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Cooper Says American Troops Deserve A Better Strategy In Iraq

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Location: Washington, DC

COOPER SAYS AMERICAN TROOPS DESERVE A BETTER STRATEGY IN IRAQ

U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper again spoke out against the President's plan to send more troops to Iraq, urging colleagues to support the Iraq War Resolution currently being debated in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Speaking last night on the House floor, Cooper said the Bush administration must admit that its strategy in Iraq is failing, that sending 20,000 more troops does not constitute a new strategy, and that "the time for change is now."

"More of the same is just not good enough, either for our soldiers or for the good people of the region," Cooper said. "At this point in time, it is not unreasonable for Congress to say enough is enough. Voters certainly said so clearly in the last election."

The full text of Cooper's remarks, as printed in the Congressional Record, appears below.

Mr. COOPER. Mr. Speaker, I disapprove of the President's January 10 decision to surge 20,000 new troops into Iraq. I urge my colleagues to support the resolution.

Mr. Speaker, although the President says that the 20,000 new troops constitute a change in his strategy, all I am seeing are a repeat of the same failed policies of the past. America has sent additional troops to Iraq before, several times, without result. America has tried to work with the Maliki government, and it has not been very successful.

Mr. Speaker, we have to admit that this approach is not working. The President himself has admitted that his patience is running out with the Maliki government. It is really just a question of whether Congress should try to force President Bush and Vice President Cheney to change course now or whether they will do it several months from now. I say that the time for change is now.

It is true that Congress has no business micromanaging a war. No one here in Congress is Commander in Chief. It is also true that we must not shirk from our responsibilities to support our brave men and women in uniform, and we need to support the brave Iraqis who have stood with us and the good people of the region, but we do deserve a better strategy. More of the same is just not good enough, either for our soldiers or for the good people of the region.

President Bush, we have to admit, has shown a distressing stubbornness regarding Iraq. Although former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld offered to resign twice due to his own embarrassment with his failures, President Bush refused to accept his resignation for years, and finally only accepted it the day after the last election. Colleagues on both sides of the aisle know that if the President had accepted that resignation earlier, not only would Pentagon policy have been different; the core of the war might well have been different.

I think that the President needs a nudge now, and this resolution will offer it. True, it is nonbinding, but that is a good thing. Congress is not cutting off money for the troops, nor should we. We are sending a message to the President.

Now, I will admit that it is a shame that we do have to do it this way; but on this issue, the President has refused to heed the advice of so many of his own top generals, of his own father, of the Iraq Study Group, of our few remaining allies, or of the leadership of this equal branch of government. It is also a shame that today in America there is a widespread fear that the President could even be establishing the preconditions for war with Iran. Regardless of that situation, I hope that this resolution will curb any reckless behavior.

Finally, why is a change in strategy necessary now? Iraq appears to be descending into a civil war that neither Congress nor the Pentagon predicted. Defense Secretary Gates has described no less than four separate conflicts going on in Iraq today. That has led stalwart Republicans like Senator John Warner, the former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to question whether the 2002 authorization to use force in Iraq is even still valid today. American influence in the region has substantially diminished, while the influence of Iran has increased. It is time for a change.

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the original judgment of CENTCOM commander General Abizaid who testified before Congress not long ago, and he said, ``I do not believe that more American troops right now is the solution to the problem. I believe that the troop levels need to stay where they are.''

General Abizaid went on to say, ``I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the corps commander, General Dempsey, we all talked together. And I said, `In your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq?' And they all said no.'' That is quoting General Abizaid.

Mr. Speaker, I would have been more inclined to support the President if he had asked for a much larger number of troops or for a sacrifice on the part of all Americans who do not have a loved one in our military. Such proposals would have led me to believe that the President was considering a serious change in strategy, but the President has not recommended either.

Instead, he has consistently violated the so-called Powell doctrine by not waging war with an overwhelming military force, a clear objective, or a defined exit strategy. From the beginning of this conflict, we have skimped on the number of troops, the equipment for our soldiers, the commitment of our allies. It is simply too late to add on a few thousand more troops now.

Our brave troops and their families in the all-volunteer military have carried the entire burden of this war. Wall Street and Main Street have not been asked to help. Where are the war bonds to pay for this war? We have not even tried to pay for it. We have borrowed most of the money from nations like China. Policies like that do not make the Nation more secure.

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, Congress has already given the President more time to fight this war than it took to win World War II, more money than was spent in Korea and Vietnam, and the unfettered use of the finest military in history. We are spending more on our military than every other nation in the world combined, and yet we are bogged down in a Third World country embroiled in its own civil war. At this point in time, it is not unreasonable for Congress to say enough is enough. Voters certainly said so clearly in the last election.


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