WASHINGTON - April 28 - U.S. Representatives Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) convened a forum on "Ending the War in Iraq" this morning at 9:00 AM on Capitol Hill. Today's forum included testimony from Iraqis, and a U.S. veteran to share their personal experience and Members of Congress to present their plans for ending the war in Iraq. This is the second forum that Woolsey has organized to discuss how to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq, while helping the Iraqis regain control over their country and their future. Other Members of Congress who participated were Reps. John Conyers (D-MI), Tom Allen (D-ME), Jim McGovern (D-MA), John Olver (D-MA), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR).
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, the first Member of Congress to call on the President to develop and implement a plan to bring U.S. troops out of Iraq, has requested official hearings in the U.S. House International Relations Committee and the U.S. House Armed Services Committee to discuss plans to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq. Since her requests of the President and the Republican controlled Congress have been ignored, this is the second forum that Congresswoman Woolsey has organized to discuss strategies to achieve military disengagement while still playing a constructive role in the rebuilding of Iraqi society.
The witnesses at today's forum included: Ms. Faiza al-Araji, who spoke about her family's experiences in Iraq before and during the war and subsequent occupation; Dr. Dahlia Wasfi, who put her medical career on hold to visit with family members in Iraq, and recently returned from a three-month stay in Basrah and Baghdad. Charlie Anderson (Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class, U.S. Navy - Ret.) who served as a Navy Hospital Corpsman with the Marine Corps' Second Tank Battalion during the invasion of Iraq and is the Southeast Regional Coordinator of Iraq Veterans Against the War; Dr. Paul Pillar, Former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000-2005 and author of Foreign Affairs feature article in March/April issue entitled "Intelligence, Policy, and the War in Iraq," and U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee, Jim McGovern, and Tom Allen who presented their congressional plans for ending the war and achieving military disengagement from Iraq.
The following are Rep. Lynn Woolsey's words as written for the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives regarding this morning's hearing:
"Mr. Speaker, just a few hours ago, I heard moving testimonials about the impact of the Iraq war on real people, real families and real communities - both American and Iraqi. I organized this forum precisely to get beyond the statistics, the strategy and the abstractions...to understand the devastating human cost of this war.
"We heard from Charlie Anderson, a former Marine who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and now is a regional coordinator for Iraq Veterans Against the War. He spoke of the government of the United States having failed the men and women it sent to war: 'I was completely untrained and unprepared for what I experienced in Iraq,' he told us.
"'In the seven years preceding my deployment to the Middle East...I had not set foot in the desert or had any training on how to fight or survive there. I had fired my nine millimeter service pistol exactly once.' And this is the part that blew my mind Mr. Speaker. Mr. Anderson added that after firing his weapon during one ambush, quote:
"'I was told I would not be issued replacement ammunition because there was none to be had. My platoon Sergeant told me 'do not shoot unless your death is imminent...' Can you imagine that? The mighty U.S. military, the greatest fighting force in the world...essentially rationing bullets."
"Dahlia Wasfi, a doctor who is half-Jewish and half-Iraqi, offered a powerful historical analogy. She spoke of her mother's relatives being driven from their native Austria to avoid Nazi concentration camps. 'Never again' is the refrain we use when talking about the Holocaust.
"She then spoke of her father's relatives, who are, quote, 'not living, but dying, under the occupation of this administration's deadly foray in Iraq.' She went on: 'From the lack of security to the lack of basic supplies, to the lack of electricity to the lack of potable water to the lack of jobs to the lack of reconstruction to the lack of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they are worse off now than before we invaded. 'Never again' should apply to them, too.'
"An Iraqi civil engineer named Faiza Al-Araji also spoke to us. She fled occupied Iraq last summer after her son, a student, was detained for several days by the Ministry of the Interior without any charges being filed. 'He has a beard, so he was a suspected terrorist!' is the way she put it. Although they said he had committed no crimes, his family had to pay thousands of dollars to secure his release. How's that for the transformational power of freedom?
"Now she and her family are living as exiles in Jordan, driven away from everything that was once familiar to them. But the only other choice was to live in a country whose infrastructure has been completely torn down but never rebuilt.
"Mr. Speaker, in the name of these three brave souls...for the sake of human decency if nothing else...it is time to end this war, bring our troops home, and give Iraq back to the Iraqi people."