WE ARE MAKING PROGRESS -- (House of Representatives - March 24, 2004)
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Mr. PEARCE. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. HOEKSTRA. I yield to the gentleman from New Mexico.
Mr. PEARCE. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I would note that even when President Clinton was making the allegations about the strength of the effort in Iraq and about the threat that Iraq posed to the world, he was systematically dismantling the information-gathering network that the United States had in place. He began to pull the operatives out of our spy networks so that we had no information on the ground. The Clinton administration was saying that we will gather that information electronically, we will use satellites and we will use monitoring of phones.
The truth is you cannot know actions until you understand the heart of the individuals who are planning actions, until you can assess the threat by listening to the rhetoric; but President Clinton dismantled that at the same time he was acknowledging the threat, and President Bush was faced with a situation in the world where we did not have information and we were struck without warning, without provocation.
I think that before we consider all the ramifications, if we are to listen to the left, talk to America today, about retreating away from the war, about coming back home, about the mistakes they are claiming that we made, we have to understand the risk of retreat.
We have now Pakistan who is engaged with us, but it would guarantee instability and overwhelm the President of Pakistan if we were to retreat. The fundamentalists, the extremists in Iraq would overwhelm the growing government process there. Our friends who have helped us get there, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, would face certain instability if we were not there to offer the moral support and the troop strength which we are offering today.
It was well-known through the 1990s the threat that Iraq and many of the terrorist states, the risks that they posed to the United States; but in treating these not as acts of war but as a crime, like my colleague has said, we have to understand that the person who perpetrated the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center was actually in prison. He was only a criminal. It was his uncle who conducted and led the 2001 attacks with the certainty that they had communicated frequently.
The failed policies of appeasement simply are not going to work in this war on terror; and if we understand that the instability of the world is the goal of the terrorists, that through the instability they represent a very small percent of the population but they will gain tremendous power in instability, we begin to understand why they are doing what they are doing.
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Mr. PEARCE. Mr. Speaker, the gentleman brought up a personality trait of the President. When he inherited a bad problem, the President did not whine about it, did not take it to the American public, did not point fingers. He just set to work to solve the problem. There are many things that the President could have talked about that existed in the military at the point that he took over. Raises had been ignored for the 8 years under President Clinton; the inventory of our weapons were depleted seriously through many actions taken under President Clinton. Spare parts for vehicles and tanks were depleted, and the maintenance readiness status of our equipment was sadly lacking; but the President has not said one word about that during this war. He simply went to work, asked for the money to take care of the problems, and began to take care of the problems.
Today, I heard a speaker who described leadership as seeing a need, then taking a personal responsibility to take care of that need. As I look back on the President's performance since 9/11 in a situation that was tremendously challenging for any person, I see a person who saw a need and took a personal responsibility to begin to address the problems. He has addressed them well. If we look at the changes since 9/11, we see the dramatic changes in the situation in the world today. He
talked to our friends in Saudi Arabia and said there were networks financing terrorism there, and that has changed. He compelled them to make a change in that.
Today Saddam Hussein is not in power, but instead is in prison. Who can forget the image of that leader who had killed a half a million people, his own people, and here was that leader, that vicious, violent leader crawling out of a hole in the ground where he had been hiding, whipped and beaten by the steadfast determination of American forces to rid the world of that evil and to keep him from doing more destruction, either in the world or to his own people.
Afghanistan this summer has already had elections. They are looking at a Constitution that is offering new freedoms in that country. Iraq has approved the temporary Constitution, the one that for the first time gives women rights in that Middle Eastern country, one that recognizes private property rights.
Children are back in school in Iraq today because of the President's actions. As my colleague has mentioned, Libya has given up their chemical and nuclear weapons. Iran is acknowledging their participation in this dramatic build up of weapons of mass destruction. The Pakistani President has vowed to fight terrorism in his country with his troops and is doing a dramatic job of that.
These are significant changes in the history of the world. And make no mistake about it, if the changes were not made
to the better, toward the more stable governments, the changes will be made in the world to more unstable governments. That is the choice in the world today, stability versus instability. It is not so much a question of those countries that are democrat or not democrat. The question is stability and the protection of humans and human rights in those countries.
