Iraq: To Move Forward, We Must Look Back (Rep. Dennis Kucinich)

Six years ago the United States attacked, invaded and consequently occupied Iraq at the great expense of the blood and treasure of the people of the United States and Iraq. The terms and dates of a total U.S. pullout have been so conditional and so qualified, that no one can say for sure when the occupation will end.

At such a grim anniversary, it is timely to recount the reasons we went to war. The Bush administration, operating in a climate of fear and the collective anger generated by 9/11, created a false cause for war against Iraq and then sold it to the Congress and the American people. They told us Iraq helped plan 9/11. They told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. They told us terrorists would attack us unless we attacked first. They promised the war would be short and cheap; that we would be greeted as liberators. None of these assertions were true. The architects of the war inside the Bush administration should be investigated and prosecuted by the Justice Department for deliberately misrepresenting a cause for war against Iraq.

Not everyone believed the lies. I led the opposition in Congress against the war. In the autumn of 2002, I circulated a detailed analysis of the Administration's war resolution. Nearly two thirds of the Democratic caucus voted against the war, despite the fact that the then leader of the Democratic Party stood next to President Bush at the White House and announced his support. Within a few months, protests against the war swept across the nation and around the world. Notwithstanding the lack of a legal, factual basis for war, notwithstanding massive public protest, the Administration commenced with its "shock and awe" display of violence against the people of Iraq. Lost in the pyrotechnics and the smoke was the truth.

The monetary cost of the Iraq war is still being calculated. It may reach $3 trillion. There are other costs: More than 4,200 Americans have been killed, another 30,000 wounded.

The people of Iraq have suffered grievously. It has been estimated that at least one million innocent Iraqis have lost their lives. What an extraordinary tragedy that those deaths as a result of the military assault and occupation on Iraq.

This war has ripped apart our nation. Only the balm of truth will heal it. That is why those who took us into this war based upon lies, as well as those who profited unjustly from the war, must be held accountable under national law. It should not be up to another nation to call for a legal accounting.

The healing cannot be complete until America ends the occupation, closes the military bases and brings the troops home, while setting in place an international peace-keeping and security force which stabilizes Iraq. We must also take steps to repair the damage done to the Iraqi people, to their homes, their families, their way of life. We must provide further financial, health and emotional support for our soldiers who in good faith shouldered their military duties.

Upon this anniversary, it is also appropriate to question the use of war as an instrument of national policy. Our nation has a right and a duty to defend ourselves. Yet we now know definitively that the war in Iraq was not necessary for our national security, and in fact was contrary to our national security interests.

It is time for America to consider a broader range of responses to security challenges in the future, so that we can be properly respectful of the readiness of our troops to sacrifice. I have proposed a Cabinet-level, Department of Peace, which will offer a President a range of practical alternatives to military action. The Department of Peace will offer a broad-based approach to peaceful, non-violent conflict resolution at both the domestic and international levels. Creating and keeping peace is an extension of the science of human relations. It requires vision and patience, vigilance and tough-mindedness. Perhaps one day, people will remember the Iraq war not only as just one of America's longest wars, but as one of our last.

Crossposted from Huffingtonpost.com