Thoughts on the Iraq War’s 10th anniversary

These two statements cover some of the same points, but seem so very different in tone.

From President Barack Obama:

“As we mark the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war, Michelle and I join our fellow Americans in paying tribute to all who served and sacrificed in one of our nation’s longest wars. We salute the courage and resolve of more than 1.5 million service members and civilians who during multiple tours wrote one of the most extraordinary chapters in military service. We honor the memory of the nearly 4,500 Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice to give the Iraqi people an opportunity to forge their own future after many years of hardship. And we express our gratitude to our extraordinary military families who sacrificed on the home front, especially our Gold Star families who remain in our prayers.

“The last of our troops left Iraq with their heads held high in 2011, and the United States continues to work with our Iraqi partners to advance our shared interest in security and peace. Here at home, our obligations to those who served endure. We must ensure that the more than 30,000 Americans wounded in Iraq receive the care and benefits they deserve and that we continue to improve treatment for traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. With a strong Post 9/11 GI Bill, we must help our newest veterans pursue their education and find jobs worthy of their incredible talents. And all Americans can continue to support and honor our military families who are pillars of so many of our communities. On this solemn anniversary, we draw strength and inspiration from these American patriots who exemplify the values of courage, selflessness and teamwork that define our Armed Forces and keep our nation great.

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, (in remarks delivered on the House floor):

“Today is a solemn anniversary: a tragedy that began ten years ago today when President George W. Bush launched a war of choice in Iraq, dragging our country into a costly, bitter conflict based on falsehoods and hyperbole. It took President Obama fulfilling his campaign promise to end the Iraq war, and we are grateful that he brought the war to an end.

“But we must not forget how we got into the war in the first place.

“We were told we would find weapons of mass destruction. We were warned about mushroom clouds. I offered an amendment at the time that would have taken us down a different path. It would have required the U.S. to work through the United Nations, using inspectors and maximizing diplomacy and mediation to ensure that Iraq was not developing weapons of mass destruction.

“Unfortunately the amendment failed, by a vote 72 – 355.

“What happened from there? We all know the tragic consequences: President Bush dragged the country into an unnecessary war; no weapons of mass destruction were ever found; the costs of the Iraq war soared far beyond what was projected; and we lost 4,486 American troops in Iraq, and over 32,000 were wounded.

“Ten years later, the full consequences and costs of the Iraq war remain to be seen. According to a new study by the Watson Institute at Brown University, the war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion, with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to our war veterans. And the long term costs including caring for our veterans, which we must do, could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades.

“Most importantly, we’ve paid for this war most tragically in loss of life and injury. Fighting the war in Iraq has also undercut nation building here at home. Investments we should have been making in job creation, educating our kids, putting cops on the street, and rebuilding our aging infrastructure. Instead of nation building at home, we poured billions of dollars into nation building in Iraq with little oversight or accountability.

“The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction issued its final report to Congress last month detailing billions of dollars lost to waste, fraud, and abuse. Speaking with an Iraqi official, Special Inspector Stuart Bowen was told, ‘You can fly in a helicopter around Baghdad, but you cannot point a finger to a single project that was built and completed by the United States.’

“Unfortunately, these lost opportunities and tragic mistakes are not behind us.

“As the daughter of a 25-year veteran of the armed forces, I am incredibly thankful for the sacrifices our women and men have made in Iraq, and continue to make in Afghanistan. I am also deeply concerned with the widespread, often undiagnosed, incidents of PTSD and the alarming suicide rates amongst our returning soldiers.

“We need to honor our troops who served and show our support by giving our men and women who served the best health care, the best educational opportunities, and the best job training available. They deserve nothing less.

“It is my hope that this reckless and short-sighted decision will mark a turning point in American history, and that we will never again wage an unnecessary war. We must use all the tools of American power in resolving disputes, including diplomacy. And we must have sufficient congressional debate and oversight before ever putting another U.S. solider in harm’s way.

“Finally, just like in Iraq, there is no military solution in Afghanistan. We need to bring the war in Afghanistan to an accelerated end, and bring our troops home now.

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in expressing this sentiment during a different war said, ‘The bombs in Vietnam explode at home; they destroy the hopes and possibilities of a decent America.’

“Let us put this decade of perpetual warfare behind us, invest in our veterans, our children, and get about the business of nation building here at home.”

There’s more, after the jump…

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“On March 19, 2003, brave members of our armed forces were ordered into service in Iraq. In the ensuing years, nearly 4,500 of those service members would not return home; tens of thousands would come back wounded, injured, changed forever.

“Today, ten years later, our combat mission is over and our troops no longer patrol the deserts of Iraq. We remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in battle and honor those who came safely home. We pay tribute to the courageous men and women in uniform who did all that was asked of them and performed with valor, patriotism, and dedication to duty. We pledge to ensure that, as once inscribed on the walls of Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, ‘time will not dim the glory of their deeds.’

“As we look back on the war in Iraq, we look forward to a future of peace, security, and stability across the globe. By the light of our values, by the bravery of our military, by the power of our example and our actions, the United States will remain focused on caring for our veterans and their families, committed to advancing the cause of freedom, and devoted to continued American leadership around the world.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette

    I received e-mails from the right & the left this morning, about how the U.S. Government wants to do it all over again with Iran. Obviously the weapons industry rules the corrupt Federal Government.

  • RR senile columnist

    Gen. Lee : Monday morning QBs ain’t worth a warm pitcher of (supply noun).

  • JohnW

    Had he been around in 2002 and 2003, before the war started, I suspect Cactus Jack Garner might have used his famous quote in sizing up the quality of the intelligence being presented to sell the war to Congress and the public.

  • GV Haste

    Lets see, we’ve done Iraq twice, and we’ve been in Afganistan for a dozen years, but we’re pulling out now. Did some bombing in Libya, and we drone Yemen often.

    OK, now we have a choice, Syria or Iran…

    Its a tough choice. But if we want steady involvement, I’d opt for Iran. We could easily remain occupied there for a good 20 years.

    Oh for the good old days, when wars would only last for 4 or 5 years. When the wounded died on the battlefield and didn’t have to cared for decades later.

    How about we spend that next trillion drilling and drilling, digging and digging, and laying pipelines, so that we don’t need anyone’s oil.
    Sure we’d have environmental costs, but that beats 20 more years of war.
    Tar Sands sure beat Middle East sands when it comes to mitigating the complications.

  • JohnW

    We’re already pretty close to being free of Middle East oil blackmail. Our worries and strategic interests in what happens in that region go far beyond oil.