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Public Statements

10-Year Anniversary of the Iraq War

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

Mr. McDERMOTT. Mr. Speaker, although I rise to honor the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war, what I really want to do today is ask: Why? Ten years ago, I stood on this floor and said we were entering a war under false pretenses. No weapons of mass destruction later, I have never been so sad as to be right.

We took out Saddam Hussein with as much forethought as we gave to arming him just a few years earlier. We scooped him out of office and thought a new democracy would suddenly flower in its place.

Last week, Robert Dreyfuss wrote an article in The Nation that I would like to enter into the Congressional Record. He explains that the CIA is currently training Syrian rebels, some of whom have Sunni fundamentalist ties, at the same time that it is fighting Sunni rebels in Iraq. Recently, dozens of Syrian soldiers fled to Iraq, only to be killed by Iraqi Sunnis. He asked the question:

When will the United States learn that it doesn't know enough about the Middle East to go charging in there, seemingly without a clue about what it all means?

So here we are: 10 years of neoconservative hawks preaching that we can franchise American democracy and freedom; 10 years of quicksand diplomacy; 10 years of wrong answers, and we still don't know the question.

What has been the cost of all of this? And I don't mean financially. Because, yes, we've spent probably a trillion or more on this war, or will. Yes, as we speak, we are cutting food assistance to kids in this country and funding for R&D that would drive our economy. But we can't appropriate a sum of money to fix the real cost of Iraq. We can't pay back the lives of 4,486 American men and women who have died there, or the roughly 2,000 broken soldiers who came home and took their own lives.

The wounded--physically and mentally. The soldiers who didn't know how not to be a soldier. The families living with a hole in their hearts, and the families living with someone they no longer recognize. Ten years of young men and women leaving their families, living in hell, and coming home to unemployment and to homelessness. To a country that has forgotten it's at war at all. To a country that seems to think a yellow ribbon magnet on their bumper is the only kind of support that our troops need.

And the cost in Iraq? Untold deaths. Let me rephrase that: unknown deaths. We can only guess at the destruction that we have left in our wake: 115,000 Iraqis? 600,000? You can find a number. What was the long-term impact of that on their environment, water, and health. What happens when someone lives in constant fear of becoming collateral damage?

Today, Iraq is a sad shadow of a society that once boasted the best infrastructure in the region. Instability and violence fester on this very day, and now it teeters on the brink of an inevitable civil war.

This is the legacy of our last 10 years, and I still don't understand why. I hope this anniversary will remind us that a whole new generation of veterans are waiting to help reintegrate into civilian life. I believe it's time to elevate our level of commitment to these veterans.

I am introducing a bill to create a commission on veterans care to investigate what we as a society can do to help our men and women come home. I hope it will remind us that no lives, regardless of nationality, should be taken lightly. I hope it will remind us as to why the next time. And I hope it won't take another war to get that answer.


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