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Rep. John Larson reflects on 20-year anniversary of the Iraq War

U.S. soldiers check an armored vehicle moments after it was damaged by a car bomb in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, Iraq, April 3 2005. One soldier was lightly injured in the blast, and treated on the scene in the rear vehicle.
Jerome Delay
U.S. soldiers check an armored vehicle moments after it was damaged by a car bomb in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, Iraq, April 3, 2005. One soldier was slightly injured in the blast and treated on the scene in the rear vehicle.

It has been 20 years since “Shock and Awe,” the code name given to the aerial bombardment that commenced America’s war in Iraq.

U.S. spy agencies wrongly suggested Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and some U.S. officials suggested Iraqi officials had ties to al-Qaida leaders following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, despite evidence of deep antipathy between the two sides.

In 2002, those arguments were so convincing that the U.S. House of Representatives voted 296-133 to approve the resolution to go to war with Iraq.

But Connecticut 1st District Congressman John Larson voted against the war.

Recalling his vote on Connecticut Public's All Things Considered, the Democrat said he had a hard time jibing the Bush administration’s reasoning for war against what he saw and heard when he actually traveled to Iraq. “While we were there,” Larson said, “none of the information that we were receiving seemed to add up.”

As many as 300,000 civilians died in two decades of conflict in Iraq, according to Brown University estimates. The U.S. lost 4,500 troops and spent an estimated $2 trillion on the Iraq War and the ensuing campaign in both Iraq and Syria against the extremist Islamic State group, which took hold in both countries after the U.S. initially withdrew in 2011.

The conflict also critically destabilized the Middle East and led to worldwide consequences.

Still, even with his “no” vote on the war looking all the wiser with the passage of time, Larson said he is in no mood to say “I told you so” to those who voted “yes” 20 years ago.

“The backdrop for all of this, of course, was the strike by, you know, al-Qaida on the World Trade Center on September the 11th … and that weighed heavy on a number of people's minds,” Larson said. “They felt they were doing the patriotic thing. What went on behind closed doors is that they [Bush administration officials] made Saddam Hussein into more of a threat and more of an accomplice than he actually was.”

There is one major lesson lawmakers should take away from America’s Iraq War experience, Larson said. “When we send our warriors, our citizens — in an all-volunteer military — into battle, we better have made sure that we got this right.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

John Henry Smith is Connecticut Public’s host of All Things Considered, its flagship afternoon news program. He's proud to be a part of the team that won a regional Emmy Award for The Vote: A Connecticut Conversation. In his 21st year as a professional broadcaster, he’s covered both news and sports.

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