Statement of Congressman Richard E. Neal in the United States House of Representatives on the Iraq Resolution (H Con Res 63)
(WASHINGTON) MADAME SPEAKER, last Saturday, in my hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts, I spent the day welcoming home 150 brave American soldiers from the 181st Engineer Battalion of the Massachusetts National Guard who recently completed a year-long deployment in Iraq.
Their mission was to provide security for their fellow service members and to protect key military facilities.
The troops from the 181st performed their duty with courage and distinction, earning medals and awards such as the Bronze Star, the Combat Action Badge and the Purple Heart.
As their Member of Congress, it was my great honor to welcome them back home to western Massachusetts and out of harms way.
I am certain that virtually every member of the House and Senate has participated in similar homecoming ceremonies across the country. My distinguished colleagues take their constitutional responsibilities and the duties of their office very seriously.
And while we may have honest disagreements about policy, Democrats and Republicans remain united in our commitment to the men and women in uniform who defend our nation.
We may have differences about the war, but we find common ground today in our steadfast support for the warriors. Both in Iraq, on their way to Iraq and around the world.
And that is one very important reason why I intend to vote in favor of this bipartisan resolution.
But as the war finishes its fourth year, I am concerned about the growing number of troops who may not return to their city or town for a homecoming ceremony.
As the sectarian violence in Iraq escalates, I think about those young service men and women who may not be reunited with their families and loved ones.
And as we debate this resolution, I am mindful of the thousands of soldiers who have sustained injuries while serving their country bravely and honorably.
The burden of this war has fallen our troops and their families. There has been little sacrifice asked of the American people.
And those who have sacrificed deserve a frank and honest debate over how long President Bush intends to keep our soldiers in the region.
As we debate the future of Iraq this week, one thing is certain.
You cannot edit or airbrush history
We know today that there were no weapons of mass destruction.
There was no enriched uranium from Niger.
There was no connection to al-Qaeda.
We were not welcomed as liberators.
Freedom is not on the march.
And more than four years later, the mission has not been accomplished.
Madame Speaker, like the vast majority of Americans, I believe the war in Iraq is going badly and getting worse.
According to the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the overall security situation in Iraq is deteriorating, with 2006 being one of the deadliest years to date.
The war has increased Islamic radicalism worldwide and helped destabilize the entire Middle East region.
And despite the administration's claims to the contrary, the conflict has not made America safer.
By any objective standard, Iraq has descended into something worse than a civil war with American troops caught in the middle.
More than 3,100 soldiers have died since the use of force began in March 2003, with nearly 50 casualties alone coming from Massachusetts. And there is no end in sight.
Yet President Bush, nearly three years after declaring an end to major combat operations in Iraq, is sending another 20,000 troops into battle.
And Vice President Cheney, in the face of insurmountable evidence, continues to declare Iraq a success.
As we debate this resolution today, it is clear that support for the war has reached a tipping point.
The majority of Americans do not support the president's plan to escalate the war in Iraq. According to a USA Today/Gallup poll released this week, 60% of Americans now oppose sending more troops to Baghdad and the Anbar Province.
Our troops no longer have confidence in the Commander-in-Chief. Only 35 % of those men and women in uniform support the president's handing of the war according to the Military Times.
Veterans groups are now demanding that our troops come home.
Our intelligence community, speaking collectively in the recent NIE, believe the future of Iraq is grim.
And most significantly, our distinguished military commanders believe it is time for a new direction.
General Colin Powell, General Anthony Zinni, General John Batiste, General Gregory Newbold and others have all expressed real concern about our future in Iraq. These are individuals who were deeply involved in the planning and execution of the war. And they do not like what they see.
Even the former director of the National Security Agency under President Ronald Reagan, retired Lieutenant General William Odom, acknowledged on Sunday that "the president's policy in Iraq is based on illusions, not realities."
I do not believe public opinion should shape public policy, but no one should underestimate the intelligence of the American people. They are convinced that the "stay the course" policy of President Bush has failed.
Madame Speaker, every member of Congress wants the United States to succeed in Iraq and have our troops come home safely and at the earliest possible opportunity.
No elected representative of this institution would ever seek to undermine our service men and women.
And no one should ever doubt which side any member is on in this conflict.
Since 9/11, Democrats and Republicans have stood together in the fight against global terrorism.
But the facts are clear, the war in Iraq is the most important issue facing our country today. And our constituents are entitled to know where their representatives stand on the way forward.
That is why this discussion is so important.
Just as the debate in 2002 led us into war with Iraq, perhaps the conversation we are having with the American family this week will begin the process of bringing our troops back home.
Nearly five years ago, I came to the floor of the House of Representatives with deep reservations about granting President George W. Bush unlimited powers to authorize an invasion on a sovereign country.
I did not believe Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the United States of America.
I did not believe there was a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda with respect to the attacks of 9/11.
I did not believe the cost of the war would be insignificant, either in dollars or lives.
And I did not believe it would make the Middle East or the United States of America safer.
For those reasons and others, I voted against authorizing the use of force against Iraq.
As we debate this bipartisan resolution, we face many of the same questions today. But my convictions and beliefs have not changed since October 2002.
I do not support the president's plan to escalate the war in Iraq.
I believe it is time to develop an honorable exit strategy.
Our troops should be coming home to their families and loved ones at the earliest opportunity.
I support a new direction in Iraq. And I plan on voting in favor of this important bipartisan resolution.