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Charting a New Course for Iraq

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Charting a New Course for Iraq

I voted against the war in Iraq in October 2002. It was a difficult decision that I thought about carefully and prayed over. Deeply committed to keeping Americans safe and capturing the terrorists responsible for the tragic September 11, 2001 attacks, I strongly supported the war in Afghanistan. But Iraq was different.

I did not believe that invading Iraq would make us safer. I found the Administration's case for WMDs to be lacking and wanted President Bush to work with the United Nations to solve the Iraq issue diplomatically -- to only consider war as a last resort. I worried about the loss of life. And I was concerned that there was no clear exit strategy.

In my floor statement before the vote on Iraq, I reflected on the mothers and fathers in the communities I represent and raised the questions they asked: "How long will this war last? How many lives will be lost? How many of their children will come back disfigured or with mental illness?"

Now, four years later, we see the devastating consequences every day in the papers and on TV. October is on pace to be one of the deadliest months of the war. In the past week we have learned of the deaths of two soldiers from my district - Army Spc. Jose Roberto Perez of Ontario and Sgt. Norman Robert Taylor III, a native of San Bernardino. At least three other young Inland men have been killed in Iraq this month alone.

More than 2800 Americans have died and more than 21,000 have been injured in Iraq. I have visited soldiers from our area recovering from their physical wounds and post-traumatic stress at Walter Reed Medical Center. Troops are facing extended deployments, and many units are on their second or third tours of duty. In addition to the enormous cost in human lives, the war is a big expense for American taxpayers, costing over $200 million each day. Despite this spending, troops still have inadequate supplies and armor.

Our brave men and women have made great sacrifices and served nobly. Yet military experts consistently report that Iraq is on the verge of civil war. And despite the President's claims that the war in Iraq protects Americans, the most recent National Intelligence Estimate concluded that the war in Iraq has made us more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, not safer.

For years the President, Vice President and their team have stifled dissent and attacked those of us who exercised our constitutional rights to speak freely. They accused opponents of their failed war policy of being disloyal and unpatriotic. With polls showing record low support for President Bush and Republicans in Congress, they are finally "cutting and running" from their "stay the course" slogan.

On the eve of the November elections, it seems the Administration is more concerned with political spin than creating effective military policy in Iraq. But Americans are looking for real leadership and a real change in direction. Sadly, the President has still failed to articulate a comprehensive exit strategy.

It's time to begin redeploying American troops out of harm's way. They should not be policing a civil war. Iraqis must take responsibility for their future. It's time for a new direction for America and for Iraq.

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