IN SUPPORT OF A CONGRESSIONAL RESOLUTION REJECTING GEORGE W. BUSH'S PLAN TO SEND ANOTHER 21,500 TROOPS TO IRAQ.
February 12, 2007
This week, the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to debate a resolution opposing George W. Bush’s troop build-up plan for Iraq. Although the resolution is non-binding, and although it will not cut funding for the war, it is designed to send a clear signal to the White House that Congress will demand a stronger voice in decisions about the war. That is important in no small measure because this Congress was elected last fall by an American majority that opposes the continuing that conflict.
The resolution will also express support for our troops who are already there, even while it rejects Bush’s proposal to send another 21,500 into that fight. This is healthy, for the well being of both our fighting men and women, and our country itself.
During the years since Bush’s invasion, there are some in this nation who have argued that a debate about our presence in Iraq somehow equates to a failure to support our troops in the field. But just the opposite is true. The people who wear the uniform of the military, especially those in combat, deserve a vigorous and open debate about the wisdom of our policy.
That belief was supported just last week by none other than General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At a Congressional hearing on February 7, Pace was questioned by Rep. John McHugh, a Republican from New York, concerning troop morale. McHugh asked Pace for his honest opinion about how resolutions opposing the proposed troop surge might be received by soldiers in the field. This is what Pace had to say:
“There is no doubt in my mind that the dialogue here in Washington strengthens our democracy. Period,” Pace responded.
To be sure, there are many in Congress – in both political parties -- who do not believe that a non-binding resolution goes far enough. One of them is another accomplished military figure, former three-star admiral Joe Sestak, a newly elected Congressman from our own state of Pennsylvania. Sestak introduced legislation last week calling for American troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year. Funding would be cut off on Dec. 31.
“The nonbinding resolution is a necessary step, but it’s insufficient. But even if it’s a half measure, I will take any measure that moves us further down the line,” Sestak said.
I agree with Representative Sestak that Congress should demand a withdrawal of our troops in a reasonable period of time. They no longer have a realistic objective. We have not been able to prevent the civil war that now rages, and our very military presence inflames the sectarian tensions that have plunged Iraq into chaos.
Yet I also agree with Representative Sestak that for now, even a non-binding resolution opposing an increase in troop levels is an important first step for the Congress to take. Therefore, on the eve of the debate in our nation’s capitol, I would like to state for the record, as I stand here on the floor of the Senate in the capitol building of the fifth-largest state, that I support that resolution. I urge our elected representatives in Washington to support it, too.
I wish the U.S. Senate had voted on a similar resolution as well. There was bipartisan support to do so, but a week ago, debate in the Senate was blocked. Since the Senate did not take up any of the several measures that had been introduced, I would like to take a moment to quote a few passages from one of the strongest resolutions. It was authored by Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska. Hagel is a Vietnam veteran, and one of the Senate’s most consistent supporters of George W. Bush’s policies, on issues other than the Iraq war. He was joined by Democratic Senators Joe Biden of Delaware and Carl Levin of Michigan.
When they introduced it in January, Hagel called it, “a serious resolution put forth by serious people who care about our country.” I will not read the entire text, or even most of it, but I do wish to recite a few passages. Their resolution said, in part:
“Whereas the situation in Iraq is damaging the standing, influence and interests of the United States in Iraq, the Middle East and around the world;
Whereas 137,000 United States military personnel are bravely and honorably serving in Iraq and deserve the support of all Americans;
Whereas an open-ended commitment of United States forces in Iraq is unsustainable and a deterrent to the Iraqis making the political compromises and providing the personnel and resources that are needed for violence to end and for stability and security to be achieved in Iraq;
Whereas the Iraq study group suggested a comprehensive strategy to enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly based on new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region;
Whereas the United States Army and Marine Corps, including their reserves and Army National Guard, their personnel and the families, are under enormous strain from multiple, extended deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan;
Whereas the majority of nondeployed Army and Marine Corp units are no longer combat ready due to a lack of equipment and insufficient time to train, and whereas the United States strategy in Iraq must not compromise the ability of the United States to address other vital national security priorities, in particular global terror networks, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional stability in the Middle East, the nuclear program of Iran, the nuclear weapons of North Korea, and the stability and security in Afghanistan,
Now therefore be it resolved by the Senate that it is the sense of the Congress that:
It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States military presence in Iraq.”
There is more, but I believe the passages that I just read capture the mood quite well. There was substantial bipartisan support for this resolution, and I only wish it could have been debated and brought up for a vote.
Those of us who oppose the war are doing so because we believe that is in the best interests of the country, and because we are trying to support our troops in the way we believe is most important -- by bringing them home.
As of Friday, 3,118 of our soldiers had been killed in Iraq, and 23,417 had been wounded.
Among the fatalities are two Pennsylvania soldiers who died in the same incident October 17 in Baghdad, of injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle. They are Second Lieutenant Christopher E. Loudon, 23, of Brockport, and Corporal Russell G. Culbertson III, 22, of Amity. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.
Thank You, Madam President.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo