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Orderly and Responsible Iraq Redeployment Appropriations Act, 2008

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

ORDERLY AND RESPONSIBLE IRAQ REDEPLOYMENT APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008 -- (House of Representatives - November 14, 2007)

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Ms. PELOSI. I thank the gentleman for yielding and appreciate his leadership in bringing this important legislation, the Orderly and Responsible Iraq Redeployment Appropriations Act.

Mr. Speaker, on Monday, America honored our veterans, something that we do every day in our hearts but which we openly celebrated on that day. I am very proud that this year we could celebrate also the biggest increase in veterans benefits in the 77-year history of the Veterans Administration thanks to the New Direction Congress.

Yesterday, the President of the United States signed the Defense appropriations bill with the biggest increase in defense spending, made necessary because we must rebuild the capacity of our troops, which capacity has been weakened by the war in Iraq. And today, we bring before the Congress new direction legislation regarding the orderly and responsible redeployment of our troops out of Iraq.

This legislation is necessary because whatever you may have thought about the war or the conduct of the war or the origin of the war, whatever you may think about the performance of the Iraqi Government there, and I have my views on that subject, the fact is we can no longer militarily sustain the deployment in Iraq. Staying there in the manner that we are there is no longer an option.

Our troops have performed their duties magnificently, excellently, patriotically, and courageously. We owe them the deepest gratitude for their courage, their patriotism, and the sacrifices that they and their families are willing to make. But even as they tried to create and had their military successes, God bless them for that, the secure framework was established to enable the Iraqi Government to make the political change necessary to end the civil war. Well, the sacrifice of our troops was simply not met by the actions of the Iraqi Government.

How much longer should we expect our young people to risk their lives, their limbs, their families, for an Iraqi Government that is not willing to step up to the plate?

This legislation today offers something fundamentally different from what President Bush is proposing, a 10-year war, a war without end, costing trillions of dollars at the expense of our military readiness. In fact, it offers something different than this House has done before. Indeed, it provides the tools to our troops so that they can get their jobs done with the greatest respect for that job. But it also presents a strategy that will bring them home responsibly, honorably, safely, and soon.

The legislation is different because it ties the funding to a strategy for redeployment. It is different because the funding provided is for the short term so that we can measure the administration's plan, if there is such a plan, to redeploy the troops on the schedule established in this bill.

We do have a military crisis not seen since Vietnam. Equipment is wearing out and needs to be replaced. Our troops, wherever they are, are only being trained for counter insurgency in Iraq instead of a wider training for a full range of missions that they may be called on to perform. The deployment schedule of the Bush administration is wearing down our forces, plain and simple.

The distinguished chairman of the Armed Services Committee has made this readiness issue the cornerstone of his opposition to this war in Iraq. The distinguished chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on Defense has told us over and over again that this deployment in Iraq cannot be sustained without weakening our national security, without diminishing the capacity of our armed services to meet challenges to our national security wherever they may occur. As such, this readiness crisis poses a grave threat to America's national security.

Yet under the President's plan, and this was expressed by representatives of the administration on more than one occasion, the President's plan would bring 30,000 troops, the number of troops that were sent in for the surge, that 30,000 troops would be redeployed back to the U.S. by July of 2008. So let's understand this. This means that by July of 2008, we will have the same number of troops in Iraq as we had in November of 2006 when the American people called for a new direction in Iraq. Again, we cannot afford the President's commitment in Iraq. It traps us. It traps us, and we cannot, while we are in that trap, address our readiness crisis.

This redeployment, in addition to undermining our military capacity to protect the American people, is also unsustainable financially. According to a recent report by the Joint Economic Committee, this war could end up costing American taxpayers $3 trillion. We will pay any price, as President Kennedy said, to protect the American people, but without us going into the shortcomings of this war and the President's execution of it, $3 trillion, think of the opportunity cost of that money in our readiness, in the strength of our country, in our reputation in the world.

The legislation before us is important. Again, the title of it is the Orderly and Responsible Iraq Redeployment Appropriations Act. It would begin redeployment within 30 days of enactment and have a goal of completing the redeployment by December 15, 2008. The legislation requires a transition in the mission of U.S. forces from being in combat to diplomatic and force protection, to targeted counterterrorism and limited support for the Iraqi security forces. It would prohibit the deployment of U.S. troops to Iraq who are not fully trained and fully equipped. Thank you, Mr. Murtha, for your leadership on that subject and on this one as well and so many others. It requires that all U.S. Government agencies and personnel abide by the Army Field Manual's prohibition against torture.

The legislation that Mr. Obey has brought to the floor, and I salute your leadership over and over again on this subject and so many others, Mr. Chairman, the House must choose between the President's plan for a 10-year war without end, no end in sight, the longer we're there, the harder it is to come out, the longer we're there, the more severely it hurts our military readiness; or a Democratic plan for responsible, honorable, safe redeployment out of Iraq and soon.

Our troops have already paid too high a price for this war: 3,850 U.S. troops killed, 28,000 injured, thousands of them permanently. That is, of course, the biggest price to pay. But the price that we are paying in our reputation in the world for us not to be able to take our rightful place as a leader in the world to make the world safer, to make the region, the Middle East, more stable, and so many other challenges that the world faces, whether it's the eradication of disease, the alleviation of poverty, the curbing of global warming, keeping peace, ending the fury of despair that contributes to the violence in the world. The countries of the world are crying out for American leadership, and at the same time they disrespect us for what is happening in Iraq.

We must act now to provide a new direction because it is clear that the President has turned a blind eye to all of this. And in addition to what I said earlier, our troops paying the biggest price, our reputation in the world, the several-trillion-dollar price tag to the taxpayer, and the cost to our readiness, despite the fact that the President has turned a blind eye to the facts of Iraq and a tin ear to the wishes of the American people to take a new direction in Iraq and bring our troops home, we must act today. I hope that our colleagues will all support this legislation because in doing so and if it is enacted into law and if this policy is pursued, we can resume our rightful place in the world. We can refocus our attention, as Mr. Obey said earlier, on the real war on terrorism, and we can make the American people safer by rebuilding and restoring the readiness and the capacity of our military to protect the American people wherever our interests are threatened.

All of us stand here and take an oath of office by pledging to protect and defend the Constitution. In that preamble, to provide for the common defense is one of our first responsibilities. Unless we do that, protect the American people, nothing else is possible.

So let us support this legislation which helps us honor our oath of office to defend the American people and to respect the sacrifice, the courage, the patriotism of our troops to make us the home of the brave and the land of the free.

I urge a ``yes'' vote on this important legislation.

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