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Iraq War Resolution

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


IRAQ WAR RESOLUTION -- (House of Representatives - February 13, 2007)

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Mr. KING of New York. I thank the gentlewoman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, I also appreciate the opportunity to take part in this debate, which as my friend from New York (Mr. Rangel) said, isn't this a historic debate? It is part of our job. It is our obligation. It is a legal obligation; it is a moral obligation to be heard on this most pressing issue of our time.

I would also add at the outset, when we have talked about those who died in Iraq, and all of us go to the wakes of those who were killed in our district. Just the other day, if we are talking about the quality of the type of person, where they come from and who was killed in Iraq, there was a young man who was actually in what used to be the heart of my district, very affluent area, Manhasset. He was a graduate of Duke University, all-American Lacrosse player, was offered a scholarship to law school, but he turned it down to go in as an enlisted man, as an Army Ranger.

He served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he was killed on his third tour of Iraq. His family was proud of what he did, what he accomplished, what he stood for. I think it doesn't really add to the level of debate to somehow be suggesting that those who go to Iraq because they cannot be anywhere else or somehow it is all driven by economic need, he was a young man with everything in front of him.

He had all the opportunity in the world, and he went, and he joined the Army, went in as an enlisted man, died as a sergeant, and he was on his third tour in Iraq. So I think it is important to put that in the Record. Also, I know there are any number of Members in this body who have had members of their families serving in Iraq.

I think if we are going to talk about the gentleman from New York who wants to bring back the draft, we can have that in a separate debate. But I don't think it should be part of this debate.

Now, when this debate was actually scheduled, I actually thought it would
serve a constructive purpose. But as I look at the resolutions being offered, if I could really, I guess, quote from Senator Lieberman of Connecticut, rather than a resolution, it is really a resolution of irresolution.

It is inherently contradictory, because it pledges support to the troops but also at the same time washes its hands of what the troops are attempting to do. I have heard speaker after speaker get up here today and say the new policy cannot work. The new policy is more of the same. This is the President's policy. He hasn't gotten the message from the American people.

Well the fact is, this policy is strongly supported by the new commander in Iraq, General Petraeus. As was pointed out, the Senate unanimously approved the appointment of General Petraeus by a vote of 81-0. Now, for people to come here today and say this is an inherently flawed policy, this is a policy that cannot work, this is a policy that is doomed to failure, to me, after General Petraeus has said that he believes the policy can work, that he supports the policy, is to attack directly either the credibility or the competency of General Petraeus, and that is a terrible message to be sending to our troops.

Actions do have consequences. I don't doubt the good faith of anyone on either side of the aisle when it comes to supporting the troops. The fact is, often you have to think beyond what the actual words are saying and realize the consequences those words have. For instance, my good friend, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who I have actually traveled to Iraq with in 2003, where we met with General Petraeus and others in Mosul and with others and troops in Baghdad, he said that Iraq is a mess, and we have to end the nightmare.

Does anyone really think by Americans pulling out the nightmare is going to end, that the Middle East will become stable if we leave? Certainly al Qaeda doesn't believe that. Certainly the mullahs in Iran don't believe that. And also our allies don't believe that.

Again, what are the consequences of our actions? Are we saying just draw down for the sake of drawing down? I heard the distinguished Speaker of the House of Representatives say our goal is to get our troops home.

Well, I would say our goal should be to have our troops come home after we have achieved a goal, a goal of at least a stable Iraq, an Iraq which is able to protect its borders against Iran, and an Iraq which is able to prevent al Qaeda from setting up a privileged sanctuary in Iraq, and an Iraq which is able to create a situation in the north where the Kurds and the Turks are not fighting with one another.

So these are all serious issues that have to be addressed. I regret to say this resolution does not address it in any way. If anything, it is a serious step backward.

Now, also we have heard that we have to listen to the polls. We have to listen to what public opinion has to be at any particular time. Well, if anyone wants to go back and look at the polls, in 1952, President Truman's popularity rating was 22 percent. War in Korea was amazingly unpopular, and yet today he is acknowledged as one of our greatest Presidents, and the war in Korea is looked upon as an absolutely indispensable step in the defeat of communism, because they drew the line in Asia at the 38th parallel.

I know my good friend Mr. Rangel served in Korea, he was wounded in Korea, and he performed valiantly in Korea. That war now is looked upon as one of the linchpins of the Cold War strategy, which, again, brought down the Communist menace.

Also I tried to research this. I am not aware of any time in the entire history of our country where the United States Congress has adopted a resolution questioning a particular battlefield strategy.

Like him or not, and I certainly support him, but the President is our Commander in Chief. I said the same thing when President Clinton was our Commander in Chief, and I was serving in this body at that time when there was tremendous criticism directed at him.

But the fact is, the President, no matter where he or she happens to be from, is the Commander in Chief. And we are at war. It was a war that was authorized by this Congress. And we should not be, I do not believe, setting the precedent of adopting resolutions questioning specific strategies.

