James P. McGovern (MA)
One Hour Special Order
Thursday, July 17, 2014
CONGRESS HAS THE RESPONSIBILITY TO ACT ON IRAQ NOW
M. Speaker, I rise today with my colleagues to look at the recent return of the U.S. military to Iraq.
Iraq is a complicated country, with a long history of ethnic and religious divisions. It is now facing a crisis of governance and a crisis of invasion by extremist militant forces. Sadly for Iraq, the two are closely intertwined.
In large measure, Iraq is falling apart because of a sectarian government, currently led by Prime Minister Maliki, that excludes and represses most Sunnis, Kurds, and other ethnic and religious minorities; and an army that thinks more of saving its own skin than protecting the Iraqi people. This is what has laid the foundation for extremist forces, namely ISIL, to enter Iraq and take control of disaffected communities and territory.
I don’t believe we can fix this. Only the Iraqi people can fix this. And I certainly don’t believe our brave and stalwart military men and women can fix this.
I believe that we should never have invaded Iraq. I also believe that it is foolish to once again commit U.S. troops to try and save an Iraqi government and army that cannot stand on their own.
As Joseph Cirincione wrote last month in Defense One Magazine:
“This debacle was predictable. In fact it was predicted by dozens of analysts who knew a great deal more about Iraq than those who cheerleaded the invasion of Iraq in 2002 and 2003. . . . This is not to say, `We told you so,’ but to warn that the desperate, quick fixes now being offered are false hopes. The hard truth is that there is little we can do to save the corrupt, incompetent government we installed in Iraq. If 10 years, millions of hours of work and hundreds of billions of dollars could not build a regime that can survive, it is difficult to imagine any fix that can. Those seeking to blame the Obama administration for the collapse are engaged in a cynical game.”
Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to enter the Defense One article into the Record of this special order.
I believe President Obama has done the right thing to send U.S. forces to Iraq to increase the security and help protect our diplomatic facilities and personnel. So far, he has sent two contingents – the first of 275 military troops on June 15th and a second deployment of 200 additional troops on June 30th. With respect to this second deployment, he noted they would also be used to reinforce the security of the Baghdad International Airport. They would consist of additional security forces, rotary-wing aircraft, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support. The President specifically noted that they are equipped for combat.
In between these two deployments, the President announced on June 19th and notified Congress on June 26th that he was sending 300 military troops to train, advise and support Iraqi security forces – and to establish joint operations centers with Iraqi security forces so that we could share intelligence and coordinate plans on how to confront the threat of ISIL.
In each of these three deployments, the President has rightly formally informed Congress “consistent with the War Powers Resolution.” The only reason a president has to inform Congress about such overseas deployments – the only time it applies – is when the President – and I’m quoting now from the War Powers Resolution – has introduced “United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances . . .”
Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to enter into the Record the three notifications the President has sent to Congress on deployments of troops to Iraq.
I think the President did the right thing to inform Congress because I believe that our troops have been introduced into a situation in Iraq where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances. In fact, more simple put, if Iraq wasn’t engaged in hostilities and in a moment of crisis, we wouldn’t have sent troops over there.
This is why, last Friday, on July 11th, my good friends and colleagues, Representatives Walter Jones and Barbara Lee, introduced a privileged resolution, H. Con. Res. 105, to direct the President to remove U.S. troops from Iraq within 30 days, or no later than the end of this year, except for those troops needed to protect U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel.
We did this for a simple reason. Congress has the responsibility to authorize the introduction of American troops where hostilities are imminent. In less than 3 weeks, in three separate deployments, the U.S. has sent at least 775 additional troops to Iraq. We don’t know what might happen next – to those troops, or to yet another deployment of additional troops.
But we do know that Congress should debate it. We do know that Congress should vote on whether to authorize it or not. That’s what the Constitution of the United States demands of Congress. That’s what the Constitution demands of us.
Now is the time for Congress to debate the merits of our military involvement in this latest Iraq conflict. Openly. Transparently. Do we approve of these deployments and any future escalation? If so, we should vote to authorize it. If we do not support it, then we should bring our troops back home.
It’s that simple, Mr. Speaker. Congress has the responsibility to act on Iraq. Now.
M. Speaker, we did not introduce this privileged resolution lightly. By doing so, we started a process to hold a debate on our engagement in Iraq in the coming days, using the special procedures outlined under the War Powers Resolution. While this is an imperfect tool, it requires the House to take up this bill after 15 calendar days.
Like most of my colleagues, I would prefer for this House to bring up a bill authorizing our engagement in Iraq. And nothing in this resolution inhibits such important legislation from being drafted and brought before this House for debate and a clean up-or-down vote. Frankly, I wish that were happening. But I have not heard that such authorization is even under discussion, let alone being prepared for debate.
I regret to say that I only hear how we can avoid having such a debate.
So, my colleagues and I are introduced this concurrent resolution because we strongly believe Congress has to step up to the plate and carry out its responsibilities when our servicemen and women are, once again, being sent into harm’s way.
The time for that debate is now.
Not when the first body bag comes home from Iraq.
Not when the first U.S. airstrikes or bombs fall on Iraq.
Not when we are embedded with Iraqi troops trying to take back an ISIS-held town.
And, worst case scenario, not when our troops are shooting their way out of an overtaken Baghdad.
Now, M. Speaker, is the time to debate our new engagement in Iraq. Before the heat of the moment. When we can weigh the pros and cons of supporting the Maliki government, or whatever government is cobbled together should Maliki be forced to step down.
Now, before we are forced to take sides in a religious and sectarian war.
Now, before the next addition of more troops takes place – and make no mistake, I firmly believe we will continue to send more troops and more military assets into this crisis.
Now, M. Speaker, before we are forced to fire our first shots, launch our first missiles, or drop our first bombs.
Now, M. Speaker, is when the House should debate and vote on this very serious matter.
For those who say it is too early, too premature for this debate, I respectfully disagree. The Administration has tacitly signaled when it notified Congress that our troops have been sent to a place where the threat of hostilities is imminent. The longer we put off carrying out our Constitutional responsibilities, the easier it becomes to just drift along. This is what Congress has done over and over – and it has to end, M. Speaker. Congress must speak, and Congress must act.
This resolution, should it pass the House, would direct the President to bring our troops home from Iraq within 30 days – or should the President determine that such a rapid withdrawal would pose security questions, then no later than by the end of this year, nearly 6 months from now.
It would NOT require those troops that have been deployed to safeguard the security of our diplomatic facilities and personnel from withdrawing. They could remain and carry out their crucial roles of protecting our civilian personnel on-the-ground in Iraq.
Mr. Speaker, we need to take up this resolution. We need to debate our military engagement in this latest war in Iraq. We need to have a clean vote, up-or-down, about whether we stay in Iraq or whether we bring our troops home.
We owe that much to our troops and their families.
We owe that much to the American people.
And we owe at least this much to our own democracy and democratic institutions that require Congress to be the final arbiter on whether our troops are sent into hostilities abroad.
I would no like to yield time to [the gentlelady from California, Congresswoman Barbara Lee] [the gentleman from North Caroline, Congressman Walter Jones].