Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2007

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: Aug. 3, 2006
Location: Washington, DC

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2007 -- (Senate - August 03, 2006)


Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from California, Mrs. Boxer, for bringing this amendment to the floor at a very important time in our relationship with Iraq.

In relation to Iraq and as to what people in Iraq in political office have said, you can't judge everyone in the country by the statement of one political leader, but the fact that a political leader said the things that Senator Boxer has just described is unnerving.

I would like the Iraqi people to know that when it comes to disciplining American service men and women serving overseas, we are a nation committed to following the rule of law and that we have status of forces agreements with Germany, Japan, and other countries where our troops have been stationed for decades. Under those status of forces agreements, we have an agreement with a host country that if a military man or woman commits a crime, the United States will retain jurisdiction to prosecute that person who is a military member under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

I served in Germany for 4 1/2 years and prosecuted many cases where American service men and women committed crimes against German nationals and civilians in general, and I can assure you that the American military takes very seriously misconduct by its own.

This idea that Prime Minister Maliki suggests that immunity has been given to international forces is, quite frankly, wrong. There is no immunity for an American service man or woman from prosecution for crimes committed in Iraq. But we have an understanding and an agreement at this point in time that when the prosecutions are had, we will do them. We will be the ones responsible for disciplining our troops, just as we do in almost every other country throughout the world. The idea that the U.S. military will retain jurisdiction over crimes committed by service men and women in foreign lands is nothing new. It is the normal course of business.

Given some of the rhetoric coming out of Iraq, it is very important that we need to reaffirm that we will be there to help the Iraqi people achieve democracy, if that is what they want, and to gain their freedom. We have lost 2,500 lives and have been spent $400 billion. So America is very serious about helping the Iraqi people. But we need to be serious--the Senate, the House, and the administration--we need to understand that as part of our commitment to the Iraqi people, there is no need or requirement for us to turn over jurisdiction regarding our soldiers' conduct to the legal system in Iraq. That would be a mistake. We don't do it in any other place, nor should we do it in Iraq.

I can assure you that when people have engaged in misconduct in Iraq and we have found out about it, the soldier, airman, sailor, marine, or whoever is involved is given a trial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, they are provided a vigorous defense, and the trial is something I think we should be proud of in terms of the legal procedures in the military. But when found guilty, they are severely punished. There are a lot of high-profile cases now, alleging murder and rape, against U.S. service men and women, and they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law because we as a nation believe very deeply in the rule of law.

Those who serve in the military believe very much in duty, honor, and country. When a service member commits a crime while wearing the uniform, it is a stain on all those who wear the uniform. That is why the military comes down so hard on misconduct by our own, because you cannot win a war without good order and discipline.

I can assure the Iraqi people and every other nation where we have troops stationed that when our troops misbehave and commit crimes, which happens in any society, we take the obligation to punish those people seriously, and at the same time making sure they have a full and fair trial.

I join the Senator from California. I urge every Member of this body to get on record now before these treaties have to be renegotiated and get ahead of this rhetoric to let everyone know that we are going to be in Iraq trying to help the cause of freedom, but we are not going to turn our soldiers and military personnel over to a legal system that is, quite frankly, not very mature yet. We have never done it in any other country. There is no need do it.

We can with a great deal of assurance tell the Iraqi people--politicians included--that we have a great track record of having people stationed all over the world for decades and that track record is that when our people engage in misconduct found to have been proven in a court law, they are severely punished. I can assure every Iraqi citizen that if something goes wrong on our watch by our military, we will handle it. We have a great track record of handling it. But under no circumstances, in my opinion, should we ever go down the road of changing the rules that now exist. It would be unwise for this Nation to abandon what has worked for over 50 years; that is, retaining jurisdiction over misconduct by military members serving abroad. We have a system that works and, quite frankly, I do not want to change that because the men and women in Iraq have enough to worry about. They do not need to be worried about some court in some province that is not really well constituted coming after one of them.

I yield the floor and urge an absolute 100-to-0 vote.

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