RELATING TO THE LIBERATION OF THE IRAQI PEOPLE AND THE VALIANT SERVICE OF THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES AND COALITION FORCES -- (House of Representatives - March 17, 2004)
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to House Resolution 561, I call up the resolution (H. Res. 557) relating to the liberation of the Iraqi people and the valiant service of the United States Armed Forces and Coalition forces, and ask for its immediate consideration.
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Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my concerns about the process by which H. Res. 557 has been considered in the House.
Once again, a small group in the House-the majority party on the Rules Committee-has prevented a full and fair debate. Last night, I submitted an amendment to the Committee for consideration. The first part of my amendment would have struck the language in the resolution claiming that the Iraq war has made the world safer, replacing it with language about the deplorable and brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. The second part would have added a fifth clause to the resolution, commending the members of the Reserve and National Guard and their families for their dedication and sacrifice, given the extraordinary number of such members called to active duty and their length of deployment in Iraq. Unfortunately, not only was my amendment not made in order, but no amendments at all were made in order. In fact, the minority does not even have the right to recommit this resolution with instructions.
Let me be clear that there is no doubt that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein and his horrible regime. But to put forth a resolution stating that the world is safer because of the U.S. invasion into Iraq, while claiming it "should be" bipartisan, is purely partisan politics. I am shocked at the audacity of the Republican leadership to force an up or down vote on a resolution with a clause justifying the war in Iraq, bundled with provisions that every member of this House supports-commending the Iraqis for their courage, commending the adoption of an interim constitution, and supporting U.S. and Coalition forces for their bravery. My amendment would have truly made this resolution something members on both sides of the aisle could support.
I also share the concerns of many of my colleagues that this resolution does not acknowledge many of the questions surrounding the justification that the Administration used for going to war in Iraq. First, no weapons of mass destruction have been found. Second, CIA Director Tenet has stated that he never said the threat coming from Iraq was imminent, a claim that President Bush repeatedly made to the American people. Third, the Administration's alleged ties between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime have yet to be proven. In my view, these discrepancies are the reason why the Republican leadership has decided to take up this resolution. I think that they believe if they can get the House to agree that the world is safer because of the U.S. invasion into Iraq, the war is justified. But I disagree wholeheartedly with this flawed logic.
We should be spending our time talking about how to make our country and world safer. We should be talking about the security of our borders, of cargo, of our critical infrastructure. We should be talking about truly supporting our troops by making sure they are taken care of when they return to the U.S.-ensuring that they don't have to wait for six months to get an appointment at the VA; ensuring that the veterans who fought before them get the benefits they were promised; ensuring that their loved ones will be taken care of when they pass on. We should be talking about how to help the Reservists and members of the National Guard who have been called to serve longer then they ever envisioned, whose families need help paying the bills while the soldiers are gone.
I have been moved by the bravery of the troops that have been deployed from my district in New Mexico. They include the 52nd Engineer Combat Battalion's Charlie Battery, the New Mexico National Guard's 1115th Transportation Company, a group of soldiers from the New Mexico National Guard 3631st Maintenance Company, thousands of reservists, and countless active duty. I will continue working in Congress to help their families while they are gone and to help them with the transition when they return.
Let's pass a resolution commending the bravery of our troops and coalition forces, thanking their families, commending the Iraqis for their courage in the face of a brutal regime and war, commending the adoption of an interim constitution in Iraq-but let's allow for a full debate and do it in a way that does not divide us. A resolution on the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the war should not be used for political purposes. Our armed forces, including the Reservists and National Guard members I sought to commend, as well as the Iraqi people, deserve better.
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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Speaker, I will vote for this resolution, although I do not approve of the manner in which it is being debated. The fact that the House is not permitted even to consider amendments means that our debate will be incomplete because the resolution covers only some of the issues that are relevant to understanding where we are one year after the beginning of military action by coalition troops in Iraq.
On this one-year anniversary, there is no question but that the House should commend the Iraqi people "for their courage in the face of unspeakable oppression and brutality inflicted on them by Saddam Hussein's regime."
The resolution also very appropriately commends the Iraqi people on the adoption of Iraq's interim constitution, a key step toward what all Americans hope will be the Iraqi people's creation of a new, free, and democratic Iraq.
And there is no question but that the members of the U.S. Armed Forces and the Coalition forces should be commended for serving in Iraq. For me, this is the most important clause in this resolution.
We may not all agree on whether going to war a year ago was the right course for the U.S. to take-indeed, I was not persuaded that it was, and so I voted against the war resolution in 2002. But we can all agree that our brave men and women in uniform deserve our support, our respect, our gratitude for their service-and in the cases of over 550 servicemen and women, their giving what Lincoln rightly called the last full measure of devotion by sacrificing their lives.
But I must qualify my support for one clause in this resolution-the clause that asserts "the United States and the world have been made safer with the removal of Saddam Hussein and his regime from power in Iraq."
I believe that Saddam out of power is infinitely better than Saddam in power. Saddam can no longer terrorize his people and his neighbors in the region. The Iraqi people are now able to move into an era of freedom-an incredible step forward for a country that has been brutalized for so long.
And it's true that the U.S. and the world are now living free of fear from Saddam's possible use of weapons of mass destruction or his possible assistance to terrorists.
But, while the removal of Saddam Hussein and his regime has liberated the Iraqis and freed us from some worries, I think there are still some things to fear.
I still fear the consequences of the Bush Administration's "you're either with us or you're against us" approach. This approach rushed the diplomatic process at the United Nations and dismissed a strategy of "coercive inspections." This same approach caused Pentagon leaders to exaggerate intelligence claims and mangle the planning for the post-war occupation and rebuilding of Iraq. And by going in without broader support and without an adequate post-war plan, the Administration made long-term success in Iraq much more difficult to achieve.
So I'm afraid we're stuck with a heavy burden for years to come. I'm afraid that America won't be safer if it continues to have to focus so much of our attention and resources on our mission in Iraq. I'm afraid America won't be safer if we continue to spend so much in Iraq--$120 billion and rising-because it will mean we have that much less money to spend on ways to keep us safe from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, from terrorists in other areas of the world, or from potential threats right here at home. That would be troublesome enough if we were paying for it ourselves, through taxes-it is even more worrisome that the Administration is insisting on putting the burden on our children, who will have to repay with interest the massive amounts we are borrowing to cover the budget deficit.
I'm afraid that unless we return to a foreign policy that reflects American priorities-putting a priority on promoting political and economic freedom and human rights; more closely cooperating with allies and friends; and more truly respecting international law and institutions-we risk fueling the very terror that we ultimately hope to prevent.
I don't believe that the answer to these fears is to cut and run by prematurely pulling our troops out of Iraq. On the contrary, I believe we have to work that much harder to work with the international community to win the peace and to assist the Iraqi people to establish a new, free, and democratic Iraq.
Mr. Speaker, I believe it is important to take this moment to reflect on this one-year anniversary. We can look back at the last year with pride at the service and sacrifices of our troops and with admiration for the Iraqi people, who are working hard to find their way in this new post-Saddam world. And we can look back at this last year to learn lessons from what we did right. But we also need to understand our mistakes and what we did wrong in Iraq so that we can move forward with a better understanding and greater confidence in our mission in the months and perhaps years to come.