Friday, February 16, 2007

Dan Boren Comments on Iraq Resolution from the House Floor

I rise today in support of our men and women in uniform and in support of this resolution. Nearly 230,000 Americans are currently deployed to the Middle East, fighting the war on terrorism - 3,000 from my home state of Oklahoma. These men and women are fighting for their country not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans.

I was not in Congress nearly four years ago when the war in Iraq began. But in the two years I have served here, I have not once encountered a colleague who does not support our troops. We have our disagreements over strategy, spending and even the war itself, but when it comes to support for the selfless Americans serving in uniform we are unanimous. For anyone to suggest anything to the contrary just distracts from this serious debate.

As many of my colleagues have already noted, our troops are not the problem. They have done an outstanding job executing the mission they have been given. The problem is with the administration's strategy. We owe it to the men and women of our Armed Forces to pursue a policy that offers them the best possible chance of success - not a plan that repeats past mistakes.

The president's decision to deploy an additional 21,500 American combat troops to Iraq is not the first time we have sent a "surge" of troops into the conflict. In April of 2004, January and October of 2005, and again in October of last year, we saw temporary escalations that provided no long-term reductions in violence.

I am concerned that this latest plan is a renewed effort for more of the same; that does little to encourage the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future. As one general told the Iraq Study Group, "all the troops in the world will not provide security if the Iraqi government does not make political progress." Rather than laying out a plan that establishes solid benchmarks for Iraqi security and the corresponding redeployment of U.S. troops, the president is pursuing a strategy that history shows does not work.

Former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Colin Powell, Commander of U.S. Central Command General John Abizaid, Marine Corps Commandant General James Conway and many other current and former military leaders have said more troops is not the answer.
Our nation's military is already stretched thin. This open-ended plan to increase American troop levels in Iraq would exacerbate the overextension of our armed forces and cripple our ability to respond to other crises around the world. Because we don't know what the future holds, we have to be ready for anything.

U.S. and coalition forces successfully removed Saddam Hussein from power, and the world is a better place for it. But we now find ourselves locked in the middle of an Iraqi civil war. The Iraq of today is vastly different from the Iraq we entered nearly four years ago, yet our strategy remains the same. We need to succeed in Iraq, but we need to redefine what success is.

For over a year now, I have joined Chairman Skelton in his call for solid benchmarks in Iraq. We need a mechanism to measure our progress toward an Iraq that is responsible for its own security. It is in our interest, in Iraq's interest and in the interest of the region to ensure Iraqi personnel are trained and ready to take control sooner rather than later.
Reallocating some of the more than 140,000 troops we already have in Iraq to securing the Iranian border would do more to further our goals in Iraq than sending more Americans into Baghdad.

At the end of the day, military command decisions rest with the commander in chief. This resolution and this debate are not about micromanaging the war, or forcing a withdrawal of troops. Public opinion polls should not dictate war strategy; the facts should. And the facts are that surges haven't worked in the past and experts agree it won't work this time.

The president knows we are all in this together. That's why I was disappointed to see the administration move forward with such a dramatic escalation despite strong, bipartisan opposition in Congress. Without a clear mission or effective benchmarks, it is too big of a gamble to take with so many American lives.

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