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Pelosi: Vote Against Escalation in Iraq is a Message to President Bush - No More Blank Checks on Iraq

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today, opening up three days of debate on a bipartisan resolution on Iraq expressing support for our troops and disapproving of the President's escalation plan.  Below are her remarks:

'In a few weeks, the war in Iraq will enter its fifth year - causing thousands of deaths, tens of thousands of casualties, costing hundreds of billions of dollars, and damaging the standing of the United States in the international community.  And there is no end in sight.

'The American people have lost faith in President Bush's course of action in Iraq and have demanded a New Direction.

'On January 10, President Bush proposed deploying more than 20,000 additional combat troops to Iraq.  This week, we will debate his escalation. 

'In doing so, we must be ever mindful of the sacrifices our military personnel are being asked to make in this war and the toll it is taking on them, on their families, and on our veterans.  Each one of us must determine, in a manner worthy of their sacrifice, whether the President's proposal will make America safer, make our military stronger, and make the region more stable.

'As this debate begins, let us be clear on one fundamental principle: we all support the troops. 

'In this bipartisan resolution that is before us today, it clearly states: 'Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq.'

'We honor the service of our troops by asking the difficult questions about this war.  As Republican Senator Robert Taft of Ohio said two weeks after Pearl Harbor, 'Criticism in a time of war is essential to the maintenance of a democratic government.'

'And just 10 days ago, President Bush told House Democrats: 'I welcome debate in a time of war...I do not believe that if you don't happen to agree with me, you don't share the same sense of patriotism I do,' the President said. 

'In the spirit of responsibility to our troops, and the patriotism we all share, let us consider whether the President's escalation proposal will lessen the violence in Iraq and bring our troops home safely and soon.

'From the standpoint of the military, the President's plan must be evaluated on its prospects for success. 

'It is based on a judgment that the way out of Iraq lies in sending more troops in.  Our experience in Iraq has proven just the opposite.  Four previous troop escalations have resulted in escalating levels of violence. 

'As with any military action, the President's plan also must be evaluated on the additional burdens it will place on our troops and military families who have already sacrificed so much, and the impact it will have on the already dangerous state of our military readiness.

'Our military has done everything they have been asked to do, and they have performed excellently.   But in order to succeed in Iraq, there must be diplomatic and political initiatives. 

'There has been no sustained and effective effort to engage Iraq's neighbors diplomatically and no sustained and effective effort to engage Iraqi factions politically.  The Iraqi government has failed to honor promises made last year when the Constitution was adopted, by failing to propose amendments to include all sectors of Iraq in its civic life. 

'As a result, today we are confronted by little political accommodation; hardening sectarian divisions; ethnic cleansing by neighborhoods; and waves of refugees burdening neighboring countries.

'After the Members of this body of the House of Representatives have fully debated the President's escalation proposal, we will have a straight up or down vote.  In a few days, and in fewer than 100 words, we will take our country in a New Direction on Iraq.  A vote of disapproval will set the stage for additional Iraq legislation, which will be coming to the House floor. 

'Friday's vote will signal whether the House has heard the American people: No more blank checks for President Bush on Iraq.  Our taxpayer dollars must go to protect our troops, to keep our promises to our veterans, and to provide for the safety of the American people.

'In light of the facts, President Bush's escalation proposal will not make America safer, will not make our military stronger, and will not make the region more stable, and it will not have my support.

'I urge my colleagues to support our troops and vote aye on the bipartisan Skelton, Lantos, Jones resolution before us today.   

'Thank you, Mr. Speaker.'