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Representative McDermott Gives Statement on the Anniversary of the Iraq War and Calls for a Commission on Veterans Care

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Today, Representative Jim McDermott spoke on the House floor in honor of the ten year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War.

"Ten years ago I stood on the House floor and said that we were entering a war under false pretenses. No weapons of mass destructions later, I have never been so sad to be right." McDermott said. "We didn't bother to learn about [Iraq's] ethno-religious divides or the region's history. We rushed into Baghdad, guns blazing, promising ourselves that we would be heralded as liberators."

McDermott asked that we remember the human cost of the war and dedicate ourselves to improving soldiers' adjustment to civilian life, saying:

"I hope this anniversary will remind us that a whole new generation of veterans is waiting for help reintegrating into civilian life. I believe it's time to elevate our level of commitment to our veterans. I hope it will remind us that no lives, regardless of nationality, should be taken lightly. I hope it will remind us to ask "why' next time.

"And I hope it doesn't take another war to get the answer."

McDermott also released a Congressional invitation today, asking other members to join him in sponsoring a bill to determine what more can be done to help veterans, families and communities affected by combat service, called the Commission on Veterans Care. The commission will make recommendations to Congress and the President on how to better meet the needs of veterans, create community outreach programs and make Memorial Day Weekend of 2014 a celebration and recognition of soldiers from recent and past conflicts.

The full text of the speech can be found below:

I rise in honor of the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war, but what I really want to do today is ask "Why?"

Ten years ago I stood on the House floor and said that we were entering a war under false pretenses.

No weapons of mass destruction later, I have never been so sad 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 power and thought a new democracy would suddenly flower in its place. We didn't bother to learn about their ethno-religious divides or the region's history. We rushed into Baghdad, guns blazing, promising ourselves that we would be heralded as liberators.

And what have we learned?

Last week Robert Dreyfuss wrote an article in The Nation that I'd like entered into the congressional record. He explains that the CIA is currently training Syrian rebels, many of whom are Sunni fundamentalists, 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.

"When," he asks, "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. Ten years of neoconservative hawks preaching that we can franchise American Freedom. Ten years of quicksand diplomacy. Ten years of wrong answers and we still don't understand the question.

What has been the cost of all of this? And I don't mean financially, because yes, we've sunk billions into this war. Yes, as we speak, we are cutting food assistance for kids 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 the 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 don't know how to not 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. 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" veterans need.

And the cost in Iraq? Untold deaths. Let me rephrase that: unknown deaths. We can only guess at the destruction we've left in our wake: 115,000 Iraqis? 600,000? What about the long term impact 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. And now it teeters on the brink of an inevitable civil war.

This is the legacy of our last decade and we still don't know why.

I hope this anniversary will remind us that a whole new generation of veterans is waiting for help reintegrating into civilian life. I believe it's time to elevate our level of commitment to our veterans. I am introducing a bill to create a Commission on Veterans Care to investigate what more we can do to help our men and women come home.

And I hope it will remind us that no lives, regardless of nationality, should be taken lightly. I hope it will remind us to ask "why" next time.

And I hope it doesn't take another war to get the answer."


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