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Congressman Rangel's Online Town Hall Meeting - Part 2

Welcome to Part II of my Online Town Hall Meeting on the War in Iraq

Congressman Charlie Rangel (NY-15)
I would like to thank you for your participation in part two of my e-town hall meeting on the War in Iraq. The questions have been informative and stimulating. More than anything, they demonstrated just how much you care about our troops, about our government and America. Following are the responses to some of the questions that time did not allow covering last week.

Why were so many people misled about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
After 9/11, the Bush administration did an excellent job of exploiting the fears of the American public. They used a compliant media to make Hussein into a fearsome, threatening villain who had the means to cause us harm. The media never asked the critical questions that would have required the administration to actually prove its case.


Are we creating more terrorists by trying to force our idea of freedom on the people of Iraq?
We may be. Perhaps the most prophetic statement on the war made by a member of the Bush Administration was that by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who said early in the conflict that he was "not sure whether we were creating more terrorists than we were killing." What is certain is certain is that the war and occupation have united the terrorists against us.


How many of our war dead were originally called up from the National Guard and Reserves?
National Guardsmen and Reserves make up approximately one-third of our soldiers in Iraq (45,000) and another 8,000 in Afghanistan. The Guard death toll is about 270 of 1,750 killed and 150 Reserves, making them proportionately more likely to be killed in action than their active-duty comrades. During the entire Vietnam War, 97 Guardsmen died. Although the National Guard last year made up 56 percent of the Army's combat strength, it received less than 12 percent of its budget and was chronically short of equipment.


Why haven't we captured Osama Bin Laden?
Osama Bin Laden was responsible for 9/11, yet we gave up the chase to focus on regime change in Iraq and capturing Saddam Hussein. It's become increasingly clear that the Bush administration used 9/11 as an excuse to go after Hussein, thus carrying out a plan that was drawn up even before he took office. Taking the focus off Bin Laden has weakened the war on terrorism and taken away resources from the effort to capture Bin Laden.


Why are our troops and our military families making the only sacrifices for the war effort when most Americans have nothing to lose?
The absence of shared sacrifice is one of the most tragic failures of the war and the direct result of the leadership in the White House and Republican Congress. President Bush has never asked the American people to make any personal contribution to the war effort or even sought to inspire young Americans toward military service, relying solely on the volunteer military and the so-called "economic draft." Offering young men and women as much as $40,000 cash bonuses to sign up will attract many young people who are seeking opportunities not available in civilian life. But throwing money at some of our young people while the rest of us remain safely at home will never bring the nation together. Neither will cutting taxes for the well-off while the children of low- and middle-income families are being placed in harm's way.


Why do George Bush's two daughters not enlist in the army to serve in Iraq?
President Bush's 23-year-old twin daughters seem to be contributing to making the world a better place. Barbara is working as a volunteer this summer in a Cape Town, South Africa, hospital that treats young AIDS patients. This fall, Jenna will be employed as an elementary school teacher in Washington, DC. However, the White House continues to cite privacy and national security reasons for refusing to divulge whether any high level administration figure has a child serving in the military.


When my son returned from service in Iraq as a medic (awarded an Army Commendation Medal and Combat Medic Badge), he was diagnosed with "acute anxiety disorder." Shortly afterward, he was caught using marijuana. He and about 40 other combat veterans from his battalion were discharged with other-than-honorable discharges. There was no attempt to treat or rehabilitate these soldiers, just punish them under a "zero tolerance" policy. Is this the way that combat veterans who have been through the hell of combat in Iraq should be treated?
You, your son and your family have my deepest sympathy for the manner in which he was treated after serving our country with distinction in Iraq. I am ashamed that the same Army in which I served in Korea would ignore your son's sacrifice in applying a so-called "zero tolerance" policy. While I do not condone drug use, it seems to me the Army should have gone out of its way to provide him with the treatment he needed rather than disciplining him in the way they did. How is it the Army would punish one of its heroes for the same sort of behavior by volunteers that is covered up by some recruiters who will do almost anything to meet their monthly quotas? Thirty percent of U.S. troops return home from Iraq suffering some form of stress-related condition. Yet, Congressional Republicans are scrambling to close a $1 billion shortfall in funding for veterans health care. The treatment of your son and members of his battalion that you described was a judgment call that should not have happened and cannot be condoned.


Is it possible that Bush and Company can be indicted and tried in absentia for crimes against humanity by the World Court?
The International Court of Justice known as the World Court is to settle disputes submitted to it by nations and to give advisory opinions on legal questions submitted to it by the United Nations. The appropriate venue for a trial of U.S. officials for war crimes would be the International Criminal Court, which the U.S. supported ever since the Nuremberg war crimes trials after World War II. However, the Bush Administration has turned its back on the court, working to remove itself from the court's authority. In 2003, John Bolton wrote, when he was Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security at the State Department, ""Every person who serves under the American flag will answer to his or her own superiors and to military law, not to the rulings of an unaccountable International Criminal Court."


Why was President Bush allowed to rush into an invasion of Iraq without tangible proof of an Iraqi threat?
The American people were frightened and bewildered by 9/11 and, therefore, were willing to accept anyone as the scapegoat for the terrible attack against our country--the sooner the better. With the help of the media, the President used all of his skills of persuasion to manipulate public opinion in favor of his plan to invade Iraq, with hardly anyone to challenge him. In fact, anyone who dared question the President was accused of disloyalty by Republicans in Congress and their supporters, particularly on cable television and radio.


