GOOD WORK OF OUR ARMED FORCES IN IRAQ -- (House of Representatives - April 05, 2005)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentlewoman from Tennessee (Mrs. Blackburn) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, you know, over the break I had the opportunity to spend some time in the Middle East. And just this past week I have returned from Israel, Jordan, Iraq, visiting with our men and women in uniform, and talking with them about their impressions of how we are doing in the war on terrorism, talking with them about what they see as their strengths and the weaknesses and what we can be doing better.
And, you know, the progress is really remarkable. These men and women in uniform are really remarkable. I had last traveled to Iraq in October 2003, and at that time the coalition forces had removed Saddam Hussein's regime, and the Coalition Provisional Authority governed the nation, and there was still a lot of unrest on the horizon. That unrest is still there, but progress is being made.
Today we have an elected government in Iraq. It is representing Iraq's ethnic and religious factions, and they have peacefully reached an agreement to name a Kurd to the Presidency. There are two Vice Presidents; one is a Shiite, the other a Sunni. They have also agreed that the Prime Minister is a Shiite.
The naysayers said that successful elections would be all but impossible. They said that the people did not want democracy, that they did not understand democracy. But on election day, each and every one of us, everybody on the face of this Earth, saw the long lines, they saw people braving potential terrorist attacks, and in the words of one Iraqi, a Nation was born in front of a watching world. I think that is very true.
They did that. They took those risks in order to vote. The result is a democratic government. And, yes, it is shaky, but it is free, and it is elected, and they are proving the naysayers wrong. They are taking those baby steps towards freedom.
Mr. Speaker, it is clear that many things have changed in Iraq since October of 2003, but, from my observation, one thing that has remained consistent and true through thick and thin is our military men and women, the Armed Forces. These folks in uniform have not faltered, not for an instant, in their dedication to this mission. They have demonstrated an unparalleled level of commitment toward reshaping the nation, the Middle East, and the terrorist network that runs through that region of the world.
Over the last couple of days, I have spent some time on the telephone calling their families, letting them know how proud of them, how much I appreciate their sacrifice, how much I appreciate the families and the support that they are giving their loved ones in uniform. I am also letting them know how much our constituents in the Seventh Congressional District of Tennessee appreciate them. You know, and America needs to know, that the Iraqi people are appreciative as well.
Following Iraq, I was able to speak with a small business owner, an Iraqi woman who had traveled to America about a year ago and shadowed me for a day. And she thanks the American military, and because of the freedom that our men and women in uniform have helped to deliver there on the ground, her Iraqi sisters are now elected officials. Imagine that. A woman in Iraq, many women in Iraq who are holding elected office. It is change. It is a step forward.
While we were in Israel, we talked peace, not just a distant hope for peace generations from now, but of a long-term agreement and soon. This is because of our steady and dedicated commitment to involvement in the Middle East.
In Iraq, we reviewed the Iraqi military training with General Petraeus, who had been the commanding general at Fort Campbell. This American-Iraqi military training is going to help give that nation the protection, the ability to protect from the insurgents who are there every day, growing weaker; but they are there. It will help the Iraqis take responsibility for their security. We have got about 150,000 Iraqis that are trained; and some of our big Tennesseeans, the 278th regiment from east Tennessee, they are working hard, and they are helping train many of the Iraqis.
In Jordan, we visited with the Iraqi police training facility. We have got about 50,000 Iraqis who are now trained, carrying on the work of the police force in Iraq.
When you are there in Iraq on the ground, you cannot help but notice the green fields and the sense that order is taking place to their daily lives, not only in government but also in business.
The progress made in Iraq is sending shockwaves throughout the Middle East. We have seen the Lebanese people resist the Syrian domination of their government. In Saudi Arabia and Egypt, there is movement. It is slow, but there is movement towards democracy.
None of this would have been possible without our military men and women, and it is that change that is going to destroy terrorism.
Mr. Speaker, I just stand today to commend the men and women in uniform, to say a special thanks to our Tennesseeans who are serving, and I know that America joins me in thanking them and their families for their sacrifice, their bravery, and their dedication.