WASHINGTON – The first anniversary of the Iraq war was observed with mass peace demonstrations and by peace advocates in the House and Senate demanding that U.S. troops be brought home, replaced by United Nations peacekeepers.

These appeals were made more urgent by an upsurge in violence in which 70 American troops were killed, scores wounded and as many as 1,000 Iraqis died.

In an April 5 speech, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) blasted George W. Bush’s lies on virtually every issue, his concealment of the real cost of the prescription drug program giveaway to pharmaceutical companies, his tax cuts for the rich, and his under-funding of “No Child Left Behind.”

Kennedy traced the lies to the mass revulsion against Newt Gingrich’s Contract on America. “Instead of rejecting the Gingrich agenda as too extreme, Bush’s backers concluded that Gingrich’s error was poor marketing. The key to political success, they decided, was to speak in moderate, non-threatening tones while continuing to pursue the same extreme course of action. Iraq. Jobs. Medicare. Schools. Issue after issue. Mislead. Deceive. Make up the needed facts. Smear the character of any critic. Again and again we see this cynical and despicable strategy playing out. It’s undermining our national security … our economy … our health care … our schools … undermining public trust in government … undermining our very democracy.”

‘Blood on our hands’

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, delivered a speech on the Senate floor, April 8, calling for an “exit strategy” to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq.

“I have watched with heavy heart and mounting dread as the ever-precarious battle to bring security to post-war Iraq has taken a desperate turn for the worse. …

“During the past weekend, the death toll among America’s military personnel in Iraq topped 600. … Many of the dead, most perhaps, were mere youngsters, just starting out on the great adventure of life. But before they could realize their dreams, they were called into battle by their commander-in-chief, a battle that we now know was predicated on faulty intelligence and wildly exaggerated claims of looming danger. ….

(Sen. Byrd then quoted Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” about a suicidal charge by British cavalry in which 600 British soldiers died during the Crimean War of 1864.)

“Tennyson got it right – someone had blundered. It is time we faced up to the fact that this president and his administration blundered as well when they took this nation into war without a compelling reason, without broad international or even regional support and without a plan for dealing with the enormous post-war security and reconstruction challenges posed by Iraq. And it is our soldiers, our own 600 and more, who are paying the price for that blunder. …

“The harsh reality is this: one year after the fall of Baghdad, the United States should not be casting about for a formula to bring additional U.S. troops to Iraq. We should instead be working toward an exit strategy. The fact that the president has alienated friend and foe alike by his arrogance in ‘going it alone’ in Iraq and has made the task of internationalizing post-war Iraq an enormously difficult burden should not deter our resolve.

“Pouring more U.S. troops into Iraq is not the path to extricate ourselves from that country. …

“And from the flood of disturbing dispatches from Iraq, it is clear that many Iraqis, both Sunni and Shiite, are seething under the yoke of the American occupation. …

“Where should we look for leadership? To this Congress? To this Senate? This Senate, the foundation of the Republic, has been unwilling to take a hard look at the chaos in Iraq. Senators have once again been cowed into silence and support, not because the policy is right, but because the blood of our soldiers and thousands of innocents is on our hands. … Those few senators with the courage to stand up and speak out are challenged as unpatriotic and charged with sowing seeds of terrorism. It has been suggested that any who dare to question the president are no better than the terrorists themselves. …

“This Republic was founded in part because of the arrogance of a king who expected his subjects to do as they were told without question. … Our forefathers overthrew that tyrant and adopted a system of government where dissent is not only important, but it is also mandatory. …

“America needs a roadmap out of Iraq, one that is orderly and astute, else more of our men and women in uniform will follow the fate of Tennyson’s doomed Light Brigade.”

