PALLONE SUPPORTS A DEADLINE FOR THE WAR IN IRAQ
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) issued the following statement in support of the Iraq emergency supplemental bill: The "U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act." The New Jersey congressman gave the following speech in support of the legislation on Wednesday night.
"Madam Speaker, I come to the floor this evening to voice my support for an emergency supplemental bill that will produce a significant change in the way the war in Iraq is being waged.
"This was not an easy decision on my part. Back in 2002, I opposed giving President Bush the authority to wage the war, and ever since, I have opposed every supplemental bill that has come to this floor to pay for the war in Iraq.
"During each supplemental debate, I voiced concern that Congress was essentially giving President Bush a blank check to wage the war as he saw fit. I voiced frustration that the Bush administration was unwilling to face the realities on the ground in Iraq, and that Republican Congresses refused to provide proper oversight of billions of dollars that were handed out to contractors like Halliburton.
"Last November, the American people sent a clear message that the status quo in Iraq was no longer acceptable. They entrusted Congress to Democrats in the hopes that we would help take our Iraq policy in a new direction so that we could bring our troops home soon.
"Madam Speaker, the emergency supplemental addresses the concerns of the American people. It is a serious piece of legislation that brings together in one bill the recommendations of the nonpartisan Iraq Study Group, military generals, the Pentagon and even the president himself. It provides us the first real opportunity to change course, and therefore it deserves the support of anyone who believes the status quo is no longer acceptable.
"The supplemental takes into consideration the views of military generals and military experts who have said for months now that there is no longer a military solution possible in Iraq. Instead, they say, the only way to end the civil war that is raging in Iraq is through political and diplomatic means.
"This week, this House will have the opportunity to send the president a strong message that the war in Iraq will not continue indefinitely. The legislation states that American troops will be out of Iraq no later than August 31, 2008, and if the Iraqi government does not meet certain benchmarks in the coming months, our troops will be home by the end of this year.
"With this legislation the fate of Iraq now truly belongs to the Iraqis themselves. It's time the Iraqi government step forward and take some responsibility. The Maliki government must realize that it has to meet political, economic and diplomatic benchmarks that the president himself set, and that if serious improvements are not seen in the coming months then we will begin the process of redeploying our troops out of Iraq.
"This only makes sense, Madam Speaker. If the Iraqi government continues to believe that U.S. involvement there is indefinite, what kind of pressure are they going to have to make the necessary political reforms? They are not, and that is why both this pressure and a date certain for a responsible redeployment are so important.
"This legislation also begins the process of redirecting the Bush administration's attention to the forgotten war in Afghanistan by adding $1 billion to the Defense Department's request for military activities there. This increase supports our efforts to suppress a likely spring offensive by the Taliban. In addition, it will reinforce our humanitarian efforts in the war torn country. We must work to give poor farmers an alternative to the illicit opium trade that is rampant throughout Afghanistan.
"Finally, the legislation provides more money than the Pentagon requested for critical health care needs for veterans and wounded soldiers. Specifically, the legislation provides $1.7 billion more for Defense Health Care and $1.7 billion more for veterans' health care, in the hope that we can eliminate the horrific conditions and the treatment our wounded soldiers received at Walter Reed. The brave men and women who fought on behalf of this country should not now have to endure bureaucratic delays in order to receive the health care services that they were promised.
"This week we entered the fifth year of this unfortunate war. On Friday, we must step forward and support a bill that brings our troops home within the next 18 months, exerts pressure on the Iraqi government, prioritizes the forgotten war in Afghanistan and provides additional funds for veterans and military health care. We have an opportunity to change the direction of the war in Iraq, and we should certainly take it."