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A ``No'' Vote on NDAA: Let's Protect America by Showing Our Compassion and Honor

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. WOOLSEY. Madam Speaker, now that the war in Iraq is drawing to a close, this is the perfect moment to reset our national security strategy, to change our underlying approach to protecting America.

Unfortunately, on the very day that the President visited Fort Bragg to affirm our full military withdrawal from Iraq, this body approved--without my vote--the National Defense Authorization Act, which will continue to dedicate billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars to warfare and weaponry.

While it's true that the bill represents some modest attempt at cuts, authorizing less than current law spending and less than the President requested, we're still talking about $662 billion in defense programs. $662 billion is a lot of money. It is particularly a lot of money at a time when the House majority won't part with a thin dime to create jobs and is committed to scaling back unemployment benefits.

The NDAA includes funding for the continued prosecution of the war on Afghanistan--a disastrous policy that proves to be a bigger failure with each passing day. We continue to spend enormous amounts of the American people's money on a war the American people don't support, and in so doing, more young Americans are either killed or maimed.

And to what end? For what benefit? For a policy that has emboldened the insurgents, inflamed anti-Americanism, and done little to bring peace, security, and stability to Afghanistan.

The authorization of military spending flies through the Congress while the domestic investments we need to put our people back to work are dead on arrival on the other side of the aisle. The authorization of war spending--exorbitant, excessive amounts of war spending--is rubber-stamped by this body when we could be spending pennies on the dollar to protect America more effectively with diplomacy, development, and other SMART Security tools.

To make matters even worse, the National Defense Authorization Act includes unacceptable provisions relating to the handling of detainees. It grants the President--any President--and the military broad powers to throw a U.S. citizen in jail indefinitely for suspected terrorist ties: without a swift civilian trial, without full rights of due process, without the proper presumption of innocence.

I emphatically reject the idea, Madam Speaker, that defending the Nation requires an assault on civil liberties and the rule of law. Madam Speaker, it makes no sense to say we are defending freedom by undermining freedom, to say we're going to defeat authoritarian forces by adopting authoritarian tactics of our very own.

Just the opposite, in fact.

We protect American interests and values by showing our Nation's compassion and honor--the better angels of our nature and not our darkest instincts.

United States security depends on winning hearts and minds around the world, but we'll never do it with military occupations and repressive detention policies. We'll do it by bringing our troops home and by immediately adopting the principles of a smarter security policy.

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