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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Iraq War public opinions compiled

The American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, has compiled the latest public opinion surveys on the Iraq War, which readers may find interesting as the U.S. enters into the sixth year of the war.

Here’s the press release, which lists the highlights and links to the study:

AEI Public Opinion Study: Public Opinion on the Fifth Anniversary of the Iraq War

Just prior to the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War, American Enterprise Institute senior fellow and public opinion expert Karlyn Bowman releases an updated collection of survey data on attitudes about the war in Iraq. This AEI Public Opinion Study entitled “Public Opinion on the War with Iraq,” is the most comprehensive collection of surveys on the topic from major pollsters. Among the highlights:

  • Strong majorities, 59 percent in Gallup’s latest survey, say that the war in Iraq was a mistake. Virtually the same percentage of Americans, 60 percent from the same late February 2008 Gallup survey, also say that we should set a timetable for removing troops from Iraq. Policymakers should not jump the gun though. Only a small fraction of Americans — around 20 percent in most polls — support immediate withdrawal.
  • In the Pew Research Center’s latest February 2008 survey, the country was evenly split with 48 percent of the country saying that U.S. military effort in Iraq was going very/fairly well and 48 percent also saying it was going not too/not at all well. This is a marked improvement from this same time last year. One possible explanation comes from the same Pew survey which broke down specific areas of concern in Iraq such as training Iraqi security forces, reducing civilian casualties, establishing democracy, etc. In every category, the percentage saying that the United States was making progress had increased from its previous asking last fall.
  • Pluralities of Americans believe that the surge is making progress. In Gallup’s latest survey, 40 percent said the surge was making the situation better in Iraq, 38 percent said it was making no difference, and 20 percent said it was making things worse. This is up substantially from July 2007 when only 17 percent said the surge was making the situation better, 49 percent said it was having no impact, and 30 percent said it was making things worse.
  • President Bush continues to receive very low marks for his handling of the war. In the most recent CBS News/New York Times survey, 31 percent approved of his handling of the situation with Iraq. Generically, Democrats lead the Republicans as the party better able to handle the situation in Iraq. Specifically, John McCain leads Hillary Clinton and separately, Barack Obama, as the candidate who could do a better job there.

To read the full study and for more historical and current data on many different aspects of the war, in addition to these selected highlights, please go to: http://www.aei.org/publicopinion2