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Hearing of the Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - Halting the Descent: U.S. Policy toward the Deteriorating Situation in Iraq


Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), the top Democrat on the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, this afternoon delivered the following opening statement during the panel's hearing entitled "Halting the Descent: U.S. Policy toward the Deteriorating Situation in Iraq":

A strange narrative has taken root in some circles regarding Iraq. In this telling of events, the colossal failure and unmitigated disaster that was the war in Iraq, was just about to turn out to be a huge win for America until the terrorist-appeasing, freedom-hating, socialist Muslim Barack Obama snatched bitter defeat from the jaws of victory.

This tale is a lie. From first to last, a lie. Such a lie has to be admired for its audacity, but it remains a lie. Only in the fevered imaginations of the ideological zealots committed to defending the appalling, wasteful, stupid tragedy that was America's decade of misadventure in Iraq is any part of this perverse claim true.

The very same hucksters of easy glory, and empire on the cheap, are now selling this bundle of lies to expunge their own responsibility and hang it instead around the neck of the President, who more wisely than many, including myself, opposed the misadventure in Iraq from the first.

For my part, I can only say that after 9/11, as a New York City congressman, I was too ready to believe the Bush Administration's warnings of an imminent and terrible threat. I was, to be blunt, not prepared to accept that the President and his principal advisors would lie, misrepresent and deceitfully spin about an undertaking of such magnitude and consequence. But they did.

And almost worse than the decision to go to war was the tragic, unforgiveable ineptitude of both the occupation and the initial counter-insurgency effort. All the many warnings of danger from actual experts on Iraq and post-combat reconstruction--both in and out of government--that were blithely dismissed in the rush to war, came back to haunt us as one by one, they came to disastrous fruition.

We went to war both deliberately ignorant, and utterly unprepared for the aftermath, and thousands upon thousands of Iraqis have suffered the consequences of our foolish misadventure. Hundreds of thousands became refugees. Thousands were murdered by their own neighbors in vicious ethnic cleansing. Thousands were internally displaced and thrust into bitter poverty. These tragedies, though unintended, lie on our nation. We are responsible.

Iraq before the war was an awful place, and Saddam Hussein was a vicious, bloody-handed tyrant whose death should be mourned by none. But our decision to up end--on to ourselves no less--the seething cauldron of Iraq's sectarian animosity, religious zealotry and ethnic separatism, has to rank as one of the stupidest decisions in the history of American foreign policy.

We sent 4,486 of our bravest men and women to their deaths in this farce. More than 32,000 have come home injured, crippled or partially dismembered. The Iraq war has cost us more than $800 billion dollars and the tab is still running, with the President asking for some $2 billion in FY-13 to continue our effort to help Iraq get back on its feet as a unified, independent and minimally functioning state. Our financial obligations to our veterans, also running in the billions, will not be fully paid for six or seven decades to come.

So when I now hear the same cheerleaders for this immense and ruinous disaster lamenting the failures of the Obama administration to firmly plant our military in Iraq's bosom, and when I hear them decrying this President's so-called failure to understand Iraqi politics,
and when I hear them explaining how our righteous powers of coercion could readily set things to right in Iraq, without cost or complication, I know these ghastly lies for what they are.

Iraq's future is in great doubt and the failure of Iraq's sectarian leaders to forge a more balanced and viable system for sharing power and resources will continue to produce conflict and stagnation until resolved. I believe we can and should help them where appropriate, and consistent with our own national interests and constrained resources. But ultimately, Iraq's affairs are not ours to arrange, and they never rightfully were.

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