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Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 2006 and 2007

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Location: Washington, DC


FOREIGN RELATIONS AUTHORIZATION ACT, FISCAL YEARS 2006 AND 2007 -- (House of Representatives - July 20, 2005)

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Chairman, I rise in reluctant support of this bill.

It is an important bill. The Foreign Relations Authorization Act authorizes funding for 2 fiscal years for State Department programs, international broadcasting activities, international assistance programs, and related agencies. The bill authorizes a 12 percent increase in funding over fiscal year 2005, including funding increases for peacekeeping missions, embassy security and relief for Africa.

H.R. 2601 also includes a number of amendments that were passed during the bill's consideration on the floor. I voted against an amendment offered by Representative HYDE regarding reform of the United Nations. The amendment was based on the U.N. Reform Act, which I opposed--along with many of my colleagues--when it was considered as a stand-alone bill a month ago.

The U.N. is a critically important body that has taken on many of the world's problems and solved them--problems such as poverty, disease, and international disputes. And the U.S. has benefited from U.N. actions. Just recently, the U.N. helped with elections in Afghanistan and Iraq and helped negotiate the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon.

But I share the view that the United Nations needs to be improved so it can better carry out its indispensable role. It has serious problems, as exemplified by the oil-for-food scandal and offenses committed by U.N. peacekeeping forces.

So, I support U.N. reform--but I could not support the approach the amendment takes toward achieving that objective. It would require the Secretary of State to push for reforms at the U.N. in the areas of budgeting, oversight and accountability, peacekeeping, and human rights. That is something that needs to be done. But if the Secretary of State cannot certify that the reforms have been achieved, starting in 2007, the Secretary would be required to withhold 50 percent of the U.S. assessed contributions to the U.N.'s regular budget. The assessed U.S. contributions are estimated at $362 million for 2005, and $439 million for 2006.

I think such a punitive and unilateral approach to reform will not work. I think its primary result would be to further isolate the United States while at the same time actually undermining ongoing efforts at reform and potentially jeopardizing the U.N.'s ability to focus on global threats and work toward greater global stability.

I also voted in reluctant support of an amendment offered by Representative ROHRABACHER regarding detainees at Guantanamo.

I supported it because I believe it is important to support an amendment that highlights the continuing threat of terrorism and the continuing necessity of disrupting terrorist activities and protecting the security of the United States. But my support was reluctant because the amendment inaccurately and incompletely characterizes the debate on the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and what goes on there.

It calls the capture, detention, and interrogation of international terrorists essential to the successful prosecution of the war on terrorism and the defense of the United States. Certainly no one can disagree with this.

The amendment also states that the detention and lawful, humane interrogation by the U.S. of detainees at Guantanamo is essential to the defense of the United States and to the prosecution of the war on terrorism. It is similarly hard to disagree with this statement. But the point is that detentions at Guantanamo haven't been consistently lawful or humane.

The amendment finally states that Guantanamo is so essential to the defense of the United States that it should not be closed while the U.S. is waging the war on terrorism. That is an overstatement, in my opinion.

``Gitmo'' is now infamous around the world as a place where detainees have been mistreated and the Koran mishandled. There are over 500 detainees remaining at Guantanamo--some who have been there for 3 years without being charged with a crime. We still don't know the extent of the abuses since there hasn't been any independent commission appointed to look into all the allegations. But whether prisoner abuse is limited or widespread, there is a perception that bad things have happened at Guantanamo, and this perception only makes it easier for terrorists to find willing recruits.

An independent commission could offer recommendations about what to do with the remaining prisoners at Guantanamo as well as about the situation at detention facilities all over the world. Closing Guantanamo may well be the best option, but it is an option we cannot consider without also considering accompanying changes to the whole detention system.

The Rohrabacher amendment didn't allow consideration of these finer points, and my support for it should not be seen as endorsement of its language.

I also reluctantly voted for an amendment offered by Representative ROS-LEHTINEN regarding our military activities in Iraq. The amendment states that U.S. policy is to transfer responsibility for Iraqi security to Iraqi forces and that the U.S. should only withdraw ``when it is clear that United States national security and foreign policy goals relating to a free and stable Iraq have been or are about to be achieved.'' I agree.

In fact, most people agree on a policy of transferring responsibility for security to Iraqi forces. But saying we will only withdraw when our goals are met is problematic. That's because the administration's goals in Iraq are far from clear--the Defense Department shifts its focus on a daily basis, and it has resisted requests to establish metrics or measurements to help us determine when these goals have been or ``are about to be achieved.'' So given that we aren't sure of our goals, this part of the amendment is largely without meaning. It would have been better to include the language proposed in the motion to recommit, which I supported.

Recent calls for withdrawal have come about because there is rising opposition in this country to the administration's policy in Iraq. But I believe that just as rushing into Iraq was a mistake, rushing to get out would also be a mistake. We do need to send a signal to the Muslim world that America has no desire to stay in Iraq, but we must also make clear the importance we place on transferring responsibility for security to the Iraqis and on supporting efforts to assist the new Iraqi Government draft a constitution.

This must not be our last word on Iraq. Though not unexpected, it is disappointing that the Republicans continue to politicize our policy in Iraq through cleverly drafted amendments and resolutions intended solely to pigeonhole Members into black and white positions.

In conclusion, except for the parts related to the United Nations, the bill is basically sound and deserves approval so that the legislative process can go forward.

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