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Public Statements

CPC Hour: Iraq

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the gentlelady from California, and I particularly thank you for your astuteness on bringing us together. If I might reflect on memory lane that was very painful, we traveled a lot together, and I think of the moments in history on the Iraq war. The rising up of the American people was powerful, from San Francisco to places in between, to the quarter of a million people that walked down 53rd and 57th Street in New York on a cold morning in January.

People all over America recognized that it was not these brave men and women that you see here. And I brought pictures of wonderful families and men and women who were called to serve who we continue to honor and appreciate. I thought it was important to acknowledge that our soldiers have families. We see it all the time. My district is near Ellington Field, and it is increasingly becoming a base utilizing the talents of young Americans who are willing to volunteer. So I take this 10th anniversary, as well, to pay tribute to them and those who still serve in foreign fields around the world. We know that they still serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So we come here today on the 10th anniversary simply to ask the question: Why? And when we ask the question why, it is not a selfish question on behalf of Members of Congress. It is a question on behalf of those brave men and women who, no matter who calls them as Commander in Chief and for what cause, they accept the cause. For that reason, it is imperative that we understand the battle into which we send them.

In the Iraq war, it was alleged there were weapons of mass destruction. We have come to a fairly complete conclusion that there were no such weapons. We all knew Saddam Hussein, and none of us adhered to his despotic and horrible governance. But I will tell you, my colleagues thought the same thing, that our approach should have been different. The bloodshed not only of the young men and women that you see here, some of their comrades were lost, but the millions, the numbers of Iraqi people who themselves, their lives were lost and of course still continue to be in danger.

The Iraq war saw more than 4,400 brave men and women who wore the United States uniform make the ultimate sacrifice, and tens upon tens of thousands who in actuality were wounded. Over 32,000 of the men and women who came home suffered wounds. But as we know, those numbers have risen. Some 3,000 of the wounded call Texas their home, 500 lost their lives. We know the scars that were left on families--mother, fathers, children, and wives. We realized that we needed to make a better judgment.

As the tragedy unfolded in Boston, one of the emergency physicians, one of the medical professionals, said they knew exactly what it was because they had been to Iraq, and they understood the sound of the IEDs. How many of our brave men and women encountered these makeshift IEDs that tore through their body and either killed them or completely amputated or caused the amputation of their arms or legs and the disfigurement of their face. We see them now. We call them wounded warriors. We call them heroes, and certainly those who followed in Afghanistan.

But this 10th year reminds us to ask: Have we made the progress that we should have? The gentlelady spoke of the moneys, $800 billion that has directly contributed to the Nation's deficit, and the amount of money that was supposed to be used for restoration; and because there was no infrastructure in Iraq, we made our Army personnel be the little government.

We made soldiers be the ones that had to interact with the village leaders and the chiefs, and carry monies to them. No, nothing accounted for; just good intentions, following orders. But we cannot account for those dollars. We don't know if they made a difference. We don't know if they helped bring Iraqis home. We don't know if they helped build schools or hospitals.

So I think it is important to note that when we make decisions regarding war, we need to think about soldiers holding their families and loving their families. We need to think about the better way to go, and we need to ask those whose war we fight--Saddam Hussein is gone--the people whose war we fight, the conflict between the Shiites and Sunnis.

We need to understand our history as to whether or not a war that would see the loss of all these brilliant young people, divide families, whether or not we can bring some measure of peace, some comfort, some stability.

And I'd venture to say today that we have not. And I say this to the head of Iraq, the leader, Mr. Maliki, for his participation in the ongoing conflict in Iraq, because that is the case.

There is no coming together of the Shiites and Sunnis. There is a cluster of a government that hides in the walls, that does not go out and try to bring peace to the people. And I give you one example, Mr. Speaker, that troubles me over and over again--it is the Iranians who left Iran.

We know the conflicted issues and alliances were all, if you will, misunderstood; old alliances, friends and enemies. We understand that. But this is supposed to be a peaceful nation now, and there are Iranians who fled the despotic Iran, and have become, in essence, enemies of Iran.

They started out in Camp Ashraf. They were called rebels and terrorists. They have now been vindicated, and they're not called that anymore.

But let me tell you what the present government of Iraq allows. They allow, in the camp that was Camp Ashraf that is now Camp Liberty, bombs to go in from the Iraqi soldiers. They allow no medical care to come into that particular camp.

Just yesterday, the Friends of Iran, American Iranians were here, and they had 10 people or more, their faces, who had died in that camp because the government of Iraq, the government that we shed blood for, that we asked to be a peaceful nation, is, in essence, attacking people on their soil who are unarmed, who are not interested in war, who fled because they'd been persecuted.

And they don't allow them to get access to cars, access to hospitals, and so people die from sicknesses because they could not get care.

When we go into battle and send our troops into battle, shouldn't we ask the question of what is the ultimate result?

