OUR IRAQ POLICY -- (House of Representatives - June 26, 2006)
Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
This evening I come to the floor to continue the discussion that this Congress has had with respect to our policies as it relates to Iraq.
I was fortunate this past weekend to attend yet another ceremony, in this case, with the 1048th Tankers Division from the State of Connecticut who was being deployed to Iraq.
We in this country continue to owe a great debt of gratitude to the men and women who wear the uniform and who have served this country so valiantly and with such courage. But we also owe a deep debt of gratitude to their families in what has become gut-wrenching ceremonies as you watch young children and mothers and grandparents say goodbye to their loved ones who are going over to Iraq, including a mother who has three sons that are now over there, and another mother who saw her son off and her husband had just left the week before.
So it is very disconcerting when you find that the only people that we have asked to make a sacrifice in the war on terror have become the men and women who serve in the front lines and their families who are left behind.
Our hearts go out to all of them. And what they deserve, more than anything else, is a Nation that will level with them, that will provide them with a plan, that will tell these troops, especially in the case of the National Guard and the reservists who have been deployed, redeployed, deployed again, their stays more so than at any other point in the history of this country, and they do so with a salute and they follow orders. How grateful a Nation we should be.
And yet here at home we hear, just in the previous hour, discussions that center on a tax cut and how important a tax cut is. I have never met anyone that didn't favor tax cuts. But it is disconcerting when you look out at these families and you see that this Congress focuses on tax cuts for the Nation's wealthiest 1 percent, making sure that we ladle on more tax cuts to those already impoverished oil companies who are experiencing unprecedented profits.
Yet I look out into that audience in Connecticut, in the State armory and see these families, many who will struggle during this time, many whose gas prices will rise during the time of this 18-month deployment.
So you say to yourself, well, where is the plan? What is the exit strategy? What do we owe these individuals? Do we not at least owe them the truth?
So there was a debate enjoined on this floor 2 weeks ago, a nonbinding resolution, in essence, a conversation, a conversation where 99 percent of the people on the other side of the aisle said, stay the course, while the Nation and while this side of the aisle clamors for a new direction for America.
When I looked out into the eyes of the audience of those families and I saw their concern and need, they want a new direction for the country, especially as it relates to Iraq.
Isn't it amazing that they can get a plan from the Iraqi government, that they can get several plans from Democrats, whether it be JACK MURTHA's bold plan that, well, seemingly the Iraqi government agrees with, or whether it be CARL LEVIN's plan, well, that seemingly now General Casey agrees with?
So we find the Pentagon and the Iraqi government, JACK MURTHA, CARL LEVIN, and several other Democrats offering thoughtful plans, and the Republicans saying stay the course and a President still unable to level with the American people and unwilling still to meet with parents who have lost their kids, who line the highway on the way to Crawford, Texas, or wait patiently outside The White House for an audience.
It amazes me that, while the Iraqis can say that they have a position and they know that they have to take on responsibility, that we will somehow let the Iraqis determine the faith of our brave men and women, so much so that there has even been talk of amnesty, amnesty for those who have killed, maimed or kidnapped American soldiers or citizens. There can be no amnesty for that. There is no honor in the great sacrifice that our men and women have provided. No matter what the Iraqi government might say, we, as the United States Congress, have an obligation to our men and women and the citizens that are in Iraq working on behalf of this country to make sure that that cannot stand.
And what do we get from our erstwhile colleagues on the other side of the aisle and why was this debate conducted in the manner that it was?
Well, let me tell you why. Because Karl Rove hatched a plan in New Hampshire. You see, he went there and laid out this strategy; and the strategy was a very simple one. It is one that they used before. They just dusted off the playbook and said, you know, it works when we attack Democrats. We attack them for their patriotism.
It worked successfully against Max Cleland. We were able to take that man, who gave three of his limbs for this country, to make him appear to be unpatriotic and go after him personally.
It worked against John Kerry. We were able to swift boat him during the Presidential campaign, to tarnish his service and the medals he earned.
