U.S. TROOP READINESS, VETERANS' CARE, KATRINA RECOVERY, AND IRAQ ACCOUNTABILITY APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2007 -- (House of Representatives - May 24, 2007)
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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Speaker, I will vote for this supplemental appropriations bill today, but like many Americans who want to see an end to the war in Iraq, I am not happy about it.
In fact, I am deeply frustrated and saddened by the prospect, but I also am compelled by my conscience to this vote.
On Monday, Memorial Day ceremonies throughout Colorado and across the country will honor the men and women in uniform who have paid the full measure of devotion to duty in all of America's wars.
But as long as the war in Iraq goes on, every day will be Memorial Day.
Already, more than 3,400 of our servicemen and servicewomen have died in Iraq, and more will die before we withdraw our troops. Just last Friday, for example, 33-year old SFC Scott Brown of Windsor, Colorado, and 27-year old SGT Ryan Baum of Aurora, Colorado, were among them.
A friend of Ryan's family told reporters, ``Ryan never wanted to be known as a hero, he just did his job.'' In fact, he did his job--and he is a hero.
This is not a heroic day in Congress, but as his comrades are faithful to their responsibilities, we must be faithful to ours.
And one of those responsibilities--even for those of us who have opposed this war--is to support those brave comrades as they continue to do what the President has ordered them to do.
And now, today, all of us in the Congress face a dilemma that I foresaw 4 years ago--when President Bush first sent our forces into Iraq: having to choose either to take the guns out of the hands of our soldiers in the field or to let the President move forward with a misguided and reckless policy.
Cutting off funds for supplies and equipment for our troops is one way, of course, to bring this war to an end, and I understand why many Americans believe Congress should do so. But the more responsible way to end this war, in my opinion, is to change our policy, and to avoid making an already bad situation worse.
I opposed the Bush administration's decision to launch a pre-emptive war in Iraq because I believed it would be a diversion from our larger post 9-11 strategic objectives and I was not convinced that the President had an adequate plan and enough international support to secure and stabilize Iraq after overthrowing its regime.
I said at the time that getting into this war would be far easier than getting out. I wrote in March, 2003 that ``success in Iraq is not just about eliminating Saddam Hussein....... Success in Iraq also means managing the ensuing social chaos, keeping a lid on the Middle East powder keg, thwarting terrorist attacks at home, and occupying and rebuilding Iraq--and doing all of this when our own economy is faltering, energy prices are rising and domestic priorities like health care and education are crying out for attention.''
So, I offered my own resolution to slow the rush to war in 2003 and argued for a program of coercive inspections that would have uncovered the truth about weapons of mass destruction before shedding American blood.
When that was rejected, I voted against authorizing the President to send our forces into Iraq--and today, more than ever, I am convinced that my vote against the war was the right vote.
Congress, nevertheless, voted to give the President the authority to go to war, and he has used that authority, to disastrous effect.
I have worked to extricate us from the ongoing disaster. I was among the first in Congress to call for an exit strategy from Iraq. I have introduced legislation, cosponsored legislation, spoken out with my colleagues, published articles, traveled to Iraq to better understand the challenges we face, and asked tough questions of our military leaders during Armed Services Committee hearings. And I continue--every day--to pressure this administration in every way I can.
I firmly believe that our challenge is to withdraw from Iraq rapidly--but responsibly. For me, the debate today should be about how to carry out a responsible withdrawal. And that is the point on which I find myself disagreeing with many whose passion to end this war I respect.
They argue that the best way to get out is to vote today to cut off funding for our men and women in uniform, and in harm's way. I respectfully disagree, because that would sacrifice a responsible exit in favor of a rapid one--and in good conscience, I cannot support that anymore than I could support the reckless way we were led into this war in the first place.
I think responsibility demands that we provide the funding necessary to keep the many thousands of brave Americans now in service in Iraq supplied. With our troops stretched thin, forced to perform longer tours of duty and short of equipment and supplies, funding for the immediate needs of these men and women in uniform cannot be held hostage to disagreements about the folly of Bush administration policies.
Make no mistake--I have no doubt that the President's policies have brought our country to the brink of a national security crisis. I am angry that the President still refuses to accept a supplemental funding proposal for Iraq and Afghanistan that provides real accountability measures for ending the Iraq war. I voted to force him to adopt a different course, and when he vetoed that legislation, I voted to override that shortsighted and stubborn exercise of Presidential power. Unfortunately, and primarily because of the misguided loyalty of members of the President's party, that override effort failed, which is why we are considering the legislation now before us.
I did not choose the wording of the bill that we are considering today. It is not the bill that I would have written. But it will provide the essential funding to support and protect America's sons and daughters who are in Iraq right now doing everything we have asked of them and putting their lives on the line every day.
But another part is to bring pressure to bear on this administration to end this war because I don't want any more young dedicated Americans to lose their lives in this war. I want to bring them home.
So far, that pressure has not been enough, as was shown by the President's veto of a bill that fully funded our troops, held the Iraqi government accountable, and demanded that the President change course and bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end. It is abundantly clear that he is not prepared to adopt a better course--and as long as we lack a sufficient majority to override his veto, we Democrats can't force him to do so without Republican support.
But I will persist, because I think it is up to those of us who opposed this war in the first place to show the way forward.
That is why, after the Memorial Day recess I will introduce legislation that implements the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group and provides a foundation for the phased withdrawal of American troops out of Iraq beginning in March of next year. So far over 40 Members of Congress--both Democrats and Republicans--have agreed to cosponsor this legislation.
I am hopeful that this bipartisan effort will lead to more such efforts. Republicans and Democrats alike believe that this fall is key to the future of U.S. military involvement in Iraq. By then, another funding package will be up for a vote, General Petraeus will be reporting back on the progress of the ``surge,'' and we will have other indications of progress on benchmarks based on reports that the administration will be forced to produce as part of this supplemental funding bill.
I commit to continuing to do what I can every day to bring this war to an end. Today, I believe the responsible thing to do is to provide needed funds for our men and women in uniform with this bill, which also includes benchmarks for the Iraqi government--an indispensable step toward having Iraqis begin to take responsibility for their own country's future.
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