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The Iraq Non-Debate

July 30, 2009
Opinion Piece

For months, the 72-member "Out Of Iraq" congressional caucus , which I chair, has called for a full and honest debate on the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq. Members of our coalition have long pushed for a legitimate opportunity to debate the administration's misleading and inaccurate pre-war statements, the abysmal way the war has been conducted and the mounting costs in both human lives and scarce federal dollars. Only through an open debate, in which members are permitted adequate time to speak and offer relevant amendments, would the U.S. be able to develop a coherent plan to bring its soldiers home.

Several weeks ago, we were encouraged by news that the Republican leadership in the House had scheduled such a debate. In a press briefing, John Boehner, the Republican Majority Leader said, "We are the people's house, and serious issues of the day ought to be debated here in the House" and announced that the debate would take place today, Thursday, June 15.
Unfortunately, the majority leader had not been completely forthcoming about his true intentions. When the terms of the debate became public, it turned out that what they had planned was anything but a substantive debate that is representative of "the people."  Simply put, HR 861, the legislation offered by the majority for purpose of this debate, is nothing more than a self-aggrandizing, election-year pat on the back for an embattled president and a majority Republican party poised to lose control of the House of Representatives. The script for Thursday's so-called debate has been playing out since the attacks on 9/11. Once again, Republicans will make every attempt to conflate the "global war on terror" and the invasion of Iraq—even after it has been repeatedly proven that there were no direct connections between Iraq and al-Qaida. In fact, all that these issues have in common is how badly the administration has bungled them.

Additionally, Republicans will accuse Democrats of wanting to "cut and run," essentially abandoning the Iraqi people to bear the brutal insurgent attacks. They will call us unpatriotic and say that we do not support the U.S. troops—men and women whom the Bush administration has unjustifiably sent into harm's way. All of these accusations are hollow diversions meant to prevent the American public from focusing on the fact that President Bush and congressional Republicans have failed to strengthen our homeland against another terrorist attack.

The president's decisions leading up to and during the war have failed our men and women in uniform and the American people, and Congressional Republicans have endorsed every single decision by using its majority status to pass legislation perpetuating these mistakes. Republicans have turned a blind eye to the administration's failure to adequately plan for the invasion, failure to properly equip our troops with body armor and adequately armored Humvees and to Halliburton's excessive waste and fraud. While at the same time, year after year, they have passed divisive resolutions that commend the administration and give the White House a blank check to fund its bungled efforts.

A true debate on Iraq would address these issues and the dozens of others surrounding the invasion. Instead, Americans, especially the brave men and women who have paid the ultimate price—the 2,500 U.S. soldiers who have died and the more than 18,400 injured—are being denied their right to a thoughtful, pointed discussion of efforts to continue to bring them home.

When the time came to have that debate, it is the Republicans who decided to "cut-and-run." We have no doubt that the public will see this election year ploy for what it is—an attempt to give Republicans cover going into November and to halt the nose-dive in the president's approval rate. The American people should have full accounting for the United States' botched policies in Iraq. Our men and women in uniform deserve a consistent voice—not motivated by political gain—that will fight to bring them home, and members of the "Out Of Iraq" Caucus will use their time on the floor to raise these issues regardless of opposition from the Republican leadership.