‘Our soldiers deserve peace … the truth’

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, cast the lone vote against the U.S. military action in Afghanistan and a year later was one of 133 House members who voted against the resolution authorizing Bush to invade Iraq. On March 17, Lee convened a Capitol Hill news conference to denounce the Republican-initiated resolution hailing the first anniversary of the Iraq war and to defend her own resolution condemning the war. The Republican resolution was approved the next day by a 327-93 vote. Here are excerpts from her statement:

“We are here today to mark the upcoming one-year anniversary of the needless war in Iraq which to date has cost the lives of more than 550 Americans, has wounded 3,000 Americans, and killed or wounded literally untold numbers of Iraqis and non-combatants. This war was the product of deliberate decisions by the Bush administration. We had choices. We had options. We did not have to go to war. …

“[W]e must address the issue of the horrible and misleading Iraq anniversary resolution [which] continues the Republican leadership’s pattern of distortion and deception. …

“Their resolution never mentions the more than 550 Americans and countless others who have died. It never mentions the weapons of mass destruction that were supposedly the reason we fought – and are still fighting – this war. And it claims that the war had made the world a safer place. …

“It fails to mention the fact that the Doctrine of Preemption on which the Iraq war was based has undermined long-standing alliances, weakened the effectiveness of the United Nations, and damaged our credibility with the international community. …

“My amendment was rejected by the Republican-led Rules Committee yesterday because it was too accurate and too true. It featured the horrors of too many lost lives. And it spelled out how the Doctrine of Preemption has made the world a more dangerous place, not a safer place. …

“The families of soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq deserve more than (the Republican) resolution. …They deserve peace and security, and they deserve the truth.”

‘End this sorry adventure’

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) spearheaded the drive against the Iraq war, mustering the 133 House members to vote against the House Resolution authorizing George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. While speaking to a rally in Springfield, Ill., March 16, as he campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination, Kucinich spoke of the first anniversary of the war and called for an end to the occupation.

“When we look at events in Spain, we see that the government in Spain went down because of its support of the Iraq war. This war in Iraq is still a vital issue in this country. The administration is talking about extending the tour of duty for our men and women who have served. They are talking about sending troops on a second rotation. …

“Right now, neither the leading Democrat nor the Republican administration is willing to commit to a plan to bring our troops home. And I say it’s time that we take a strong stand and say we need to bring in U.N. peacekeepers and bring our troops home and end this sorry adventure in Iraq. …

“Last year I stood on First Avenue in New York and looked out at half a million people who were protesting what was then the prospective involvement of the United States in Iraq. Since then we have seen that there was nothing but a trail of lies that led the United States into its involvement in Iraq, that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 … nothing to do with al Queda … nor with the anthrax attack upon this country. Iraq had neither the intention nor the capability of attacking the United States.

“Iraq was not trying to get uranium from Niger. In fact, Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. It was wrong to go in and it’s wrong to stay in. We need to get the UN involved and bring in UN peacekeepers. We need to turn over control of the oil to be handled on behalf of the Iraqi people, until the Iraqi people are self-governing, control of the contracts so there will be no more Halliburton sweetheart deals, no more privatization of Iraq. …

“We need to help rebuild Iraq to the extent that we destroyed it, pay reparations to the families of innocent civilians and non-combatants who lost their lives. Help to rebuild Iraq, help to pay for a U.N. peacekeeping mission, and bring our troops home!”

‘I strongly opposed unilateral aggression’

Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) was one of many Latino lawmakers who voted against the resolution authorizing the war on Iraq. On the first anniversary of that war, Serrano, who represents the Bronx, issued a statement. Following are excerpts:

“One year later, we are still at war. Even though President Bush declared ‘Mission Accomplished’ in May of last year, we are still in an occupation and our brave soldiers as well as civilians, are continuing to die. …

“President Bush has said that his decision to invade Iraq has made America safer. Recent events have proven him wrong. … Today, American taxpayers are bearing almost all the cost of stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq. …

Even before the start of the war, I strongly opposed unilateral aggression in our foreign policy on grounds that it serves only to isolate us from our allies and breeds resentment from other nations. Furthermore, as our troops in Iraq continue to struggle against elements of armed resistance, as they attempt to restore order and rebuild infrastructure, it has become ever more obvious that the only way to success in postwar endeavors is through the cooperation and support of the international community.

“I have not wavered in my support for the brave men and women of our armed services. … Now the president should fulfill his responsibility and do the right thing. Mr. President, let’s bring the troops home.”

The author can be reached at greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com.

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