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Recounting Reasons For Voting In Favor Of 2002 Resolution Authorizing Use Of Military Force In Iraq

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. ROTHMAN. I thank the gentlewoman from California.

Madam Speaker, my friends, I was asked by the gentlewoman from California if I would share with my colleagues and with you, Madam Speaker, the process by which I came to the conclusion that America should withdraw all of its troops from Iraq without delay.

Like most Americans, Madam Speaker, when the President said to Members of Congress and the entire country that Saddam Hussein intended to bring weapons of mass destruction to the United States to destroy us, to kill thousands of Americans, that got my attention, especially since it was after 9/11.

I am from northeastern New Jersey, and a great number, too many, of my constituents were killed at the World Trade Center. But nonetheless, as an American, after 9/11 I didn't want to wait to get hit again. If the President of the United States and his entire Cabinet were willing to go before me in closed session, before the country in his State of the Union address, before the United Nations with photographs and other testimony that Saddam Hussein was sending Iraqi agents to America with weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical, to be deposited in our water supply system, to bring smallpox to our Nation, et cetera, then maybe we needed to stop Saddam Hussein and stop him immediately.

Then maybe we needed to stop Saddam Hussein, and stop him immediately.

Again, we were told it was an imminent, immediate threat to the national security of the United States: Saddam, using agents bearing weapons of mass destruction and bringing them on our shores. And so I voted to authorize the President to bring military action against Saddam Hussein.

I think most Americans, Madam Speaker, agreed with me that we didn't want to be caught again off guard, especially if our President told us so unequivocally that these were the facts.

Well, after we deposed Saddam Hussein, removed him from power, Madam Speaker, it became clear to us, most of us and most Americans, and most people in the world, that virtually everything that the President of the United States had told us about Iraq wasn't true. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam had no intention of bringing Iraqi agents to slaughter Americans on our shore and that Saddam had precious little if not zero contact of any significance with any foreign terrorists or anybody who on their own wanted to do something against America.

And so we realized after we deposed Saddam Hussein that we had been led to go to war in Iraq on false statements. I don't believe they were intentionally false, but they were false. And I believe that history will record thereafter, after we gave the President the authority to go to war in Iraq, he and his administration, Madam Speaker, committed historic military and diplomatic blunders.

But, you know, I felt in my heart that, yes, at that point there were no weapons of mass destruction. The reason for going to war had evaporated. But what had we done? Yes, we did a great thing by removing this evil murderous dictator from Iraq as an oppressor of his people. But then because of the botched way it was handled, those people were living amidst looting and insecurity and murder and terrible hardship, and I felt that we had a moral obligation to help the Iraqi people stabilize their country and perhaps give them a way to become a democracy, to live in freedom.

Even though they were a multi-ethnic society that had never enjoyed that kind of freedom, I felt that was our moral responsibility after we had removed their dictator and created such chaos.

Madam Speaker, after the death of more than 3,000 American servicemen and -women, after the more than 23,000 American men and women wounded in Iraq, after more than 3 1/2 years of our Nation being at war with 150,000 troops a year there, and after spending almost one-half a trillion U.S. taxpayer dollars in Iraq, I believe we have met our moral obligation to the Iraqi people; in particular because we have given them a chance in these 3 1/2 years to decide that they will live together in peace, their own neighbor on neighbor, Sunni, Shia and Kurd.

But the Iraqi people have not yet decided that they want to live in peace. And, frankly, our standing there, being shot at and blown up, has apparently not persuaded them to live with their fellow Iraqis in peace.

And we have needs here in America. Homeland security needs, al Qaeda is in over 60 nations in the world planning and plotting against us, and that is a real threat.

Homeland security needs are unmet. We don't inspect 100 percent of the containers coming into our ports; 5 percent. Cargo going on passenger airplanes is not inspected. I could go on and on. Our borders are not secure.

And our military, our brave and courageous and magnificent military, the best in the world, has been depleted, our Army and Marines in particular. Depleted by this 3 1/2 year engagement in Iraq. They have done heroically, but some of them are on their second, third and fourth tour of duty in Iraq. It is time to bring our troops home. We should leave 20,000 or 30,000 in the region in Jordan just in case a foreign nation would want to intervene, but that is unlikely and I will explain that in a second.

But bring our troops home and rebuild our military and deal with our own homeland security needs and deal with our domestic needs in education and health care, balance our budget, and get ready to face the threats that are out there in the world that are real because we still live in a dangerous world.

The President says if we do that, there would be a catastrophe in Iraq. Well, Madam Speaker, over 30,000 died in Iraq last year. Thirty thousand. If you do the math, they only have a country of 25 million. We have a country of 300 million. If you do the math, those 33,000 dead Iraqi civilians, that is equivalent to almost 400,000 civilian American deaths last year.

If that was the case in America, 400,000 American civilians killed in a civil war, wouldn't we call that serious?

What is going on in Iraq today is a disaster already. He says al Qaeda will probably take over. Nonsense. Today you have al Qaeda, who are primarily Sunni members of the Islamic faith. You have Sunni Iraqis killing al Qaeda Sunnis. They don't like foreign fighters in Iraq, whether they be American or al Qaeda.

And the Shia in Iraq are no fans of the Sunni al Qaeda, either. But the folks that they don't like the most in their midst are Americans.

The President says we believe in democracy and we went to Iraq to give them a chance for democracy. This is after there were no weapons of mass destruction and all of the other reasons had changed. He says we should be there to give them democracy, notwithstanding the fact that we are bleeding our own Nation dry of human and other resources.

Madam Speaker, what do the Iraqi people wish us to do? The point of democracy is to allow people to express their will on how they wish to be governed. The Iraqi people, 80 percent of them say: Americans, leave our country. Eighty percent of Iraqis say: Americans, leave our country. Sixty percent of Iraqis today say it is all right to kill Americans.

Madam Speaker, when we leave Iraq, and I hope it is within the next six months, caring only about the safety of our troops as we make this strategic withdrawal and rebuild our military and get ready to face others in the region, know that Iran will be very unhappy that we are leaving. Iran will be very unhappy that we are leaving Iraq.

Why? Because then Iran will have to decide if they go fight on behalf of the Shia members of the Iraqi civil war. Maybe Syria will have to come in on behalf of the Sunnis fighting the Shia because Syria is a Sunni nation.

Maybe Saudi Arabia may have to get in. That won't happen.

When we leave, the regional players in the Middle East around Iraq will finally realize this is their problem that they have to solve and can't continue to stand on the sideline causing trouble.

I appreciate all the time the gentlelady has given me, and I appreciate the opportunity to explain how now for just about a year when I announced to my constituents why I believed it was time for us to withdraw our troops from Iraq, that it is indeed time to do so. It is in America's vital national interest that we do so. It is the smart thing to do for our country. We have other needs to address, including rebuilding our military and getting ready for real threats that face us around the world. And the better results will occur in Iraq and the region after we leave. I thank the gentlelady from California.


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