The American people sent a clear message in November: that after three years of trying to ignore the subject, Congress must confront the issue of Iraq, not only by finding a way to end to the occupation and to bring our troops home, but also by ensuring that nothing like the disaster in Iraq ever happens again.

Today's Democratic Caucus forum on Iraq was a signal of intent, a sign that Democrats heard the message that voters sent in November and we will ensure that Congress finally has a real, informed debate on this unnecessary war, and how we can get out.

I will be working closely with my colleagues in the Out of Iraq Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and I can assure you that the people who opposed this war from the start will be playing a leading role in that debate.

While Congress debates how to best, and most quickly end the occupation and bring our troops home, we need to begin with an agreement on the outcome: when our troops come home, they should all come home.  There should be no permanent military bases in Iraq.  When President Bush refused to rule out permanent bases, as he did in a recent press conference, he fed the widespread perception that the U.S. intends a permanent occupation of Iraq, which is one of the forces that is fueling violence on the ground.  We can help take the target off of our troops' backs by explicitly ruling out the possibility of permanent bases.

It is also not too soon to begin the process of ensuring that the lessons of this failed war are learned.  That means oversight and accountability: we must examine how we got into this position - the administration's case for war, the use of prewar intelligence, the implementation of the war, everything - in order to ensure that our nation never finds itself in this position again.