IRAQ WAR RESOLUTION -- (House of Representatives - February 16, 2007)
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Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Speaker, since learning we would consider a resolution regarding troop levels in Iraq, I have spent considerable time listening to veterans of this war and other wars questioning some of America's top national security officials, reading every e-mail, literally every letter on this most serious issue of this day that has come into my office from my constituents. I have listened to voices of leaders of other nations who surround Iraq. I have read the National Intelligence Report. I have read the Iraq Study Committee Report. I have been given books such as ``Fiasco'' to digest, and I have reached out to the parents of brave Americans who are on their way into this conflict, and I have heard from the parents of sons who were lost in this conflict. I have heard strong opinions on both sides of this issue, and I have reflected upon my own vote to authorize the war in the first place.
To say the least, it has been an agonizing experience. Agonizing, because I want to do what is right for America with minimal sacrifice to the brave Americans who wear our Nation's uniform. I want to do what is right to protect our freedom and our security.
I will always remember the days and nights when the smoke from the burning Pentagon wafted into the apartment I lived in just blocks from that building. I remember the images of that day when rescue personnel were trying to save lives, only to lose their own. I remember the pledge I made to myself that I would never let that happen to America again if I had my way.
So I supported implementation of the 9/11 Commission Report. I supported efforts to improve our intelligence gathering and processing efforts so that America does not miss key indicators of danger or, worse, misinterpret the data that is gathered.
Policymakers must be given accurate, reliable intelligence if we are to make responsible decisions. Had Congress been given an accurate intelligence assessment, I doubt the vote to invade Iraq would ever have come to this floor in the first place, and I certainly would not have cast the vote I cast because the threat was not what we were told it was, despite the horrific brutality of Saddam Hussein and his henchmen sons.
Unfortunately, though, we cannot edit history; we cannot change the past. Our responsibility is to the present and even more so to the future, America's future.
In some areas of the world, America has made strong diplomatic progress on the most difficult issues facing our planet. I speak of the recent agreement with North Korea coming out of the Six Party talks. I am reminded of the willingness of Libya to give up its weapons of mass destruction and come into line with the world community. And while much work remains regarding Iran's nuclear development, America's work with other countries and through the United Nations is having an effect on Iran.
Meanwhile, our troops and our work internationally in Afghanistan continues to show progress, even in light of the recent resurgence of the Taliban. Consider the historic role NATO is playing to bring peace and stability to that far-off land.
So if we are accomplishing good in Afghanistan and elsewhere, why is the situation in Iraq still such a mess? And what can or should America do there now that will hasten Iraq's move towards stability and hasten the bringing home of our troops to America?
As my colleague from New Mexico, HEATHER WILSON, so eloquently and forcefully asked this week: What are America's strategic interests in Iraq, and how can we best achieve them?
These are the serious questions of our day, and these are the issues tragically missing from this nonbinding resolution.
In this new world where war is not waged by armies in uniform with codes of honor but by terrorists who blow up food markets and behead journalists, how do we respond in an effective way to prevent the insanity from coming again to our shores? How best do we prevent a whole region from ripping apart at the seams and perhaps taking much of the world with it?
While Congress has a clear constitutional role and responsibility when the Nation is at war, where is the line that Congress should not cross? Are we really best equipped to decide precisely how many reinforcements are sent into which battle? Isn't that a decision best left to the commanders in the field? Can Congress really give General Petraeus a unanimous vote of support to lead our effort in Iraq and then turn around and deny him the strategy he told us he believes is necessary to win?
A former colonel in the Air Force wrote to me recently on this very topic. She said, ``Some in Congress say they support General Petraeus but don't want them to undertake the mission they were confirmed to do. It seems right out of Alice in Wonderland.''
And if Congress is going to make these decisions, then have we really carefully analyzed where the other 134,754 troops in Iraq are, what they are doing, and what they should do?
Another of the e-mails I received was from a veteran of the Vietnam War who, like many other veterans of that conflict, urged me to vote against this resolution; and he wrote, ``Our troops need unqualified support. They don't need to be told they are participating in a lost cause.''
Indeed, this two-sentence nonbinding resolution does send a very mixed message to our troops. Moreover, this resolution is a lost opportunity to address at least five major issues that a serious Congress needs to address.
First, this resolution fails to even mention the Iraqi role. Where is the siren call for the Iraqi government to keep its word and perform as promised? We cannot expect for long to do for Iraq what it is unwilling to do for itself.
Second, this resolution fails to even mention the need for this administration to embrace the Iraq Study Group Report's call for aggressive diplomatic initiatives with Syria, Iran, and other nations in Iraq's neighborhood. Where is the call for enhanced diplomacy?
Third, this resolution fails to even mention the need to replenish the equipment that our National Guard units have left behind while serving our country overseas. My State's own National Guard's ability to conduct training is deeply affected by lack of equipment.
Fourth, this resolution fails to call on Iran, Syria, and other nations to stop directly or indirectly supplying the weapons and explosives to those who detonate car bombs in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq, killing women and children as they try to buy food in local markets. Where is the condemnation of their actions?
Fifth, this resolution fails to define what our strategic national interests are in Iraq and how we can best achieve them.
I know that I stand alone in my State's delegation by opposing this resolution. I have been told by some I should just vote for it. It would be easier politically for me because then the problem is off my back. It is someone else's. They will own it. I cannot do that and look at myself in the mirror.
I cannot ignore the counsel recently given to us by diplomats in the region whose advice we ignored when America took on this challenge in Iraq and who now counsel us with most seriousness in the strongest of terms against leaving Iraq before the country is stabilized. They have made it clear to this Member of Congress that failure in Iraq will have grave and dangerous consequences to the entire region. In short, we broke it, we need to fix it before we leave it.
But fixing Iraq does not mean ending religious differences, differences that have ripped apart that region for 1,300 years or more. Fixing Iraq does not mean installing our form of democracy. Fixing Iraq means ensuring a new terrorist haven is not created or allowed to be created from which they can train and plan safely to carry out attacks against the West. Fixing Iraq means ensuring their government can stand on its own and not collapse into a sinkhole that drags other nations in the region into an abyss.
Given the glaring shortcomings of the non-binding resolution we have before us today, I will vote ``no'' for as many of those who served in Vietnam have told me its message does undercut our troops. Moreover, it fails to call for the increased diplomatic initiatives in the region, it fails to call for Iraq to do its part, it fails to define our strategic national interests of stabilizing Iraq so as to prevent the creation of another terrorist training haven, and it fails to address the very real needs of our National Guard.
It is unfortunate that the opportunity to actually affect these very serious policy choices was not allowed on the Floor of the House today. It is, indeed, a missed opportunity for America.