WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn this morning, led-off today's debate on H.Con.Res. 60, a House resolution opposing President Bush's plans to send more than 20,000 additional troops into Iraq. Clyburn spoke on the third day debate in which every Member of Congress is allotted five minutes to speak on the issue. Lawmakers are scheduled to vote on the resolution tomorrow. Following are Clyburn's remarks.
"I thank the Chair.
The debate we join today is ostensibly over the matter of sending 20,000 more American troops into Iraq. Over the past two days, some deeply felt sentiments have been expressed in this hall by some patriotic and honorable Americans from all walks of life and on both sides of the aisle, and I respect and appreciate the intensity of those feelings.
If this were the only issue - if the matter were only a matter of troop strength and numbers - then the issue would lend itself to military and strategic solutions, and we would not be having this debate.
That's not the real issue, however. That's not the reason that every member of this Congress is being granted the opportunity to speak on the issue. No, my fellow members of Congress, the real issue we are addressing today is not that simple. The real issue goes to the very heart of our American democracy.
Last November, the American people voted for a change in leadership. They did so overwhelmingly because they want a new direction in Iraq. The American people also voted for a new Congress because they had lost faith in the old one. As a Congress, we had lost our footing, and as a result, our nation lost its way on the international stage.
I believe that last November's call for a new direction in Iraq is also rooted in our lost faith in those who are leading that nation.
We were stung when Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki seemed to offer amnesty to Iraqi insurgents that killed Americans.
We have been robbed by the disappearance of billions of dollars sent to Iraq in good faith to help rebuild the country.
We have been deceived by the promise of trained Iraqi police forces who should be preparing to provide law and order for their country, but instead ally themselves with insurgents.
I traveled with some of you to Iraq last Memorial Day, and enjoyed, what I thought was one of the best meetings of the trip with the Iraqi Speaker of the Council of Representatives.
The optimism I felt following that meeting was destroyed when just days after our return home, I heard the Iraqi Speaker denigrating American efforts in his country.
We in the new leadership of Congress do not stand here as defeatists, and not as opponents of this nation's best interests. Only fools could reach that kind of conclusion from this discussion. We stand here today to say there is a victory to be achieved here, but it's not a military conquest.
The victory we seek is earned through the restoration of America's role as peacemaker, not warmonger. It begins with the restoration of this Congress as the deliberative arbiter and representative of the best interests of the American people. It begins with the understanding and acceptance of the Congress as a full partner in the future of this activity.
Many of us have seen first-hand and witnessed first-hand the realities of our presence in Iraq. Many of us have informed ourselves as fully as possible on the complexity of the problems we face. Many of us have agonized over the dangers and hazards, which lie ahead, no matter which direction we take. We do not take these steps lightly.
Now we stand ready to create new paths to new victories. We stand ready to initiate the kind of victories, which will restore America's respect around the world and self-confidence here at home.
We cannot achieve this by military might, but by diplomacy. The need for a stable Iraq is not just an American interest, it is a regional and global concern.
Iraq's neighbors must be brought to the table. American troops must disengage from the red zone and redeploy to the outskirts of Iraq where they can remain at the ready and not serve as targets for insurgents.
The best way for the Iraqi government to gain the trust of the American people is to step up and take control of their own country's security.
We say today that the victories we seek are real victories- permanent victories - victories of a nation, which still believes that the voice of the people is our final, and best judgment.With this debate, we are taking steps to regain our footing as a Congress, and chart a new way forward on the international stage.I am hopeful that this debate will not only be heard, but will be accepted as the moment at which America turned its face toward a triumph of enormous proportions, a triumph for peace and a triumph for democracy everywhere.Thank you Madam/ Mister Speaker, and I yield back the balance of my time."