Betty S Sutton

Statement on the Iraq War - Feb.15, 2007

Betty S Sutton
February 15, 2007— U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC
Congressional floor speech
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Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Throughout the course of our collective history, when our nation has faced its most significant debates over matters of war and public policy, there comes a time when the voices of pundits and politicians need to drop away, and we need to allow the voices of the people to be heard.

Our troops are brave and capable. They have fought heroically, and this resolution makes it clear that those of us who feel it incumbent to speak out in opposition to the President's escalation nonetheless support our troops.

Paragraph 1 of this resolution is unequivocal. It states:

Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq.

All of us and all Americans support our brave troops. But Congress also has a responsibility to provide oversight, to ensure that our brave and honorable troops are provided a mission based on a realistic assessment and an achievable goal before we ask them to risk life and limb to implement it.

The President has asked Congress and the American people to support his plan to escalate our involvement in the war in Iraq by sending an additional 20,000 troops, and that doesn't count the additional 20,000 support personnel that will be part of the escalation.

This war is now almost 4 years long. Congress has not spoken as loudly and as clearly as its responsibility requires. As the Representative of the 13th District of Ohio, I cannot sit silent. I am opposed to the President's plan for escalation, and as such I fully support this Resolution.

The President's own military commanders and experts have advised against this course of action, and in his testimony, General John Abizaid stated before the Armed Services Committee in November of 2006, less than 3 months ago, "I do not believe that more American troops right now is the solution to the problem."

My constituents and the American people have also made their position known. In November, my constituents and people across this Nation voted for a change of direction in Iraq. The plan to escalate is directly contradictory to that call for change. The escalation plan takes us further down the wrong path, getting us in deeper and deeper, with a policy that asks our military to accomplish the non-military mission of creating a viable unified government in Iraq.

But unity in Iraq has to be determined by the people who live there, and the evidence is overwhelming that what our troops are being asked to fix is a sectarian civil war. The Iraqi Study Group, whose advice the President sought, after careful consideration concluded Iraq is in a civil war.

Our nation has paid a high price to provide the people of Iraq with the opportunity to support a unified government. The lives of over 3,000 American troops have been lost, more than 47,000 civilian deaths, and $379 billion spent so far, with another $8 billion spent every month on this war.

Those lives cannot be retrieved. Accountability and oversight require that we make our opposition to the President's plan known. One hundred thirty-nine brave men and women from the State of Ohio have been killed thus far; 14 from my district. I have a responsibility to every one of those casualties and to every one that might lie ahead, and I am here representing their voices, especially those that can no longer be heard.

In the face of evidence demonstrating a military solution is not the solution needed in Iraq, it is time to change direction. The President's plan represents more of the same. We must not send more military troops to address a situation that does not have a military solution. That is how we support the troops. It is not fair or just to do otherwise.

In Northeast Ohio there is a man by the name of Paul Schroeder. In early August 2005, he lost his son, Lance Corporal Edward “Augie” Schroeder II, to the Iraq war. He and 13 other young lives from Northeast Ohio were lost that day. In January 2006, Paul Schroeder shared his thoughts and feelings in a letter printed in the Washington Post entitled, "A Life, Wasted." His letter included the following words:

“…Since August we have witnessed growing opposition to the Iraq war, but it is often whispered, hands covering mouths, as if it is dangerous to speak too loudly. Others discuss the never-ending cycle of death in places such as Haditha in academic and sometimes clinical fashion, as in 'the increasing lethality of improvised explosive devices.’”

Wiping the clinical talk away, Paul Schroeder went on in his letter and shared the painful reality that he and his family faced, a reality that cannot be understood when sanitized by technical or clinical terms. He said:

“Listen to the kinds of things that most Americans don't have to experience: The day Augie's unit returned from Iraq to Camp Lejeune, we received a box with his notebooks, DVDs and clothes from his locker in Iraq. The day his unit returned home to waiting families, we received the second urn of ashes. This lad of promise, of easy charm and readiness to help, whose highest high was saving someone using CPR as a first aid squad volunteer, came home in one coffin and two urns. We buried him in three places that he loved, a fitting irony, I suppose, but just as rough each time.”

The growing opposition to the war in Iraq must not be whispered, hands covering mouths, as if it is dangerous to speak too loudly. Accountability and oversight require more. This resolution rings loud and clear. We support our troops, and we oppose the President's plan to escalate our troops in Iraq. Will the President hear our collective voice? If he does not, it will not be because we sat silent.

Speech from, August 28, 2007.