Four years ago I was preparing for my first visit to Iraq with the Christian Peacemaker Teams to learn what that country was like, whether it was a threat, and if war could be prevented.
During my month-long trip I met with doctors and parents, teachers and businessmen, leaders of various religious groups, U.N. inspectors and artists, Baathist bosses and the underground. I traveled throughout Iraq visiting cities large and small, eating in Iraqi homes, worshipping in their churches and mosques.
On returning home, warnings of disaster seemed to fall on deaf ears.
As founder of Texans for Peace I challenged my elected leaders to go to Iraq and learn about that country before committing the sons and daughters of Texas to die on the sands of battle. I went to Washington peddling peace down the same House corridors where I once worked alongside Bob Eckhardt (D-Houston), but to no avail.
Most members of Congress were too afraid to speak out and acquiesced while President Bush plunged America into another ill-fated war. My second trip to Iraq happened to coincide with his "Thanksgiving" photo op.
The war was only months old but it was already clear that mismanagement had turned the people of Iraq against the occupation. The economy and infrastructure was unraveling and reports of abuse were coming out of Abu Ghraib prison and villages I visited near Ramadi.
After this trip I was contacted by the staff of General Peter Chiarelli, then commander of the army's 1st Cavalry Division and now second in command in Iraq. His soldiers were preparing for their first tour of Iraq and needed advice on economic development. I helped prepare a plan that included "quick start" activities to create jobs and build an economic base as peaceful measures.
However, I was still unable to get a satisfactory response from Congress about any sensible plan for Iraq.
Last September I once again visited Iraq and was able to compare the effects of so-called reconstruction. I toured the Baghdad power plant, an oil refinery, businesses and the City morgue. I also watched Rita on television as the hurricane barreled towards my family in East Texas while listening as Iraqis compared their devastation to a "Hurricane-George every day".
As always, I met with Iraqis from all walks of life (I'm now an "enemy combatant" since I also met with Muqtada al-Sadr at his offices) while traveling from town to town. Victims of war and destruction were everywhere.
Meanwhile the politicians cum pundits have done little since then except argue as the death toll rises month-after-month.
Last week, ignoring the obvious disaster that is Iraq, Congress passed the 2006-07 Defense appropriation by a vote of 494 to 22 which includes funding for another year of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. To date they have spent $507 Billion on Rumsfeld's "cakewalk" and thousands more Iraqis and Americans will die.
Three and one-half years after the first invasion, 18,500 soldiers left Killeen for Baghdad again this week. There's no peace in sight.
The President likes to say, "You're either with us, or against us" when referring to the war. He's right. And all but two members of the Texas congressional delegation, Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) and Ron Paul (R-Lake Jackson), are apparently on his side.
Congress continues to vote for war, and is therefore its accomplice. For, while the President may command the military, it is Congress alone that funds war-making.