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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…
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Woolsey gives her 444th, final antiwar speech

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, who is retiring from Congress in a few weeks, this morning delivered her 444th and final special order speech expressing her opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and her support for a “smart” approach to national security:

http://youtu.be/ztGa932tnwc

Woolsey, D-San Rafael, will be succeeded in the next Congress by Rep.-elect Jared Huffman, a fellow Democrat; the newly drawn 2nd Congressional District stretches from the Golden Gate Bridge’s north end to the Oregon border.

Read the text of Woolsey’s speech as prepared, after the jump…
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What they’re saying about the Iraq withdrawal

President Obama has announced that all U.S. troops except about 150 will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year; the few remaining troops will protect the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and serve as trainers.

From Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

“President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“I applaud President Obama for a promise kept. Today is a day to honor our troops and our military families who have sacrificed so much over the last nine years to give the Iraqi people a chance at a better future. It is now up to the Iraqis to secure their country and provide opportunity for all their people.”

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“The continued drawdown of American troops that began under the previous administration wouldn’t be possible if not for the hard work and sacrifice of our service members, diplomats and their families. While on a congressional visit to Iraq this year, several lawmakers and I saw firsthand the progress our men and women in uniform had made. American forces not only freed Iraq from a vicious tyrant, but – under the strategy developed and implemented by our generals, and the leadership of both President Bush and President Obama – ended a violent terrorist insurgency that threatened the Iraqi people, and provided an opportunity for the Iraqi government to build the capacity needed to effectively meet the needs of the country.

“We must never forget the sacrifice of those who’ve served and all who will soon be making the journey home. And we owe it to them to continue engaging with the Iraqi government in a way that ensures our hard-fought gains translate into long-term success. While I’m concerned that a full withdrawal could jeopardize those gains, I’m hopeful that both countries will work together to guarantee that a free and democratic Iraq remains a strong and stable partner for the United States in the Middle East.

“We must also keep working to ensure our veterans have our full support as they return home to a tough economy. That’s why the House recently passed a bipartisan veterans hiring bill that provides training and assistance to unemployed veterans, and breaks down barriers preventing them from finding work.”

From Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont:

“I am happy to hear President Obama’s announcement that our troops will be completely withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year. This is significant progress in the right direction. However, I am still concerned about the thousands of contractors who will continue to work in Iraq, and whether their continued presence constitutes a real withdrawal from the nation. While I hope the transition to a self-governing Iraq is a smooth one, I also hope for a true withdrawal of U.S. involvement.”

More, after the jump…
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House passes Eshoo’s bill on religious minorities

The House today overwhelmingly approved a bill by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, to create a special State Department envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia.

The bill, HR 440, was introduced in January in the wake of increasing violence, targeted attacks and heightened discrimination against Christians in Iraq and Egypt, and persistent concerns in Afghanistan and Pakistan, among other nations. The House voted 402-20 today to approve it and send it on to the Senate.

Wolf co-chairs Congress’ bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, named for the late congressman from San Mateo. Threats against religious minorities have been increasing in recent months, he said, and the United States has an obligation to speak out for the voiceless, to develop policies to protect and preserve these communities, and to prioritize these issues in broader U.S. foreign policy.

“The U.S. government needs an individual who can respond and focus on the critical situation of religious minorities in these countries whose basic human rights are increasingly under assault,” Wolf said in today’s news release. “If the international community fails to speak out, the prospects for religious pluralism and tolerance in the region are bleak.”

Eshoo, who co-founded and co-chairs the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus with Wolf, has long pressed the State Department to develop a comprehensive policy to address the unique needs of small, indigenous faith communities in Iraq that are being targeted for violence.

“In a time of partisanship and polarization, it’s gratifying when members from both parties can come together to address the humanitarian crisis that’s been unfolding in the Middle East, and has not been given the attention it deserves,” she said. “As the daughter of Assyrian and Armenian immigrants who fled the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East, it’s terrifying to see history repeating itself in today’s Iraq. I’m hopeful that the special envoy created by this legislation will elevate the crisis of the Middle East’s religious minorities, giving them the diplomatic attention they so badly need and deserve.”

Reps. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough – Lantos’ successor – are among the bill’s co-sponsors.

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Boxer: Airlines must set military baggage policy

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who co-chairs the Senate Military Family Caucus, wrote today to the Air Transport Association of America asking for the airline industry group to help establish and communicate a clear and consistent checked baggage policy across all airlines for active duty military personnel.

Boxer’s letter was prompted by the recent disclosure that Delta Air Lines charged a group of active duty military personnel a total of $2,800 in baggage charges as they flew home from serving in Afghanistan. Delta already has amended its policies, but Boxer wants the entire industry on the same page.

“I urge you to work with the airlines to communicate a clear, consistent approach to both active duty military and airline personnel, which will help our service members get the treatment they deserve,” the senator wrote.

Read the full text of the letter, after the jump…
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Marin post office renamed for soldier killed in Iraq

Jake VellozaPresident Barack Obama today signed into law a bill renaming the post office in Marin County’s Inverness in memory of U.S. Army Spc. Jake Robert Velloza, who was killed in May 2009 near Mosul, Iraq.

“I am so pleased that the President has chosen to honor the memory of one of the North Bay’s finest by signing my legislation,” Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, said in a news release. “Jake Velloza, like so many brave men and women before him, signed up for some of the most difficult and dangerous work imaginable. He loved his country enough to give his life for it, and his community and the entire nation are grateful. America is strong and great because of selfless patriots like him.

“With his signature today, the President has ensured that Jake Velloza’s name, and a reminder of his service, will be permanently displayed in his hometown. Future generations will now know how Jake Velloza sacrificed for them.”

Velloza grew up in Inverness and attended Tomales High School before joining the Army in 2006; he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. He’s buried at Olema Cemetery.

Woolsey’s H.R. 793, introduced in February, is the first post office naming bill to pass Congress and be signed by the President this year. Information on a public ceremony at the post office will be released soon; in the meantime, Velloza’s parents, Bob and Susan Velloza, and fiancé, Danielle Erwin, are declining to be interviewed.