I, like most people, remember very well the morning of September 11, 2001. I had worked the night before and had awoken and learned of the attacks about an hour after they occurred. Along with much of the world, I spent most of that day watching in shock, though not in disbelief, at the horror that had unfolded and weeping for the innocent lives that had been lost. Having paid a modicum of attention to the forces behind the steady rise in radical Islam and the resulting attacks against the US during the previous decade - the World Trade Center in 1993, US embassies in Kenya & Tanzania in 1998, and the USS Cole in 2000 - it had seemed likely to me for some time before that there would eventually be a major attack carried out on US soil. The only thing that shocked me was the scale of that attack.
Similarly, I anticipated and saw the jingoistic nationalism that arose as a result of the attacks and which was promoted and encouraged by the Bush administration. And while I certainly saw the rationale for going to war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, I had reservations about the commitment of a President who had previously dismissed the idea of nation-building to prosecuting that war effectively and engaging fully in the effort that would be necessary to establish a truly functional democracy in a country that had known only war - war the US had a hand in promoting - for a generation.
These fears, of course, were to be borne out - first as we failed to deliver the level of aid that the President had pledged to Afghanistan, then as the drumbeats of war started to lead us away from Afghanistan and towards Iraq. I watched for over a year as the Bush administration built its case to start a second war before completing the tasks we had taken on in the first. And although any reasonably critical analysis of the President's case for going to Iraq showed it to be little more than gross propaganda, if not outright lies, I watched as the Congress basically gave him carte blanche to proceed with what was almost certain to be a monumental misadventure.
For most of the past four years, I have watched Congress give this President a blank check to drag us deeper and deeper into this war - every day losing more American lives and every day losing more ground in Afghanistan, where we once actually stood a chance of doing some good. At every misstep, the Bush administration has offered us shifting rationales, more lies, and now outright defiance with regards to a war that has cost us in lives (currently nearly 3300 American service personnel - not to mention tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Iraqi civilian lives, and over 24,000 American servicepersons wounded), in money that could have been used domestically for our common good, and in our honor and standing before the rest of the world. It is beyond time for this to stop.
The current Congress has a real opportunity to provide some long-overdue balance to this President's power, and it is imperative that it do so. I applaud recent efforts by both houses to place time limits on our engagement in Iraq. It should be clear to anyone by now that the President has neither the will nor the desire to leave this disastrous path, and Congress should not allow him to continue along it. Although he has promised to veto any legislation such as the bills recently passed in both houses which create timelines for our withdrawal from Iraq, I strongly urge you to vote to override any veto. Come what may, we need to remove our forces from Iraq, finish the job we started five-and-a-half years ago in Afghanistan, and set about trying to heal the damage this President has been allowed to do to our country, both at home and abroad.
10 April 2007
I've been mulling this letter over in my head for a while and finally put it all down and sent it to my congressional representatives.