Speaking on the floor of the House on Tuesday to mark the 10th anniversary of America's invasion of Iraq, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) gave a somber postmortem on the war she's consistently opposed, warning her colleagues to never forget the Bush administration's tactics in the country's rush to a needless and costly slaughter.
“We were told we would find weapons of mass destruction," she said. "We were warned about mushroom clouds. I offered an amendment at the time that would have taken us down a different path. It would have required the U.S. to work through the United Nations, using inspectors and maximizing diplomacy and mediation to ensure that Iraq was not developing weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately the amendment failed, by a vote 72 – 355."
Lee was the only member of the House to vote against H.J. Res. 64, the Authorization for Use of Military Force that ultimately gave President George W. Bush seemingly unlimited war powers. Even Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), two former members best known for their opposition to the war, voted to authorize military force. Many members of Congress would later confess they voted for the authorization believing they were not signing a blank check to go to war.
Still, there stood Lee on Sept. 14, 2001, even as debris from the World Trade Center towers still smoldered in New York, choking back tears and urging her colleagues to think things through before going to war. "However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint," Lee said, explaining that even while she "agonized" over the vote, her experience told her that military force would not prevent future terrorist attacks.
"What happened from there?" Lee continued, speaking Tuesday. "We all know the tragic consequences: President Bush dragged the country into an unnecessary war; no weapons of mass destruction were ever found; the costs of the Iraq war soared far beyond what was projected; and we lost 4,486 American troops in Iraq, and over 32,000 were wounded.
"Ten years later, the full consequences and costs of the Iraq war remain to be seen. According to a new study by the Watson Institute at Brown University, the war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion, with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to our war veterans. And the long term costs including caring for our veterans, which we must do, could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades."
The study she cited also reveals the startling truth of just how backwards the Bush administration's war planning was: initial estimates projected the war's total cost would land between $50-$60 billion, for a lowball just shy of $6 trillion once long term debt payments are figured in. Added, Conflict Casualties Monitor's Iraq Body Count website places the number of documented civilian deaths from violence since the war began at up to 122,303 -- a brutal body count that, unlike in America's slog through Vietnam, received very little photographic coverage in the mainstream press.
"It is my hope that this reckless and short-sighted decision will mark a turning point in American history, and that we will never again wage an unnecessary war," Lee said near the end of her speech. "We must use all the tools of American power in resolving disputes, including diplomacy. And we must have sufficient congressional debate and oversight before ever putting another U.S. solider in harm’s way."
This video was published to YouTube on Tuesday, March 19, 2013.