THE OFFICIAL TRUTH SQUAD -- (House of Representatives - March 01, 2006)
Mr. KINGSTON. Thank you, Mr. Price. I just wanted to say that I have the honor of representing the 3rd Infantry Division in Hinesville, Georgia, and in Savannah, Georgia, as well as the 1st Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment, and in all maybe as high as 20,000 troops from my district who have been in Iraq, the 48th Brigade, some coming and some going. But the thing that struck me as I went to Iraq in December is the amount of the turf, as you have mentioned, which has already been ceded to Iraqi security patrol.
When we were there, 50 percent of Baghdad was already under Iraqi control. And last week, I had the honor of meeting with General Webster, who was in charge of the 3rd Infantry Division over there, he just got back, and he told me that number now in Baghdad is about 60 percent. In Mozul, 25 to 30 percent of it is under Iraqi security patrol. And the government of Mozul, interestingly enough, is headed by a mayor who is a Sunni, and he has suffered personally. His family has been attacked because of it. Yet, at the same time, here is a guy who is still facing the wind and saying, let's get the job done, and not turning back.
One of the things I know you and I have heard from folks in Iraq and in Afghanistan is, we want to know is America here to stay until we are up and running. I know there are a lot of Democrats who would like to pull out tomorrow, and I understand that. I wish all our troops were home from everywhere. But the message that we got from the folks over there is, we really appreciate what you are doing; we need you to stay until the job is done.
And then as I have talked to the 3rd Infantry soldiers, it is the same thing: we have to finish this job. We just can't faint in the face of adversity. There are so many in America, the Michael Moores, the Cindy Sheehans, the fringe branch of the liberals that want us to cut and run. I think that would be such a huge disservice to all the troops who have died.
Mr. PRICE of Georgia. If the gentleman would yield back to me for a moment, I think it is important to note that there are some in this Chamber who want to do just that, who say to pull out immediately. But as we both know, and our constituents and citizens around the Nation know, that is not feasible nor is it advisable.
What is at stake, and I was telling the Members earlier, the Italian Prime Minister today really clearly defined what is at stake: if we as a free people in this world are able to plant liberty and democracy around the world, we increase our security. We increase our security.
And I know that the gentleman would concur with that.
Mr. KINGSTON. That is a message we hear from all over, particularly new Europe, emerging Europe, the Europe that had been 50 years under the Soviet bloc. They understand freedom, and they understand oppression. They do not take it for granted. They are not so anti-American as the Germans and the French seem to be. They do not enjoy the U.S. kicking that so many of our fair weather friends over there do.
But along with military progress in Iraq, there has been tremendous economic progress. As I was there looking down from the helicopter over the streets of Baghdad, I saw small businesses, traffic jams, people moving in and out of buildings buying things and so forth.
There is a port in Iraq that under Saddam Hussein never was used. Today, it has 40 ships a month going into it. In terms of newspapers and banking, it is coming back. In 2003, there were 13 Iraqi companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Today, I think that number is somewhere between 60 and 80. That is a lot of progress.
The GDP last year, I think, was something like $15 billion. Today it is $29 billion. A very small economy, but that is a huge step. The unemployment rate was something like 70 percent, and it is now 26 percent. Still very high unemployment rate by our standards, but for the Middle East, pretty doggone good. I can tell you that the Palestinian Authority wishes their unemployment rate were that low.
Mr. PRICE of Georgia. It is great that you are able to share those statistics, because what they do is show and demonstrate to the American people that in fact there is a plan and there is progress.
We hear some of our friends on the other side saying there is no plan, nothing is happening over there that is making any progress. But the three-prong plan that you know about well is: one, military, which we have talked about; the other, economic, that you have so clearly identified with the increase in GDP, a 100 percent increase in their economy, the decrease in their unemployment, which is cut by two-thirds, which is remarkable in terms of the progress there; and then there's the third arm, which is the political arm. And what we have seen, what the world has seen over the past year are three independent elections, each with growing participation by the Iraqi people. They understand what is at stake. They understand what is at stake.
So for anybody to even have any sensibility about saying that there just isn't a plan or has not been any progress, just doesn't make sense to me.
Mr. KINGSTON. There is one Sunni province that went from something like a 2 percent voter turnout in January 2005 to December 15, 2005, having over a 60 percent voter turnout. Lots of people risking lives to go to the polls and very enthusiastic about it. When you think about the 300 political parties, when here we worry about Democrats versus Republicans, but 300 different political parties electing 275 members of a new parliament to serve now for 4-year terms, it is going to take awhile to have a coalition government put together. Usually those things take two or three months to happen.
But what I saw when I was over there is people wanting to put down the gun and pick up the pencil and pick up the paper and say let's move from the battlefield to the legislative chamber and debate this.
There are so many challenges to starting a new nation, but what they need right now is the world community behind them. They do not need world criticism behind them. I think sometimes our disagreements with the administration's foreign policy has led us to be anti-Iraqi people, and I do not think the critics of the administration intend it to be that way, but that is the way it comes out overseas.
So I think we have to say, you know, Democrats and Republicans, and Republicans versus Republicans, can disagree on our foreign policy in Iraq and the war on terrorism; but we have to stand behind the Iraqi people. It is in everyone's interest for Iraq to succeed. And this is the point we are at. We cannot go back and say, well, this is what we should have done in 2003, this is what we should have done here and there. You have to take the situation as it is today and from this point on how are we going to move through the future.