Rep Woolsey Amendment to Defense Authorization / 05-25-05
Text of Debate on Amendment (vote follows):
AMENDMENT NO. 26 OFFERED BY MS. WOOLSEY
Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.
The CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
The text of the amendment is as follows:
Amendment No. 26 Offered by Ms. Woolsey:
At the end of title XII (page 427, after line 11), insert the following new section:
SEC. 1223. WITHDRAWAL OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES FROM IRAQ.
It is the sense of Congress that the President should--
(1) develop a plan as soon as practicable after the date of the enactment of this Act to provide for the withdrawal of United States Armed Forces from Iraq; and
(2) transmit to the congressional defense committees a report that contains the plan described in paragraph (1).
The CHAIRMAN. Pursuant to House Resolution 293, the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Woolsey) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Hunter) each will control 15 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Woolsey).
Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Chairman, I thank the members of the Committee on Rules for making this important amendment in order. It has been a long time coming for Congress to discuss this war in Iraq and how we will plan to end the terrible suffering it is causing our troops, their families, and the Iraqi people.
First and foremost, I honor and I support the brave men and women who are serving our country in Iraq, and I believe that the best way to support them is to establish a plan to bring them home.
In just over 2 years of war, more than 1,600 American soldiers and an estimated 25,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed. The number of American wounded, according to the Pentagon, is greater than 12,000, and that does not even count the invisible mental wounds they are bringing home, afflicting tens of thousands of our soldiers.
And, of course, with more than $200 billion on the line, do the Members not think that the American people deserve to know what the President plans to do in Iraq?
I also honor the many voters who risked their lives to ``give Iraq back to the Iraqi people.'' But our continued presence in Iraq after the election has caused America to be seen by the Iraqi people as an occupying power, not as a liberating force. Our continued presence in Iraq works against efforts for democracy, provides a rallying point for angry insurgents, and ultimately makes the United States less safe.
My amendment expresses the Sense of the Congress that the President
must develop a plan to bring our troops home and that he must submit this plan to the appropriate committees in Congress. We can truly support our troops by bringing them home.
At the same time, withdrawing U.S. troops must not result in abandoning a country that has been devastated. We must assist Iraq, not through our military but through international humanitarian efforts to rebuild their war-torn economic and physical infrastructure. We need to defend America by relying on the very best of American values, our commitment to peace and freedom, our compassion for the people of the world, and our capacity for multilateral leadership.
Mr. Chairman, Congress must support our troops, and we must begin the difficult recovery process from a long and destructive war. But first, the President must create a plan to bring our troops home. Our troops deserve nothing less.
Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. HUNTER. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to the gentlewoman's amendment.
Make no mistake about it. This amendment is a message-sender. It is a message-sender to people like Al Sadr who are considering even now continuing to foment rebellion against the elected government in Iraq. It is a message-sender to Zarqawi and his followers, who think that perhaps the United States does not have the stomach to continue to oppose them. It is a message-sender to our troops, who might, in seeing if this amendment should pass, feel that the resolve of the American people is fading away.
This is precisely the kind of a message we do not want to send to friend and foe alike, and certainly not to the 140,000 Americans serving presently in Iraq, who feel that the country is strongly behind them.
Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Kentucky (Mr. Davis).
Mr. DAVIS of Kentucky. Mr. Chairman, I speak not simply as a Member of Congress, but as a former enlisted soldier and military officer.
I find myself somewhat dismayed that we have to spend time here today debating an amendment that would tell our enemies when our forces are going to withdraw from Iraq. This amendment is tantamount to posting a billboard saying, ``We will be gone by 5 o'clock Friday. If you wait until 6 o'clock, you can perform a murderous rampage through this growing democracy and terrify and intimidate the people back into living under a despotic regime.''
I respect the gentlewoman's passionate declarations regarding tolerance, diversity, and the rights of women, all of which would be ruthlessly, violently, and murderously suppressed if we were to leave at this time, something I am sure she would not want to see happen.
