Today, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith expressed disappointment with a resolution considered in the House regarding Iraq and the war on terrorism.  The non-binding resolution expressed the House of Representatives’ support for American troops and commitment to achieving success in Iraq and the war on terrorism.  While Smith ultimately voted in favor of the resolution, he decried the inadequacy of the measure and the Congress’ failure to address the ongoing challenges in Iraq.

“This resolution does nothing to address the real challenges in Iraq or to hold the administration accountable for their mistakes,” said Smith.  “Yet another resolution expressing support for our troops and commitment to success is fine, but does not help us get any closer to actually achieving that success so that we can bring our troops home.  We should be talking about how to accelerate the transition to Iraqi sovereignty, including reducing our troop levels in a responsible way and working with allies and regional players to bolster the new Iraqi government.”

Smith continued, “This administration has made, and continues to make, many costly mistakes in Iraq, and this Congress has failed to ask the tough questions that will help us change course and move more quickly to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis.  I want to make clear that my vote in favor of this resolution is not an endorsement of this administration’s conduct in Iraq.”

During House debate on the resolution, Smith expressed his disappointment in a speech on the House floor.  The full text of Smith’s floor speech follows:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise in disappointment – though I must say, not in surprise – about the exercise the House is engaged in today.  This is not a true debate about our policy in Iraq.  A real debate on Iraq would allow us to consider alternative proposals and vote on meaningful amendments that could help us improve the very difficult situation there.  Instead we have before us an un-amendable, rhetorical document about the war on terrorism that barely focuses on Iraq itself, and certainly doesn’t deal with the real challenges we face there.  This process is an offense to our democracy.

What is even more troubling, Mr. Speaker, is that this kind of undemocratic approach is precisely what led to the Bush administration’s many costly mistakes in Iraq.  Americans have seen how the administration’s stubborn single-mindedness and refusal to consider alternative views and dissenting opinions have cost us dearly in Iraq.  The facts are all-to-well-known:

When General Shinseki said that far more troops would be needed to secure the peace in Iraq, he was ignored and soon retired – and the result was that the troops we did send struggled unnecessarily to prevent and control a massive insurgency.

When advisors warned the administration not to de-Baathify and disband the Iraqi military and security forces, they were ignored.  As Prime Minister Tony Blair has publicly admitted, this was a grave mistake that effectively pushed thousands of military-trained, disempowered Sunnis into the streets, fueling the post-war insurgency.

And the administration’s refusal to heed dissenting views on Iraq continues to this day.  Now that the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has brought to light massive amounts of waste, fraud, and abuse in the reconstruction contracting, I understand that the administration and the Republicans in Congress are trying to prematurely end his mandate.

This is a clear pattern, Mr. Speaker, and the consequences of this arrogant, undemocratic approach are real.  It has cost us dearly in American lives and resources, undermined our efforts to build peace and stability in Iraq, and delayed our departure from the country.

Mr. Speaker, I supported the use-of-force authorization in October 2002 in order to give the President the leverage to hold Saddam Hussein accountable for his threatening behavior and refusal to submit to weapons inspections.  And that is what makes it all the more frustrating that the President misused that authority by rushing to war and committing so many grave and costly mistakes in Iraq.

So no, Mr. Speaker, this is not a real debate.  A real debate would allow us to consider the important questions in Iraq: Can we afford to make an open-ended commitment to staying in Iraq?  Has our troop presence there reached the point where it is inhibiting a successful transition to full Iraqi sovereignty?  Can our strained military and ballooning national deficit handle it? 

How can we accelerate the transition to Iraqi sovereignty and responsibility for their own country?  How best can we engage in more robust diplomacy with our allies and key regional players who can help bolster the new Iraqi government and contribute to its reconstruction?

How can we improve Congressional oversight so that we can identify and rectify the enormous mistakes the administration has made in Iraq?

These are the questions we should be debating, Mr. Speaker, because they directly affect our ability to achieve success in Iraq.  We owe it to our brave men and women in uniform and to the American people to ask these questions.  But instead, we have a resolution before us today that is basically irrelevant when it comes to the real issues in Iraq.  It says, essentially, that we support fighting terrorism and that we are committed to achieving success in Iraq.  I agree with that, but that doesn’t say anything about how we get there.  That is the important question. 

Mr. Speaker, today Congress is continuing to utterly abdicate its oversight responsibility.  Since the outbreak of war, this Congress has done little more than endorse the administration’s policy in Iraq, instead of asking the tough questions and scrutinizing that policy, as the Constitution requires us to do. 

Mr. Speaker, I hope, despite this Congress’ refusal to conduct oversight, that we can be honest today as we look ahead in Iraq.  We all want to see an Iraq that is stable, secure, and free.  Our troops are doing an outstanding job, and they deserve our full support and respect.  But the fact is that success or failure in Iraq increasingly depends on the decisions of Iraqi leaders, and they must understand that.  In order to achieve success in Iraq we must accelerate the transition to Iraqi sovereignty. 

I believe that significantly reducing our military footprint is critical for making that happen.  While we cannot simply abandon Iraq at this point, drawing down our forces levels in a responsible way in the coming months will force the Iraqis to take greater responsibility for their own security and reduce their dependence on U.S. forces.  It will also send an important message to the Iraqi people that Americans are not there to occupy the country, but rather seek to begin leaving as Iraqis take control of their own country.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, as we move forward in Iraq, both the future and the past matter.  We must make the best of a difficult situation by working diligently to help Iraqis take full responsibility for running their country so that our overburdened troops can come home.  And we must do so in a manner that does not give the violent Islamic terrorists in the world any greater strength.  Yet we must also be willing to acknowledge and learn from our mistakes so that we can chart a new path forward.  That requires holding the Bush administration and this rubber-stamp Congress accountable for their failures.”