I rise in opposition to HR 2956 which, while a
well-intended attempt to reduce our nation's seemingly unlimited military commitment
in Iraq, is in so many respects deeply flawed.
I have been one of the strongest opponents of military action against Iraq.
I voted against the initial authorization in 2002 and I have voted against every
supplemental appropriations bill to fund the war. I even voted against the initial
"Iraq regime change" legislation back in 1998. I believe our troops
should be brought back to the United States without delay. Unfortunately, one
of the reasons I oppose this legislation is that it masquerades as a troop withdrawal
measure but in reality may well end up increasing US commitments in the Middle
This is precisely the debate we should have had four years ago, before Congress
voted to abrogate its Constitutional obligation to declare war and transfer
that authority to the president. Some in this body were rather glib in declaring
the constitution antiquated while voting to cede the ability to initiate hostilities
to the president. Now we see the result of ignoring the Constitution,
and we are bringing even more mayhem to the process with this legislation.
To those who believe this act would some how end the war, I simply point to
the title for Section 3 of the bill, which states, "REQUIREMENT TO REDUCE
THE NUMBER OF ARMED FORCES IN IRAQ AND TRANSITION TO A LIMITED PRESENCE OF THE
ARMED FORCES IN IRAQ." However the number of troops are limited,
this legislation nevertheless will permit an ongoing American military presence
in Iraq with our soldiers continuing to be engaged in hostilities.
I also wish to draw attention to Section 4(b)(1), which mandates the president
to submit a "Strategy for Iraq" by the beginning of next year.
This "strategy" is to include:
"A discussion of United States national security interests in Iraq
and the broader Middle East region and the diplomatic, political, economic,
and military components of a comprehensive strategy to maintain and advance
such interests as the Armed Forces are redeployed from Iraq pursuant to section
3 of this Act."
In other words, far from extricating ourselves from the debacle in Iraq, this
bill would set in motion a policy that could lead to a wider regional commitment,
both financially and militarily. Such a policy would be disastrous for
both our overextended national security forces and beleaguered taxpayers.
This could, in fact, amount to an authorization for a region-wide "surge."
Congress' job is to change the policy on Iraq, not to tell the military leaders
how many troops they should have. I have attempted to do this with HR 2605,
a bill to sunset after a six month period the authorization for military activity
in Iraq. During this period a new plan for Iraq could be discussed and agreed.
Plan first, authorization next, execution afterward. That is what we should
be doing in Iraq.
In summary, this legislation brings us no closer to ending the war in Iraq.
It brings us no closer to bringing our troops home. It says nothing about withdrawal,
only about redeployment. It says nothing about reducing US presence in the Middle
East, and may actually lead to an expanded US presence in the region. We have
no guarantee the new strategy demanded by this legislation would not actually
expand our military activities to Iran and Syria and beyond. I urge my colleagues
to reject this legislation and put forth an effective strategy to end the war
in Iraq and to bring our troops home.