We understand that democracy in its structure that is here in the United States cannot only be the structure that fits every community, every nation, every faith. But what I would say to you is that we bring one of those C-130s, big C-130s that many of us have rode on to go into Iraq. And I spent many hours there, nothing in comparison, of course, to those who served, but I'm grateful I had the opportunity to go and serve and see those individuals who served, and to sit down with those from Texas and to break bread with them.

When we land one of those C-130s, why don't we know, and shouldn't we know our purpose, our goal, what is our ultimate direction that we would like to see?

Not the dominance of the United States over this nation that we help but to be able to know that they, too, stand for democracy and peace.

I want to thank the gentlelady from California for allowing me to share this time with her, and to say, it's important to remind us of the 10th anniversary, one, to say thank you, for when we land these C-130s and these men and women come out ready for battle, they are wearing our uniform and our flag but, at the same time, we must ask the question, for what? For what results? For what long-range results? For what peace? For we owe that to them.

I ask that we consider those in Camp Liberty and we find relief for them. I thank the gentlelady very much.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in solidarity with my fellow members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to speak in recognition of the 10th Anniversary of the Iraq war. I want to thank my colleagues, Representatives Lee and Waters for anchoring this Special Order.

On March 19, 2003 President Bush launched invasion of Iraq ten years ago under a cloud of questions about the motivations for the invasion. Today we see the toll of this war on our young military men and women, their families and communities across our nation.

First and foremost, I would like to thank our troops who served in the Iraq war, but more broadly I would like to thank all members of the armed forces for their courage and heroism under circumstances that few of us could imagine. As members of Congress we have, regardless of our view of the wisdom of entering into armed conflict with Iraq, have always stood in strong and unwavering solidarity with our troops.

Part of our role as representatives in Congress is to give voice to the plight of our constituents that include men and women in the armed forces--many of them served tour after tour after tour without break; and in the beginning of the war had insufficient equipment to protect them from IEDs which cost the nation countless lives and left many with traumatic life changing injuries.

We cannot forget their sacrifice and heroism in the face of what was asked of them. In April of last year the great city of Houston, which I am proud to represent, hosted a Bayou City-style parade honoring the homecoming of the American troops. This gesture of thanks defines the support that Houston has for our troops in any situation.

During the course of the Iraq War more than 4,400 brave men and women in uniform made the ultimate sacrifice and over 32,000 were wounded. Of these brave men and women more than 500 of the fallen and 3,000 of the wounded call Texas their home.

In 2003 I fought with many of my colleagues in the Congressional Progressive Caucus to ensure that the order to proceed with the Iraq War did not pass the House, but our efforts were not successful.

Although we have withdrawn from Iraq it is imperative to understand that the withdrawal is not synonymous with the end of the war on terror. It has been my stance since the beginning of the war that there are different steps that must be taken to combat terror--which include diplomatic and humanitarian efforts.

The war also had an economic cost to our nation, which we are still paying and will continue to pay until our colleagues on the other side of the isle resolve to battle the economic threat at home with the vigor of the fight against a less than creditable threat many thought they saw in Iraq 10 years ago.

The monetary cost of the war exceeded $800 billion, which directly contributed to the nation's deficit that is now trying to be mended by the Sequester. More worrisome, the long terms costs from the results of the war are expected to exceed $3 trillion.

Since our withdrawal, insurgencies have erupted across the country of Iraq. Iraq has been seen to gravitate towards Iran, a nation that has openly been hostile towards U.S. mission, and one that has proven to be a source of destabilization in the area.

The remedies to these issues once again come from intelligence and diplomatic channels that do not include invasions like the one the United States so hastily entered into with Iraq.

The tactical withdrawal from Iraq can be seen with some high regard as a template for how to end the war in Afghanistan, and exit the region safely and decisively. As a nation we must turn away from this past decade of occupying countries in the name of fighting terror. These endless occupations delay the creation of opportunity within our own nation, which must be one of the priorities as we attempt to overcome the economic hardships facing the nation.

In closing, I would once again like to extend my deepest gratitude to our troops fighting across the nation on the 10th Anniversary of the Iraq War, and would like to thank my Congressional Progressive Caucus colleagues again for hosting this event.

In this post-Iraq time we must turn our attention to helping' our men and women who have fought bravely overseas to ensure our freedom and the promotion of democracy.

Earlier this week a new Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic was opened in the Houston area, which will shorten the distance between Houston veterans and the care they need. The nearly 30,000 square foot establishment provides primary health care, mental healthcare, women's specialty care, x-rays, optometry, physical therapy, occupational therapy, ENT (ear, nose and throat) and audiology. The new center will have a fully operational laboratory by July, as well as a visiting cardiologist and surgical physician's assistant for minor procedures.

The new clinic is expected to service 7,000 to 8,000 veterans within its first year of operation and create more than 50 paying jobs.

The Houston area clinic is one of many Community-Based clinics that have been established in response to the growing number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans returning from war. It is vital that we keep these veterans, and current soldiers, in mind as we develop policies to ensure their care and wellbeing.

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