At what point could President Bush be impeached?
At the point that a majority in Congress is willing to act against him.


How can we expose the President's lies about the war in Iraq?
Get the information and pass it on. The truth is the best antidote to lies. That is why the American people are turning against the war and a majority now believes they were deceived by the Bush administration.


Would the United States be in Iraq if it did not have oil?
I doubt it.


What is the death toll in Iraq, including troops, contractors, and Iraqi civilians?
According to the Department of Defense, between March 19, 2003, and July 16, 2005, 1,355 Americans soldiers have been killed in hostile action in Iraq. Another 406 have been killed in non-hostile actions, such as accidents, illness, homicides and suicides. The 1,355 KIA's include 306 who died of their wounds after leaving the field of action. During the same period, 13,559 American soldiers have been wounded in hostile action. According to the Armed Forces Relief Trust website, at least 90 American contractors and 162 of other nationalities have been killed in hostile action between April 2003 and July 6, 2005. About 200 soldiers from Great Britain and other coalition nations have been killed. Estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths in the war range from 23,000 to 100,000, according to various websites.


I would like to know based on the appropriations we approve for the budget in Iraq each year, how much of these funds go to our forces to upgrade their Humvees, as well as other equipment that is vital to their survival.
The US has appropriated $124.8 billion to the Iraq War from fiscal years 2003-2005. In May of this year Congress provided an addition $75.86 billion for defense-related activities in its 2005 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations. The exact breakdown for Iraq is not yet available but the Department of Defense (DOD) request gives a good indication. Of the DOD's total request, about $35.5 billion is directly associated with military personnel and operations in Iraq.

The Army requested many procurement items that would be used to upgrade equipment or provide additional equipment for both deploying units and returning units who are leaving their equipment behind. Of this, some $2.7 billion of the procurement was for additional force protection equipment, including additional armored Humvees, add-on kits for other tactical vehicles, and a wide variety of other equipment for soldiers, such as night vision goggles, and other devices intended to improve the military's capability to deal with improvised explosive devices.


I have heard a lot of questions regarding when the U.S. will pull troops out of Iraq but I also heard that we are building/have built numerous permanent military bases there. Does this mean that Bush intends for the U.S. to have a permanent military presence in Iraq and why does he not come out and say it?
The Administration's request in the 2005 Emergency Supplemental also included $1.3 billion for military construction. Some of the military construction in and around Iraq was controversial because it was perceived to signal a long-term U.S. presence, for example, replacing temporary tents with concrete barracks. In truth, it is hard to say for sure what this signals, but what we do know is that Iraqi Security forces are no where near ready to take over the job.

These forces are still under-manned and under-trained, and there are serious worries that they are being infiltrated by the insurgents. Iraq will undoubtedly need a large contingent of international forces for some time to come. The problem is that the Bush Administration has been unable and unwilling to get more countries involved. As such, the burden will continue to fall on our troops -- at a least until the end of this Administration.


What are the actual number of Iraqi security forces trained?
The Defense Department reported a month ago that there about 170,000 total members of the Iraqi Security Forces, including 76,000 "operational" military forces and 94,000 "trained and equipped" police forces. While this is a long way from the President's requirement of 271,000 men, there is considerable skepticism about the reported numbers. Reports from Iraq suggest that there are less than 10,000 military personnel ready for combat. The police forces are crippled by individuals that do not regularly show up for duty, do not attend training regularly, or refuse to participate in policing activities.


Are US military detention centers being run by private contractors?
US military detention centers handling enemy combatants in the War on Terrorism are run by the American military. That's why many of us are outraged in hearing the reports of torture and abuse in Guantanamo and Abu Ghriab.


What percent of Iraqi oil exports have gone to the US since 2003?
For decades, oil has been the primary source of income for the Iraqi people. Prior to the 1990, the country produced about 3.5 million barrels a day. In 2004, oil production was about 1.5 million barrels a day, well below the necessary amounts to sustain the country's economy. Iraq provided 655,000 barrels a day to the US in 2004--the sixth largest supplier of oil to the US.


Thank you for participating in part two of my E-Town hall meeting on the War in Iraq. This is the most important issue facing our country today. It is important to raise our voices and express our concerns and disagreement and thus to let our national leaders know how we feel about the direction in which they are taking the country. When you speak to your children and grandchildren about the Iraq War, you can let them that you spoke out and tried to make a difference.

The debate on the Iraq War will continue on Friday, September 23, 2005 from 9:00am to noon at the Washington Convention Center. At that time, I will convene a forum of leading Americans who will express their positions on the War and its long-term implications for our country. For more information please contact me via email at

I look forward to you joining me at the event in Washington, DC.



Speaking Events

Jan 19-22: Washington, D.C.: Non-Violent Protest Anti War/Anti Nuke on Inauguration Day and on Facebook

January 29: David Swanson speaking in Arlington, Va.

February David Swanson debating a war supporter in Boston, Mass.

April 7-9: Huntsville, Alabama: 25th Annual Space Organizing Conference & Protest

May or June: UNAC's annual conference in Richmond, Va. April 29: possible multi-issue protest in DC.

August 2-6: Democracy Convention in Minneapolis.

Find more events here.


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