Some might argue that this amendment does not set a timetable, but rather states that Congress just wants to see a plan. The amendment, some would argue, is innocuous. I cannot stress enough how damaging this amendment would be, if it passes, to our troops, to our national security, and also to the Iraqi democracy.
Our troops in the field look to us for strength and solid, confident, unwavering leadership. If this passes, they would instead see a government that does not possess the fortitude to hold the course and finish the job. If this passes, their families would see a Congress that cares more for timelines and wordy resolutions than it does for the safety of their loved ones.
We also need to understand how others will see this around the world. If this passes, the Iraqis, who every day put their lives on the line to form security forces and battle terrorists in their streets and in their neighborhoods, would see a military that is not committed to training them to defend themselves. They would see an America that broke its promise to walk with them to democracy and independence.
If this passes, the world would see a country that takes no pride in its role in establishing a free Iraq, one that confirms the lies of the terrorists that we are weak and lack the fortitude and resolve to finish this mission.
Are we going to let less than 1 percent of the Iraqi population dictate our course and the course of the Iraqi people? I say no. Our enemies would stand up if this passes and cheer the moment it is passed because they would know that we will desert the Iraqi people who have invested their blood to defeat.
Mr. Chairman, we will not abandon a people who have so willingly given of themselves for the dream that we can help them achieve. Mohandas Gandhi said, ``The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within.'' The people have democracy in their hearts. They can feel it within their grasp. They can look up and see it shining near them. We just have to stand and give them a hand to reach for it.
It is all the more distressing to me that we would consider this amendment so close to Memorial Day, a day when we honor the courage and the valor of our veterans, especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. We can all sleep better at night because of the blood shed by ordinary heroes who believe their government supported them and believe they were doing the right thing.
I recently spent 3 days visiting with numerous units of the United States Special Operations Command. Their valor, their commitment to protecting our freedom is insulted by bringing forth this amendment so close to Memorial Day.
I ask my colleague to join me in opposing this amendment in honor of those who have gone before us and in honor of those whose names we do not yet know, but will learn as we read of their sacrifice.
Let our foes understand one thing. Our exit strategy from Iraq is simply this: winning the war on terror. We must hold firm to the course and be resolved in our determination to win this fight.
I ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to stand with us today and reaffirm our commitment to our troops, to their families, to our country, to the Iraqis and to our enemies that we will not retreat in the face of this evil.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Chairman, I am proud to yield 2 1/2 minutes to the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Jones).
Mr. JONES of North Carolina. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the gentlewoman for yielding me this time.
Mr. Chairman, I want to say to my side, my leader on the Committee on Armed Services who I have great respect for, this is not about our troops. This is about a policy, that I believed when I voted 2 years ago to commit the troops that I was making my decision on facts. Since that time, I have been very disappointed in what I have learned about the justification for going into Iraq. Afghanistan, absolutely. We should be there. We should probably have more troops. But we cannot have more troops when they are in Iraq.
Mr. Chairman, with regard to this effort by the gentlewoman from California, we have never voted one time together, not one time in the 11 years I have been here. But, Mr. Chairman, I have beside me a picture of a young man whose name is Tyler Jordan. His daddy was a gunny sergeant killed two years ago, Phillip Jordan. He has under his arm the flag that was over the coffin.
To my left are just a few faces of those who have died for this country. They died doing what they thought was right for America, and God bless them.
But all this amendment does is just say that it is time for the Congress to meet its responsibility. The responsibility of Congress is to make decisions whether we should send our men and women to war or not send them to war. What we are saying here tonight is we think it is time for the Congress to begin, to start the debate and discussion of what the exit strategy is of this government, whether it be 2 years down the road, 3 years down the road, or 1 year.
Mr. Chairman, what I am saying tonight is we have a responsibility. We should not be into some endless, endless war in Iraq, when we have so many other countries that we need to be watching much more carefully than Iraq. So I hope that this resolution passes and we can start meeting our responsibilities of discussing the policy for America.
Mr. HUNTER. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from Michigan (Mrs. Miller)
Mrs. MILLER of Michigan. Mr. Chairman, I thank our great chairman of the Committee on Armed Services for yielding.
