VICTORY IN IRAQ RESOLUTION -- (House of Representatives - December 16, 2005)
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Mr. DEFAZIO. Mr. Speaker, once again, the House Republican leadership refuses to allow an honest debate over the future of the U.S. military presence in Iraq. The American people, and in particularly our men and women in uniform serving honorably in difficult circumstances in Iraq, deserve more than cheerleading and sloganeering by Congress and the President. Unfortunately, empty gestures are all this Congress provides with this resolution.
Like all of my colleagues in Congress, I was heartened when millions of Iraqis, even at risk of life and limb, voted in late January to establish an interim government and constitutional assembly and again in October in support of a new Constitution. And, the early reporting on yesterday's election for a new four-year parliament in Iraq has been positive. There has been progress in Iraq. I congratulate the Iraqis on the election, and I commend our troops for helping to provide security for the election.
Unfortunately, I cannot support the resolution on the floor today because it contains the blatantly false assertion that negotiating a time line for withdrawal of U.S. forces with the Iraqi government is somehow inconsistent with achieving victory in Iraq. To the contrary, I believe that negotiating a timeline for withdrawal of U.S. forces is a prerequisite for stabilizing Iraq and bringing our troops home with honor beginning early next year.
Announcing the termination of the open-ended U.S. military commitment in Iraq and providing a concrete plan, including a timeline negotiated with the Iraqi government, for withdrawal could well undermine support for insurgents. The majority of insurgent fighters are Iraqi Sunnis who have stoked the wide variety of grievances of ordinary Iraqis arising from the U.S. military presence to generate popular support for their cause. Most importantly, establishing a withdrawal plan and timeline would remove one of the chief causes of instability in Iraq, the U.S. military presence itself, by separating nationalist Iraqi insurgents trying to end the U.S. military presence, both Sunni and Shia, from foreign elements in Iraq for their own reasons. As, the Commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General George Casey, testified to Congress earlier this year that ``the perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency.'' A specific withdrawal plan, with benchmarks for measuring success in stabilizing Iraq, could turn Iraqis, both Sunni and Shia, against the foreign terrorists operating in Iraq. This could be a key turning point in stabilizing the country.
A time line and withdrawal plan negotiated with the Iraqi government would also boost the Iraqi government's legitimacy and claim to self-rule, and force the Iraqi government to take responsibility for itself and its citizens. Negotiating a withdrawal timeline and strategy with the Iraqi government could, more than possibly anything else, improve the standing of the Iraqi government in the eyes of its own people, a significant achievement in a region in which the standing of rulers and governments is generally low.
Similarly, establishing a firm timeline for withdrawal could accelerate the development of Iraqi security forces and deepen their commitment to defending their own country and their own government. It would eliminate the conflict they now feel by working with what many of them see as an occupying force. It would allow them to defend a sovereign Iraqi government, rather than fight alongside U.S. forces. As long as the U.S. military remains in Iraq, Iraqi politicians and security forces will use it as a crutch and will likely fail to take the necessary steps to settle their differences and establish an effective, inclusive and independent government.
Negotiating a timeline for withdrawal with the newly elected Iraqi government would show that democracy ended the U.S. occupation of Iraq, not terrorist or insurgent violence, and would allow our troops to come home with honor.
Just as importantly, a specific plan and timeline for withdrawal would provide much needed relief to over-burdened military personnel and their families and provide some certainty to U.S. taxpayers regarding the financial burden they'll be forced to bear.
Finally, a plan for withdrawal could also help the United States in our broader fight against Islamic extremists with global ambitions, most notably al-Qaeda, by taking away a recruiting tool and training ground. Porter Goss, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, testified to Congress that, ``Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-U.S. jihadists. These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced and focused on acts of urban terrorism.'' He went on to say, ``The Iraq conflict, while not a cause of extremism, has become a cause for extremists.''
The House should be debating this important issue and strategies for moving forward in Iraq instead of politically motivated misleading resolutions.