By Ellenore Holbrook
Beginning in 2003, the United States became involved in an armed conflict in Iraq as it attempted to remove the government of Saddam Hussein and potential weapons of mass destruction. As a part of the War on Terror following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers on September 11th, more than 1.5 million soldiers were deployed to Iraq to perform combat operations and train Iraqi forces. While the war was initially supported by both houses of Congress, including Former Senator George Voinovich (Statement of Supplemental Spending Request for Iraq and Afghanistan, 2003), the support for the war began to sway in 2004 and 2005 due to multiple issues including the amount of United States military causalities, increasing costs and a failure to find weapons of mass destruction.
The future of the engagement in Iraq changed in June 26, 2007, when Senator Voinovich wrote a letter to former President George W. Bush presenting a plan to begin disengagement from Iraq (Bush Correspondence, The Way Forward in Iraq, 6.26.07). Senator Voinovich, in collaboration with a small group of Senators and Representatives were with the first prominent Republicans to openly address the issues of the Iraq War and look for potential changes in the future. The step in addressing and reevaluating the war was an important move for Senator Voinovich who stated, “Conducting oversight of the government, the administration, and the war is not only our responsibility – it is our duty” (Press Release, Report on Iraq Redeployment Planning).
One of the primary reasons this statement Senator Voinovich made was so integral is because it was one of the first times that such a prominent Republican elected official appeared to be breaking with the administration on Iraq. While Senator Voinovich had avoided supporting another bill in Congress that addressed the war because he believed they could be seen as an attack on President Bush or move to abandon Iraq in general, he knew the Iraq War had to be addressed (Sen. Voinovich Statement on Biden-Hagel Iraq Resolution). Senator Voinovich had a strong history of supporting veterans’ affairs both in the state of Ohio but also at the national level (Dinner with Veterans, 2003), and did not support sending more troops into Iraq (Warner Resolution and the Future of Iraq Speech, 2007). As such, Senator Voinovich worked to find a compromise that would support troops overseas and the veterans who had returned (Iraq Plan Talking Points, 07.24). In his letter and plan to President Bush, Senator Voinovich focused on the cost of the war, the lives lost to military operations, and how continued dangerous environments were limiting potential success of troops in the region (Bush Correspondence, The Way Forward in Iraq, 6.26.07).
Senator Voinovich stressed maintaining stability in the Middle East and stated that a premature withdrawal from the region could destabilize the region and put key allies in jeopardy (Iraq Resolution Speech). Rather, Senator Voinovich’s proposed plan included goals to, “develop a plan for Iraq that can be endorsed by all of Iraq’s neighbors and key international organizations,” while developing a timeline for slow disengagement and, “focusing more energy on refugee assistance, humanitarian aid, and reconstruction aid” (Bush Correspondence, The Way Forward in Iraq, 6.26.07).
Senator Voinovich’s continued dedication to veterans, the safety of the domestic and international spheres, and the ability to work across party lines were evident in his push for change in 2007. While his plan was never made into an official resolution, Senator Voinovich’s stance on the issue was ahead of the curve and put pressure on the Bush Administration and Congress to begin disengagement and a change of force in the region.