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Relating to The Liberation of The Iraqi People and The Valiant Service of The United States Armed Forces and Coalition Forces

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


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)

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Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to make a few comments about the resolution we are considering today in recognition of the one-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The resolution before us on the floor has significant shortcomings that I want to point out for the RECORD.

On March 19, 2003, offensive U.S. military actions were initiated against Iraq. Just two days later, on March 21, 2003, the House of Representatives approved a resolution which expressed "the unequivocal support and appreciation of the Nation for our troops and their families."

Only 8 minutes before passing this feel good resolution, however, the House of Representatives passed a budget, which I voted against, that included a $28 billion cut over 10 years to veterans health care, disability compensation and pensions. While the Republican Party is able to eloquently express their support and admiration for our men and women in uniform via non-binding congratulatory resolutions, their follow through is non-existent.

Here we are a year later, and this "unequivocal support" has not been translated into substantive action. Congress must deliver on this promise of support by providing our troops with the equipment and training they need. And, Congress must deliver on this promise by providing our nation's veterans with the health care and services they've earned and deserve.

Words in a non-binding resolution will not provide a single soldier with the body armor necessary to protect his or her life nor will they ensure a single veteran can see a doctor in a timely manner or receive the disability compensation they've earned. Our soldiers and veterans need action, not words.

Unfortunately, the actions of the President and his allies in Congress have repeatedly short-changed our men and women in uniform and the veterans who have served our nation honorably.

Thousands of troops in Iraq remain in danger because the Pentagon leadership has failed to secure an adequate supply of body armor. Thousands of troops remain in danger because of inadequate supplies of armored Humvees and devices to disable roadside bombs.

According to a recent article in USA Today, U.S. military officers are having to dip into their own unit's funds in order to get this critical protective equipment because "bureaucratic delays" in Washington, DC, have short-changed troops.

I saw the dangers confronting U.S. troops first-hand during my recent trip to Iraq. I cannot understand why the President and the civilian leadership at the Pentagon would put our troops in harms' way without adequate protective equipment despite preparing for war with Iraq for 2 years prior to the actual invasion and despite $400 billion in annual Pentagon spending.

Yet, the resolution on the floor today will do nothing to solve this problem.

Further, our citizen-soldiers in the National Guard and Reserve continue to be subject to second-class treatment. When I recently visited Fort Hood, Texas, I discovered that the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry of the Oregon National Guard was sent to train without the basics: fuel, ammunition, toilet paper, field radios and other essentials, and they were housed in moldy, crumbling barracks.

Media reports have documented that over 1,000 wounded Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers, evacuated from Iraq to Fort Stewart, Georgia, and Fort Knox, Kentucky, were housed in sub-standard concrete barracks with no air conditioning, indoor toilets or running water, while they were forced to wait weeks and sometimes months for medical care.

Yet, the resolution on the floor today will do nothing to solve these problems.

Next week, the House Republicans will present their budget on the House floor. Like last year's budget, this year's budget will fail to fully meet the needs of our troops and veterans.

The budget resolution, as currently drafted, underfunds veterans programs by $1.3 billion below the level requested by the Republican Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

The budget fails to repeal the age-62 penalty for military widows under the Survivor Benefit Plan. Yet, stand-alone legislation on this issue has 291 cosponsors, including 120 Republicans.

The budget fails to fully fund repeal of the disabled veterans tax immediately for all veterans despite the fact that stand-alone legislation to repeal the tax, H.R. 303, has 377 cosponsors, including 185 Republican cosponsors.

The budget fails to fund an expansion of the military health care program TRICARE to cover uninsured members of the National Guard and Reserve.

The budget fails to provide wage support for National Guard and Reserve members who are forced to leave civilian jobs with higher pay. These families are forced to do more with less.

The budget fails to provide additional compensation for soldiers who are forced to stay in the U.S. military through stop-loss orders despite having plans to retire or otherwise leave the service after fulfilling their time commitment under their enlistment contract. I have drafted legislation to provide a monthly bonus of $500 for soldiers subject to stop-loss orders, orders that amount to an involuntary draft.

The budget fails to fund an extension of imminent danger pay and family separation pay for troops in Iraq past the end of this year when even Pentagon officials admit that U.S. troops will be in Iraq for the next several years.

And, the budget cuts funding for military construction and quality-of-life improvements for U.S.

troops by $1 billion from the levels approved before the Iraq war.

