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If you make a mistake, and then you justify staying there on the basis that you have to finish the job, what you're doing is compounding the mistake. You're making the mistake over and over again. We are making the mistake of staying in Iraq every day, to the detriment of our troops, to the detriment of our military, to the detriment of our economy, and especially to the detriment of our national security. On all counts, this anniversary is a reminder on just what a terrible mistake this was, and the most important thing is we have to have the courage to stop it.
On how to succeed in Iraq
If we were to end this military involvement in a careful way, where we bring our troops out safely, that is the only scenario where the countries around that area will come together to try to provide stability. They will never do it in a situation where they perceive a non-Islamic occupation of Iraq. They can't do it. The regimes around there Kuwait, Jordan, Iran, and Syria and others can't afford to help in a situation where they're perceived as helping an illegitimate occupation.
On talking with troops
I had interaction with the troops when I was on my trips to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait on a regular basis, Wisconsin troops in particular. I have a lot of interaction with troops they come to my listening sessions they're usually veterans of the Iraq war, but also veterans of other wars. And we have regular conversations. I also have a veterans' advisory group that I meet with from time to time that advises me on the very serious consequences for people returning, especially with regard to post-traumatic stress syndrome. So this is a regular part of my job and an important way to evaluate what's going on.
On services and benefits for soldiers
I've taken the lead in trying to make sure that family medical leave benefits go to families who have troops overseas that the law didn't cover. I've tried to pass legislation that would make sure that every time one of these troops comes home, they get a baseline mental and physical health check-up and evaluation, so when they come back later and say they don't feel well, it isn't "Well that couldn't be from your war experience." This has been a problem with regard to Agent Orange from Vietnam, Gulf War Syndrome from the first Gulf War. We've been involved, frankly, in a huge range of issues concerning veterans making sure they don't get overcharged on their cellphones, and making sure that there's some protection from their jobs while they're serving. Most important is health care for veterans.