Tuesday marked the 4th Anniversary of the House vote to authorize the President to go to war in Iraq. I sided with those opposed to granting this authority. It was one of the most important votes of my career and one that I do not regret.
To date, 2,753 brave men and women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces have died in Iraq, and over 40,000 have been injured. In a survey conducted by Iraqi physicians and overseen by epidemiologists from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, it has been asserted that 655,000 Iraqis have died in Iraq since the invasion that otherwise would not have. In terms of dollars, the cost for the American public has reached over $375 billion.
In a bad sign for the President’s flawed “Stay the course” policy in Iraq, Virginia Senator John Warner, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, returned last week from the country carrying the message that if things don’t improve in the next few months, the operation has lost his support. Coming from perhaps the top ranking Republican on military affairs in the entire Congress, Senator Warner’s statement likely put the White House on notice that the blank check Congress has been writing the Administration is in danger of bouncing.
Even more troubling, in his new book “State of Denial”, Bob Woodward paints the Bush Administration’s bungled and deeply flawed handling of Iraq post invasion. Woodward builds the case that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has run amok, been left unaccountable for his actions, is disingenuous as to the war’s progress or lack thereof and is openly dismissive of the advice of military commanders in the field regarding a lack of an exit strategy or concrete measures for success.
It also appears that the White House has withheld information from Congress about the insurgencies’ strength and the lack of progress being made. In 2004, I successfully offered an amendment know as the “Strategy for Success” amendment, during consideration of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill, that required the Secretary of Defense to provide quarterly reports to Congress on what progress was being made towards defined benchmarks that would lead to the Iraqis being able to take control of their country and deal effectively with the insurgency.
According to Woodward, these Defense Department reports being sent to Congress are inaccurate or incomplete at best. Instead of leveling with Congress and the American public that the insurgency is gaining strength and attacks are increasing, it appears we are being misled. Congressional hearings into this matter should be held immediately. But because of a lack of oversight from the rubber stamp Republicans in Congress this is unlikely. This Congress long ago abdicated its Constitutional oversight duty in order to consolidate political power. While perhaps the move was politically advantageous in the short term, the repercussions will be felt in the U.S. and abroad for years, perhaps even decades to come.
Given a chance to vote today on whether to continue U.S. operations in Iraq, the outcome might be very different than what occurred in October 2003.