Mr. Chairman, I would urge all of my colleagues to oppose this amendment because it is totally unnecessary. In fact, no one who has ever studied at a war college, no one who is a combat commander, no military strategist, no one who really wants to achieve victory, would ever support what this amendment is asking those of us in the House to support here today. Besides, we already have a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, and that is when we have achieved victory, that is when we have helped to deliver freedom to the Iraqi people, and that is when we have secured a foothold for liberty in the Middle East.
My question is this: Did we ask General Eisenhower for a plan for the withdrawal of the forces from Europe before the war was won? Of course not. And I would ask this: Did we ask General McArthur for a plan for withdrawal in the Pacific before the war was won? Of course not.
Mr. Chairman, it makes no sense to telegraph our plans to the enemy. In fact, that would be an incredibly dangerous thing for us to do. But our enemies should know this: America will not cut and run. And to the Iraqi people, I would say this: liberty, democracy and freedom are coming, and the men and women of the American Armed Forces, God bless them, will help you achieve all of them.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern).
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of this amendment. This is a very modest amendment. As a sense of Congress provision, it is a recommendation from Congress, not a requirement. It sets no date by when the President must present a plan to Congress, just as soon as it is practicable. I cannot imagine why anyone would oppose this language.
Currently, we have close to 140,000 uniformed men and women in Iraq. No matter where you stand on the question of Iraq, we owe it to these courageous men and women, and to their families, to let them know when and how we will bring them home to stay.
Mr. Chairman, it is easy to start a war; but it is hard to get out of one. It is easy to go along and accept the military occupation. It is a lot harder to take an honest look at where we are now and determine when and how we are going to get out. But that is what we need to do, and we need to do it now.
As a Congress, we should be ashamed that we have not demanded such a report from the President. This is the least we can do, to suggest that he send one.
There has been no accountability with regard to this war, and this Congress has been all too content to just go along with an open-ended occupation. It is time we change that complacency. It is time we do our job. Support the Woolsey amendment.
Mr. HUNTER. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 3/4 minutes to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Conaway).
Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Chairman, I thank the chairman of the Committee on Armed Services for yielding me time.
Mr. Chairman, I would speak today in strong opposition to this amendment of my colleague from California. First, let me say that I certainly understand their concern about the safety and well-being of our dedicated men and women of our Armed Forces who are currently deployed in Iraq. I, too, look forward to their safe and expeditious return home to the United States and to their loved ones.
However, I cannot support this amendment, as I believe it sends exactly the wrong message concerning our current commitment in Iraq and gives aid and comfort to those who oppose us.
Mr. Chairman, I am concerned that passing this amendment will send a clear signal to the insurgents in Iraq that Congress, and by extension the United States, is wavering in our commitment to their defeat. Doing so would create the impression that their terrorist tactics are working and that a U.S. withdrawal from the region is imminent.
The last thing we want to do is create a new burst of enthusiasm for the misguided causes championed by the insurgents and al Qaeda. Establishing a plan for withdrawal would give those groups the hope that they are wearing down our resolve when, instead, we need to be clear in our commitment to defeating the insurgents in Iraq.
Further, I believe that this amendment would serve only to discourage those Iraqi citizens who are dedicated to building a stable and secure democracy and defending it against terrorist factions. The coalition forces involved in the Multinational Security Transition Command in Iraq are working hard to build and train a competent Iraqi security force capable of defending their government and aiding the transition to democracy. Thus far, they have demonstrated initial success, as evidenced by the ISF's role in securing polling locations during the January elections.
It is imperative that we continue to mirror their commitment and remain dedicated to the stabilization efforts as they work toward the ultimate goal of a free and democratic Iraq. This amendment would, in my opinion, undermine the Iraqis' confidence in our continuing support.
