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We Need a Greater Commitment to Peace and Security

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Speaker, today marks exactly 125 months to the day that we've been at war with Afghanistan. That's 125 months that we have been sending brave young men and women to be maimed and killed in a conflict that is not advancing our values but actually degrading them.

I've never believed more fervently that this war is a national security disaster, as well as a national tragedy and a moral catastrophe.

What we need, Mr. Speaker, is a greater commitment to peace and security. What we need is a more generous humanitarian spirit. What we need is diplomacy and international dialogue, cooperation, and conflict resolution. What we need is to cherish human life and human dignity here in the United States and on every corner of the globe.

Yesterday, we lost one of this body's fierce champions for these values, our colleague, Donald Payne. He was a peacemaker, a man of conscience, an ambassador of decency and compassion. He would not tolerate genocide and despair. He didn't turn a blind eye to human suffering, and he didn't care if it was happening in Newark or Nigeria. He went to some of the most dangerous places on Earth to make lives and conditions better. He was a voice for the otherwise voiceless. He used his power to advocate for people who were otherwise powerless.

In the mid-nineties, I observed Representative Payne at a hearing with the Bush State Department. He was arguing, he was pleading with the State Department to designate the Darfur genocide. He actually had tears in his eyes and tears in his voice, and this is a man known for being very mild mannered.

His compelling arguments and his compassion and passion actually made it possible to convince the world to condemn the Sudan/Darfur government's role in planning and executing the militia's campaign to kill. His leadership had an indelible impact on African nations.

Congressman Payne shared my belief that the wars we've been fighting for the last decade are dreadful mistakes. He was one of those who stood with us in 2005, when the war in Iraq was still popular, to say no, this is wrong, we have to bring our troops home. But he also understood that it wasn't just about ending war, Mr. Speaker. It was about also leaving something else behind: hope, opportunity, democracy, and human rights.

He knew that the key to ending violence, terrorism, and instability was to build up human capital, to fight hunger and disease, to defend and advance women's rights, to build strong schools, and provide decent health care worldwide.

We've lost Donald Payne. But in his honor, let's not lose sight of the ideals he made his life's work. Let's not lose sight of the goals he fought for so tenaciously.

Because of Donald Payne's example, I will fight forever for peace and for stability worldwide, and believe me, the beginning of this effort will be to bring our troops home from Afghanistan.

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