Tuesday, October 2, 2007, Chicago, IL
Thank you, Ted. Ted Sorensen has been counselor to a President in some of our toughest moments, and he has helped define our national purpose at pivotal turning points. Let me also welcome all of the elected officials from Illinois who are with us. Let me give a special welcome to all of the organizers and speakers who joined me to rally against going to war in Iraq five years ago. And I want to thank DePaul University and DePaul’s students for hosting this event.
We come together at a time of renewal for DePaul. A new academic year has begun. Professors are learning the names of new students, and students are reminded that you actually do have to attend class. That cold is beginning to creep into the Chicago air. The season is changing.
DePaul is now filled with students who have not spent a single day on campus without the reality of a war in Iraq. Four classes have matriculated and four classes have graduated since this war began. And we are reminded that America’s sons and daughters in uniform, and their families, bear the heavy burden. The wife of one soldier from Illinois wrote to me and said that her husband “feels like he’s stationed in Iraq and deploys home.” That’s a tragic statement. And it could be echoed by families across our country who have seen loved ones deployed to tour after tour of duty.
You are students. And the great responsibility of students is to question the world around you, to question things that don’t add up. With Iraq, we must ask the question: how did we go so wrong?
There are those who offer up easy answers. They will assert that Iraq is George Bush’s war, it’s all his fault. Or that Iraq was botched by the arrogance and incompetence of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Or that we would have gotten Iraq right if we went in with more troops, or if we had a different proconsul instead of Paul Bremer, or if only there were a stronger Iraqi Prime Minister.
These are the easy answers. And like most easy answers, they are partially true. But they don’t tell the whole truth, because they overlook a harder and more fundamental truth. The hard truth is that the war in Iraq is not about a catalog of many mistakes – it is about one big mistake. The war in Iraq should never have been fought.
Five years ago today, I was asked to speak at a rally against going to war in Iraq. The vote to authorize the war in Congress was less than ten days away and I was a candidate for the United States Senate. Some friends of mine advised me to keep quiet. Going to war in Iraq, they pointed out, was popular. All the other major candidates were supporting the war at the time. If the war goes well, they said, you’ll have thrown your political career away.....continued in the comments section.