So the President inherited a military that was depleted, one that seemed to be on its heels. I would point out that when I went to Iraq in October and early November, I talked with many of the soldiers there. For 3 days we had lunch and dinner with American soldiers, both men and women fighting the fight. Every day I would walk through the large dining halls of 800 or 900 people, and I had a chance to visit with a lot of young men and women. In unison and one by one they said please tell the President we love him. That was prior to when the President went there on Thanksgiving morning. When I saw him about to come around that curtain, I realized what the American troops would say to him because they had said the same thing to me a month earlier.
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Mr. PEARCE. Mr. Speaker, as the gentleman was talking about the soldiers in the streets, there were three young men from New Mexico, and they brought me a picture from their patrol that morning. These young men were in their early 20s. They graduated from New Mexico high schools. I had watched one play in the State championship ball game. We talked about that game, but their greatest pride came from the recognition that was given to them by the Iraqis in the streets over a period of time. They said when they got there, people were peeking out of the curtains. They were unsure because they had been told for 35 years that the Americans had only one intent, and that was to kill when they came.
Yet through the weeks families became familiar with them being in the same streets and in the same alleyways, and protecting and guarding, and gradually they began to open their doors. On that morning, the morning they took the picture in the street, they brought it to me to put into my office here. One of the families brought out their young kids and held them up to see them eye to eye. He said it brought tears to his eyes to see the changes in the Iraqi people in just a few short weeks.
The greatest question that our solders ask us is, why don't Americans hear this in the American press? Why don't my mom and dad hear about the good things that we're doing on the streets? I could not give them an answer but when I was there in my 3 days I took 5 ½ hours of video. I have consolidated that onto a CD that I take into the schools in my districts and I talk over and over and over about the good things that American soldiers are doing there in the reconstruction, not only in the reconstruction of the facilities in Iraq, but in the reconstruction of the hope and the dreams and the human spirit that we see taking place right now.
Our young men and women are recognizing the very valuable thing they are creating in the human spirit in Iraqis, and both the young men and women got tears in their eyes when they were telling me about it.
I thank the gentleman for yielding for that brief story.
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Mr. PEARCE. I thank the gentleman for yielding. He is bringing up a very compelling story that occurred when I was in Iraq. We went to Kirkuk. At that town, we visited the police station. I am understanding that it is the same police station that was bombed several weeks ago in Iraq causing great damage.
But when we were there the police captain began to address this concept of liberty. He likened it to growing a garden. He said in his words that for the roses to grow in Iraq, the roses would have to be watered with Iraqi blood. He said, We're willing to do that. We're willing to shed Iraqi blood for Iraqi freedom. When I heard those words, I knew that Iraq, no matter what the trials, no matter what the troubles, would be in good shape as long as we are there to help, as long as we are there to help until they get their strength.
The only thing that can cause Iraq to suffer worse is for America to lose its resolve, because the Iraqi police at that station in Kirkuk said two things, Don't leave Iraq too early and do not leave Saddam Hussein
loose. That was before we captured Saddam Hussein. We have taken care of the second piece but America cannot lose its resolve. Otherwise, the Iraqi people will pay dearly for the terrorists and the extremists who would go in and punish anyone who has cooperated with the United States or with the Coalition forces.
Again, I thank the gentleman for yielding.
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Mr. PEARCE. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Shadegg) for bringing this important subject up because I have asked the President because many people asked me, Why does the President not fight back? Why does he not explain? And his simple answer to me was he cannot take the Presidency down into those baseless claims of people that are coming from everywhere. He stays focused on the job of fighting the war on terror. He has made tremendous accomplishments in the war on terror as we look across the history of the changes in just the last 3 years and even the recent incident along the Pakistani-Afghanistan border where U.S. troops are on the Afghanistan side and Pakistani troops were pinching in together al Qaeda troops in the middle. I think that indicates some of the most dramatic changes going on in the region, and this President, in spurning a policy of appeasement but choosing instead to respond in strength and remaining dignified and not dipping the Presidency into the baseless accusations that have been hurled from every direction during the last 8 or 9 months, indicates a steadfastness, a commitment to duty that this President brings that makes me proud.
I thank both of the gentlemen for bringing these conversations in front of the American people.
I think this is the right place to refute the lies that are being thrown about.
I thank both gentlemen for allowing me to participate this evening.