Friday, June 16, 2006

Skelton speaks out on Iraq war

Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton spoke on the House floor Thursday about his feelings concerning the way the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been conducted. The text of his statement is printed below:

This is an important issue for so many Americans across the country, including my home state of Missouri. So many families such as mine have young people in uniform, but this resolution before us today is not what we requested, nor is it what we were told we'd have before us to debate. We expected a resolution confined to the country of Iraq and the conflict there. That is not what this resolution is. This resolution covers the entire Middle East waterfront, trying to blend together the Iraqi war and the war against terrorism, which has its genesis in Afghanistan.

Mr. Speaker, these are two separate and distinct wars. We did the right thing going into Afghanistan, topping the Taliban, which supported and protected the Al Qaeda terrorists. Then came along the international discussion about Iraq, Saddam Hussein and the weapons of mass destruction.

At that time, Mr. Speaker, knowing the history and culture of the Middle East, I sent two letters to the President, one dated September 4, 2002 and another dated March 18, 2003, before we went into Iraq. My letters warned against the aftermath. He sent over officials from the Department of Defense and the National Security Council to say to me, "Ike it'll be alright."

We know what happened in the aftermath because; we allowed the looting, we sent the Iraqi army home rather than give them a paycheck and a shovel, and we didn't have enough troops to quell any insurgency, and it arose.

Here we are some three years later. Despite the fact that this resolution is a broad one, let's talk about Iraq, which should be the complete subject of the resolution before us.

This nation is at a strategic crossroads. We are spending $9 billion a month and have spent over $300 billion total on this war. More strikingly, we are losing a battalion's worth of casualties a month, killed and injured, between Iraq and Afghanistan, by far most of them, sadly, are in Iraq. And there are increasing insurgent-inspired attacks.

Now what makes this resolution so interesting is the fact that it flies in the face of the law that we passed here in the Congress and the president signed. The defense bill of 2005 said this "calendar year 2006 should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with Iraqi security forces taking the lead for the security of a free and sovereign Iraq, thereby creating the conditions for the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq." That's what the defense bill said last June, thereby creating the conditions for the phased redeployment of U.S. forces.

What does this mean to us in the long run? Well, farmers in Missouri know that the quality of this year's seed corn will determine the quality of next year's corn crop. And I am concerned that we are eating our military's seed corn in Iraq.

It means that by tearing up the equipment...and we are using equipment right and's going to take at least two years of supplemental funding to refurbish Army equipment if the war were to stop today. There are challenges in recruiting and retention, but I have to tell you how proud I am of those young people in uniform today. But if we don't give serious thought to the phraseology that's in the law "creating the conditions for the phased redeployment of forced from Iraq," I think that we may be eating our military's seed corn.

What does this mean? It means that America will be less prepared to either deter or defend an attack that might come at some future date. This is serious business. We need to remain strong militarily as the way to deter problems. Should North Korea, somewhere in Asia, somewhere in Latin America, somewhere in Africa, cause us to be involved. The question is, Mr. Speaker, would we be prepared militarily to meet that challenge.

That's why it's very important to do our very best to take seriously the law regarding significant transition this year. What will it take? Will it take the Iraqi government to stand up on its own? To transfer the security problem and situation to their police force and their military? We have some 250,000 Iraqi military and police fully trained or nearly fully trained. We have to hand the baton over to them.

We as a country cannot determine the fate of Iraq. The Iraqis have to do it themselves - their own government, their own military, and their own police force. We can be of help, we have been of help. We have been there some 3 years. I think it's time for us to seriously look at where we are, where we're going, and do our very best to keep ourselves militarily strong so that those days that are bound to happen never do.

Mr. Speaker, let me remind Congress, I've been here 29+ years, thanks to wonderful folks in Missouri. During that time we have had ten military confrontations with other countries. The future may hold something similar. The question is, "will we be militarily prepared when the time comes?"

Iraq needs to be looked at in the light of the law we passed last year, "calendar year 2006 should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with Iraqi security forces taking the lead for the security of a free and sovereign Iraq, thereby creating the conditions for the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq."

That's the law Congress passed, and the President signed. That's where we are. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to enter my letters of September 4, 2002 and March 18, 2006 into the record.

With that, I yield back my time.

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