let me be clear: the troops have my unequivocal support and respect. I know that American troops have performed their mission with courage and honor. The regime of Saddam Hussein has been toppled. The Iraqi people have adopted a constitution and elected a Parliament. It is now time for the Iraqi people to govern Iraq. Only Iraqis can bring democracy and freedom to Iraq and according to recent polls conducted in Iraq, over 80 percent of Iraqis want U.S. forces out of Iraq. I believe that American troops should be redeployed from Iraq as soon as possible.