The resolution on the floor today will do nothing to address these challenges.

Finally, the resolution on the floor today fails to acknowledge the deaths of more than 550 American troops or the more than 3,000 wounded American soldiers.

The resolution fails to acknowledge the deaths and injuries suffered by American and Iraqi civilians, United Nations personnel, and soldiers from allied countries.

The resolution fails to adequately acknowledge the service and sacrifice of tens of thousands of National Guard and Reserve soldiers and their families.

However, I intend to support this resolution. There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator. He oppressed and killed his own people. He invaded his neighbors, and he used chemical weapons. The Iraqi people and the world are better off without him.

But, the fact that I am glad he's out of power and in U.S. custody does not mean I agree that the Iraq war was necessary. The war was not necessary. It was elective. I voted against the authorization for war. It was obvious even at the time of the vote, which occurred months before the war actually started, that the Administration had hyped, manipulated, and misrepresented the intelligence regarding the threat posed by Iraq and that the Administration had not planned adequately for post-war Iraq. The Administration's rosy scenario for post-war Iraq has not come to pass. Instead, the U.S. is bogged down in a costly-both in terms of dollars and lives-and lengthy occupation of Iraq.

I believe that America and the world would have been better served if the Administration had not become distracted by Iraq. Saddam was safely contained and defanged by sanctions supported by a broad international coalition. The sanctions prevented Iraq from redeveloping chemical or biological weapons, and made it impossible for Hussein to achieve his ultimate goal of developing nuclear weapons.

The Administration should have kept its focus on the single gravest threat to our society-al Qaeda. It was al Qaeda, after all, who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001, not Iraq. It was al Qaeda who bombed U.S. embassies in Africa. It was al Qaeda who bombed a U.S. warship in the Persian Gulf. And it is al Qqeda that continues to plan and carry out attacks against Americans and our allies around the world. The Administration should not have shifted intelligence and military resources away from the documented threat-al Qaeda-in order to invade and occupy Iraq.

However, I will support this resolution because it is merely hortatory. The resolution does not set national policy. It is not legally binding on anyone or anything. It commends the Iraqi people for their courage in the face of the brutal Hussein regime and commends their adoption of an interim constitution. It also commends the members of the U.S. military for their valiant service. I am voting for the resolution because I want to express my support for the nascent democracy in Iraq and for our soldiers.

I would urge the House Republican leadership to spend less time on resolutions like this, which offer merely words, and more time pushing through legislation that would actually provide our soldiers and veterans with the equipment, training and benefits they need and deserve.

Mr. STUPAK. Mr. Speaker, I am proud of the valiant service from our men and women in our Armed Services. That's why I am disappointed that the House leadership decided to present this toothless resolution rather than provide real assistance for our troops.

They say this resolution is meant to thank the American military men and women serving in Iraq. But if they truly wanted to honor these soldiers-this same leadership should have supported my amendment last year that would have given every American soldier serving in Iraq and Afghanistan a $1,500 bonus. But it failed with 210 Republicans voting against it.

The President is traveling across the country to mark the war's anniversary and thank our troops. Yet his budget cuts Veterans health benefits-just like last year. Some thanks!

I support this resolution. But let's be clear: this resolution won't save any lives; it won't provide adequate body armor and armored humvees to our troops any quicker; it doesn't repair the damage done to our reputation in the international community, it won't bring our troops home any sooner and it won't heal a single wound or restore a single American life lost in Iraq.

The resolution also fails to answer some key questions:

Why did this Administration mislead the American people 237 times in their statements about the so-called immediate threat from Iraq? As Mr. MURTHA of Pennsylvania stated, "never have so few, misled so many."

Why did this Administration say that reconstruction would only cost Americans $1.7 billion and that other countries and Iraqi oil would cover the rest? Instead American taxpayers have paid billions of dollars in rebuilding Iraq-and the tab is likely to increase in the next year.

To date, we have spent more than $150 billion in Iraq.

Mr. Speaker, more than 560 soldiers have died in Iraq and another 5,300 have been injured. We owe it to them, to their families and to all Americans to level with them and given them the straight answers on why we went into Iraq and how long it will take to get the job done.

Like all Americans, I am proud of our Americans soldiers in Iraq who are serving their country with dedication and courage. But I am not proud of those in the Administration that may have misled our great Nation into war.

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