I have long been a critic of our country's military presence in Iraq. From the very beginning I was highly skeptical of the reasons offered by the Bush Administration to justify our country's involvement in a war in the Middle East. It was apparent to me that the Bush Administration was willing to mislead the American public to support the rush to war.
Iraq became a war without reason, a war without a plan. In 2005, I endorsed Representative Lynn Woolsey's troop withdrawal letter and then co-sponsored the Woolsey resolution calling for U.S. troop withdrawal, reconstruction assistance and self-government for Iraq with guarantees of external security.
In 2007, I introduced legislation to bring an end to our country's involvement in the Iraq War. The legislation was patterned after the 1970 McGovern-Hatfield Amendment that set a deadline for U.S. military involvement in Vietnam after which funding could only be used for the safe withdrawal of U.S. forces.
I felt that just being on the record against the President's escalation of the Iraq War was not enough. The only way to defuse the violence in Iraq is to defund the war in Iraq. Congress has the power to control the funding, and we have the responsibility to exercise the power vested in us by the Constitution. That is what the American people elected us to do. We must exercise our constitutional power as a co-equal branch of government and do what the President is unwilling to do: bring our soldiers home.
In 2008, I supported Representative Barbara Lee's amendment to limit President Bush's ability to indenture our next president to carry on a disastrous war. The Lee Amendment would have assured that the new Congress and the new President, not a lame duck administration, would determine the future of U.S. policy in Iraq.
Today I remain a critic of U.S. involvement in Iraq but am also confident that President Obama will honor his promise to curtail our country's involvement in what has become a hopeless and irresponsible war.
As the Iraq War continued, I became concerned that the Bush Administration would attempt to expand our country's military involvement in Iraq to the rest of the Middle East, starting with Iran. The American people were being exposed to a steady cadence of public statements from the Bush Administration promoting fear and suggesting that Iran was next - in the cross hairs of the Administration.
I called it "The Drumbeats of War" in a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives on October 12, 2007. In the wake of the Administration's authorization of covert action against Iran, I was among those in the Congress who advocated a vote on whether to go to war with Iran - an "up or down vote" - as a means of reining in the foreign policy tactics of the Bush Administration.
I listened carefully to the President last December when he announced the deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan. At that time I said that I was unconvinced that such a plan would work. Now that those troops are in place, I remain unconvinced. I am an advocate of the immediate withdrawal (within 30 days) of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.
We must never lose sight of the need to support military veterans and families at home as faithfully as we support our troops in the field. The costs of war are often coldly calculated by the loss of our soldiers' lives or by the daily, weekly, or monthly economic costs of a military presence. We must not forget our obligations to the tens of thousands of soldiers who return home from combat with serious health care and financial needs.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) harmed many serving in Vietnam and in the First Gulf War. As many as 50,000 soldiers serving in the Iraq war will come home with PTSD. PTSD is a mental wound as real and as serious as a shrapnel wound from an IED.