I want to commend President Obama for moving to end a long, painful chapter in our nation’s history by announcing the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year. Over the past nine years, I joined millions of Americans in praying for the safe return of the nearly one million troops and diplomats who served in harm’s way in Iraq. The President’s announcement means our hopes have been fulfilled, and that our brave men and women in uniform will be coming home after what at times has seemed like a war with no end.
While we celebrate the courage, excellence and love of country that our returning troops exhibited in Iraq, we solemnly remember the more than 4,700 Americans, including 83 Marylanders, who selflessly gave their lives for the future stability and peace of Iraq. They showed bravery and heroism during fierce fighting and in situations that were often brutal and horrifying. We are forever grateful to them and their families for all they have sacrificed for our nation.
We also remember the more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians who perished during the war, and we share in the grief of their families and loved ones. It is my real hope that the memory of all those who sacrificed – Americans and Iraqis — will inspire Iraq’s leadership to bring real stability and peace to the nation.
From the very beginning, I opposed the Bush Administration’s lack of strategic planning in the implementation of the war. As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, I voted against granting President Bush the authority to invade Iraq in 2003. We cannot change the past and it’s now time for us to focus on the needs of our nation while the Iraqis take full responsibility for the security and sustainability of their own country.
After nearly a decade in Iraq, America has learned the importance of a more thoughtful and multilateral approach to foreign policy, characteristics that were too often absent from much of our mission in Iraq. Our success in removing Moammar Gadhafi from power in Libya proves that America can act in concert with other nations — without putting U.S. boots on the ground — in achieving our foreign policy goals.
Now that our troops are finally coming home, we will do everything possible to support the health and well-being of the brave men and women returning home from war. Unemployment today among veterans is too high. Nearly 32,000 soldiers were wounded in battle and our attention now needs to be on making sure that they and their families have the resources and support they need to fully recover and resume their lives. We owe them no less.