A Safer World

Senator Becky Lourey
Duluth's Rose Garden Anti-War Rally

November 12, 2006

Thank you for gathering together today.  It is important that, in this time of hope, we keep our voices strong.  The American people have spoken loudly and decisively - sending a message to President Bush and to the rest of the world that we will fight the crimes of terrorism, but we must do it in a way that makes us safer, in a way that makes the world safer.  And while we feel hopeful, hope is not enough, nor is it enough to anticipate a change of course in Iraq.  We must keep ourselves as fully informed as possible during these times when so much information is protected.  We must keep our voices strong so that they can be the "wind beneath the wings" of the new members of Congress and all of the newly empowered members, both Republicans and Democrats.  The voters have democratically given them this power to seek change - and without being called unpatriotic.

The day after the Army Times editorial stated, "Donald Rumsfeld must go", Mr. Rumsfeld was indeed dismissed.  One would like to think that the dismissal was a result of listening to reason, and I suppose it could have been.  Why then weren't the voices of our generals listened to when they were crying out with learned messages BEFORE we invaded Iraq?  They said, "No, we shouldn't go".  They said, "We can't go in with so few troops".  For this advice, some were "retired".  Bob Woodward, in his book "State of Denial" reported a continuation of this attitude in the administration.  As one of so many mothers who have lost their children to this war, I gasp as I read of the lack of engagement by this President.  I am puzzled as I read of the hesitancy by the informed to tell the President the truth.  While I have always known that military personnel in active service must not speak out against the policies of their Commander-in-Chief, I thought at least that the truths were told inside the oval office.  An example of "protecting" this President is the story reported by Woodward that Jay Garner (the first person in charge of the Iraq postwar office) told Rumsfeld of Paul Bremer's serious mistakes.  Bremer took over from Garner and immediately disbanded the Iraqi army, moved forward with de-Baathification, and dumped the Iraqi leadership group.  Garner said there was still time to correct the damage.  But Garner did not tell the president of these mistakes when he met with him, nor did he tell the press.  In fact, he told the press exactly the opposite, he said that Bremer was doing a good job.

It is difficult to not look back over the course of events.  The work that was done to prevent the war seems so futile now as we read that the invasion of Iraq was planned long before the information was in the public domain.  Nevertheless, the Petition Against War in Iraq that I wrote, that 18 State Senators joined in signing with me, and that I tried to read on the Senate floor on March 6th, 2003, stated "the likely results of war are: massive, unnecessary loss of life; the destabilization of the Middle East; the radicalization of anti-American groups; the unavoidable distraction from other objectives; and less security for Americans" -- every one of these likely results has come to pass.  My petition was disallowed that day in 2003.  The excuse given was a lack of impact on our state affairs.  As we all know, the voters in 2006 have come to a far different conclusion; their statement is clear.

The petition also stated, "Our best hope is through strong multilateral action in unity with the other nations."  This is where I believe we should still go - working with other nations offers promise, but it means we will have to give up some control.  Shortly after Matt was shot down in Iraq, I wrote an op-ed for the Minnesota Women's Press containing several recommendations for pulling out of Iraq but also helping the Iraqis recover and rebuild.  I was pleased to read several of these recommendations in the Harper's Magazine, from October 2006, in an extremely thoughtful and well-written article entitled: "THE WAY OUT OF WAR: A blueprint for leaving Iraq now," by George S. McGovern and William R. Polk.  This is recommended reading for all of us who believe we should fix what we break but are aware that what we are doing in Iraq currently is continuing the breakage by maintaining the mercenaries, truly viewed as occupiers, who operate outside the direct control of the British and American armies; by attempting to control Iraq's oil reserves along with British companies; and by our own massive level of deception by issuing no-bid contracts and our arrogance by not using Iraqis to rebuild their own country.

Several recommendations that both proposals share deal with the reconstruction of Iraq, military bases, and oil.  McGovern and Polk suggest an Iraqi National Reconstruction Corps modeled on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  A second recommendation is to close -- not occupy -- the fourteen "enduring" bases.  Not only are they expensive, they clearly give the appearance that we are planning a permanent occupation in Iraq.  And I mention oil once again; the contracts American companies signed during our occupation for the exploration, development and marketing of oil should be renegotiated or opened to competitive international bids as suggested in the Harper's article.

None of this will be easy, but it is imperative that we start now, and that the American people be told the truth.  Americans are ready to listen and to examine how we go about correcting the damage we have done.  The solutions are not only found on the ground in Iraq.  Right here at home we must make the investments in energy and food independence that will make us safer in the long run, and will build our economy by extensive research for which renewable source of fuel and energy best suits a particular region in a sustainable manner.  Then, developing, tooling, marketing, installing, all of the activity of implementation, will further strengthen our business activity.

We must be alert to the serious conflict with Iran and North Korea.  Our aggressive unilateral action in Iraq has ignited in other countries a deep seated fear of our willingness to nation build.  As a mother of 12 children, I find myself constantly drawing a parallel to watching children enter into fights on the playground.  Intervention, intelligent talk, understanding the roots of fear and anger, searching for win-win solutions, holding each other accountable for living up to agreements  --  these are the only ways to solve fights at all levels, on playgrounds and among nations.  History illustrates that killing begets revenge.  If this administration is already planning a war in Iran, as it did a war in Iraq, long before Congress gets involved, history could repeat itself.  We are safer since the election on November 7th 2006.   We do have a better shot at real oversight and comprehensive intelligence reporting, not selective reporting.  Why?  Because people like First District Congressman Tim Walz are going to Washington.  When Tim returned from the war, he and some of his students from Mankato West High School decided to attend a re-election rally in Mankato for President Bush.  They weren't allowed in.  They were told, "If you aren't pledging your support to Bush, you can't come in. You have to take an oath."  By his own description, the result of this experience of exclusion from the political process was an epiphany -- the incentive for Congressman-elect Walz to take action, seek office, and become an important player in reforming the way our nation conducts itself.  This is why there is hope.  This is why we are so committed to seeking truth and justice - and the pursuit of peace.