And it is working against Jack Murtha, they think. So that we can turn around and tarnish him as well.
And Karl Rove launches his strategy, and then John Boehner rolls out the talking points for the caucus, and then the debate is neatly sandwiched in between the time allotted, with no Democratic alternative being allotted, and the White House picnic, just in time for the President to take a surprise trip to Iraq for a photo-op and to return home.
The Nation deserves better than that. If the Iraqi security advisors can provide us with a plan, why can't Donald Rumsfeld provide us with a plan?
No wonder, in the Washington Post today and the New York Times over the weekend, people are wild over the fact that, if all that debate and discussion was truly about a course for this Nation, how is it that General Casey's plan sounds identical to CARL LEVIN's plan? And how is it that the Iraqis can acknowledge what Mr. Murtha acknowledged last November?
On this side of the aisle, we have come to know what it is all about. It is about the continued hypocrisy as it relates to leveling with the American people and, more importantly, leveling with our troops, with the National Guard and reservists and their families and the kind of sacrifice that we have asked them to do, and we have prevailed upon them, and they have done with honor. And yet we can't level with them?
We find ourselves right now with the congressional Republicans that have no plan for Iraq, a flawed plan for going in, a failed plan to win, and no plan to get out. Stay the course is the slogan. And that is all it is, a slogan, not a solution. It is a prescription for an endless occupation of Iraq.
The Democrats are united on the need for a new direction in Iraq. 2006 must be a year of significant transition. Iraqis must take control of their security and begin a responsible redeployment of U.S. troops.
There has been no person who has addressed that issue more eloquently on this floor and back home in her native California in the city of the Angels than the gentlewoman from California, who has led a task force here in this Congress that focuses on a meaningful plan for an exit strategy from Iraq.
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Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, I thank the gentlewoman; and I just want to buttress her point here. In The Washington Post, first, Carl Levin, our distinguished Senator and brother of Sander Levin here in the House, one of the sponsors of the resolution, said that ``probably the worst kept secret in town is that this administration intends to pull out troops before the mid-term elections in November. It shouldn't be a political decision, but it's going to be with this administration. It is as clear as the nose on my face,'' he said, ``that it is all about November and this election.'' And as the gentlewoman pointed out, it shouldn't be.
JACK MURTHA has said over and over again only the Iraqis can solve the problems in Iraq. They are fighting with each other, and our troops are caught in between.
And no one less than Iraq's National Security Advisor said, ``Iraq has to go out of the shadow of the United States and the coalition, take responsibility for its own decisions, learn from its mistakes, and find Iraqi solutions to Iraqi problems.'' Repeating again exactly what Mr. Murtha has been advocating.
I want to now also turn to the gentleman from Washington State (Mr. Inslee), who has been part of the Iraq Watch and from the very outset of this war has come to this floor almost on a regular basis to talk about the concerns that so many Americans in this country care deeply about, most notably the men and women who serve this country.
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Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from Washington State again for his insightful comments and pointing out the new direction that this country needs to forge and that certainly that the people of this country desire and, as you so eloquently pointed out, as importantly, the people of Iraq.
But I would also add that this is something that the generals of this country who have come forward and spoken out with great clarity also feel strongly about.
Lieutenant General Greg Newbold: ``What we are living with now is the consequences of successive policy failures.''
Major General Paul Eaton: ``Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is not competent to lead our Armed Forces. His failure to build coalitions with our allies has imposed far greater demands and risks on our soldiers in Iraq than necessary. He has shown himself to be incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically.''
Lieutenant General John Riggs: ``They only need the military advice when it satisfies their agenda,'' speaking on National Public Radio about the Bush administration. ``They only need the military advice when it satisfies their own agenda.''
General Wesley Clark: ``They pressed for open warfare before diplomacy was finished. It was a tragic mistake. It's a strategic blunder.''
General Anthony Zinni: ``We are paying the price for the lack of credible planning, or the lack of a plan. Ten years worth of planning were thrown away, troop levels dismissed out of hand. These were strategic mistakes, mistakes of policy made back here by this administration.''
