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Welch takes to the House floor, calls for end to war

By Christian Avard | Vermont Guardian

Posted February 13, 2007

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives began debate today on Pres. George W. Bush’s war policy in Iraq and Vermont’s lone representative — Democrat Peter Welch — was one of the first to speak and called the administration’s policy a failure.

This week Congress will vote on a resolution to determine whether or not they will approve Pres. Bush’s decision to add 21, 500 troops to Iraq.

With the backdrop of a deteriorating situation in Iraq, Republicans and Democrats are debating what route is best for the United States, the Iraqi government, and the armed forces.

For Welch, a member of the powerful House Rules Committee, he believes now is the time to bring the troops home.

“The administration's policy on Iraq has failed. It failed yesterday, it's failing today, and it will fail tomorrow. These failures have left America weakened — not strengthened. Today, we must chart a new course: We must end the war in Iraq,” said Welch.

Vermont has lost the most number of soldiers per capita in the Iraq War — a rate of about one soldier every seven weeks — and Welch recognized their contributions. However he did make a distinction that while Vermont troops must be commended, it’s the president’s strategy that deserves criticism.

“Each one of us is immeasurably proud of the service of our troops. They answered the call to duty; they have done their job,” said Welch. “I am particularly proud of our Vermont troops and families. No state has sacrificed more per capita in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than our state of Vermont. While our men and women in uniform have done their jobs, the president's policies have failed this country and failed our troops demonstrably and repeatedly.”

Proponents of the resolution believe that voting against the resolution will inhibit our forces to getting the job done in Iraq and more specifically, embolden the enemy.

“Now, it is important for this body to debate important issues facing our country. Last summer the House held an extended debate on the war in Iraq and the global ‘war on terror’ which gave all members an opportunity to go on record. We worked closely with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to draft the language of that resolution and we had, I believe, a productive debate,” said House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner, R-OH, in a prepared statement on the floor.

“But what we’re dealing with today isn’t even a resolution to debate the war itself — it is a non-binding resolution attacking a single strategy in the prosecution of the larger war. Non-binding means non-leadership. It is non-accountability. And it is not the right message to the troops. This is a political charade, lacking both the seriousness and gravity of the issue it is meant to address.

“Right now we’re fighting them in Iraq. This battle is the most visible part of a global war — but it just one part. If we leave, they will follow us home. It’s that simple,” Boehner added.

In his speech, Welch argued that the solution cannot be met with additional military force and that diplomacy is better alternative.

“It is now our responsibility to chart a new direction: One that brings our troops home, restores diplomacy to our foreign policy, and improves the readiness of our military,” said Welch. “Top military commanders have made it clear that no amount of American military force can take the place of the political consensus required to end Iraq's civil war. We face two questions: what is best for America and what is best for Iraq? The answer to both questions is to end this war.”

Debate on the resolution will continue throughout the week and a vote is expected on Friday.

As many as 20, or more, Republicans may break ranks and vote with Democrats, said Andrew Savage, Welch’s communications director.

“There is word that there could be 20 or more Republicans in support, I've even heard [between] 20 to 60. I think you could fairly say there is expectation that there will be some bipartisan support. Many more Republicans [are] willing to break ranks with a president that is losing popularity among their constituents,” said Savage.

According to a Zogby poll in late January, Bush’s approval rating stood at 32 percent, up just slightly from December. According to the same poll, 75 percent of those polled said they were dissatisfied with Bush’s handling of the war.

In the meantime, Welch continues to work on similar legislation.

He has signed onto H.R. 508, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-CA, and H.R. 746, sponsored by Rep. James McGovern, D-MA. Both call all for the redeployment of all U.S. forces from Iraq within a six-month period and the turnover of all U.S. bases to the Iraqis.

He has also signed onto H.J. Res. 18, sponsored by Rep. John Murtha, D-PA, calling for an immediate redeployment of U.S. troops, and H.R. 353, introduced by Rep. Ed Markey, D-MA, which prohibits the president from spending money on troop escalation in Iraq without specific Congressional approval.