Pelosi Remarks on Republican Iraq Resolution
Thursday, March 18, 2004
Washington, D.C.-House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke this evening on the House floor on the Republican resolution on the Iraq war. Below are her remarks.
"Mr. Speaker, I thank the distinguished gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Murtha), the ranking member on the Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense for yielding. I thank him and commend him for his extraordinary leadership and support of our troops. When the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Murtha) speaks, we listen. And that is why I will be joining him in opposition to this resolution this evening.
"Mr. Speaker, before I enter into my reasons why, I want to call to the attention of our colleagues a section of the San Francisco Chronicle that was published this Sunday: 'Portraits of Sacrifice.' It has the face, the name, and the date of sacrifice of the 556 members of the U.S. Armed Forces-as of last Thursday-who had lost their lives in Iraq since the war began almost a year ago. Of course, sadly, since last Thursday, indeed, since last Sunday, that number has grown. I will include for the record these names and dates of sacrifice and home towns.
"Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to join me in a moment of silence to honor the memory, the sacrifice, and the patriotism of these brave American troops.
"Mr. Speaker, every one of us who serves in this body supports our troops. There is no question about that. We appreciate their valor, their patriotism, the sacrifice that they are willing to make for our country. When I had the privilege of visiting them with the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Murtha) last year in Qatar, Turkey, and Kuwait, before the initiation of hostilities, we promised those troops that they would have whatever they needed, that regardless of what we were on the resolution of going to war, once we went into the war-once the President made that decision-we were one team, one fight.
"And that is why it is so sad that today with this resolution to support the troops that we cannot be one team, one fight. Why was it so difficult for the Republicans to reach across the aisle, say to our troops that we could have come together as one team, one fight, in support of our troops?
"Mr. Speaker, it is sad to say that more than 415 of the 560-some of our troops have died since the President declared in early May the end of major combat with a sign saying 'Mission Accomplished'' behind him.
"Perhaps some of those deaths could have been avoided if our troops had the equipment and the actionable intelligence to protect them, the force protection that they needed. But they did not.
"I visited Iraq with the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Skelton), the senior Democrat on the Committee on Armed Services, and, similar to the visit with the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Murtha), the troops greeted him with great appreciation for his service to our country.
"Again, we promised them the equipment that they needed. And it is only recently, maybe just this week, that the troops have the Kevlar in their lining, in their flak jackets that they need. It has taken that long. And it would not have happened without the gentleman from Pennsylvania's (Mr. Murtha) insistence when the $87 billion request came to the floor, the second request for Iraq, which did not have the request for that equipment in it.
"We all agree that our military conducted itself excellently. It performed its duties in a way that is worthy of commendation. However, the civilian preparation was not so good. Do not take my word for it. Take the word of Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, who said the level of sacrifice of our troops was not met with the level of planning for post-war Iraq.
"More than 400 of our troops have died in the post-war phase.
"This resolution that we have before us today is interesting in what it lacks. It lacks the recognition of the challenge that we face in Iraq. It is clearly an indication that the Republicans are in severe denial about Iraq. They are in denial as to why we went into Iraq, they are in denial as to what the conditions are that exist in Iraq right now, and they are denying in this resolution what our troops and those who have served in Iraq need.
"There is such inconsistency this day that I must spend my time on this floor to point it out. There is so much I want to say about this resolution and about statements that have been made in this debate. But what I want to focus on are some of the inconsistencies of the Republicans. Because the Republicans are proposing this resolution on the floor, they are dishonoring the troops in the Committee on the Budget. They are dishonoring the troops in the Committee on the Budget.
"The Bush budget shortchanges American veterans. When he tells our brave troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan in the State of the Union address that he will, quote, 'give you the resources you need,' but then does not budget for them, his credibility gap grows and so does my colleagues'.
"This budget refuses to end the disabled veterans tax. It does not end the survivors' benefit tax. It proposes new increases in the cost of veterans health care. This is what is going on on Capitol Hill today while we have this meager resolution to support the troops on the floor. It fails to provide meaningful investments in veterans' health care. The list goes on and on.
"And the severe blow was that the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Edwards), the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Military Construction, offered a resolution to add $1.3 billion for veterans' health. And that was defeated along party lines. That would have been a way to honor our troops. Yes, indeed, it would have.
"When I say that this resolution is in denial about why we went into the war, of course it mentions nothing about weapons of mass destruction, but it does mention that Saddam Hussein drained the Arab marsh, causing an ecological disaster. Did my colleagues realize that that was the reason that we went to war? The same folks who have rolled back 30 years of bipartisan environmental progress are declaring a cause of war, the draining of the marsh in Iraq? It was a terrible environmental disaster.
"Nobody spoke about it at the time, but there is another swamp that must be drained and that is right here in Washington, DC: the swamp of special interest money. The swamp that says special interest money calls for giving tax cuts to people making more than $1 million, not having $1 million, making over $1 million a year, give them that tax cut but do not provide for our troops and do not provide for our veterans. At the same time, we are giving money to Halliburton, which is ripping off the taxpayer while feeding the troops with overcharges.
"Yes, there is a swamp that needs to be drained. It is right here in Washington, DC, and that would not be an environmental disaster.
"Mr. Speaker, we did have an opportunity and we requested of the Committee on Rules that we be able to present a Democratic resolution. In fact, we had hoped it would be a bipartisan resolution, and it drew upon the expertise, the leadership, the patriotism, the intellect, the integrity of so many of our Members.
"The gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Murtha) and the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Skelton), of course, called for us immediately to offer our condolences to the families of those who were killed in Iraq. That would have been a valuable addition to this resolution. It insisted that we give the troops the body armor, all of them, and the armored vehicles they need to keep them safe. Some of that has come to fruition because of the gentleman from Pennsylvania's (Mr. Murtha) work. Much of it is still not accomplished.
"Under the gentlewoman from California's (Ms. Harman) leadership, we had in our resolution to immediately remedy the deficiencies in the intelligence on which our troops rely. Force protection saves lives. As a 10-year member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I value that. It should be part of what we are advancing.
"The gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Murtha) insisted that we honestly account for the cost of ongoing military operations in Iraq.
"The gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) insisted that we assemble a true international coalition to accomplish our mission.
"The gentleman from Texas (Mr. Edwards) and the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Skelton) demanded that we eliminate disparities in pay between our active duty military and the National Guard and reservists. We had that opportunity today, but you rejected it.
"The gentleman from Texas (Mr. Edwards) again insisted that we provide for the health care and benefits our wounded servicemen and -women earned for when they come home.
"Why could we not have come to the floor with a bipartisan resolution? Why could we not have been one team, one fight? I do not understand it. We all take our responsibility to provide for the common defense very, very seriously. The clear and present danger facing our country is terrorism. Our military and our Intelligence Community serve our country well. They protect us with their lives. We must support them with our actions, as well as our words.
"Our military pledge to leave no soldier behind on the battlefield. We must leave no soldier or any veteran behind in our budget. Only then will we honor them in a manner worthy of their sacrifice."