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Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Reclaiming my time, in my opening remarks, this is confusing to American citizens, because Karl Rove, the Sunday prior to the debate that started here in this House, was in New Hampshire; and he laid out the strategic vision for the Republican Party. It was a political gathering, but he laid out that strategic vision. I can understand why the public gets confused, because he said very publicly that what we have to do is ``stay the course,'' and then it was the Democrats who wanted, to use one of their slogans, ``cut and run.'' But they were going to stay the course.
Then that was followed by the majority leader's talking points that were disseminated on the floor here which, of course, was again discrediting Democrats, and most notably Mr. Murtha, about cutting and running.
Then it becomes even more confounding, because the debate that ensued was, as you point out, I think uplifting in some circumstances, because it was trying to define where people stand. Ninety-nine percent of them felt very strongly that we ought to stay the course, while 78 percent on this side felt there ought to be a new direction. So people became somewhat confused. And that was all sandwiched in between the President's flight and photo-op to Iraq and the White House picnic.
Then, lo and behold, last week, the debate in the Senate, where it even reaches a feverish pitch, and we have had more plans hatched and looked at by the Democrats, including the Murtha proposal, as Maxine discussed, and the Levin plan in the Senate, as well as Ike Skelton's proposal and David Price's proposal down here. It goes on and on. So people can get confused.
Then, as you are chronicling these events, all of a sudden the Iraqi security adviser says they have a plan; and their plan includes, as Mr. Inslee pointed out, that the Iraqi people want us out of there. Eight-seven percent want us out of there. Eighty-seven percent believe that they are better off taking control of their own destiny. And now you are telling the American people, though, that, look, this really doesn't have anything to do with all of that. This is about an election. Not their election.
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Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Briefly reclaiming my time, could it be that one of the reasons they are not speaking out as forthrightly as they should, and I am just surmising this, is because part of this reconciliation that has been discussed is the granting of amnesty to Iraqis who have murdered or kidnapped American soldiers or civilians?
We have put forward a resolution here. It was debated during our discussion here, but not a nonbinding resolution. We put forward a resolution that will actually bind the Congress to instruct the President to send a message to the Iraqi Government that that cannot stand; that we, this Congress, and the American public will not stand by and let them recuse people who have taken American lives, who have kidnapped and tortured and mutilated Americans.
We will never stand by and let that happen. Could that be part of the reason?
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Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. One of the reasons that we come to the floor this evening, and Mr. McDermott alluded to it, is making sure that we do not sit idle to miss the so-called debate that Mr. Delahunt suggested took place both here in this Chamber, a nonbinding discussion, if you will, and in the Senate.
Because in the past, charges have been made and leveled, slogans tossed out, and they have not been responded to. We are not going to stand by, because the American public desires a new direction, and more importantly desires people who are willing to speak truth to power.
That is why Jack Murtha is so celebrated across this country. It is not so much for the particulars of his plan, but for the fact that he had the temerity to speak truth to power. And so we will not stand idle, and we will come to this floor on successive evenings to drive home the point to the American people.
Mr. Delahunt, you articulated so clearly the need to level with the American public. And I started this evening talking about saying goodbye to the Reservists and National Guard of the 1048th Truckers Division from the State of Connecticut, a very painful thing.
And most important is the need to level with our own troops and the families, who, as you point out, are the only ones who have had to make a sacrifice since September 11. The only people that our government has requested sacrifice of are the men and women who wear the uniform and their families.
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Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Well, if the gentleman will yield, I think Graham Ellison has stated it most eloquently. He said ``Americans are no safer from nuclear terrorist attack today than we were on September 10, 2001.'' He said, ``A central reason for that can be summed up in one word: Iraq. The invasion and occupation have diverted essential resources from the fight against al Qaeda, allowed the Taliban to regroup in Afghanistan, fostered neglect of the Iranian nuclear threat, undermined alliances critical to preventing terrorism, devastated America's standing with the public in every country in Europe, and destroyed it in the Muslim world.''
That about sums it up, where we were and why we need a new direction.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlemen for joining me this evening.