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What Giffords, Grijalva said about the war in Iraq

The two U.S. Representatives for southern Arizona spoke Thursday in the House as part of the debate on the Iraq war.

Each House member was given five minutes to make his or her points.

Here are transcripts of the statements of U.S. Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords.

Statement of Raul Grijalva

I will not spend time assessing blame and responsibility for the quagmire that our nation finds itself in, in Iraq. But I do find it curious that the opponents of this resolution want us to believe that the history of the Iraq War begins today. That it has no past – only a doubtful future.

This head in the sand attitude, while politically expedient, denies reality and truth. Rest assured that history and fact will not be kind to the decision-makers and deciders of this war. Nor will it be kind to a Congress that looked the other way.

The resolution before us today is a first, tentative step toward the removal of our troops from Iraq. The escalation proposed for Iraq is another desperate act opposed by the American people and former military leaders.

This resolution does not demoralize our troops or embolden the insurgents. This resolution offers hope to our troops that an end is in sight and that their elected representatives are not passing on their authority regarding the most important issue confronting our nation today.

I personally know families whose loved ones have been lost, badly injured or profoundly and tangibly affected by this war. Our commitment should be to those families and veterans who need the full measure of our support. Our gratitude should be measured in real resources for veterans and not empty platitudes and political rhetoric expounded to justify the irreparable failures of policy in Iraq.

The focus of this debate is not centered on our soldiers who are nobly doing their duty and following their orders. It is directed at those who set policy and who have produced a war without end, with no plan for success or exit, with no international strategy, and who now turn to a desperate and doomed escalation that only reinforces the failure and desperation of those policy makers.

The civil war in Iraq will not end with the influx of more American troops.

I believe this resolution should have teeth – we must send a message that binds all of us to real action, an unflinching message of opposition to the escalation and a message of support for our troops. Today marks a step in that direction.

How many more ways can the American people tell this Congress to act to prevent more loss of our blood and treasure in this war in Iraq?

Weren’t the recent elections a strong message?

Isn’t the loss of confidence by the public in their elected leaders a strong message?

Isn’t the sacrifice and valor of our men and women fighting this war deserving of the respect of our government?

Don’t we have a duty to protect them, reunite them with their families immediately and, share the truth with them that the question is no longer if we get out of Iraq, but how and when?

For me and for many of their families, the sooner the better.

I could stand here before you and recite, one by one, all the polls that tell us about the public’s overwhelming opposition to this war and the even stronger opposition to this escalation, but as I think about it, the most important poll for us who serve in Congress must be our conscience.

This resolution before us is simple and direct. It speaks, in a very clear way, to the frustration we all feel with this misadventure in Iraq.

I said I would not belabor the question of who is to blame, but I must address the obvious:

● Weapons of mass destruction – none Found

● Links of Iraq to 911 – didn’t exist

● Misspent funds in Iraq – ignored

● Mission Accomplished – premature political propaganda

● Strategy for Iraq – non-existent

● Funds for education, health care, our towns and cities and investments in our people – spent in Iraq

The litany of failures and untruths goes on and on.

The lack of leadership by this administration requires – no, demands – that this Congress assert its Constitutional duty, to check and balance this Administration and to respond to the crisis in Iraq with purpose and resolve.

This resolution is one step in what I hope is a rapid process by Congress to bring the debacle in Iraq to an end.

I urge my colleagues to support H Res 63, and also to support H.R. 508 – The Bring Our Troops Home and Iraq Sovereignty Restoration Act.

Statement of Gabrielle Giffords

As members of the 110th Congress, we are about to cast one of our most important votes yet.

Americans in my district of Southern Arizona, and across the country, want their Representatives to bring closure to the U.S. involvement in Iraq. This vote is the first step toward doing just that.

A few weeks ago, President Bush gave a nationally televised speech to the American people to announce his New Way Forward for Iraq, but it sounded strangely familiar.

The president acknowledged that his policies and plans in Iraq have failed to yield the promised results, and yet his only suggestion was to do more of the same.

During my first few weeks in Congress, serving on the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, I have been listening, learning, and asking tough questions. I have participated in many hours of hearings and briefings with top level administration officials such as:

● Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

● Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace

● Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey

● Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and

● Former congressman Lee Hamilton, co-chairman of the Bipartisan Iraq Study Group commissioned by the president.

Since being sworn in to Congress, I have also been reading dozens of letters from my constituents and flying home to my district almost every weekend to meet with concerned citizens.

Recently I attended a Returning Warrior event in Arizona for reservists coming back from combat. And last week I visited Walter Reed Hospital here in Washington, D.C. to speak with wounded soldiers and their families.

These experiences have made me more confident than ever that the global war on terror and the situation in Iraq are more complicated than President Bush seems to realize. Common sense dictates that in order for any plan to succeed, it must require the Iraqi government to calm the sectarian violence and unify behind a workable political structure.

The president’s plan fails to acknowledge the lack of willingness and capacity by Iraqi political and religious leaders to achieve these necessary goals – sectarian factions are more divided than ever.

Without the serious involvement and motivation of the Iraqi people, the president’s proposal to send more American troops into harm’s way amounts to little more than having 21,000 more soldiers stay the course. This I cannot support.

The president should consider the views of the many active and retired military generals who have advised him to change his strategy in Iraq. Instead of adding more soldiers he should focus on some of the best recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group that he commissioned.

Recommendations include:

● Keeping rapid reaction and special operations forces in Iraq to strike al-Qaida militias

● Setting performance benchmarks for the Iraqi government and holding them accountable

● Providing economic assistance to Iraq that will help create jobs, strengthen infrastructure and improve the Iraqis’ capacity to be independent and stable, and

● Beginning a new dialogue with Iraq’s neighbors because they need to part of the solution

The basic message of the Iraq Study Group and other credible experts and strategists is that the situation in Iraq is a political, not just a military, crisis. The President’s military escalation plan without a political component is bound to fail.

Along with all other patriotic Americans, I strongly support our men and women in uniform who are risking their lives to protect and defend our nation.

Our armed forces must have the tools, training and support they need to be successful in any mission. I have serious concerns that our Army and Marine Corp, along with Guard and Reserve forces, are being stretched too thin.

Instead of sending 21,000 more young American soldiers to Iraq as part of his same failed strategy, the president should focus on the global war on terrorism.

Failure is not an option. America must prevail against many serious terrorist threats around the world, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere.

I will vote to support the resolution before this body because our brave men and women in uniform deserve a strategy that honors their sacrifices – the president’s plan does not do that.

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