Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Congressman Speaks about Iraq

This is a letter I receieved from my Congressman, David Obey, of the 7th District in Wisconsin. I had written the Congressman with questions and comments about my concern with America's policy in Iraq. Here is the letter, word for word.

August 10, 2007

Dear Mr. Spado:

Thank you for contacting me about the mess in Iraq.

AI think my record on this issue is crystal clear. I voted against giving the President authority to go to war in the first place because I was concerned that by doing so, we would be walking into a quagmire with no decent way to get out. I have made it quite clear that I believe our military attack on Iraq was the biggest foreign policy mistake in history, not just because it has tied us down and cost thousands of precious American lives, but also because it has destroyed our influence and our ability to affect events in that region for decades to come. It has also resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqis.

I was the first person in the House of Representatives to call for the resignation of then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz because of their myopic incompetence. I also believe that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should resign because he has presided over a Justice Department which has twisted itself into a pretzel trying to justify American use of torture-a decision that is not only immoral but threatens to make it easier for others to justify the torture of American soldiers.

Last November, the American public made clear they wanted a change in policy in Iraq. Since then, we have been trying to provide just that, but we are operating with very narrow margins. Democrats now control the House of Representatives, but by just a handful of votes. In the Senate, a body of 100 people, we have only 50 democrats because Senator Johnson fell victim to a stroke. That means we are ten votes short of being able to end filibusters and send anything to the President. The hard cold fact is that we will need another highly successful election in order to give us a working majority in the Senate. Until that happens, it will be a minor miracle if we can lay anything changing the direction in Iraq on the President’s desk. Nonetheless, we are trying.

In April, I sponsored legislation that set a timetable for withdrawal of American troops from combat. We passed that legislation through the House and the Senate--a minor miracle, given our lack of effective control of the Senate--but the President vetoed the bill.

To override that veto, we needed two-thirds of the House and Senate to concur. We didn’t get it because Democrats don’t have two-thirds of the seats in the Congress.

We then tried again to send another proposition to the President which set out a series of conditions for the Administration and the Iraqi government to meet before funding could continue. But that proposal failed in the Senate. At that point, we ran out of options for using the 2007 Fiscal Year Supplemental appropriations bill to force a change in Administration policy because that fiscal year is almost over.

Speaker Pelosi and I then met with the Administration and offered to eliminate all other provisions in the legislation if the Administration would accept meaningful benchmarks and timelines for ending our involvement in the Iraqi civil war. They flatly refused.

At that point, the Congress passed legislation that required the Administration to provide a report to Congress spelling out what progress the Administration has made on 18 different benchmarks on their Iraq policy., designed to separate fact from fiction. That report, which we received in mid-July, demonstrated that the Administration and the Iraqi government are failing to meet more than half of them.

That report has helped us pick up a handful of Republican votes in the Senate and two more Republican votes in the House on legislation to change course in Iraq. After receiving the report, the House passed legislation sponsored by Representative Skelton (which I cosponsored) that would require the President to begin withdrawal of American troops from Iraq within 120 days. That legislation passed by a vote of 223 to 201. 219 Democrats voted for it while 10 Democrats voted against it. Four Republicans voted for it and 191 voted against it.

We are hoping that that legislation will pass the Senate so that it can be sent to the President. But, as you can see, if the President vetoes the bill, as we fully expect him to do, we are still far from having the votes we need to override his veto. The question is not whether the House Democrats have the backbone to force a change in Iraq policy; it is whether we the votes!!

We have tried every way known to man to force a change in policy in order to end this stupid war, but the hard cold fact is that there are only two ways to end U.S. participation in that civil war. The first will be if enough Republicans feel the heat from their constituents to quit supporting the President’s futile policy and vote to change it. The second will be if the next election gives us enough additional Democrats in the House and Senate to override Presidential vetoes or gives us a nw President who is willing to change Iraq policy.

I was in Congress during the Vietnam War. It took more than 31 different approaches over a period of longer than five years before we were able to get enough votes to end American support for that war. Unless the public gives us a lot more help in the next election, we could be faced with the same long, drawn out, frustrating prospect.

Congresswoman Pelosi, our new Speaker, pulls those of us in the Democratic leadership together virtually every week to talk about how we can hasten the day when we will be able to achieve a change in policy. She could not possibly be doing more than she is doing and neither could I. I am as tired as you are of the President’s stubborn refusal to recognize that he has made a huge mistake and that his policy is ruinous to American interests and American values. That is a price that all of us are paying because we have a President who does not have a clue about how to minimize its disastrous consequences. The price of his myopia is falling most harshly on the military families who are bearing the burden of this war.

Let me assure you we will continue the fight, not because we love to fight, but because we love America and what it is supposed to stand for and we detest the Presidents policy and what it has done to our ability to be a constructive force in the world.

Thank you again for getting in touch and thank you for caring.


David Obey
Your Congressman


betmo said...

i know that many would disagree with my assessment that we need to vote in more democrats next go round. people are hot to blame a scapegoat- as i have been i won't deny. the only way in the short term to cut the head off of the snake is with democratic votes. my skin will be flayed for that i am sure.

No said...

That's one of the most honest, heartfelt letters I've read in a long time...who knew it could have come from Washington?

fjb said...

This shows that someone in Washington is paying attention, and that's got to account for something, these days.

Spado, I'm putting together a video for On Million Blogs For Peace. Is it okay if I use one of your pictures from your weekly peace vigil in it?

Peace be upon you,