U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released the following statement this evening after voting against the compromise version of the emergency war supplemental bill, which would fund the President’s military policies in Iraq through September:
“This was an agonizingly difficult vote for me. I was forced to choose between two options when I supported neither.
I support a phased withdrawal from Iraq over the course of the next year, leaving the much smaller number of troops necessary to train Iraqi forces and confront the threat posed by Al Qaeda in Iraq. I believe our occupation both makes it more difficult for Iraq to reach a political solution to their conflict and undermines our broader, global efforts to fight Al Qaeda, the ideology they espouse, and those who follow either or both. And it is painfully clear at this point that U.S. troops in any number cannot stop or even significantly reduce the violence in Iraq.
We should be more focused on confronting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan, throughout Africa and all the other places where they are attempting to gain power. This is an effort that would mainly involve diplomacy, and a comprehensive effort to defeat this dangerous ideology by understanding local cultures and winning the battle of ideas. In certain situations and locations, it also involves small scale military actions. The broader efforts that I’m describing are in fact undermined by our presence in Iraq. We should not have nearly 200,000 U.S. troops bogged down in the middle of a civil war in Iraq, occupying a Muslim country and further inflaming the already tense relationship between the Muslim world and the West.
I have voted for bills that, to varying degrees, supported this vital new direction in Iraq several times. The President vetoed one such bill, the Senate did not pass another, and a third did not get the votes to pass the House.
I do not, however, believe that we should cut off funding for our troops while the President stubbornly insists on keeping them there. There is an enormous difference between the phased withdrawal described above, and a chaotic retreat driven by a lack of funding or a situation where our troops must continue to fight despite not having the resources they need.
The big difference of opinion in this debate at this point is over when precisely our troops will begin to lack the resources they need if we in Congress have not passed this supplemental funding bill.
Some have argued that the Pentagon has the legal power to borrow as much money as they need no matter what Congress does. Whether true or not I do not want to set the precedent that our military can go on fighting on borrowed money even if Congress stops appropriating money for whatever war is being fought.
Even without this borrowing authority, most agree our military has adequate resources until mid-July without impacting military readiness. After that time, a lack of new funds could begin progressively to affect military readiness as bases in the U.S. would have to start cutting or delaying non-war related budget items – from equipment repairs to facilities upkeep – in order to fund operations in Iraq.
So that is the choice this vote presented. Continue funding a horribly flawed policy or run the risk of leading the military to have to tighten its belt here at home.
I ultimately decided to vote no on the legislation in order to keep the pressure on the President and his Republican supporters in Congress over the next several weeks. I believe we must do everything we can to change the course in Iraq, and Congress should keep pushing for that change as long as our troops won’t be harmed by the lack of funds.
This vote is one more step in the ongoing debate regarding how best to redeploy our troops from Iraq – it is the latest, but not the final, say on this critically important issue. I fully expect this matter to come before the Congress again in the coming weeks and months. I will continue to work to ensure that our troops are not only protected but also able to exit Iraq quickly and safely.”