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.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to yield 3 ½ minutes to the distinguished gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith).
Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Illinois (Chairman Hyde) for authoring this very important resolution.
Mr. Speaker, much of the dark and unseemly world of Saddam Hussein is only now coming to light, and it is significantly worse than many of us had thought. The fact that as many as 400,000 victims were systematically brutalized and raped and tortured to death ranks the Hussein dictatorship as one of the worst in modern history. Had the United States and coalition forces not gone in to liberate Iraq, there is no doubt whatsoever that the killing fields would have continued unabated and that tens of thousands Iraquis or more would have met a terrible fate.
Mr. Speaker, on the issue of chemical weapons, we know that chemical weapons used by the Iraqis are not mere conjecture. Hussein used weapons of mass destruction and used them with impunity both in the Iran-Iraq war and he used them against the Kurds. We know for a fact, according to Human Rights Watch and many other organizations and the U.S. Department of State, that upwards of 5,000 Kurdish people died a horrific death from those chemical attacks. There have also been, as my colleagues know, a staggering number of disappearances, believed to range between 250,000 to 290,000.
Mr. Speaker, the Armed Forces of the United States and our coalition partners have conducted themselves in Iraq with incredible valor, professionalism, and commitment. Our forces and those of our allies are peacemakers. We often talk about peacekeepers, soldiers who go in when the situation, while volatile, presents the opportunity to ensure that the combatants can be separated. Our men and women went into Iraq and they "made" the peace. They are peacemakers in a place in the world where peace was an oxymoron.
The recently adopted interim Iraqui constitution, Mr. Speaker, will more likely get further worked once the new assembly is up and running next year, is historic; a constitution which articulates basic fundamental human rights and the rule of law in the Middle East. After Israel, which has an excellent constitution, we now have Iraq. And I think there is a great opportunity for democracy to break out and the rule to be respected and that also mitigates the danger of Iraq which now is a peacemaker itself to its friends and allies in the region.
Finally, just let me say, a previous speaker talked about shame when it comes to our veterans and our men and women who are returning home. I chair the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. We have seen, since the Bush Presidency began, and it continues the trend line of the late 1990s, more than a 30 percent increase in health care funding and we will increase it again this year, and we will do so significantly.
President Bush has signed no less than 16 separate bills to enhance, to expand veterans benefits. The Veterans Benefits Act of 2003 was signed on December 16. There were seven titles to it, filled with very important provisions to enhance veterans benefits. The Veterans Education and Benefits Act contains a 46 percent increase in the GI Bill, 46 percent increase in college funding. I know, because I authored it. I was the prime sponsor of the bill. With no fanfare whatsoever, this President signed that legislation and 15 other bills into law.
Mr. Speaker, I would hope that these trying to use veterans issues as a political football would cease on this floor today. We are trying, in a bipartisan way, to meet the obligations and the needs of our veterans. I stand committed to that. This party, and I would say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, to do so as well, we should all be pro-veteran, and we are matching our words and our rhetoric with funding and with responsive and responsible laws.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT