Thank You. It is good and it is right that today, here in our state’s capital, on the fifth anniversary of our nation’s launching of the Iraq War, we are giving voice and visible testimony to both our grief about the war and our hope about the prospects for peace. By giving voice and witness to our beliefs we are declaring our determined opposition to the endless stay-the-course-and-we-can-win policies of the current administration. 

As you know, silence and invisibility are enemies of truthfulness, justice, human rights, and yes, peace. In the case of the Iraq war, those that precipitated it, those that would perpetuate it, seek to hide it from the public—no taxes are paid to fund it—, and to sanitize it—no caskets are seen to show the cost of it. They seek to hide the realities of the war in order to continue a policy that the clear majority of Americans, after sober reflection, now reject. And so it is good that we break this official silence, giving witness here and now to the will of the people.

The reasons for protesting the continuation of this war are many: foremost of all is the direct loss of human life, both American and Iraqi—lives lost and lives shattered through wounds of both body and mind; 

and beyond this immeasurable human toll, there are the unknown consequential costs of this war, future tragedies that well may spring, in part, from hatreds born of this war, for violence begets violence, and cruelty is contagious; 

further, there is the financial cost to us, now estimated to be hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars—these costs may be measured in terms of “what could have been” had we spent the billions elsewhere on schools, health care, energy research, or even, with enlightened leadership, peace initiatives in the Middle East; or these financial costs may be understood in terms of the staggering addition to our crushing national debt, further constraining the opportunities of our young; 

and, finally, even in terms of enhancing our nation’s security, the war has cost us much and may be judged an unprecedented American strategic failure as it has dissipated our military, enhanced Iran’s influence, and diverted our attention from what I, and perhaps some of you, believe was a legitimate use of arms in Afghanistan. 

In my judgment, these costs—human, consequential, financial, and strategic—are each reason enough to demand an end to this war-torn occupation. And so I believe it is time to issue a clear and definitive statement that we will not construct or sustain permanent bases, and that we will soon commence a definitive yet responsible withdrawal of all combat troops from Iraq, in accord with our own assessment of the security needs of our remaining troops and the Iraqi people, and not according to a timeline held hostage to the Iraqi politicians’ own interests in a continued American presence. 

While effecting a responsible withdrawal, it is incumbent upon us to safeguard—through immigration here or elsewhere if necessary—those Iraqis who have helped us and would face violent retribution once we leave. Further, it is imperative that we embrace returning veterans—through full funding of VA benefits, explicit and robust public acknowledgment of their service, and educational and jobs-related programs designed to reintegrate them productively back in to civilian life.

And yet a critique of the specifics of the current war is not enough, for if we left matters there I believe we would be overlooking the central fact as to why this war, and any future war of choice, is a profound mistake. It is my conviction that the wars of the 20th century, and the advent of the nuclear age, held lessons for humanity that indeed war is not the answer, and that we must—if we are all to survive—we must develop institutions, traditions, and mechanisms for restraining our warring impulses and for employing peaceable means for solving our inevitable conflicts. 

The Geneva and Hague Conventions, the League of Nations, and the United Nations, were all born out of the human desire to outgrow our ancient cruelties to one another. In scripture we read that “there is a season and a time for every matter under the sun,” including “a time for war and a time for peace.” But it is precisely this sense of fatalistic inevitability that humanity has struggled to overcome, guided, for some, by a different biblical imperative, “blessed are the peacemakers.” It is the latter devotion to which I adhere.

And so this war of choice is not only an act of aggression, but is an act of regression on a national scale, conceivable only to those who have failed to understand the primary lesson of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations: that war itself is the common enemy of man, that our shared fate rests on our ability to abolish it from Earth, and, until that day, war is justifiable only as a last-resort and in self-defense. These lessons of our forebears must now be reaffirmed by our nation as we move forward to end this war and forestall any that would follow.

To do so, we must recognize the fragility, and defend accordingly, our democratic form of government of the people, by the people, and for the people; this means a reassertion of constitutional checks and balances, the protection of civil liberties, and the regulatory support of a diverse media and net neutrality. These are our safeguards against the demagogue’s rush to war.

I am hopeful that the United States will remember lessons once learned, and now learned again, that war is not the answer. By giving voice to this truth tonight, we advance the cause of peace.  And that is good, for blessed are the peacemakers.