WASHINGTON, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) addressed the U.S. House of Representatives today during debate on H. Con. Res. 63, disapproving the decision of the President to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.  Attached please find a copy of Skelton’s prepared remarks:

“Mr. Speaker, the Department of Defense reports that as of February 11, 2007, three thousand one hundred and ten U.S. military service members have died as a result of their service in Iraq.  More than 25,000 have been wounded.  I ask that we pause briefly for a moment of silence in tribute to those who have fallen.

“I am deeply saddened as I stand before you today.  I’m saddened because we find ourselves embroiled in a sectarian conflict in Iraq with no end in sight.  We find ourselves in the middle of what I consider to be a Great American Tragedy.  The mission of this Congress must be to change our course.

“We are here because of a series of irretrievable strategic mistakes.  The list is extensive, but review is instructive as we now consider this administration’s latest plan.  The Administration used bad intelligence to justify the rationale for war, as recently demonstrated by the report on the skewed intelligence from the Defense Department’s Office of Special Plans.  The Administration had no plan for the post-war phase of the conflict and went into Iraq with inadequate force, as pointed out by General Eric Shinseki, the former Army Chief of Staff.

“The Administration allowed uncontrolled looting and the basic breakdown of law and order from which Iraq has still not recovered and failed to guard the weapons caches which continue to arm the insurgency.  The Administration decided to dismiss the Iraqi Army, rather than give them a pick and a shovel and put them to work, adding to the chaos in Iraq and it failed to even acknowledge the existence of the insurgency for months.  The Administration has consistently refused to adjust its overall strategy in Iraq even in the face of these repeated failures.

“These failures were foreseeable.  I take no pleasure in this, but on September 4, 2002 and March 18, 2003, I predicted some of the outcomes we are experiencing today—a jagged ending to the conflict. Today, while there is a peacefully elected Iraqi government, it is a government so divided on sectarian lines that it has not been able to accomplish even the most basic steps needed for national reconciliation.  And now we have the President’s plan for a troop increase in Iraq.

“That’s what it is, it is not a “surge,” it is a troop increase.  This point is important because what is needed in Iraq is a strategic change of course, instead of a tactical shift likely to leave us with the same status quo. The President’s plan will embroil our troops even more deeply in a sectarian conflict that everyone agrees we cannot solve, and which ultimately cannot be solved militarily.  The President’s plan – hastily put together -- is insufficient in the requirement for progress it places on the Iraqi political system; insufficient in the support it provides to our combat forces; and insufficient in the amount of training time it allows for deploying units.  As a result, under the President’s plan U.S. military forces will be less ready going into and during this troop increase, and sadly, they could be stressed to the point of breaking.

“Finally, the President’s plan will heighten the already unacceptable level of strategic risk currently facing our nation, particularly if the number of support forces who must be deployed creeps beyond the administration’s prediction of 2,500 and closer to the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of 13,000 to 28,000. Our military is over committed in Iraq, and is ill-equipped and ill-positioned to respond to many of the emerging crises elsewhere in the world.

“I’ve been privileged to serve 30 years in the Congress, and over that time, 12 significant military contingencies have occurred.  Each of them occurred in an unexpected place at an unexpected time.  It will happen again, and right now we are not prepared.  Unfortunately, it is the magnificent men and women of our military who will pay the price for that failure.  Mr. Chairman, we must send the President a message he cannot ignore.  We must pass the Skelton/Lantos/Jones resolution. With that, I retain the balance of my time.  Thank you, Mr. Speaker.”