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Congress, It’s Time To Clean Up Your Iraq War Mess

Eleven years have passed since the United States invaded Iraq in an unprovoked, unnecessary, unconstitutional action that violated international law.

Not long after the March 2003 military blunder began, journalist Tim Russert asked then-Sen. John Kerry, “Are you sorry you voted for the war?” He answered in a word, “Profoundly.”

Only 23 U.S. senators voted no. If there are others among the 77 aye voters who, like now-Secretary of State Kerry, have publicly offered remorse for their misguided vote, kindly notify the Center for Constitutional Rights ( Acknowledging a mistake is “manning up” in its finest expression, and the center will publish your mea culpa promptly.

The White House Iraq Group, headed by Karl Rove, brilliantly executed its pre-war propaganda. Rove and his aides summoned select members of Congress to the White House for flattering “private” briefings and given talking points.

Like obedient third graders, these politicians took the floor of their respective chambers and read the prepared alarms aloud, often with identical wording:

“A smoking gun will become a mushroom cloud.”

“A gun smokes after it’s been fired.”

“Saddam has more weapons of mass destruction than Hitler ever had.”

“The longer we wait the more dangerous he becomes.”

“Saddam is training al-Qaida in bomb making.”

The beat went on, the breathing became more rapid and the drums of war grew louder.

Overwhelming support at first

In the end, Congress gave the power to declare war to one man. President Bush took the legislative branch and the American public by the ear and led this nation right into the sword. And just about every major metropolitan newspaper in America supported the decision.

Now, even though the troops have been withdrawn, the impacts of the war will be felt for generations on both sides. Iraq lost anywhere between 100,000 and 1 million civilians. And we lost 4,486 of our soldiers, while more than 100,000 Iraq War veterans are dealing with brain injuries.

I’ve been lucky enough to join the efforts of some people fighting back against what this misguided war did to them and their families.

They are not members of Congress, but the people most directly affected: the American men and women who served in the armed forces, along with groups in Iraq representing women, children and workers.

They have all been traumatized, but the U.S. government is doing nothing about it.
In Iraq, cancer rates and birth defects have skyrocketed in areas polluted by toxic U.S. munitions, and the invasion and occupation led to massive sectarian violence and a new constitution that strips women and workers of their rights.

Insufficient care for veterans

Here at home, American veterans aren’t getting the care they need.

On this anniversary of the Iraq War, I’ll be in Washington with the Right to Heal Initiative for a People’s Hearing, and together with these brave survivors we will ask the U.S. government to take action.

For all the members of Congress who voted aye, now it’s your responsibility to clean up the mess you created.

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Phil Donahue

Phil Donahue is a journalist and former TV show host. In 2008, he co-produced the documentary film, Body of War, an "intimate and transformational feature" look at the true face of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.

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