Hoyer: "America's National Security Deserves a Real Debate, Not a Republican Charade"
WASHINGTON, DC - The House of Representatives today debated House Resolution 861. The non-binding resolution was sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL). The resolution uses language that attempts to tie the continued American involvement in Iraq to the "Global War on Terror" and support of the American troops. Many believe that this was an attempt by the Republican Party to paint the Democratic Party into a political corner. The belief is that were one to argue against the resolution in favor of withdrawal from Iraq, the Republicans would be able to suggest that the dissenter was weak on national defense and not a supporter of the troopsboth issues that would likely put the representative in a negative light in the eyes of many voters.
This theory is supported by documentation that was written by a key member of the Republican party. In a confidential memo that became public, House Majority Leader John A. Boehner on Tuesday instructed other Republicans that, "during this debate, we need to clarify just how wrong the Democrats weak approach is and just how dangerous their implementation would be to both the short-term and long-term national security interests of the United States." Mr. Boehner continued, "as a result of our efforts during this debate, Americans will recognize that on the issue of national security, they have a clear choice between a Republican Party aware of the stakes and dedicated to victory, versus a Democrat Party without a coherent national security policy that sheepishly dismisses the challenges America faces in a post- 9/11 world."
Some Republicans have split with their party on this issue. In a story in the Washington Post today, the article's writer, Jonathan Weisman, quoted Maryland Republican Wayne Gilchrest as saying, "To me, the administration does not act like there's a war going on. The Congress certainly doesn't act like there's a war going on. If you're raising money to keep the majority, if you're thinking about gay marriage, if you're doing all this other peripheral stuff, what does that say to the guy who's about ready to drive over a land mine?"
House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, who represents southern Maryland, made the following statement today on the House floor in opposition to the Republicans' resolution (as prepared for delivery):
"Mr. Speaker, every Member of this House wants our nation - and our Coalition partners - to succeed in helping the Iraqis establish a democratic government that respects human rights and abides by the rule of law, and to succeed in standing up Iraqi security forces that can maintain order and protect their citizens.
"We pray for the safe return of our brave servicemen and women who are fighting for freedom half a world away, and we applaud their success last week in eliminating the terrorist murderer Zarqawi. The professionalism, bravery and sacrifice of our Armed Forces is awe-inspiring.
"This year - 2006 - should be a year of transition in Iraq. And, it is my expectation that the United States will be able to reduce the American troop deployment over the ensuing months and transfer the risks and responsibilities to the duly- elected government of Iraq.
"Today, it is regrettable that this Republican majority seeks to exploit the critical issue of national security for political advantage. The Resolution before us - like the Hunter Resolution that was debated last December - was drafted solely for political reasons. As Majority Leader Boehner explained, its purpose is an opportunity to create 'a portrait of contrasts between Republicans and Democrats.' For our country's sake and for our troops' sake, the majority should have offered a Resolution that sought unity, rather than division.
"There are provisions in this Resolution, of course, with which all of us agree. I, for one, strongly share the resolve to prevail in the war on terror. However, this Resolution misstates the facts about why the Bush Administration instigated our military action against the Hussein regime in 2003. It paints a picture of Iraq today that does not comport with the reality on the ground. And, it ignores the fundamental responsibility of this Congress to conduct meaningful oversight of the Administration's conduct of this war.
"The political motivations underlying this Resolution have been laid bare, and thus I will be forced to vote 'no.' The American people will not be deceived by this exercise today - which our Republican colleague, Mr. Jones of North Carolina, has labeled a 'charade.'
"The American people know, as Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, the former Commanding General of the First Marine Division, said: 'What we are living with now is the consequences of successive policy failures.'
"The Administration manipulated intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. It ignored the advice of top military commanders and sent too few troops to accomplish the task - and consequently we failed to stabilize Iraq after Hussein was rightfully removed from power. It fired police and security forces and oil workers - which fueled the instability. It initiated war before making alternative plans to shut off escape routes to the north. It had no effective plan to quickly get infrastructure repaired and rebuilt. It failed to properly equip our own troops - 2,500 of whom have given the ultimate measure of sacrifice in this war. It grossly underestimated the cost of the war at about $60 billion, which now stands at more than five times that estimate - more than $300 billion. And, when confronted with concrete evidence of widespread mistreatment of detainees in American custody, the President failed to hold anyone in his Administration accountable.
"Sadly and dangerously, according to the Pew Research Center, the global credibility of the United States has sharply declined. The record of this Republican Congress is no less disturbing. This proud body - the people's House - has abdicated its oversight role and failed to root out waste, fraud and corruption. Nearly $9 billion in reconstruction funds are unaccounted for. No-bid contracts have been awarded to private contractors such as Halliburton. Detainees in American custody have been abused - and in some instances killed. And still, there is no effective oversight of these matters by Congress.
"In the face of one of the most important issues before us, we have been presented with politics as usual - an effort to divide when an effort to unite was in our country's and our armed forces' best interest. I regret that I will have to vote no. I believe success in our efforts in Iraq is important to achieve. But partisanship only impedes the attainment of that objective - an objective hopefully we all share."
Complete information on House Resolution 861
Washington Post - GOP Measure Forces House Debate on War
Media Matters Article Alleging Bias in Media Reporting of Republican Dissent of HR 861