What's happened due to the Iraq War? More than 4,000 U.S. troops are dead. Nearly 30,000 more have suffered serious injuries. Our nation's military capabilities and readiness have been severely damaged. Our international standing has plummeted, making work with other nations to address security threats more difficult. Our constitutional system has been abused by an executive branch claiming unprecedented powers. Our economy is threatened, partly because to date this war has cost $16,500 for every U.S. family of four.
No political reconciliation has occurred in Iraq and none is on the horizon. As many as a million Iraqis have been killed. Four million have fled or been displaced. Half the households in Baghdad have lost a family member. Iraqis have no reliable electrical power, no reliable hospital system, no reliable schooling for children, and no functioning civil infrastructure. Unemployment is estimated at 60%. Young, unemployable men end up joining local militias rather than helping to rebuild their shattered nation.
In light of these well-documented realities, how can we bring American military involvement to a rapid and responsible end? How can we keep from repeating the mistakes that have brought us to this calamity? Working with military and security experts, ten congressional candidates have put forth "A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq" (www.responsibleplan.org). Their proposal has been endorsed by four Senate candidates and fifty-four House candidates. It includes several bills introduced in Congress last year.
"A Responsible Plan" calls for an end to U.S. military involvement in Iraq and transfer of control and responsibility for Iraq to the Iraqis. This draw down of troops would not depend on Iraqi action or inaction. It would occur with utmost regard for troop safety and would result in no U.S. troops in Iraq other than those required for embassy protection.
The United States and the international community would engage in diplomacy and nation-building rather than military action. Our departments of State, Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Transportation, and Treasury would all play a part. The United States would work to establish a regional dialogue involving all of Iraq's neighbors.
The humanitarian crisis involving millions of Iraqis who have fled their country or have been internally displaced would be addressed through accountable assistance to these populations and their host countries, increased border security, and the resettlement of Iraqis at risk. Among those at risk are Iraqis who have assisted the United States; they must not be abandoned.
"A Responsible Plan" advocates that the three branches of the United States government perform their functions in accord with the Constitution. Specifically it requires that ongoing war funding be incorporated into the normal congressional budgeting process, which is not now the case. Signing statements by the current president have involved attempts to alter the laws passed by Congress; such statements must be eliminated.
Habeas corpus, the individual's right to appeal to a court of law against arbitrary detention, would be reinstituted. Government surveillance without both probable cause and judicial warrants would be eliminated, as well as the torture of detainees and their secret transport to countries that practice torture during interrogations.
The renewal of our military would include reducing reliance on unregulated private militias, the provision of first-rate medical care for veterans, and the restoration of educational benefits for veterans. Holding contractors responsible for their contracts and increasing congressional oversight of contractors would help to eliminate war profiteering.
Lack of impartiality and skepticism on the part of the news media allowed administration claims to go largely unchallenged around the start of the Iraq War. "A Responsible Plan" calls for greater public participation in the establishment of media ownership rules and increased diversity in the ownership of broadcast media.
Last but far from least, this plan supports research on next generation energy technologies and the elimination of our nation's dependence on foreign oil. These efforts are viewed not only in the light of environmental responsibility, but also of economic and national security. Investment in alternative energy will create new industries and new technology which will result in new jobs and a healthier economy.
"A Responsible Plan" envisions generous and courageous goals. The United States has realized such goals before and can do so again. This plan points the way ahead for genuine patriotism in the twenty-first century. Such patriotism will contribute to the rebuilding of Iraq as well as to the restoration of the United States as a vibrant and confident democracy.