We Must Embark on a New Direction in Iraq (Rep. Chris Van Hollen)

The Orderly and Responsible Iraq Deployment Appropriations Act sets forth a realistic strategy for the responsible redeployment of our combat troops in Iraq. The Bush Administration has requested another 200 billion dollar blank check for the war in Iraq to pursue a flawed strategy that has no end in sight and that continually puts our brave men and women in the armed services in the middle of Iraq's civil war.

The indefinite presence of American forces in Iraq has allowed the different factions there to postpone making the difficult compromises necessary to achieve stability and political reconciliation. Our intelligence community has publicly concluded that the political situation in Iraq is getting worse, not better. We cannot ask our troops to remain in Iraq when the different Iraqi factions have refused to take the steps necessary to achieve a greater stability.

We must embark on a new direction in Iraq. That's what this legislation will do. It allocates $50 billion for the purpose of beginning to responsibly redeploy our combat forces out of Iraq by the target date of December 15, 2008. The troops that would remain in Iraq beyond that date would focus on the more limited missions of training Iraqi security forces, providing logistical and intelligence support for the Iraqi security forces, and engaging in targeted counter-terrorist operations against Al-Qaeda and affiliated groups.

As the legislation states, “the primary purpose of funds made available by the Act should be to transition the mission of the United States Armed Forces in Iraq and undertake their redeployment, and not to extend or prolong the war.'' This bill also states that the reduction of our armed forces in Iraq “shall be implemented in conjunction with a comprehensive diplomatic, political and economic strategy that includes sustained engagement with Iraq's neighbors and the international community for the purpose of working collectively to bring stability to Iraq'' -- a strategy recommended by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group that the Administration has failed to pursue with any vigor or urgency.

This legislation also prohibits the deployment of any troops not fully equipped or trained and extends to all U.S. Government agencies and personnel the limitations in the U.S. Army Field Manual on permissible interrogation techniques. We must send a strong message to the world that we do not support or condone torture.

We are on the wrong path in Iraq. This bill provides a much needed change in direction that will strengthen our national security, improve our position in the region and bring our men and women safely home.