Mr. Chairman, I think it is important to stress that we in Congress, in addition to the President and the Department of Defense leadership, do not want to maintain a U.S. military presence in Iraq one day longer than is necessary. Clearly, the goal is to bring our troops home as quickly and as efficiently as possible. However, we cannot do so until we succeed in enabling the Iraqis to defend themselves, secure their borders, and ensure the success of this new democracy.
We agree there are certain milestones that must be met before we can in good conscience withdraw our forces from Iraq. It is not prudent to set an arbitrary date or timeline about which we can only speculate. While my colleague's amendment does not specify specifically a required date or timeline, I believe any formal plan would be misinterpreted and would send the wrong message.
As the President has stated, ``It is inappropriate to put a specific timeline on the ultimate goal of ensuring that the Iraqi people can take care of themselves, protect themselves and provide for their fellow citizens.''
Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues to vote against this amendment and send a message to the Iraqi forces and the Iraqi people, as well as to the insurgent groups, that the U.S. Congress and, by extension, the United States of America, is fully committed to the establishment of a stable and secure democracy in Iraq.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Kucinich).
Mr. KUCINICH. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentlewoman from California for yielding me time.
The reason I am rising to support her amendment is because I think that we have come to a time in the war in Iraq where Democrats and Republicans alike need to consider all the events that have transpired, to do it in a way that is compassionate for the decisions that were made to send us into war, and to do it without recriminations, without challenging each other's integrity, without challenging each other's love for our country or support for the troops.
Democrats and Republicans came together to send this country to war. We can only come together to take this country out of Iraq. You start to see the signs that make it so apparent that the time is near. The time is near when this Congress must consider the reality facing our troops, the reality of the circumstances which sent our troops into battle. And we need to do this as colleagues who may have started from different points of view on Iraq. I certainly have a different point of view. I voted against the war. But now we are starting to see people who voted for the war coming forward and expressing their concerns.
We have to have that capacity for rational reflection and an ability, not to say so much that we were wrong, but to say we have new information and we therefore have a right to reappraise the situation and take a new direction. The Woolsey amendment gives us a chance to do that, and it sets us on a path.
So whether it is the Woolsey amendment or something that happens in the next few weeks and months, Democrats and Republicans are going to have to come together to help the President get out of the mess that this country is in.
So I think we can proceed in a spirit that is amicable. We do not have to be beating each other up on this. We do not have to have a war about war, or certainly a war about a peaceful withdrawal.
So the Woolsey amendment is an important step in the direction of setting this country on a path towards extricating ourself from Iraq. For that reason, I support it, and I want to commend her for her activity on behalf of it.
Mr. HUNTER. Mr. Chairman, I yield 4 minutes to the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Buyer), a veteran of Desert Storm and the chairman of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
Mr. BUYER. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me time.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to this amendment because of its timing. It is wonderful to talk about an exit strategy, if in fact it was timely to do so. But I oppose the timing of this conversation and debate.
As a Nation and society committed to freedom and democratic principles and peace, I believe this amendment at this time would undermine our core values and the mentorship that we are having with a new, free country.
When the President declared the global war on terrorism and Congress authorized the use of force in Iraq, the United States made a significant investment in world peace. Like any sound investment, our investment in peace is subject to volatility and outside influences. The forces of evil that oppose the U.S. liberation of Iraq are the same forces in Iraq that want to suppress women and children, kill innocent people, attack schools, hospitals and religious institutions.
Asking for an exit strategy for U.S. forces at this time is essentially calling it quits, and that is not the America I know. I believe that peace and freedom are inextricable and inseparable. Forsaking the Iraqi people in their hour of need is counter to the fabric of this great Nation.
As a newly established free society, the Iraqi people are in their infancy of establishing the rule of law. Like the birth of any nation, there will be growing pains and unpleasant and tragic events. But let us be very clear: it has been the United States and our coalition partners that have given the Iraqi people hope.
So this debate with regard to setting an exit strategy or a timetable for withdrawal, again, is not timely. It would be arbitrary. It is the mission that determines the exit strategy.
Mr. Chairman, the debate we are having here really is not too much different from the debate we had during the Balkans, at the time when President Clinton, to his credit, brought the guns to silence. But what he said was, ``I want to commit U.S. ground troops for only 1 year.''
