Issue Position: Iraq
During the remainder of this session and into the next session of Congress, my major objective will be to promote a foreign policy that will move our soldiers to strategic positions outside Iraq through the transfer of power to Iraqi security forces.
Four years ago this September I started speaking out against President Bush and his administration's plan to make a unilateral and preemptive strike against Iraq. In 2002 I believed that Iraq was not the preeminent threat to our national security. While sitting on the House Armed Services Committee I heard significant testimony from Intelligence and DOD officials that Iraq was no higher then 7th of those countries posing the most immediate threat to the United States. North Korea and Iran - both of which are pursuing or have attained nuclear weapons technology - are at the top of the list. I believe that America should have devoted its military resources towards finding Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, through Operation Enduring Freedom, which held world-wide support.
FOSTERED NEGLECT AND DEPLEATED RESORUCES
Today the administration still frames our strategy as "staying the course," and still has not brought to justice the al Qaida leadership that planned and executed September 11th. By "staying the course," as Harvard professor and author Graham Allison writes the "occupation has diverted essential resources from the fight against al Qaida, allowed the Taliban to regroup in Afghanistan, fostered neglect of the Iranian nuclear threat, undermined alliances critical to preventing terrorism, devastated America's standing with every country in Europe and destroyed it in the Muslim world." In addition, the expenditure of funds for Iraq have deterred resources from our initial war on terror and has significantly depleted the resources necessary to address the needs of our country including health care and prescription drugs, education, veterans care, and the capacity to fund the development energy solutions.
Rather than blindly continuing on this course, what the nation and our soldiers need now from the administration and Congress is a clearly defined blueprint that lays out the objectives of their mission and provides a plan to bring them home safely, securely and soon.
THE PATH FORWARD
In July 2004, I proposed the strategic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by December 2005. I outlined a five point plan for a path forward in Iraq and the Middle East that included:
* Ending the occupation of Iraq
* Redirecting our efforts to capturing Osama bin Laden
* Combating the root causing of terrorism
* Aggressively pursuing energy independence
* Bringing the leaders of the world's religions together to ecumenically address the futility of terrorism
Over two years later, I remain convinced that this plan was right then and is right now.
Our military mission in Iraq has been completed according to General George Casey, commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq, who stated that our continued military presence "fuels the insurgency" and only "extends the amount of time that it will take for Iraqi security forces to become self-reliant."
The President and Congress now owe our brave men and women in uniform a path forward from the ill-defined policies and mistakes that have left our military at a breaking point. That remedy is the strategic, tactical withdrawal of our forces from Iraq - starting with the soldiers who make up the overextended National Guard and Reserves, allowing our citizen soldiers to return to their vital homeland security role.
REDIRECTION TOWARDS NATIONAL SECURITY
As former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn points out in the docudrama "Last Best Chance," we have failed to secure the loose nuclear materials that can be used by terrorists for a dirty bomb. "We are in a race between catastrophe and cooperation," he said, and cannot let vital resources be needlessly diverted. The sooner we can bring an end to this occupation, the sooner we can redirect our resources and refocus on critical national security needs.
SUPPORT FOR OUR TROOPS
Over the past four years, I have visited Iraq and the Middle East three times and I have seen first hand the courageous work that our men and women in uniform continue to perform. As soldiers, their job is to salute the flag and follow orders not to determine the diplomatic policy of our country. It is time now to change the course of the this conflict and provide actions that can give America and the Middle East a proactive path forward that can lead to a stable and secure future.
To address the problem of providing our soldiers with needed combat equipment I authored legislation, which was written into law as an Amendment to the Fiscal Year 2005 Defense Appropriations bill, to reimburse troops and their families for personnel purchases of combat body armor. This amendment allowed the Secretary of Defense to reimburse American troops serving overseas for body armor they purchased - or was purchased on their behalf by their families or loved ones - because they did not yet have the most up-to-date protective equipment. In addition, I have supported additional expenditures, such as vehicle upgrades, to ensure that our soldiers have the most appropriate equipment if they are to participate in this war.
Over the past four years I have engaged in continual efforts to support our troops and make effective change in the administration's misguided policies. Most recently, I wrote a letter (below) to President Bush demanding he oppose amnesty to Iraqi insurgents by signing onto H.J. Res. 90, which I co-sponsored.
June 26, 2006
The President of United States
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing today to request your support for H.J. Res. 90. This resolution would declare that the United States opposes efforts by the Government of Iraq to grant amnesty to persons known to have attacked, kidnapped, wounded, or killed members of the Armed Forces or citizens of the United States. I have already requested that Speaker Hastert and Majority Leader Boehner bring this resolution to the floor for a vote before the House recesses for the Independence Day District Work Period.
This resolution would send a strong message to the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people that the United States strongly opposes the killing of Americans who are working to promote peace and stability in their nation. With reports showing that 47 percent of Iraqis approve of the attacks on United States forces, this resolution would make it clear to the Iraqi people that committing acts of violence against Americans will not be rewarded with amnesty.
More than 2,500 members of the Armed Forces have given their lives to bring independence to the Iraqi people. Their sacrifices should not be minimized by granting amnesty to these insurgents. As we look forward to celebrating the independence of our own nation, a vote on this bill would tell our troops that the House supports their efforts to bring independence to Iraq and will not stand for their deaths at the hands of radical insurgents.
Just more than a week ago, the House passed a resolution honoring the sacrifices of the United States Armed Forces. H.J. Res. 90 would honor their sacrifices with more than words. With passage in the Senate and your signature, it would honor them by declaring United States policy. It will carry with it the force of law.
I introduced this resolution with forty-nine of my colleagues and it continues to gather more support each day. The House of Representatives strongly supports our troops and honors their sacrifices. Likewise, a number of Senators have voiced support for this policy. I believe this resolution would pass both chambers with nearly unanimous support.
Thank you for considering this request to sign H.J. Res. 90 into law if it comes before your desk. I look forward to your response in the near future.