In the summer of 2002, Ohio Senator Mike DeWine was spending much of his time telling almost anybody who would listen that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a threat to the United States. He told the Toledo Blade that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and was attempting to reconstitute its nuclear program. When pressed for specifics DeWine simply said, "a lot of this stuff is classified." On October 11, 2002 Senator DeWine proudly cast his vote to authorize President Bush to use military force in Iraq. The rest as they say is history. American forces invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003 and toppled the Iraqi government in just three weeks. The president announced to the world that "active combat" had ended. Unfortunately, there was catch: the war was not over. In fact, the war was just getting started.
Through the summer of 2003 and continuing through this date, an unanticipated popular insurgency rose amid the coalition's inability to provide promised electricity, clean water and security. The American military was caught undermanned and under supplied. Much of the force lacked body armor, armored vehicles and even ammunition. Congress rushed to pass a series of emergency supplemental funding bills to provide lifesaving equipment that should have been provided for the military before the war. For his part, DeWine voted with the Republican Party in favor of each supplemental. He even voted with the party to reject alternative supplemental funding bills that would provide more money for military equipment. Yet, even with the money appropriated, the death and destruction in Iraq continued. At the time of this writing, nearly 2,800 American troops have died in Iraq. Over 20,000 have been wounded; many of them have sustained wounds so severe that they can never be healed. 40,000 Troops suffer from psychological injuries that will take years to recover, if ever. Yet, through it all Mike DeWine has echoed the party line: "stay the course."
These days, DeWine doesn't like to talk much about his authorization of the war. Neither his campaign nor official Senate websites list Iraq as an important issue. On NBC's Meet the Press, DeWine told Tim Russert that he did not regret his vote for the war "based on what we knew then." However, on September 8, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, of which DeWine is a member, released a report entitled Post War Findings on Pre-War Intelligence. This report found that nearly all of the pre-war assertions regarding Iraq's Weapon of Mass Destruction and Iraq's connections to organized terrorism were unfounded based on the intelligence available at the time. It is not surprising that DeWine was against the report before it was released. DeWine has missed as many as half of the Intelligence Committee's meetings during his twelve year career, though he claims to spend as much as half of his time on intelligence matters. He has even admitted that he does not read the national intelligence estimates that relate to the war that he approved and recently called an NIE that proclaimed the war has strengthened the Islamist Terrorist movement, as "not groundbreaking." Senator DeWine himself has admitted that the intelligence committee has failed to provide adequate oversight for the intelligence community.
When confronted with the reality that the Iraq war has emboldened our enemies, destabilized Iraq and shifted power amid Middle Eastern nations, DeWine starkly warns that we must stay in Iraq, less it become "a disaster." The Senator clearly lacks the courage to see the situation as it is. Our troops are caught in the middle of a civil war that is largely of our making. Estimates place the Iraqi death toll anywhere from 43,000 to 100,000 deaths; nearly 6,600 were killed in July and August alone. Since Iraq's population is roughly 10% that of the United States, this means that nearly every Iraqi knows someone who has died as a result of our occupation. Infrastructure that was destroyed during Operation Desert Storm is still destroyed and much of the country lacks sanitation, clean water and electricity.
Warfare is by definition violent and destructive. In order to survive, American soldiers must kick in doors, search entire neighborhoods and invade the private lives of civilians who have done nothing wrong except reside in an area that we have declared a war zone. In order to survive, our troops must fight among that same population, often causing the deaths of innocents who were simply "collateral damage." Perhaps Senator DeWine expects Ohioans to find his stark honesty about our presence in Iraq to be refreshing. But the revelation that "we are not in Iraq primarily for the Iraqis" has been known to the Iraqis for a long time and is now, as it has been, a source of their rage. For a U.S. Senator to proclaim that we started a war in someone else's country at the expense of tens of thousands of innocent lives just so we wouldn't fight in our own country is appalling. Being a U.S. Senator requires more than being a glorified accountant and a rubber stamp for an administration in power. Being a U.S. Senator, especially as a member of the intelligence committee, is a sacred trust. Soldiers do not make policy; they enforce the policy made by the legislative and executive branches. The military has to trust that if they are sent to war, they are being asked to kill and perhaps sacrifice their own lives for the right reasons. Such sacrifice can only be asked as a last resort. To be a U.S. Senator requires, judgment, it requires a willingness to ask tough questions, it requires putting aside party loyalty, and it requires showing up. Senator DeWine has been unable or unwilling to meet these obligations and has betrayed that trust. He must be held accountable. Whether he admits it or not, Iraq is a disaster. Our foreign policy is in shambles, our military over extended and our veterans are being left in the wake of this destruction. It's a huge mess and every step of the way it was approved by Mike DeWine. For twelve years, Mike DeWine has led Ohio in the wrong direction. It's time to change course.