AFL-CIO Executive Council statement
No U.S. foreign policy can be sustained without the informed consent of the American people. Last November, the people spoke clearly, calling on the president and Congress to change course in Iraq. Rather than heeding the will of the citizenry, listening to the military leaders speaking out against the current policy in Iraq, or addressing questions about our Nation’s ability to support our troops on a number of fronts, the President has chosen to escalate military action. This blind pursuit of the war now undermines the very war on terror that was its justification.
More than 3,100 U.S. men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, with nearly 30,000 wounded, many of them severely. Estimates of Iraqi lives lost range from 60,000 to many hundreds of thousands.
We should not be asking our young men and women who serve this nation in its armed forces to remain in Iraq on extended tours without proper armor or equipment, caught in an endless occupation in the midst of a civil war. The men and women risking their lives in Iraq come from America’s working families. They are our sons and daughters, our sisters and brothers, our husbands and wives. We thank them for their service. They have answered their call to duty with the utmost courage and dedication. And the best way now to recognize and honor their service is to take them out of harm’s way.
It is time to bring our military involvement in Iraq to an end. Admittedly, there are no good options now in that country. It has descended into a sectarian civil struggle, with American troops caught in the crossfire. The latest National Intelligence Estimate reports that the greatest violence comes not from al Qaeda and foreign terrorists, but from sectarian militias caught up in their own internal conflict.
The president insists we must succeed militarily to establish the conditions for a political settlement. In fact, the reverse is true: Unless there is the political will to stop the violence, there can be no military solution. As such, the U.S. presence only encourages the factions to continue their warfare and serves as a magnet for foreign interference. What is needed is courageous political leadership from the Iraqi government and from the governments of neighboring countries, in a concerted effort to surmount their own considerable differences and to avoid a growing, destructive war which threatens lives and interests across the region. America should be strongly encouraging that kind of diplomatic solution, together with our allies and the United Nations. Redeploying U.S. troops should help force Iraq’s political leaders, its neighbors and our allies to reconsider their course.
The AFL-CIO continues to strongly support initiatives and programs to promote democracy, workers’ rights and economic development in the Middle East. We believe the bipartisan Iraq Study Group (the Baker-Hamilton Commission) provides the president and Congress with a broad range of recommendations to address the wider regional conflict as well as economic and reconstruction assistance while charting a path for reducing the U.S. presence in Iraq.
We, therefore, call on President Bush to reconsider the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. Specifically, the administration should open up a diplomatic offensive with allies and Iraq’s neighbors. This should include a new initiative to revive a peace process in the Middle East and it should include a timetable for redeploying U.S. troops out of Iraq’s civil strife. We also call on Congress to support these actions and insist on a timetable for disengagement. If the president refuses to act, Congress must use its powers under the Constitution and act.