It is a solemn occasion. It is time to reflect upon the 2,350 Americans, and 208 ‘coalition’ troops, killed in this war of Bush’s creation. It is a time to rededicate ourselves to the purpose of ensuring that that our government does the right thing by their bereaved families, and by the 17,469 soldiers seriously wounded in this war.
We must also take responsibility, as the free citizens of a democratic republic, for the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis killed in this war (estimates range from 33K to over 100K). We are justified in assigning primary responsibility for these crimes to Bush and his cabinet of criminal cronies, but we cannot escape the fact that this is a democracy, and we are not yet oppressed by dictatorship, and still we allowed our government to commit such atrocities. Our hands may be clean, but our consciences must not be.
We owe the people of Iraq more than we can ever repay for what we allowed our government to do. Perhaps ending the tyranny of Saddam Hussein’s regime is a small down-payment, but I fear the eventual successor government will be just as brutal, and yet, in years to come, too many will wish to price deposing Saddam as the whole amount due. I fear that the hardship and carnage is only beginning for the people of Iraq as a bitter sectarian civil war begins to spiral out of control. Irrespective of our motives, we have touched off a long-term humanitarian crisis in Iraq, and we must not fail to do everything in our power to alleviate it.
I remain convinced that one thing cannot alleviate further Iraqi suffering; the further deaths and injuries of American servicemen and women stationed in Iraq. There is simply no benefit from further loss of American lives, nor from the exacerbation of civil tensions attendant to our continued military occupation of Iraq. As the opposition party, Democrats must continue to advocate for withdrawal and to propose innovative and thoughtful ways to approach re-establishing peace in Iraq. Democrats do not gain political advantage by being the party of "yeah, what he said…" Our ‘leaders’ have far too often found militaristic solutions to political problems convenient and expedient. If Iraq teaches us anything, it is that disastrously poor policy is grounded in the kind of bipartisanship born of fear and political cowardice, instead of a shared dedication to the national interest.
Now, as the Bush Administration begins once again to beat the drums of war (this time for pre-emption in Iran), we must continually remind ourselves, and our fellow citizens, of the disastrous effects of this Administration’s last attempt to keep ‘WMD out of the hands of madmen’. Have we learned so little? After Vietnam people said, "Never again!" and it took roughly 30 years for us to forget those bitter lessons sufficiently for a con-man to lead us back into an unwinnable and mismanaged war. With the lessons of Iraq barely 3 years old, and more proof arriving every day, we must not allow ourselves to be duped again by exaggerated claims of doomsday threats.