The Republicans immediately said, But, Mr. President, that is not an exit strategy. You cannot say we will only send the troops for 1 year, because it is the mission that will determine the exit. The exit then was determined in the civil implementation of the Dayton Accords by creating benchmarks for the success of the implementation of Dayton.
So it is the mission with regard to stable civil institutions in achieving benchmarks of that free society in Iraq that will determine the exit strategy. The stabilizing of Iraq is extremely important. The training of their security forces is extremely important. And I assure my friends that the more that the insurgents attack security forces and police forces in Iraq, mosques, schools, innocent people within Iraq, it builds the esprit of the Iraqi people themselves, who are a very proud people, that they want to take these insurgents who are not of their land, not of their people and expel them from their land. I assure my colleagues that they equally, at that moment in time, will be just as eager for us to come home.
So it is the mission that will determine the exit strategy. This amendment, while worthy and noble in its cause, is just not timely and, therefore, I will oppose the amendment.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers).
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, what a great day this is. After 73 times on the floor, the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Woolsey) now has an amendment to discuss a plan to develop a plan as soon as practicable to provide for the withdrawal of the United States Armed Forces from Iraq. Here are Members of the House of Representatives who are, if we look at Article I, Section 8, the only ones that can declare war under this great Constitution, saying, We do not even want to talk about a plan.
Well, I say to my colleagues, the President of the United States has already said that America does not plan an indefinite occupation of Iraq, and neither do the independent Iraqi people. So what we want our colleagues to understand is that Congress can talk about this. Please, summon up your courage. That is your job. That is why we are here.
Mr. HUNTER. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from San Diego, California (Mr. Cunningham).
Mr. CUNNINGHAM. Mr. Chairman, summon up my courage? I do not think I have to question anybody to summon up my courage. I am a combat veteran, I was shot down in Vietnam, I was shot, and you do not tell the enemy what you are going to do, because you put those people at risk.
Mr. Chairman, it is interesting that as a combat veteran, I spoke to literally thousands of other combat veterans, and it is amazing the differences of their opinions versus liberal politicians.
Our kids over there are proud of what they do. Yes, I want them back. I wanted to get out of Vietnam just like anybody else, but I did not want to leave before the job was done. I do not want the over 1,700 men and women that have died in Iraq to die for nothing. And if we go ahead and tell the enemy what we are going to do, we put those kids at risk.
I just think it is wrong. From my experience in the military of 20 years, it is wrong, what the gentlewoman is trying to do. She has good intentions. But I will tell my colleagues that if we let folks know what we are going to do, I say to the gentlewoman, it is going to put those men and women at risk, and I think it is wrong.
I urge opposition to this amendment.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 1/2 minutes to the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Payne).
(Mr. PAYNE asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. PAYNE. Mr. Chairman, as a cosponsor of the Woolsey amendment calling on the President to develop and implement a plan to begin the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and to take other steps to provide the Iraqi people with the opportunity to control their internal affairs, I rise in support of this amendment.
Mr. Chairman, although I strongly opposed the preemptive war in Iraq, which the administration promoted based on false information and which has resulted in tragic loss of American and Iraqi lives, I would have supported as many troops as necessary in Afghanistan where our enemy, Osama bin Laden, was.
I do not believe that it would be fair to abandon the Iraqi people at this juncture. So, therefore, we should look towards having the United Nations create an international peacekeeping force to keep Iraq secure.
I would also like to take this opportunity, though, to commend a group of activists in my congressional district who are lending their voices to the important debate about our future in Iraq. South Mountain Peace Action, representing residents of Maplewood and South Orange, New Jersey, are strongly committed to seeking an international solution, led by the United Nations, and a rapid return of U.S. soldiers. Nearly 80 percent of Maplewood and South Orange voters and 52 percent of New Jersey voters voiced their agreement that President Bush's war in Iraq is the wrong war at the wrong time in the wrong place.
