Remarks by Congressman Tom Lantos, D-CA Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs On the Responsible Redeployment from Iraq Act (H. R. 2956)
Verbatim, as delivered
Mr. Speaker, in Iraq today a misguided war is raging in our country’s name. We in this Congress and the American people across the country are filled with admiration for the heroism and sacrifice of our soldiers on the battlefield. But we cannot fathom the mindless stubbornness of the Administration, fixated on illusory aims. It is pathologically preoccupied with pursuing them, despite all the evidence of how destructive the situation has become.
Mr. Speaker, we have seen this movie before – quite literally, as any classic film buff knows: “The Bridge on The River Kwai,” an Academy Award-winning tale based on real events in World War Two. Alec Guinness plays a British colonel mesmerized and hypnotized by the goal of building a bridge that will last through the ages, even though doing so will only strengthen the enemy. For a while Alec Guinness persuades his fellow prisoners of war that completing his weird project will leave a legacy of which they can be proud. But it soon becomes clear that the real goal is to build a monument to himself, as he looks back on his few true achievements in life.
At one point, this antihero tells his men, “We can teach these barbarians a lesson in Western methods and efficiency that will put them to shame.” Mr. Speaker, at this point the audience knows where the real shame lies.
The American people know that what happens by our hand in Iraq will be our legacy. We are no longer willing to tolerate keeping our sons and daughters in the midst of a sectarian civil war. The war in Iraq as launched by an Administration using faulty intelligence and mesmerized by a dream of some sort of monument to democracy in the Middle East, with Iraq at its center. It is past time to stop enabling the construction of this folly.
The legislation before us directs that the redeployment of U.S. forces in Iraq be carried out in a safe and orderly manner. It sets a time certain by which that should start. And it is clearly intended to bring about a major reduction in our troop presence by April of next year.
And in the meantime, our legislation will compel the Administration to come up with something which, amazingly enough, to date it hasn’t had: a comprehensive strategy for Iraq addressing our national security interests not only there, but in the entire region, and the ways to maintain our interests even as this redeployment is carried out.
Mr. Speaker, today the Administration issued its interim report on the troop escalation in Iraq. Though the White House chooses to focus on the benchmarks that have been met in what it calls a “satisfactory” way, the assessment in fact shows that Iraq has made unsatisfactory progress on half of the 18 political and military goals that Congress set for Iraq this spring.
The people of Iraq and our fighting forces there know the situation all too well. The index of progress that they face each day tells them much more than a 25-page report can ever say. With every car bomb that takes a civilian toll, every insurgent’s bullet that finds its mark, every roadside explosive that maims or kills one of our own brave men and women in uniform, the sacrifices mount – and the result is anything but satisfactory.
This is why, Mr. Speaker, our measure deserves our full and unwavering support. We need to direct a misguided Administration to face reality and to start the responsible redeployment of our forces from Iraq. By asking this Congress to extend our patience yet again, by pointlessly risking our troops, and by continuing to ignore the will of the American people to end this war, the Administration is reaching for a bridge much too far.