Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515-0128
FLOOR STATEMENT OF
THE HONORABLE HENRY J. HYDE
ON THE IRAQ RESOLUTION
MARCH 17, 2004
On September 2, 1939, the day after the Nazi invasion of Poland, a fierce debate over British policy broke out in the House of Commons. Leo Amery, a Tory and an old friend of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, was nonetheless appalled at how both his Conservative Party colleagues and their Labor opponents were behaving – everyone seemed to be trying to find the easy way out. When the deputy leader of the Labor Party, Arthur Greenwood, got up to speak for Labor, Amery challenged him with a call for patriotism that still inspires us today – “Speak for England!” he cried. “Speak for England!”
It’s in that spirit of nonpartisanship – it’s with that same dedication to the common good, not the party good – that I hope we will debate the resolution before us.
Mr. Speaker, no one needs to be reminded that we are at war. It is a strange and troubling form of war. Leo Amery and Arthur Greenwood could see the enemy clearly and unmistakably – the enemy was the Nazi regime, then crushing Polish freedom through the horrors of blitzkrieg. The war in which we are engaged today is different. Sometimes it involves aggressive regimes that have made states into instruments of repression within and supporters of terror without – that is what we faced in Iraq, and that is why the world is safer with Saddam Hussein gone.
Elsewhere in this war, the enemy is not so easy to see, because he is not a state, but a network of terrorists, vile creatures whose primary purpose in life is to sow the seeds of death. We are all painfully aware that the treacherous calamity of 9/11 demonstrated a new and mortal danger confronting the West. 9/11 shattered our complacency and made the deliberate targeting of women and children the bloody by-product of war, the dimensions of which we have yet to fully understand. These are the depths of hatred we must exorcise if we are to survive, and no one is immune.
But whether the enemy is visible or lives in the shadows; whether his methods, tactics, and weapons are conventional or unconventional; no matter whether he fights us according to the established Rules of War or, far more likely, fights without any sense of restraint or decency; no matter whether we can pinpoint the enemy’s location or not – it is all the same war. Whether in Madrid or New York. It is all the same war.
We now have a new ally in that war – the people of Iraq who seek a different future for their country.
Do not doubt, Mr. Speaker, that the overwhelming majority of the people of Iraq do look to the United States with gratitude. Do not doubt that they thank us for deliverance from the mass graves, the torture rooms, the use of rape as state policy. Some may doubt this – but they are woefully misinformed, or deeply mistaken.
We are now in the midst of the hardest part of the Iraq campaign in the global war on terror – helping the Iraqi people build the infrastructure of democracy, as they clear away the rubble of the Saddam Hussein regime. That rubble is material; but it is also spiritual, psychological, and political. Building civil society in Iraq is going to take time. It is not going to be easy.
But neither was the rebuilding of German civil society after World War II – America stayed the course then, and America discovered in the process that a people with whom we had fought two bloody wars in twenty-five years had become staunch friends and allies. If we stay the course in Iraq today, I think it possible that, twenty years from now, the friends we are making in Iraq now will be staunch friends and allies – and the Middle East will look very different because of that.
If that vision is to become reality, the Iraqi people, indeed the entire world, must know that America will stay the course – that there will be no abandoning the mission, that America will see this through to a better future for the people of Iraq and for the entire Middle East. The Iraqi people, the Afghan people, the Libyan people, indeed the entire world, must know that America is committed to fighting the war on terrorism to the end – so that the cradle of civilization that is the Middle East is no longer a tinderbox threatening global holocaust; so that the world is a safer, saner, more decent place for everyone.
Charles de Gaulle once said, “France would not be true to herself if she weren’t engaged in some great enterprise.” Well, freedom and democracy are our great enterprise.
This is the cause this resolution asks us to affirm. This is why this resolution deserves the nonpartisan, indeed bipartisan, support of every member of this House.
As our President has said, “There can be no neutrality between justice and cruelty...we are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name.”
The world is watching us, Mr. Speaker. A world that is too often cynical about politics is looking to see if the United States can conduct an election campaign amidst a war, and do so in such a way that the cause for which the war is being fought is strengthened, not weakened. The world is looking at us to see if the consensus that formed in this country on September 11, 2001, can hold. The world is watching – the world wants to know if America will stay the course, or whether partisan interests will overwhelm national interests and commitments.
I suppose there are some who accept the recent vote in Spain as a victory for terrorism–
But this is a war we dare not lose. This a war to preserve freedom and decency and democracy, and we dare not lose.
Let us rise above partisanship and show the world we are faithful to our ideals.
There is no greater gift to the terrorists as they plot their next assault on children and the elderly, than to convince them that we are not united in our struggle with terrorism. Of course we have our differences, some profound – but we are united in our willingness to fight for freedom and in our relentless hostility to terrorism.
A vote for this resolution sends that message.
When Hitler was marching through Europe, the voices of appeasement were loud – but the voices of resistance were even louder–
Voices from a man named Churchill, a man named de Gaulle and a man named Roosevelt...
As we debate this resolution today, let us all remember the lesson of Leo Amery’s injunction to Arthur Greenwood at another moment of great peril – and let us “speak for America!”