The war has already exacted a heavy price. More than 1,600 American lives have been lost and over 10,000 servicemen and women have been wounded. More than 100,000 Iraqi civilians have lost their lives, and $210 billion have been spent.
I urge support of the Woolsey amendment.
Mr. HUNTER. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 1/2 minutes to the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Schwarz).
Mr. SCHWARZ of Michigan. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the Woolsey amendment.
As a veteran of two tours of duty in Vietnam, I do not think it is appropriate to pull the forces out. The Iraqis want us to stay until the government takes on its full mission. Creating a timetable for withdrawal would hand the military initiative over to the insurgents and undermine the Iraqi Government to draft a constitution and prepare for a constitutional government.
As Generals Myers, Pace, and Abizaid have reminded us, the enemy gets a vote on how the war is fought. Iraqi-U.S. coalition forces need flexibility to respond to any enemy offensive which a benchmark-based plan for withdrawal would absolutely preclude.
I believe the amendment is well-intentioned, but the President, the Secretary of Defense, General Abizaid and the democratically elected Government of Iraq agree that it would not be in U.S. or Iraqi interests for the U.S. to remain in Iraq any longer than the government wants us there, but they are committed to reducing the U.S. presence only when that U.S. presence can safely be reduced and no sooner.
Vote ''no'' on this amendment.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Washington State (Mr. McDermott).
(Mr. McDERMOTT asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. McDERMOTT. Mr. Chairman, Monday's Guardian's editorial line was, ``U.S. Military to Build Four Giant New Bases in Iraq.''
The violence in Iraq has never been greater. That is not what winning looks like to me.
The President's strategy is to re-create the Old West: Build four forts capable of withstanding mortar rounds. With the death toll and casualties mounting, the President's best idea is to keep U.S. soldiers in the midst of uncontrollable, horrific violence.
This administration has put this Nation and our generals in a no-win situation. We have been there before in Vietnam, and we vowed never to let it happen again. But this administration has frayed the military, keeping soldiers in the target zone without enough armor to protect them and without a plan to bring them home.
Colonel David Hackworth died about 2 weeks ago, a highly decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War, eight Purple Hearts, a soldier's soldier who recently died, said we will be in Iraq for 30 years, 30 years. Colonel Hackworth was a man who saw the battlefield and could see the folly of the Iraq war.
The American people know the truth. The President misled this country into war, and it is time to get out.
[From the Guardian, Monday, May 23, 2005]
U.S. Military To Build Four Giant New Bases in Iraq
(By Michael Howard in Baghdad)
U.S. military commanders are planning to pull back their troops from Iraq's towns and cities and redeploy them in four giant bases in a strategy they say is a prelude to eventual withdrawal.
The plan, details of which emerged at the weekend, also foresees a transfer to Iraqi command of more than 100 bases that have been occupied by U.S.-led multinational forces since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
However, the decision to invest in the bases, which will require the construction of more permanent structures such as blast-proof barracks and offices, is seen by some as a sign that the U.S. expects to keep a permanent presence in Iraq.
Politicians opposed to a long-term U.S. presence on Iraqi soil questioned the plan.
''They appear to settling in a for the long run, and that will only give fuel for the terrorists,'' said a spokesman for the mainstream Sunni Iraqi Islamic party.
A senior U.S. official in Baghdad said yesterday: ``It has always been a main plank of our exit strategy to withdraw from the urban areas as and when Iraqi forces are trained up and able to take the strain. It is much better for all concerned that Iraqis police themselves.''
Under the plan, for which the official said there was no ''hard-and-fast'' deadline, U.S. troops would gradually concentrate inside four heavily fortified air bases, from where they would provide ``logistical support and quick reaction capability where necessary to Iraqis''. The bases would be situated in the north, south, west and centre of the country.
He said the place of the ``troop consolidation'' would be dictated by the level of the insurgency and the progress of Iraq's fledgling security structures.
A report in yesterday's Washington Post said the new bases would be constructed around existing airfields to ensure supply lines and troop mobility. It named the four probable locations as: Tallil in the south; Al Asad in the west; Balad in the centre and either Irbil or Qayyarah in the north.
