Madam Speaker, I am proud to be yielded time from a true American hero.
If at any time while I am in the Congress and I am asked to vote to authorize war, I will ask myself two fundamental questions, two caveats to such action. Number one, what are the United States' vital interests? How are our vital interests being advanced? Number two, what is the mission and how is the mission being defined?
I was not in the Congress when the vote to give the President the authority to go to war in Iraq was taken, but as I remember the debate during that vote, it was heavily predicated on the fact that we thought that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and the mission seemed to be principally defined as finding WMDs. It is clear that he had them at one time because he used them on his own people.
However, since we have gone into Iraq, whether it is because they have transited the country or they were destroyed, or whatever the reason, we have not found them.
Then the mission was defined as toppling the oppressor, the butcher of Baghdad, Saddam Hussein. And we have done so. We let the Iraqi courts exercise their due diligence in a court of law, and he is dead now. Good riddance, and hanging was too good for him.
Then we defined the mission as providing a stable framework that would allow the Iraqis to build a democracy because we can all agree that having a democracy in an Arab country in the Middle East would be optimal for the entire world. They have had their elections. They have adopted a Constitution, and they have elected leadership that is in place.
Again, I ask about the United States' vital interests and how we are defining the mission because, Madam Speaker, the mission needs to be understood. It is important that those of us in Congress can understand it, of course. It is important that the American people can understand it. But most importantly, the brave men and women who wear the uniform and are in theater risking their lives and their limbs need to be able to understand the mission.
President Bush has said that the mission is to achieve stability in Iraq, to train the Iraqi forces so that they will be able to stand up so that we will be able to stand down. He says that the so-called surge is a necessary thing to do.
As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I have listened to the testimony from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense as well, about how this surge will work, and in my mind, a surge is a quick, overwhelming show of force. However, as it has been explained to me, this action will have two of a total of five brigades begin to deploy to Baghdad and the Anbar province and then gradually the other three brigades will be deployed as an assessment can be made on how the first two are doing.
I will note that I have read that General Schoomaker, Army Chief of Staff, has said in a closed door hearing that he thought the surge had a 50-50 chance of success.
Madam Speaker, our troops have done everything that we have asked them to do and more, and you cannot blame America for the Iraqis' failure to stop killing one another in a religious frenzy.
I am a product of the Vietnam era. My husband was an Air Force pilot in Vietnam. My county has the largest chapter of Vietnam veterans in the entire Nation, and although I have resisted making any analogy from Iraq to Vietnam, I will make this one personal observation.
From the very beginning of the Iraq conflict, we should have allowed our troops to go in and use overwhelming force; but we were told, no, that we had enough. Those that suggested otherwise were dismissed, and so they micromanaged from the White House, and now I think they are doing the same with this surge. Our troops can win, but they are being held back. They are being micromanaged by our politicians. We are not letting them win, and this is the lesson that I learned from Vietnam.
In Vietnam, we used a graduated response. We held back our troops. We did not use overwhelming force, and after many died, we left the field and I cannot believe in my lifetime that once again we are repeating this mistake.
I support the troops and I support victory. I recognize how incredibly complex this situation is. I recognize that having our troops leave will probably result in a loss of human life that will be horrifying. I recognize that leaving will probably encourage the neighbors to move in to protect their own interests, and I recognize that the war on terror will follow us if we leave.
Yet, recognizing all of this, since the Iraqis will, for whatever reason, not stand up to ensure their own freedom, how can we ask Americans and for how long to continue to do so for them? Either use overwhelming force to win, or get out and do not continue to ask our troops to fight with one hand behind their backs.
Mistakes have been made, as they always are in war; but another lesson that I learned from Vietnam is that the only thing worse than micromanaging a war from the White House is micromanaging it from here in Congress. And this is a time when every Member in this House needs to dig down deep and vote their conscience, knowing that sending the right message to the administration has the very real consequence of sending the wrong message to the troops who so bravely and professionally fight for freedom and liberty and democracy.
Vote “no” on this resolution.