Debating the Iraq war resolution

Published 7:21 pm Monday, February 19, 2007

By By Jo Bonner
The House spent almost all of last week debating a non-binding resolution on the Iraq war. This was a historic debate, in which almost all members of the House went to the floor to participate; unfortunately, with the new House Democratic majority, the resolution passed.
I went to the House floor to express my disapproval of this resolution, and the statements I made are below:
Mr. Speaker, as my colleagues – and certainly the people from south Alabama that I am so proud to represent know – I don't often come to this floor either to hear my own voice or to try to offer some prophetic words of wisdom on whatever the topic of the day happens to be.
My father often told me "you learn a lot more from listening than you do from talking."
So in many ways, that's what I've been doing the past few days… listening to my colleagues and thinking about the consequences of the words we're debating.
And after a lot of listening to a lot of words, I find myself compelled to come and say in the most direct way I know… I am opposed to this non-binding resolution.
Let me say this again for, after all, that is what we are talking about… this is a non-binding resolution.
It is nothing more than a few words on a piece of paper and yet they are powerful words that have the potential of being demoralizing and possibly even destructive.
Make no mistake the resolution we are debating today doesn't have the force of law behind it.
So for those of you watching from home, let's be clear: at a time when the president recognizes "the situation in Iraq is unacceptable" and "it is clear that we need to change our strategy," this resolution will not stop the deployment of a single soldier or marine to Iraq, nor will it bring a single soldier or marine home to their families and loved ones.
More importantly, this resolution does not offer any alternative strategy. Nothing. Zip.
It is silent with regard to our country's ongoing efforts in fighting the global war on terror.
Instead, it is simply – and unfortunately – a method by which the House Democratic majority is seeking to send a message to the president of the United States.
But my friends, let's not kid ourselves… the words spoken in this chamber will travel much farther than the brief distance between the Capitol and the White House.
In reality, these words will travel far beyond our shores, across the globe to the 140,000 men and women who are currently deployed in Iraq and engaged in but one part – admittedly an important part – of a global war against Islamic militant extremists.
I know we've heard Democrat after Democrat – and a few Republicans to be fair – come to the floor to say, "we support our troops and we support this resolution." But with all due respect, I find it inconsistent to say you support our troops and at the same time, you support this resolution.
Ladies and gentlemen, how can we really expect our soldiers to have the will to succeed when this body as a whole doesn't have the resolve to stand by them and their mission?
Do we really think our troops don't pay any attention to the headlines from home?
During my visits to Iraq, I have found just the opposite to be the case.
So while the underlying message of this resolution is intended for the president, it is only logical to ask who else might be impacted?
What about the families of these soldiers who are anxiously awaiting the safe return of their loved ones?
Make no mistake, they will hear this message loud and clear.
And there is a very real chance that the families of the thousands of men and women of the Alabama National Guard who have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan – as well as the families of all active and reserve forces – will read the glaring subtext of this resolution and hear the U.S. House of Representatives – the people's house – signaling that we can not prevail in Iraq, the cause is lost, and their loved one's sacrifices are for naught.
Unfortunately, the words of this resolution will also travel to the ears' of our enemies.
And what could be better news for our enemies than an America divided – an America that does not have the will to succeed?
On this topic, let's look to a man who knows the enemy in Iraq as well as anyone, General David Petraeus.
You remember General Petraeus? He just received an overwhelming vote of confidence when he was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate to command our forces in Iraq.
At his confirmation hearing, General Petraeus was asked if a congressional resolution disapproving the deployment of additional troops would encourage the enemy.
His response was direct and unequivocal, "That's correct, sir."
Let me say that again… General Petraeus, our commander on the ground in Iraq, believes a resolution disapproving the deployment of additional troops – which is what we are debating this week – will also encourage our enemy.
He went on to say "this is a test of wills, at the end of the day…a commander in such an endeavor would obviously like the enemy to feel that there's no hope."
But instead of saying "there's no hope" to our enemy, aren't we really saying there's no hope to the American soldier and to the American people?
General Petraeus also assured us that in order to succeed in the mission to secure Baghdad – all of the additional 21,500 troops ordered by the president are "essential." He said he "would not be able to do his job" without these additional forces.
Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues not to make General Petraeus' job – or the jobs of the 140,000 brave men and women under his command – any more difficult.
Let us not forget our words – as well as our actions – do have consequences. Vote no on this demoralizing and destructive resolution.
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website at
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.

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