Congresswoman Barbara Lee: Military action is not the answer in Iraq

OPINION - In 2002, President Bush and his Administration misled the American people by claiming Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and posed a threat to U.S. national security...

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In 2002, President Bush and his Administration misled the American people by claiming Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and posed a threat to U.S. national security. The White House’s public relations campaign was directed towards one goal: justifying an unnecessary war of choice in Iraq.

Congress debated the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force for war in Iraq, and many of us strongly opposed it.

On the floor of the House, I offered an amendment that would have prevented the war by requiring the U.S. to work through the United Nations to ensure that Iraq was not developing weapons of mass destruction. My amendment failed, and a decade-long war was unleashed.

Sadly, the tragic situation in today’s Iraq is the direct and predictable product of that authorization. America’s unjust invasion sparked the sectarian war we are seeing today.

The American people are rightfully war weary and are not interested in repeating the mistakes of the past. That is why they are looking to Congress to do our job and debate any future military force in Iraq. Congress must head their call and take action.

This week, the House will have the chance to restore congressional oversight and prevent military action in Iraq by voting for two of my amendments.

The first will prohibit funding for combat operations in Iraq. We must recognize that there is NO military solution in Iraq. This is a sectarian war, and we should not commit boots on the ground. Any lasting solution must be political and take into account all Iraqis. Bombs will only inflame the situation by injuring civilians and creating new enemies for the U.S.

The second would repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF. It is well past time that we remove this authorization from the books. Congress must reassert its constitutional prerogative to make war and debate and vote on any military action in Iraq.

As our President told the American people in May, “U.S. military action cannot be the only, or even primary, component of our leadership in every instance.”

A military solution can only answer a military problem; Iraq’s problem is much more complex. The solution is political and can only be achieved by the Iraqi people.

No amount of foreign military aid can force Iraqis to invest in their collective future. No number of American lives will drive Sunnis to respect Kurds or Shiites or vice versa.

The change Iraq needs must come from Iraqis rejecting violence in favor of a peaceful democracy that represents all citizens and respects the rights of all citizens.

More than a decade of endless war has taught us the hard lesson that military action cannot solve every problem. The future of Iraq is in the hands of the Iraqi people – our job is to continue to promote and support regional and international engagement, recognition of human rights, and political reforms. We must also ensure that the embassy and any Americans in Iraq are safe.

Only through these actions can we begin the process of reconciliation and help the Iraqis secure long term national stability. A renewed Congressional debate over the Iraq war is long overdue — it’s past time we listen to the American people and stop endless war.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee is a Member of Congress from California’s 13th Congressional district. In 2001, she gained national attention as the only member of either chamber of Congress to vote against the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in the wake of the horrific events of September 11th. Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, the Steering and Policy Committee, and is a Senior Democratic Whip as well as the Whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), where she serves as the Co-Chair of the CPC Peace and Security Task Force.