Should we have adopted a resolution in the winter of 1944, 1945, questioning President Roosevelt's strategy in allowing the intelligence failures that brought about the Battle of the Bulge? We can go step by step. Certainly President Lincoln, during the Civil War when strategies were changed throughout the war and finally resulted in a victory.

Also we have to realize that the war in Iraq is part of an overall war against Islamic terrorism. As the former chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, as ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, certainly we see that this is an enemy which is overseas and it is here. It is an enemy which is plotting every day to find ways to attack us.

I know later the distinguished ranking member of the Intelligence Committee will also speak to this part of the issue. But the fact is, we do not live in vacuums. We cannot isolate battlefields and silos and say this is Iraq, this is Afghanistan, and this is the Twin Towers.

The fact is, we are talking about actions having consequences. And I have been very critical of the Republican Party for 1983 when I believe we precipitously withdrew from Beirut. That had consequences. I was in this body when we precipitously withdrew from Somalia. I was also in this body when the Twin Towers were attacked the first time in 1993 and we took no action, or Khobar Towers when a constituent of mine was killed in 1996. We took no action.

The USS Cole in 2000 when we took no action. In 1998 the attacks on the African embassies, where we took very limited action. All of those had consequences. In fact, now we see after September 11, 2001, we find the historical record where Osama bin Laden said that when we saw that the United States was willing to withdraw from Somalia, how that emboldened Islamic terrorists throughout the world, how that showed them that we did not have the staying power, we did not have the guts to stick it out.

Listen, those who are really putting it on the line, those who have the guts are the men and women of the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan. But also we as elected officials have to show some courage and not just give in to the zeitgeists, not just give in to the latest public opinion poll or to the latest election, because quite frankly we were not elected to win elections; we were elected to show leadership and to do what has to be done.

When future generations look back at this, will they really say that we helped the struggle against Islamic terrorism by pulling out of Iraq, by not continuing that fight? Does anyone really think that that will not embolden al Qaeda, that that will not embolden Iran? Can anyone honestly say that?

And so I believe that what disappoints me about this debate and this resolution is we are treating Iraq almost like it is a pinpoint. It is one issue standing by itself, and it is not. It is part of a mosaic; it is part of a worldwide struggle. As someone who lost more than 100 friends, neighbors, constituents on September 11, I have seen firsthand the evils of Islamic terrorism.

As ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee, I know how there are forces in this country who would take action against us. I know the connections between forces in this country and forces overseas. It is no secret. It should not cause us any confusion as to why al Qaeda wants us to lose in Iraq.

It should not cause us any confusion as to why al Qaeda encourages the enemy against us in Iraq, and in fact has al Qaeda in Iraq itself fighting against us.

So now we come to the question of, with our troops committed there, with this being an absolutely essential part of the war against terrorism, what do we do? I agree that there is a consensus that the current policy has not been successful. There have been successes, but the policy itself has not been fully successful.

That is true in almost every war in which America has been engaged. It was certainly true during World War II, it was certainly true during Korea, and even take a war like Kosovo, which is probably almost as antiseptic as a war could be, even though every war when anyone's life is on the line is brutal and deadly.

But from a strategic point of view, we are talking about it should have been a simple war. We ended up bombing a Chinese embassy in Belgrade. So, I mean, mistakes are made. And for us to say because mistakes are made we should redeploy our troops, which really is a euphemism for withdrawal.

We are sending signals to the world. We are sending signals to our troops, we are sending signals to our allies, we are sending signals to our enemies. On the one hand if we are unanimously confirming General Petraeus who supports this policy, and on the other hand we are saying we know the policy cannot work and we are actually going for the first time in American history going on record opposing a particular strategic policy, then I would say, where are we getting this from?

People say that this is just the same policy as we have had all along. General Petraeus says it is not. And I do not believe it is. Can I guarantee the new policy will work? No, I cannot. But I have met with generals, I have met with military experts, and they give good reasons why it can work. And there are people of very good faith on the other side who say it will not work.

But as I look at this, our commander, who is looked upon as the expert in counterinsurgency, who is the general who has certainly achieved the most in Iraq, and anyone who has been to Mosul knows the job that he achieved there, if he says this policy should work, and can work, then I believe we have the moral obligation, we have the legal obligation, and we have the obligation to history and for our children and grandchildren that we not undercut General Petraeus, that we not tell our troops we do not have faith in their ability to carry out the mission which General Petraeus says can be carried out, and we do not embolden our enemies by saying just wait this out a few months, wait it out a few months and you will get it, wait us out a few months and we will pull out like we did in Beirut or Somalia.

We cannot allow that message to be sent. The burden is on us. And if we fail in this mission, and the mission I believe of standing with our troops, standing with our commander in the field, and standing with the policy that the overwhelming majority of Congress voted for in 2003, and also the pledge that all of us made on September 11, 2001, then we will have failed in our obligations as Members of the United States Congress and failed in our obligation to our oath of office to do what has to be done, which should be done, which is essential if we are going to win the war against Islamic terrorism.

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