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We Are the Troops and We Don't Support the Escalation

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I am proud to be the Congressman from the 8th district of Pennsylvania and proud to be working every day to make the everyday lives of the families back home better. Earlier this week, I was given the opportunity to speak on the House floor during the debate on the Iraq resolution. As an Iraq war veteran, to be working in Congress to try and right our course in Iraq is a duty I take very seriously. I spoke with a group of veterans in one of the first blocks of time on Tuesday - the day the debate opened. During the debate we heard a lot from the other side saying that the only way to support the troops is to blindly support the President. I asked them to look at Admiral Joe Sestak, a man who was responsible for the safety and security of 15,000 sailors and marines and tell him that he does not support our troops, I asked them to look at Sgt. Major Tim Walz a man who served his country for 24 years in the Minnesota National Guard as a non commission officer - the backbone of our Army - and tell him he does not support our troops. I said: "We are the troops and we don't support the escalation."

This debate is long overdue in the U.S. Congress and today I will be voting in favor of the resolution before the House. It's important that we stand together and tell the president with one voice that the elected representatives of the American people do not support his policies in Iraq. The American people are against the escalation and it's time their elected leaders acted with their interests and the interests of American national security at heart. This Congress will not be a blank check for the president any longer.

When I took the floor of Congress to speak on this resolution, this is what I said:

Thank you Mr. Speaker and thank you Mr. Chairman, I appreciate it.

I take the floor today not as a Democrat or Republican, but as an Iraq war veteran who was a Captain with the 82nd Airborne Division in Baghdad.

I speak with a heavy heart for my fellow paratrooper Specialist Chad Keith, Specialist James Lambert and 17 other brave men who I served with who never made it home.

I rise to give voice to hundreds of thousands of patriotic Pennsylvanians and veterans across the globe who are deeply troubled by the President's call to escalate the number of American troops in Iraq.

I served in Baghdad from June of 2003 to January of 2004. Walking in my own combat boots, I saw first hand this Administration's failed policy in Iraq.

I led convoys up and down "Ambush Alley" in a Humvee without doors - convoys that Americans still run today because too many Iraqis are still sitting on the sidelines.

I served in al-Rashid, Baghdad which, like Philadelphia, is home to 1.5 million people. While there are 7,000 Philadelphia police officers serving like my father in Philadelphia, protecting its citizens, there were only 3,500 of us in al-Rashid, Baghdad.

Mr. Speaker, the time for more troops was four years ago. But this President ignored military experts like General Shinseki & General Zinni, who in 2003, called for several hundred thousand troops to secure Iraq.

Now Mr. Speaker, our President again is ignoring military leaders. Patriots like General Colin Powell, like General Abizaid, and members of the bi-partisan Iraq Study Group who oppose this escalation

But most importantly, Mr. Speaker, Congresses in the past did not stand up to the President and his policies. But today I stand with my other military veterans some who were just elected - like Sergeant Major Tim Walz, Admiral Joe Sestak, and Commander Chris Carney. We stand together to tell this Administration that we are against this escalation and that Congress will no longer give the President a blank check.

Mr. Speaker, close to my heart is a small park on the corner of 24th and Aspen Streets in Philadelphia. This is the Patrick Ward Memorial Park.

Patrick Ward was a door gunner in the U.S. Army during Vietnam. He was killed serving the country that he loved. He was the type of guy that neighborhoods devote street corners to and parents name their children after - including my parents, Marge and Jack Murphy.

Mr. Speaker, I ask you - how many more street-corner memorials are we going to have for this war?

This is what the President's proposal does - it sends more of our best and bravest to die refereeing a civil war.

Just a month ago Sgt. Jae Moon from my district in Levittown, Bucks County was killed in Iraq.

You know, a few blocks away from this great chamber, when you walk in the snow, is the Vietnam Memorial, where half of the soldiers listed on that wall died after America's leaders knew our strategy would not work.

It was immoral then and it would be immoral now to engage in the same delusion.

That's why Mr. Speaker, sending more troops into civil war is the wrong strategy. We need to win the War on Terror and reasonable people may disagree on what to do, but most will agree that it is immoral to send young Americans to fight and die in a conflict without a real strategy for success.

The President's current course is not resolute, it is reckless.

That is why I will vote to send a message to our President that staying the course is no longer an option.

Mr. Speaker, its time for a new direction in Iraq. From my time serving with the 82d Airborne Division in Iraq, it became clear that in order to succeed there, we must tell the Iraqis that we will not be there forever. Yet, three years now since I have been home, it's still Americans leading convoys up and down Ambush Alley and securing Iraqi street corners.

We must make Iraqis stand up for Iraq - and set a timeline to start bringing our heroes home.

That's why I am proud to be an original cosponsor - with Senator Barack Obama and fellow paratrooper, Congressman Mike Thompson - of the Iraq De-Escalation Act - a moderate and responsible plan to start brining our troops home, mandating a surge in diplomacy, and refocusing our efforts on the War on Terror in Afghanistan.

Mr. Speaker, our country needs a real plan to get our troops out of Iraq, to protect our homeland and secure and refocus our efforts on capturing and killing Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

There are over 130,000 American servicemen and women serving bravely in Iraq. Unfortunately, thousands more are on the way.

Mr. Speaker, an open-ended strategy that ends in more faceless road-side bombs in Baghdad and more street-corner memorials in America, is not one that I will support.

I yield back the remainder of my time.

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