WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) made the following remarks today on the House floor:
“I thank the gentleman for yielding the time, and I am pleased to join him and certainly adopt his remarks, which I think are fundamental to this debate that will be going on for the next 6 weeks in our country about how we effect Real Security. That is our objective. That is our commitment as Democrats.
“We believe that terrorism is a real threat. We believe that we have a responsibility to confront and defeat that threat. That is our responsibility as citizens, and that is our responsibility as elected representatives.
“I am pleased to join Mr. Schiff, who has been such a leader on national security issues in the Congress; my dear friend from Maryland and colleague Mr. Van Hollen, who has a depth of knowledge and experience in foreign policy issues and national security issues; and my good friend from the State of Georgia, Mr. David Scott. The State of Georgia has historically had leaders in national defense. On our side of the aisle, most recently was Sam Nunn, one of the most extraordinarily able and thoughtful spokespersons for national security.
“Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues for taking this time. Our highest duty as Members of this Congress is to protect the American people, to protect our homeland and to strengthen our national security. We Democrats are proud of our party's strong tradition of leadership in world affairs from Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt to Harry Truman and John Kennedy, indeed to Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton, it will be recalled, most recently marshaled the NATO Alliance, received the imprimatur of the United Nations, confronted the genocide being led by Slobodan Milosevic, defeated and stopped the genocide, stopped the ethnic cleansing, and put Slobodan Milosevic in the dock in trial at the Hague, all without losing a single American life in combat.
“These leaders demonstrated that defending America requires our Nation to marshal the full range of its powers, economic and moral, diplomatic and military, to fight for freedom, to foster democracy, and to defeat tyranny and terrorism.
“I believe that Members on both sides of the aisle are committed to this Nation's security. Any suggestion to the contrary, in my opinion, is either mistaken or quite possibly malicious partisanship. Furthermore, I believe that members of the loyal opposition, in this case us congressional Democrats, have the responsibility to critique the wisdom and effectiveness of the policies pursued by the majority party. That is what our Founding Fathers conceived. That is what our Founding Fathers believed was absolutely essential for the success of our democracy: A Congress and an executive and indeed a judiciary that provided checks and balances, provided thoughtful alternatives to policies being pursued, and provided constructive criticism. The fact is our Nation and our people are not as safe today as they could and should be.
“I accept the fact that we are safer, but I repeat, that we are not as safe as we could or should be. Osama bin Laden, the architect of the worst terrorist attack on America in our history, remains at large. We still have not fully implemented the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, for which the commission itself has criticized us sharply. In fact, Tom Kean, the co-chair, the former Republican Governor of the State of New Jersey, the co-chair of the 9/11 Commission and the former Republican Governor, as I said, of New Jersey, recently stated: ``We are not protecting our own people in this country. The government is not doing its job.'' What powerful words and what a call to attention are Governor Kean's words.
“ Meanwhile, the nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran have increased dramatically in the last 6 years. The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, where roadside bombs have increased 30 percent and suicide bombings have doubled. And anti-Americanism has unfortunately and dangerously risen by substantial proportions. Even former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, who has served this country so honorably in uniform and as a diplomat, remarked last week: ``The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism.''
“That is an extraordinary dangerous condition. We cannot nor should we fight this war against terrorists alone. We must have allies. We must have allies who respect us, who believe that our word is credible, and believe that our leadership is based upon values, insight, good intelligence, and conviction. Without question, Madam Speaker, our continuing military action in Iraq has fomented much of this anti-American sentiment.
“Let me add that I supported the effort to remove Saddam Hussein as the dictator in Iraq. Democrats, however, as the loyal opposition, believe that we have a duty to honestly appraise the gross miscalculations and, I suggest, even incompetence that have plagued Operation Iraqi Freedom from its very start and to offer alternatives.
“The administration ignored the advice of top military commanders and sent far too few troops to accomplish the task at hand. Recall, if you will, that we sent over a half million troops in the fall of 1990 to confront Saddam Hussein and his army in the late winter of 1991. We sent those troops to eject Hussein from Kuwait. We sent a force one-third, however, the size in 2003 not only to confront Saddam Hussein's army but to take control and stabilize an entire nation of 22 million-plus people and to ensure its stability.