U.S. officers told the paper that the bases would have a more permanent character to them, with more robust buildings and structures than can be seen at most existing bases in Iraq. The new buildings would be constructed to withstand direct mortar fire.
A source at the Iraqi defence ministry said: ``We expect these facilities will ultimately be to the benefit of the domestic forces, to be handed over when the U.S. leaves.''
Three Romanian journalists kidnapped in Iraq were freed yesterday after two months in captivity.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Meehan).
Mr. MEEHAN. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the Woolsey amendment.
This amendment does not say, Cut and run. This amendment does not call it quits. It asks the President for an exit strategy. And since the President declared victory in Iraq, more than 1,500 Americans have been killed. The Bush administration still has not laid out a strategy to win the peace in Iraq and bring our American forces home.
Now, when he was Governor of Texas, this is the advice that George W. Bush gave President Clinton about the war in Kosovo. Victory, he said, means exit strategy, and it is important for the President of the United States to explain to us what the exit strategy is.
Now, that is what Governor Bush said about President Clinton and the war in Kosovo, and the need for an exit strategy is even more apparent in Iraq. In the absence of an exit strategy, the administration continues to pursue the same strategy that has only led to more casualties and less stability. We have killed or captured 1,000 to 3,000 insurgents every month for more than a year. But with thousands of new recruits, the insurgency strengths have quadrupled.
Without an exit strategy to win the peace and bring our troops home, our policy is going in circles.
Our troops have won tactical victories, but they have not translated into strategic advances. Any successful strategy in Iraq has to address the fundamental factors that are continuing to fuel the insurgency.
One of those factors is the suspicion that U.S. troops are going to occupy Iraq indefinitely. Those suspicions are being reinforced by the fact that we have three or four times as many troops in Iraq today as the administration predicted we would. Until we lay out a framework for bringing our troops home and replacing them with Iraqis, the Iraqi people will never feel that they are in control of their own destiny.
A clear exit strategy would help splinter insurgent groups who have set aside their own differences in order to unite against the United States. It would send a message to the Iraqi Government that it needs to take responsibility for its own security. And, finally, an exit strategy is that light at the end of the tunnel that our troops need and the taxpayers need.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 1/2 minutes to the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Lee).
Ms. LEE. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank my friend and cochair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Woolsey), for her leadership in offering this amendment.
I stand here today as the proud daughter of a veteran of two wars. Let me just say, this amendment says what we have been saying all along, and it is time to make it real in terms of supporting our troops. The way we support our troops is by developing a plan to get them out of harm's way and to bring them home.
To date, more than 1,600 American troops have given their lives, over 11,000 American troops have been injured, and over 17,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, including women and children, have died in a war that should never have started in the first place.
I distinctly remember the day in May 2003 when the President stood on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and proclaimed, ``Mission Accomplished.'' Of course, the administration has called off the search for weapons of mass destruction because there simply were not any. But the occupation still continues.
We have seen a war that has created a haven for terrorists in Iraq. We have seen troops become targets of the insurgency when they were supposed to be liberators.
Mr. Chairman, the President needs to be honest with the American people and tell us what his plan is, and that is what this amendment says. Give us a plan to bring our troops home. It is very important. We need an exit strategy.
The taxpayers have spent over $200 billion, soon to be $300 billion, and we have little or no accountability for where this money has gone.
I congratulate the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Woolsey) for this amendment. We should adopt this amendment. We should send the signal that we support our troops, we love our troops, we value our troops, and we want them home.
Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, I yield to the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson-Lee).
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I thank the distinguished gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Skelton), and I thank him again for his leadership. I thank the distinguished gentlewoman from California (Ms. Woolsey) for allowing us to have the opportunity to stand on the floor of the House just a few days away from honoring America's war dead, and I hope that this debate is not in any way suggesting our lack of respect and admiration for those fallen as well as their families. I do not believe the distinguished gentlewoman from California has any idea or any sense of disrespecting the Nation's fallen dead. In fact, so many of us, no matter where we have come from, have soldiers and families living among us, families that mourned and families that are willing and wanting for their loved ones to come home.
