WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS -- (House of Representatives - December 06, 2005)
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Mr. BRADLEY of New Hampshire. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman very much for yielding.
I would like to thank you for your leadership and your willingness to talk about what is a very important issue for the future of our country and for the future of the Middle East.
Like you, I have traveled to Iraq on two occasions, and I have seen both the problems that our troops are confronting there, but I have also seen the progress. I think it is important when we talk about Iraq that we have a balanced perspective and we look at both those problems and the progress.
There is no question that today was a very difficult day for the Iraqi security forces, as the suicide bomber killed over 40 police recruits, and the U.S. Marines that were killed on Friday by an improvised explosive device. We see those problems every night on our TV, but what we do not see is the progress that is being made.
There was a show on one of the major cable networks on Saturday night, and I would urge anybody that wants to see a very balanced picture of what is going on in Iraq and much of the progress being made to try to watch that show. It spoke of the sacrifice that our troops are making and their commitment of courage, of valor, of sacrifice, of willingness to defend the values of our country, the democratic values and the ability for myself and my colleague tonight to be able to debate this issue, to be able to debate it with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle.
And we should have a debate in this country about the policy of it. But what is also important to remember is that we must support our troops and to support their mission that is so critically important. Much of the debate we have had in this country, Mr. Speaker, revolves around the strategy of how we bring our troops home and bringing our troops home to a job well done. There are two critically important elements I want to talk about tonight, because that strategy is in place, and if it is going to work, we need to follow through on it.
Number one is the continued movement toward democracy in Iraq. On December 15, there will be the third major election. We saw the election in January, where nearly 8 million Iraqis went and defied the terrorist threat of reprisals and killings and murder to vote, to elect an interim parliament. And then more recently, we saw, again, millions of Iraqis go to the polls and ratify a constitution. There was a good political debate in both of these instances, but the constitution was ratified and an interim parliament was chosen. Hopefully, on December 15, a permanent parliament is going to be chosen.
When that happens, that move to democracy, the Iraqi people, much as we have for over 200 years been able to make these kinds of decisions, they will have given birth to an Iraqi democracy. Yes, it will be different from ours in many fundamental ways, but it will be a government that they have created and it will be a government that will lead them through the religious, the tribal, and the ethnic differences that are so much a part of their culture that need to be resolved and have to be resolved through a democratic process.
Now, our troops, those men and women who we see every day on TV and we hear about from e-mails at home, from letters coming back, they are doing a fantastic job of moving the country toward that democracy. As I said, there are problems, there is no question about that, but there is major progress going on. Hopefully, on December 15, we will see another watershed that will lead to the political solutions that will enable the Iraqi people to finally put behind them the murderous legacy of Saddam Hussein, the violence, the many human rights abuses, the barbaric nature of his regime. Hopefully, this move to democracy will enable that to happen.
Equally important, and a very necessary part of the strategy for being able to bring our men and women home is the continued growth of the Iraqi security forces. The first time I was in Iraq was November of 2003 and we went to Baghdad and we went to Tikrit, and to Kirkuk. Kirkuk is what I want to talk about for a moment, because it is an ethically mixed city in the northern part of the Sunni triangle, and certainly an area where there have been some problems over the years.
In November of 2003, we met one of the first groups of Iraqi-trained police officers that were actually in the very beginning stages of starting to provide the security so necessary for their country, and they were one of the first batch of recruits that had gone through the training process and were in uniform, and were going to confront the threats of terrorism in their country. They indicated to us in the clearest possible language that they knew that they would be the subject of attacks. And as they said to us, they were willing to shed their blood, as they have done so many times, to help rebuild their country. That was November 2003.
In April of this year, April of 2005, I had the opportunity to go back to Iraq a second time. At that point in time, there were 150,000 Iraqi security forces, army, border guard, police, and a work in progress, obviously. We had the opportunity to meet with several Iraqi women leaders who told us of the improving characteristics of the Iraqi security forces in April.
There have been many news reports about the difficulty of training the Iraqi security forces, but to hear it from actual Iraqi women leaders, a couple members of parliament, an ambassador, ministers in the interim government that the Iraqi people were beginning to trust and work with the Iraqi security forces, was very compelling to us.
We also heard the same information from General Patreas, who was responsible for the training, the arming and equipping of the Iraqi security forces. What he told us is that they were starting to be able to develop a command and control structure. They were beginning to be able to operate independently without being embedded with American forces, having American forces as backup, and that process was continuing. It is clearly a work in progress. Today, there are over 210,000 Iraqi security forces, and the process is not done.
The point I am making is that starting in November of 2003, when I first was there, to April of 2005, and then today, those Iraqi security forces are making tremendous progress. Yes, it is not perfect. There are continuing issues that have to be dealt with, but the progress is measurable and quantifiable and is receiving the trust and the support of the Iraqi people, real people that we talked to, people who had had their lives threatened, who had had their lives disordered by the regime of Saddam Hussein.
As you know, there are 18 different provinces in Iraq. Fourteen of them in the north and in the south, primarily, are largely stable. Yes, continuing with some problems, but generally stable. The problem areas are that Sunni triangle around Baghdad to Tikrit, Fallujah, and Kirkuk, and those are the problem areas that both the emergence of the Iraqi security forces as well as the move toward democracy, as that grows in Iraq and thrives and the Iraqi people are buying in to the changes, the positive changes, it will enable them to put behind them the legacy of Saddam Hussein as well as some of these tribal ethnic and religious problems.
This is the critical element that Americans need to know is in place and is making progress; that the Iraqi people and our forces are making that progress every day. Is it dangerous? Is it difficult? Absolutely. And our troops there at great sacrifice. Over 2,000 of them have indeed paid the ultimate sacrifice to make this happen, but they continue to be extremely dedicated to their mission.
I had the opportunity to address a group of marine reservists who were being activated on Saturday before they ship off to training and then to Iraq, and their commitment to making this happen was certainly very present for all of us that were there, their family members and their leaders. And I salute this Bravo Company from my home State of New Hampshire and the men and women from our country who have given so much to provide not only for our security, but to improve the situation in Iraq.
We have further to go, there is no question about that, but every day I believe we are continuing to make progress. It is difficult progress, there is no question about that, but December 15 will be a watershed. The Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces will continue to improve. Those two elements are what will allow our men and women to come home having achieved success in Iraq, with a job well done, as we will all say to them as Americans supporting their mission.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for offering me the opportunity to speak here tonight.
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