WICKER: IRAQ RESOLUTION SENDS WRONG MESSAGE

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution last week disapproving of President Bush’s decision to deploy more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. I opposed the measure because I believe it sends the wrong message both to our military and our enemies in Iraq and around the world.

House Republicans were not allowed to offer an alternative version that would have prohibited Congress from cutting off funds to the troops while they are in harm’s way. Instead, we were left with a statement that amounted to a vote of no confidence in both the mission and the troops.

DETERMINED LEADERSHIP IMPORTANT

In my remarks on the House floor, I shared examples from the Revolutionary War and Civil War when the troops were reluctant and public opinion was divided about whether to continue the fight. I noted that determined leadership prevailed then and said strong leadership was required again to meet the challenges we face with this issue.

A recent CBS poll showed the American people are split about what to do in Iraq, with only 44 percent supporting the resolution and 45 percent opposed. While many Americans are conflicted and impatient with the war, the story is different among our military. In testimony before Congress, the senior enlisted personnel from the active, National Guard, and Reserve forces told us troop morale is high.

RECRUITMENT, RETENTION STRONG

The enlistment figures provide a strong indication of the commitment of our troops. All service branches met and exceeded their recruitment goals in 2006. The Marine Command Sergeant Major told our committee young persons join the Marines today to get to the fight. The re-enlistment figures show the same results, with all goals being reached. It almost takes your breath away to hear those troops who have been there say they continue to believe in the mission and want to see it through to completion.

I have heard the same thing from Mississippians who have returned from Iraq. They express frustration about the news media’s focus on bad news and talk about the successes in helping steer Iraq toward a path of democracy and freedom. I recently received an email from a Mississippi soldier in Iraq. He said, “No one wants everybody home more than I do, but we must finish the job. We are doing good things here and taking bad guys out of the game.”

TERRORISTS IN IRAQ

I believe most Americans realize we are in a global war against an enemy determined to destroy us, and I believe they want us to win that war. Success in Iraq is a key element in winning the war on terror. Clearly, the terrorists believe Iraq is a central battleground. Osama bin Laden’s chief deputy has urged Al Qaeda operatives in Iraq to expel the Americans, establish an Islamic authority, and extend the “jihad wave” to neighboring countries.

The House should have sent a message of strength and resolve to the terrorists and a message of support, unity, confidence and appreciation to the troops. The resolution approved last week did neither.

US Rep. Roger Wicker
Weekly Address
2/16/7