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Pelosi on Iraq Supplemental: 'This Is Not the End of the Debate'

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this evening in opposition to legislation that provides funding for the war in Iraq:

'I thank the gentleman, the distinguished Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Mr. Obey, for his brilliance in bringing the legislation to the floor that we have today.  With this bill, we can express ourselves on the direction of this war, and at the same time, have the opportunity to meet the emergency needs of the people of America - the Hurricane Katrina survivors, our farmers suffering from natural disasters, children without health insurance, our veterans.  We are raising the minimum wage for millions of our hardest working Americans.

'And with the passage of the provisions in the first piece of this bill, we strengthen our country and address the health and well-being of millions of Americans who have been ignored for too long.  With the new direction, Congress is keeping its promise to them.

'Mr. Speaker, we have two amendments before us and I just spoke about one of them.  The other amendment is about the war; the President's request for war funding plus the Warner resolution is really an inkblot.

'We are all familiar with the Rorschach test.  You look at it and you see what you see.  Some will see one thing, some will see others.  Some will see an opportunity for the first time for the Republicans to say accountability is needed on the part of the President of the United States, on the part of the government of Iraq.  And so there are these benchmarks.

'But these benchmarks in no means meet the obligations that we have to our men and women in uniform, if they can be easily waived, as they can be in this resolution.

'I'm really glad that the Republicans finally admit that there's a need for accountability.  But what they haven't done is met that need with something appropriate.

'This is like a fig leaf.  This is a token.  This is a small step forward.

'Instead we should have a giant step forward into a new direction.  So when I look at this inkblot, I see something that does not have adequate guidelines and timetables.  Something that does not have adequate consequences and something that does not have my support.

'Democrats are proposing something much better.  Instead of a missed opportunity, we had hoped that the President would have accepted our proposals, which we sent to him over and over again.  Over and over again, meeting his request and even doing more for our troops, for our veterans, and for strengthening our military, in ways beyond the President's request.

'We now have our troops engaged in a civil war.  There are reports that the Department of Defense has declared what has happened in Iraq to be a civil war.  The American people do not think that it is necessary for us to be refereeing a civil war in Iraq.  They want our focus to be on fighting terrorism, retraining the Iraqis, protecting our diplomats and our forces there, and that's exactly what Democrats have proposed.

'We think that there should be a new direction.  We think that what we should be talking about here today is a different vision for stability in the Middle East and how our role in Iraq contributes to that.

'Many retired generals, including General William Odom, have stated that any strategy for success in Iraq must begin with the redeployment of our troops out of Iraq.  That's a general, a retired general, and his voice is echoed by other generals as well.  That is what we are proposing - a change of mission, a redeployment for a different purpose.

'Our troops have performed their duties excellently.  Every opportunity we have, we must honor them for their patriotism, their courage, the sacrifices they and their families are willing to make.  Time and again we do this, and as we go into Memorial Day weekend, we do it again.  And we convey our condolences to those who have lost a family member in Iraq, in Afghanistan, or any of the other wars we have been engaged in.

'This isn't about whether or not we support our troops.  Of course we support our troops.  We all demonstrated over and over again; but it is about opposing this war.

'This is not the end of the debate.  We have to be here to bring this bill to the House floor so we can go forward.  But this debate will go on.  There will be legislation on the floor in the next several months to change the mission, from combat to fighting terrorism, training and diplomatic and force protection.  Again, that would require a greatly reduced U.S. forces and coalition forces in Iraq.

'We will have legislation to repeal the President's authority for the war in Iraq.  We will have that vote.  We will have votes on Mr. Murtha's defense appropriations bill, one of them the regular order defense appropriations bill, another one the supplemental that has been requested by the Bush Administration.

'Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor today sad that the opportunity that we had has been missed.  There is a recognition that we need accountability because the American people are demanding it.  At least 70 percent of the American people say we have to have accountability.  Instead of putting accountability into bill, we make a gesture at it.

'We could have taken a giant step in a new direction, instead we're taking a baby step.  But as I said, this is not the end of the debate.

'As we think about all of this, I'd like to recall the words of a philosopher, Hannah Arendt, who once observed that nations are driven to an endless flywheel of violence because they believe that one last, one final gesture of violence will bring peace.  But each time they sow the seeds for more violence.

'That is what President Bush is doing in Iraq.  This has been the deeply flawed policy of President Bush.  Democrats are proposing a new direction.  I urge my colleagues as we go forth, however you see the inkblot, however you decide your vote, to join in listening to the American people in the coming days, weeks, and months and bring this war to an end.'