Speeches and Floor Statements
Congressman Scott's Floor Speech Supporting the Democrat Plan For a Way Forward in Iraq
Thank you so much and to my good friend, Mr. Israel. What a pleasure it is to serve, the three of us, as co-chairs of our Democratic Group on National Security and providing leadership for this Nation on this critical area, and also letting the American people know that Democrats stand, foremost, for national security. Our history, our legacy speaks to that.
As we have counted time and time again, every time we have had a national crisis, Democrats have paved the way and brought us through, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Harry Truman, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Who could be more strong than at the Bay of Pigs, at the missile crisis in Cuba, with the Soviet Union in the Cold War. We have been in the forefront in every aspect of protecting this country and we are at the forefront now.
It is such a pleasure and I am just very proud to be here with you. I want to pick up on that theme because while we all salute the killing of al-Zarqawi, we are proud of that, we are proud of our military.
We salute them for having done a remarkable job, but I think it is very important for us not to get too caught up in that as much as it is very important for us to look at this Iraq situation from the standpoint of the soldier, from that person that is on the front lines.
Like the two of you, I have been to Iraq. I have been over into the war zone twice. I have been into the European theater. I have been into Afghanistan. I have been on the front lines with our troops. I have eaten with them. I have been there and I have talked with them, and I have looked them in the eyes and they have looked me in the eyes. We have been able to see and to be able to feel one another's passion and their pain.
I am committed, as the two of you are, to make sure that we speak for the soldier, and this is what I want to do this evening. I want to talk about our military, and I want to talk about them from the standpoint of the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform are making.
Most recently, we had in the news the disturbing story about the marines and about what happened over there, but I want you to know that this is one soldier here, this is one congressman, who is going to not come to any conclusions, because no matter what the situation is on that battlefield, where our marines, where our soldiers are, they did not choose to go over there. They did not choose to go over there with bad equipment, undermanned and in the rotation cycle that they have that has put tremendous strain on our military.
Many of our marines, many of our soldiers, are over there not on their second tour, not even on their third tour. Some are on their fourth tour of duty. I talked with them. That is not right, and it is not fair.
I think as we talk tonight we need to talk about the strain that this Iraqi situation is placing on our military so that when we judge our military, let us judge them right. Let us judge them with the hills and valleys and the mountains that they have got to go through over there.
I want to talk about just for a second that nearly all of the available combat units in the United States, Army and the Army National Guard and the Marine Corps, have been used up in the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Every available combat brigade from the active duty Army has already been to Afghanistan and Iraq at least once for a 12-month tour. Many are now in their second or third tours of duty, and approximately 95 percent of the Army National Guard's combat battalions and special operation units have been mobilized since 9/11, and short of full mobilization or a new presidential declaration of national emergency, there is little available combat capacity remaining in the Army National Guard.
All active duty Marine Corps units are being used on tight, tight rotation schedules, 7 months deployed, less than a year home to rest or recess, then another 7 months deployed, and all of the Marine Reserve combat units have been mobilized.
The point I am making is that the decision to go to war is one thing. The other thing is you never make that decision and you send on a mission that is not clearly defined, that has been moving and shaking. Let us review for a moment just what our soldiers, just what our military has been asked to do.
First of all, the mission was to go and find weapons of mass destruction, based upon faulty information and sometimes false information purposefully, for whatever purpose. We know all that now. We did not know it then, but we sent our military into that, and we sent our military in with not enough manpower. Seventy percent of the generals said we do not have enough manpower. The one person with the level of credibility, combat experience in this administration, Colin Powell, made the statement, We do not go to war without the size of the military we need to do the job. You go with massive force.
Then secondly, once there were no weapons of mass destruction, the mission changed to go to find Saddam Hussein. We did that.
Then to set up a free government. We did that, all under great, great obstacles.
And then the test, to reconstruct the country. That was not the mission of our Army.
So, as we sit back and as we applaud this great accomplishment today with al-Zarqawi, let us not forget the soldier. Let us not forget the difficult and challenging and meandering, constantly changing mission, not having the resources, going into dung heaps, going into landfills to get body armor.
This country, and the very just passionate story that Steve Israel talked about on the front page of the Newsday and the Long Island newspaper today, America deserves better. I tell you one thing, they are going to get better because we in the Democratic group on national security, we are going to make sure of it. We are going to hold this administration accountable. We are going to point in a new direction, and we are going to give the American people the kind of strong, forceful, national security that they need and can be proud of.
That is exactly the point we were making earlier in the debate early last week in terms of these tax cuts. I mean, we are here and this administration last week prides itself at a time when our soldiers are making these kinds of sacrifice, at a time that this administration will stand in the way of the concurrent receipts bill, and forcing our veterans to have to choose if they get injured or they get a wound in the battlefield, and they have to retire from the service, they have to choose between their retirement pay and their disability pay.
This administration is standing in the way of correcting that, and at the same time will ask for tax cuts for the top 1 percent of the most wealthy people in this country, on the backs of not treating our veterans right, on the backs of not increasing the military widows' pay or giving the death benefits that we need or giving the military service people the raise that they need.
This is why I was just so astounded at the glee that came from the Republican administration in passing a tax cut at a time of war, of great sacrifice. Never before in this history has that occurred.
Mr. SCHIFF. If I could ask of the gentleman from Georgia, prior to the Memorial Day weekend, you shared a short anecdote about meeting one of your constituents in Iraq. Can you tell us about that because I think it so characterizes the sacrifice we are talking about.
Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. This was a remarkable experience I had with the soldier in Iraq, and we had to make that choice of staying that night and putting our own selves in greater danger because, you know, going over there, you cannot fly up at night. You have to go by the roads, but we made that choice, and I am so glad because it gave me the experience of a lifetime.
As we were in CampVictory in Baghdad and we were gathered there, and this soldier came up and was just hugging me. I was hugging him, tears falling down his eyes, tears falling down my eyes, and we were just squeezing each other. He said something to me I will never forget. He said, Congressman Scott, when I am hugging you, it is like hugging a piece of home. I almost get choked up every time that happens.
I am so glad that God gave me that experience. I am so glad we went there, and like other soldiers, a while later, that soldier died. That is the kind of sacrifice, and I went over there and looked in the eyes.
Let me tell you another experience. When I was in Afghanistan and I went over there to Afghanistan, at the time when you remember the debate was over that if we had had this kind of body armor, that several thousand marines that have died or got wounded or would have been saved, that story came out. The Pentagon had given that report.
So that was fresh on my mind when I was sitting there with this one unit. And in each one of the squads there is a sniper. There is an armor guy, an artillery guy, but each one has a sniper who the whole troop depends upon. And I started asking about the body armor and they started going around saying, yeah, we have all our armor on, but our sniper here, he will not wear the neck armor to protect himself from a head wound or a neck wound that would be almost fatal. And I asked him, I said y. He said, I won't wear that because it hurts my agility to be able to move my head to protect my troops. We have had many snipers.
That kind of valor, that kind of courage, that is the kind of sacrifice that we are talking about at a time when we have not asked others in this Nation to make that sort of sacrifice.