This is not Vietnam in terms of the approach that those of us who are against the war would put it in that context. We understand that the troops are following the orders of their leaders, the Commander in Chief, the United States Congress. That is why this amendment puts the burden on the United States Congress and asks for the President to create a success strategy, an exit strategy that will allow these troops to come home.
This is about conserving resources. We have 140,000 troops in Iraq. We have equipment that is stretched. We have questions about the armor that is being utilized by our troops, the body armor. We have 60 people dead in the last 24 hours and eight of our troops dying in the last 24 hours and troops dying every single day. And you know what the tragedy of it is? That when our fallen heroes come to the soil of the United States we cannot even view their bodies with the Flag draped over the coffin. We are denied that opportunity to mourn them.
So this amendment is really to respond to the need that the Congress have the opportunity to address the question in hearing and to review the President's offering of a withdrawal or a success strategy, in great respect to the men and women in the United States military, in great respect to the families, in great respect to those who have lost their lives.
I ask my colleagues to consider this amendment primarily to give us an opportunity to do our constitutional duty, and that is a declaration of war is a constitutional duty by this Congress to declare war. We failed in that duty a couple of years ago, in 2002 September. But let us accept the challenge to review the process and the strategy of this administration.
I close by simply saying to the executive, I ask you to join us in a collaborative effort to have a vote for peace and to be able to conserve the resources and to honor our fallen dead and those who now serve, that we respect their families, respect, in fact, their lives and we will craft a strategy to return our heroes home. That is not in any way giving up on them. That is saving them.
Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Chairman, I yield to the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Woolsey).
Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Chairman, again, I would like to thank the members of the Rules Committee that made this important amendment in order. It is about time that in the Congress we discuss what is going on in the war in Iraq. And it is only too bad that we had only 15 minutes for this, well, a half an hour, 15 minutes on both sides, for this very, very important issue that is facing everybody in the United States of America, our troops and their families and the Iraqi people.
My amendment expresses the sense of the Congress that the President must develop a plan to bring our troops home, that he must submit this plan to the appropriate committees in Congress so that we can truly support our troops and bring them home where they are safe.
So in closing, Mr. Chairman, Congress must support our troops. We must begin the difficult recovery process from a long and destructive war. The President has to create a plan and tell us what he is going to do, and he must get these troops home before we lose any more lives. This is the best way to support our troops, and they deserve nothing less.
Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from California has 30 seconds remaining.
Mr. HUNTER. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Chairman, and my colleagues, we have an exit strategy, and that exit strategy is a free Iraq and a free government in Iraq and a military which is strong enough to protect that government. And that is the military that we are standing up right now, and that is the mission, and that is the timetable. And I would hope that the gentlewoman's amendment would be defeated.
Mr. FARR. Mr. Chairman, a safe and democratic Iraq is a goal I share with every American. Congresswoman WOOLSEY's amendment is critically important for reaching this goal. The amendment urges the administration to lay out a plan for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. This amendment does not demand the U.S. troops be withdrawn from Iraq immediately or prematurely. It simply requests that the President establish a plan for when he will begin to bring our soldiers back home.
The best way to make Iraq a strong and democratic country is to give Iraqis the training and education necessary for them to assume responsibility for their own security needs and to develop their civil society infrastructure. Iraqis yearn for freedom and democracy, and ownership of their own country. American soldiers, sailors and marines want to return home to be reunited with their families. A withdrawal plan is in the best national security interests of the United States and in the best interests of a democratic Iraq.
I urge my colleagues to support the Woolsey amendment.
The CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Woolsey).
The question was taken; and the Chairman announced that the noes appeared to have it.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
The CHAIRMAN. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Woolsey) will be postponed.
---- AYES 128 ---
Johnson, E. B.
Sánchez, Linda T.
---- NOES 300 ---
Davis, Jo Ann
Lungren, Daniel E.
---- NOT VOTING 5 ---
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