Views on politics and current events

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Reply From One Of My Senators, Dick Durbin

I recently wrote a letter to one of my Senators Dick Durbin in regards to the continued funding of the Iraq occupation. His reply is in bold, my reply is in italics:

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about funding the war in Iraq.

Senator, the war in Iraq ended a long time ago. Bush himself declared a victory from the deck of an aircraft carrier. Saddam Hussien was deposed, a new government has been formed. Our continued presence in Iraq is no longer a war, but an occupation. Perhaps if this situation were aknowledged as such, there could be a more timely resolution agreed upon to end our involvement.

I understand your concerns about our nation's involvement in Iraq. I voted against the resolution authorizing this war, and far too many of our men and women in uniform have died there. With our involvement now in its fourth year, more than 3,000 American soldiers have been killed and more than 22,000 have been wounded. In addition to the loss of life, this war is costing us $2 billion each week. Add to this the escalating sectarian violence, and the unknown number of innocent Iraqi civilians who have perished as a result, and it is clear that the current "stay the course" approach is not working and that the Bush Administration lacks a coherent strategy to stabilize Iraq and achieve victory.

I am well aware of your voting record. With all due respect, that's history, Senator. What concerns me more than history is the future. The immediate future. You have quoted the sad numbers of our dead, and of the Iraqi dead. You have rightfully put the blame for this upon the Bush adminstration's failed policy. But let me ask, do you really think there can be a victory in Iraq? If so, just what would that victory be? The stabilization of Iraq will not come about by our continued presence there. Some say a civil war will erupt if we leave, some say that war has already started. Again I say to you, if we are to maintain a presence there, whose side shall we take? Can we remain neutral while occupying a country with so many warring factions jockeying for power and control?

It is time for us to end our open-ended commitment in Iraq, and for American troops to start coming home. At the end of 2005, I worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to enact legislation declaring that 2006 must be a year of significant transition toward full Iraqi sovereignty and the ultimate withdrawal of U.S. troops. This measure passed 79 to 19 with strong bipartisan support, reflecting the widespread frustration that many Americans feel toward President Bush's handling of Iraq. The Administration has not demonstrated the same sense of urgency regarding this transition, and the President has instead called for a major escalation adding more than 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq.

If this measure passed, why was Bush not made to adhere to it? Is there any kind of congressional control over a president at all? Are all these 'measures' and 'resolutions' even worth the paper they're printed on?

I am working to secure Senate passage of a measure opposing President Bush's plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq and calling for a strategy that would charge the Iraqi government with the primary mission of combating sectarian violence and fostering reconciliation. I also support the conclusions of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which would allow most U.S. combat forces to redeploy from Iraq by the first quarter of 2008.

As you have already stated the numbers of dead and injured since we've been involved in Iraq, how many more would be killed or wounded over a year-long redeployment plan? Perhaps I am naive, but why spread it out so long? Get our troops out of there in a more timely manner, and there will be less death, less injury. And also, is there any reason to believe that this new measure you are working towards has any more teeth in it than the measure passed with bipartisan support in 2005?

I have strongly disagreed with the Bush Administration's policies toward Iraq, and I have not hesitated to express my objections. However, with more than 150,000 U.S. military personnel deployed in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan, I could not in good conscience vote against funds to support our men and women in uniform who are already deployed and to ensure that they have the best equipment and protection we can provide.

Your good conscience prevents you from voting against any more funding for a 'war' you have repeatedly said you are against? Do you have the courage to vote against funding this continued occupation or not? I cannot believe that if funding were cut for this occupation that our troops would be in any more danger than they are right now. Fund their immediate withdrawal, not the continued occupation. Get them out in as orderly and timely a fashion as possible, but get them out! Are Democrats that afraid of being called non-supportive of the troops, that they will continue to vote hundreds of billions of dollars to continue the killing? Do Democrats have enough courage to frame this in the proper language, instead of letting the pro-war people frame the issue in their own terms?

At the same time, we owe it to our troops and their families to hold our government accountable and continue to press for a new direction. Our troops have done everything we have asked of them. The test of a successful plan for Iraq is that it allows the tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers there to start coming home to their families, while Iraqis take the responsibility to govern their nation, engage in an effective reconciliation process, and establish and maintain peace with the help of a trained and fully functioning Iraqi security force. I will continue to do all I can in support of efforts to achieve this goal.

You cannot have it both ways, Senator. Either congress has the ability to stop this occupation, or it does not. And if indeed congress does have the ability but not the will, because of political reasons? Then shame on all of you. There is blood upon your hands as much as the ones that got us involved in the first place. It is time to do what has to be done to stop this. Not next year, but now. The election of 2006 has shown that the American people have had enough of this occupation. I live in Whiteside county, one of the counties that had a non-binding referendum on the ballot that read:

"Shall the United States Government immediately begin an orderly and rapid withdrawal of all its military personnel from Iraq, beginning with the National Guard and Reserves?"

Whiteside county is hardly a liberal county, but the results of this referendum? 59% voted
YES. Not a year-long withdrawal, but an immediate withdrawal. That is the opinion of many in Illinois, and across the nation. I truly believe the majority of people want out now. Senator, have the courage to do what needs to be done. You have the backing of the people. If you haven't the courage, perhaps the people will find someone else in 2008 that does.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. Please feel free to stay in touch.

Thank you for responding. Rest assured, I will stay in touch. You have had my support in the past, and I hope I can continue to give you my support in the future. Take the firm stand on the Iraq situation that I believe your conscience is really telling you to do. There is much more at stake here than your political future or anyone else's. Human lives are at stake. Our valued soldiers as well as many others.

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