House Resolution 861, declaring the U. S. will stay the course in Iraq and Afghanistan, was approved by a 256-153 vote, largely along party lines. Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt, who voted for the resolution, delivered the following remarks during the debate:
Let’s be clear about what is at stake here today as we debate this issue: Whether or not we are successful in winning the Global War on Terror will define the future and define this generation of leaders in the eyes of future historians. Our resolve is being tested by clever enemies with primitive philosophies of religion and government. When my colleagues cast their vote today, they are sending a message about what they believe America is capable of doing and about whether the Global War on Terrorism is worth fighting. Our actions here on the House floor are being watched not only by our enemies, but by our friends and allies as well. The message we send will be received by the coalition partners fighting with us, the people and leaders of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Americans fighting for peace and freedom, who believe in their mission. This vote should not be taken lightly. And, believe me, it should not be taken lightly.
The resolution we are considering is clear and unambiguous. We are declaring that the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror. This war is not a war of choice, but one initiated and sustained by the actions of terrorists. It is being fought in many parts of the world with all of the diplomatic, cultural, financial, and, when absolutely necessary, military resources available to us. In places like Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorists have chosen to make a stand. They understand that the only way they can defeat the United States is not in battle with our soldiers, who are the best in the world, but in the battle of public opinion.
Information is the key weapon in that battle. Over the week of Memorial Day I was able to travel to both Iraq and Afghanistan to see again first hand our nation’s efforts to combat terrorists and assist in the establishment of modern democracies. Universally, in both countries, the people we talked to, including the leaders we met with, told our delegation that withdrawing American troops before democracy has had the chance to take root would lead to disaster.
In Afghanistan, President Karzai believes that the southern part of that country is keeping a lid on the Taliban precisely because of the presence of our troops. He believes his countrymen uniquely understand how important it is that our soldiers, American soldiers, maintain a visible role, even as the day-to-day operations are often turned over to our NATO allies. And while we were there our Ambassador was able to report to President Karzai that the Canadians and the Dutch had been vigorously and successfully engaged the day before. But President Karzai was equally vigorous in his sense that the commitment of Americans was the commitment the Afghan people were worried about.
Today I tell my friend President Karzai that America will not abandon our Afghan friends. We will not close that embassy again and lock the door and walk away for ten years.
In Iraq, which al Qaeda has called the ‘central front’ – their quote, not mine -- in their war against the West, the sentiment for America to stay is even more pronounced. In Baghdad I spoke to Speaker Mashhadani, a Sunni politician and a leader who had been opposed to the US coming to Iraq. He now believes our presence is essential for democracy to take root.
And while visiting the newly formed Kurdish government, I spoke with those leaders who have recently put aside generations of those differences in favor of a unified Iraq. The officials from the new Iraqi government I met with gave me additional reasons to be hopeful for the future. These elected leaders are committed to governing. Their predecessors have been committed to a political goal in each case: to write a constitution, to conduct temporary elections, to conduct permanent elections. This government is the first democratically elected government in the history – not just of Iraq, which has only been in existence since World War I, but in the history of the people that live in this area who have never before had a permanently democratically elected government. This government also happens to be a broad based government committed to serve.
I have said many times before – as many have said over the last two days -- that only the Iraqis are ultimately capable of solving their problems. The only way to solve them is through increased transparency, economic reform, and democratic participation in government. None of this will be easy, and I have nothing but admiration for Iraqi leaders who are undertaking these tasks in the face of enormous personal risks.
It is in the context of those personal risks that I appeal to my colleagues, who live peacefully and safely in the world’s oldest constitutional democracy, the United States of America, not to turn their backs on the leaders of the world’s newest democracy.