WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of the Responsible Redeployment from Iraq Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Mr. Speaker, I have said it before many times on this House Floor and I will say it again today: every member of this great body - who swears an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic - is committed to fighting and defeating terrorism. Any suggestion otherwise demeans our discourse, and is beneath the dignity of the members of this institution and the American people.
"After nearly four and one-half years in Iraq - a war that has been incompetently prosecuted by this Administration - this is what our nation has to show for its efforts: More than 3,600 brave American servicemen and women have been killed in action. More than 26,000 others have been maimed and injured. The American taxpayer has spent $450 billion on this war - with a pending request by the Administration for another $147 billion.
"And yet, the President's Iraq policy is failing.
"Just today, the Administration released the 'Assessment Report' on Iraq demanded by this Democratic Congress. The bottom line is, the Iraqi government has failed to meet a single one of the 18 security, political and economic milestones of success.
"Perhaps most jarring, the Administration rates as "unsatisfactory" the number of Iraqi security units capable of operating independently. The report states: 'There has been a slight reduction in units assessed as capable of independent operations since January 2007.'
"While the Administration and Congressional Republicans try to put a positive spin on the so-called 'progress' in Iraq, other respected voices are not so optimistic.
"Yesterday, Thomas Fingar, the Deputy Director for Analysis at the National Intelligence Council, told the House Armed Services Committee that there have been 'few appreciable gains' in Iraqi political progress.
"Even General David Petraeus, our top Commander in Iraq, told the New York Times that 'while some measures of violence showed a downward trend, it was too early to suggest that there had been a lasting turnaround in the war.'
"Mr. Speaker, last January, in an address to the nation, President Bush stated: 'America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.' Today, the President shows no intention of changing course even as the Iraqis fail to meet those benchmarks.
"Our fight against terrorism must be tough - but it also must be smart.
"And, it is long past time that we recognize -
The President's stay-the-course strategy is failing;
The Iraqis must take responsibility for their own country;
This war has severely diminished our military readiness and diverted our attention in the war on terror; and
We must change course by voting for this legislation - which calls for a responsible redeployment of American forces in Iraq, and a comprehensive plan for U.S. policy in Iraq and the broader region.
"We must have a specific strategy for missions our remaining forces would undertake, as well as plans to engage Iraq's neighboring states and to locate and eliminate al-Qaeda and allied terrorist networks which seek to destabilize and destroy the United States and other democracies.
"Mr. Speaker, the American people - and an increasing number of our friends on the other side of the aisle - have lost confidence in the President's Iraq strategy because we have yet to see demonstrable, sustainable progress in that nation.
"Our troops have done everything we have asked of them.
"But as Senator Domenici told the Baltimore Sun yesterday: 'there's no reason to wait . . . [I am] trying to tell [the President] that he must change his ways because there is nothing positive happening.'
"Let's change our strategy, and demand that the Iraqis step up and be responsible for their country. Let's responsibly redeploy our troops. And, let's focus our resources and efforts on disrupting and destroying the terrorist networks that threaten our national security.
"This legislation allows us to accomplish this mission. I urge my colleagues - on both sides of the aisle - to support it."