“As Tom Friedman of the New York Times has stated: ``If we're in such a titanic struggle with radical Islam and if getting Iraq right is at the center of that struggle, why did the Bush administration fight the Iraq war with the Rumsfeld doctrine, just enough troops to lose, and not the Powell doctrine of overwhelming force to create the necessary foundation of any democracy-building project, which is,'' of course, ``security?''
“The administration, with Mr. Bremer as its viceroy in Iraq, fired police and security forces and oil workers, which increased, not decreased, instability. It initiated the war before making alternative plans when the Turks told us that we could not come in through the north so we could shut the back door to Baghdad. And as a result, many of those in the Saddam Hussein armed forces escaped and were a basis for an insurgency.
“In fact, just this month Brigadier General Mark Scheid revealed that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said he would ``fire the next person'' who talked about the need for a post-war plan. There was no effective plan for post-Saddam Hussein regime nation-building. As a result, chaos occurred.
“The administration failed to properly equip our own troops, Mr. Schiff has pointed that out, nearly 2,700 of whom have given the ultimate measure of sacrifice in this war. All of us in our districts have lost people in this war.
“The administration grossly underestimated the cost of the war at about $60 billion. Today, the war costs stand at five times that amount, in excess of $300 billion. All of that has happened, I suggest to you, Madam Speaker, without significant oversight and appropriate hearings being conducted by this Congress, which is our responsibility to our constituents and to our country.
“The administration hired inexperienced and unqualified political appointees for the Coalition Provisional Authority, as The Washington Post reported on Sunday. And when confronted with concrete evidence of widespread mistreatment of detainees in American custody, the President failed to hold anyone in his administration accountable.
“All of this, Madam Speaker, has undermined the effectiveness of an effort that I supported. Some did not. But whether you supported it or you did not, you must lament the fact that the execution of the policy has been so unsuccessful.
“Madam Speaker, as Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, the former commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, has stated: ``What we are living with now is the consequence of successive policy failures.'' That is not a Democrat or a Republican but a three-star general concerned about his troops, concerned about our country, concerned about the success of an effort given to our Armed Forces.
“The current strategy for our military, our security, and the Iraqi people is neither working nor making us more secure. Our colleague Congressman Skelton of Missouri has pointed out that there is not a single Army nondeployed combat brigade currently prepared to meet its wartime mission. That, Madam Speaker, is an extraordinary assertion and I suggest an accurate one as well.
“Meanwhile, the news in Iraq is equally dire. The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq has concluded that prospects for securing that country's Anbar Province are dim and there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there. Thirty-four people were killed in suicide attacks on Monday in Tal Afar and Ramadi. Fifty-two bound and tortured corpses were found across Baghdad on Friday. And just today General John Abizaid, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, said that the U.S. military will likely maintain or possibly increase current force levels through next spring due to rising sectarian violence and the slow progress of the Iraqi Government.
“Madam Speaker, I want the Iraqi Government to succeed. I want democracy to flourish. I want a robust economy creating jobs and hope for its people to be in place. However, Madam Speaker, the policies that we have pursued have not accomplished that objective.
“Clearly, Madam Speaker, we need a new direction. I believe, as former National Security Adviser Brzezinski has said, that American and Iraqi leaders should jointly consult on a plan to transition from active American leadership and policing and securing Iraq to increasing Iraqi responsibility.
“I do not believe that we should announce an arbitrary timeline, but I do believe that discussions on this transition should be agreed upon and jointly announced.
“In addition, the Iraqi Government, not the United States, should then call for a regional conference of Muslim states to ask them to help the new government establish and consolidate internal stability. I suggest, Madam Speaker, that is in the interest of every regional state in the Middle East.
“Additionally, the United States should convene a donors' conference of European states, Japan, China, and others to become more directly involved in financing the restoration of the Iraqi economy. A stable, secure, and free Iraq is in the best interest of the entire international community; and because it is in their interest, they bear a joint responsibility to effect that end.
“Madam Speaker, this is our last best chance, in my opinion, to salvage success in Iraq. Our commitment there has been unwavering, but it must not be unending. Our strategy, hampered by gross miscalculations by our civilian leadership, is not working; and we believe that we have a duty to advocate for policy changes that will better serve our security interest and this great Nation we love.
“In conclusion, Madam Speaker, I reiterate, Democrats are committed to defending America, making safe Americans, and defeating terrorists who would harm our Nation and undermine our values. Our policies that we are pursuing have not worked. They need to be changed.
“Again, I thank Mr. Schiff for his leadership on this hour.”