WASHINGTON — March 19 marked the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. Among the members of Congress who commemorated the occasion were two veterans of that conflict.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who lost her legs and nearly lost her right arm after the helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2004, said, “On the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War, the once unimaginable costs have become clear. Over 4,000 of our brave men and women have given their lives, more than 32,000 have been wounded, and the scourge of suicides and untreated mental health and brain injuries claim more lives each day.
“More than $1 trillion of our national treasure has been spent, not to mention the $8 billion a year we will spend for decades to care for our Iraq War veterans.
“Military force must always be an option, but never again can we fool ourselves into thinking that war will be easy — or quick.
“It is families like mine, the ones whose spouses, siblings, parents and children continue to serve in uniform, who will pay when we wage war. We owe these families a responsible, honest discussion before waging the next conflict.
“We owe it to those who served in Iraq to move past the bitter divisiveness that began 10 years ago. We must get past our divisions and use the war not as a wedge, but as a shared experience that makes us wiser in future decisions. We must use it as something that can once again unite us as a nation.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) called on Congress to learn from the serious waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She also honored the service and sacrifice of the troops who deployed to Iraq.
“I rise today to honor the service and sacrifice of the nearly 5,000 coalition troops, including 28 of my brothers and sisters from Hawaii – soldiers like 1st Lt. Nainoa Hoe of Kailua or Sgt. Deyson Cariaga from Honolulu, who I had the honor of serving with – who paid the ultimate price during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Today marks the 10th anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq. And while this war has largely faded from the headlines, we must take every opportunity to learn from our experiences.
“There are many lessons we should learn, one of the most egregious being the serious waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars – waste that was apparent to those of us on the ground as well as to outside experts. An alarming report this month by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction also determined at least $8 billion of our reconstruction funds have been wasted.
“In Congress today, we have an opportunity to learn from that lesson. We have to pursue common-sense ways to balance our budget, without hurting our middle-class families, endangering our national security, or short-changing our veterans. We must focus on our mission to serve the people who sent us here, and honor our service members and their families who have made immeasurable sacrifices in the service of our country.”
While serving in the Hawaii House of Representatives, Gabbard enlisted in the Hawaii Army National Guard in 2003 and left for Iraq the following year to serve for a year with a field medical unit.