Kerry's the One to Save Us from Iraq Mistake
REP. JOSE E. SERRANO
John Kerry's position on Iraq is very simple. He voted to give the president of the United States the authority to go against Saddam Hussein when he promised to go to war only as a last recourse. But George Bush broke his promise. He was determined to go to war regardless of the facts, and now we're suffering the consequences.
What has been this war's cost? Our nation has lost more than 1,000 valiant young men and women who volunteered to serve the country, and more than 7,000 soldiers have returned from Iraq with physical injuries. The war is costing us billions and billions of dollars and inestimably in terms of our international prestige. Now, in the midst of one of the most important presidential elections in our history, we should not allow Senator Kerry's position to be distorted since we all know that he has always firmly supported the struggle against Al Qaeda, a struggle that is fundamentally different from the war in Iraq. John Kerry and I see that the president made a grave error when he focused his attention more on Saddam Hussein, who didn't attack us, than on Osama Bin Laden, who emphatically did on Sept. 11.
In 2002, Kerry and the Senate gave their support to the president to put pressure on Saddam. Kerry, and millions of other Americans, based their support for the president on the administration's arguments that Saddam Hussein had dangerous weapons of mass destruction that posed an imminent threat to our nation's security.
But let there be no confusion. The initial support Kerry gave to the president does not mean that he agrees with how the president has pursued this war. He and I firmly believe that the president has pursued a fundamentally flawed strategy in Iraq over the past few years, both before and after the fall of Baghdad. He pressured the UN to pull its inspectors out of Iraq before they had the time they needed to confirm if Saddam really had dangerous weapons of mass destruction. When the international community, including some of our closest NATO allies, remained unconvinced of the president's case for war, he stubbornly stormed ahead without international support, without providing our soldiers with proper equipment, and without a plan for winning the peace. Now, we're stuck with more than 90 percent of the costs of the war, and more than 90 percent of the casualties, and there is no end in sight. The CIA has recently suggested that Iraq might be headed toward civil war, but the president is ignoring reality, refusing to level with Americans about the situation on the ground there.
Already, we have spent $200 billion in Iraq. And it is our families who have lost the most. We don't have enough money to pay adequate salaries for teachers here in Bronx schools. We can't pay fair wages to the hospital workers or the policemen who keep our communities healthy and safe. Money for economic development in places like the Bronx is now in shorter supply, and police and fire departments lack the funds they need to properly function. But the Bush administration continues to pay astronomical amounts to companies like Halliburton to build Iraq.
After the disaster of Sept. 11, all of us wanted to follow the White House's leadership, and our nation came together as one. But the Republican leadership reacted in strange ways, quickly acting to cut taxes for the wealthy, and aggressively pushing us toward war in Iraq, even though we never had evidence connecting Saddam with 9/11. This war has cost us the scorn of other nations who used to look toward us as leaders of the free world because of our commitment to fairness. Now the time has clearly come to rethink our priorities and change the direction of our nation.
To win the war against terrorism, we need to destroy the terrorists who attacked us, we need to stop creating a new generation of terrorists, and we need to clean up the mess that President Bush has created in Iraq with his wrong-headed decisions. We need a strong leader to resurrect our alliances and coalitions and a commander-in-chief who understands the difference between rhetoric and reality. We need a president who knows when we should use our army and how to use it efficiently. But we also need a president who knows when to use our diplomacy and our experience, our intelligence system, and our economic power to make America and the world safer.
We need a new leader in the White House. We need John Kerry.
Josť E. Serrano, a Democrat from the Bronx, represents the 16th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
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