The House passed a resolution Wednesday praising American troops and
the Iraqi people on the Iraq war's first anniversary, but only after partisan
wrangling between Bush administration supporters and minority Democrats
angered over being shut out of the measure's drafting and opposed to wording
saying the war has made the world safer.
The final 327-93 vote after more than five hours of debate masked the
angry split in the House. Some Democrats eventually voted for the symbolic
resolution even though they objected to pieces of it because they felt
majority Republicans had set a trap for them. No amendments were allowed, and
some Democrats didn't want to head into November's elections with a vote
against the resolution, fearing they would be vulnerable to charges they
weren't patriotic and had abandoned America's fighting forces.
In many ways, the debate was a proxy for the competing arguments over
Iraq offered by President Bush and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the
Democrats' presumptive presidential nominee. The measure also was part of the
administration's weeklong effort to highlight the one-year anniversary of the
war as a successful U.S. operation.
Republican leaders said the measure was aimed at showing support for the
120,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and for the Iraqi people's efforts to emerge from
more than two decades under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. "Regardless of our
disagreement on process, I will ask, dare I say it, in the spirit of
patriotism ... let's stand as one with our military people,'' said
International Relations Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill.
As he does only rarely, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., took to the
floor this time to encourage members to support the resolution and to link a
vote against it to the European "appeasement" of Hitler.
"We should never let the terrorists take heart from anything we do on the
battlefield or in this chamber," Hastert said.
The Republicans said the invasion had rid Iraq of Hussein's brutal regime,
led to a new democratic constitution, started the reconstruction of Iraq's
economy, deprived terrorists of a sympathetic state and led such other
governments as Libya and Iran to cooperate with international efforts to
destroy weapons of mass destruction.
But Hyde's counterpart, Rep. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, the Foreign
Relations Committee's ranking Democrat, said the White House had misled the
world about the intelligence behind the invasion and called for a new
independent investigation into alleged manipulation of that intelligence.
Lantos, who on March 2 won a Democratic primary in which he was
criticized for helping lead passage of the October 2002 resolution authorizing
a war in Iraq, agonized over how to vote Wednesday. His quandary, whether to
vote for a resolution honoring the troops despite his misgivings, was typical
of many Democrats.
"Many of us in this House who have been committed to, and who have worked
for, a bipartisan foreign policy for decades know that this is a slap in our
face,'' Lantos said of the resolution. "The American people have not sent us
here just to be an amen chorus for this administration."
In the end, Lantos joined six other Democrats who voted "present," saying
they supported the troops but opposed the wording of the resolution.
Citing last week's railroad bombings in Spain and Wednesday's hotel blast
in Baghdad, some Democrats said the invasion of Iraq hadn't done anything to
make the world safer or advance the war against terrorism. They also
criticized the measure for not mentioning the 565 U.S. military personnel
killed or the more than 3,200 Americans wounded, or Iraqi civilian casualties,
or the need to do more to help U.S. veterans.
"This resolution is a part of a pattern of deception we have seen from
Day One,'' said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland. "Once again, true debate is being
suppressed. What a disgrace.''
Lee was blocked from offering an amendment that attacked Bush's doctrine
of undertaking pre-emptive attacks in the name of protecting U.S. national
The Democratic House caucus, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San
Francisco, sought to invoke party loyalty on the bill's first vote, the one to
approve or reject the rule not allowing any amendments. Republicans prevailed,
228-195, with only two Democrats voting against their caucus.
On the final vote, Democrats were freed by party leaders to vote their
consciences. Since the caucus has been divided over the war, Republicans knew
they could again count on the minority party to send a divided message.
Pelosi wanted to offer a substitute for the language saying the war had
made the world safer. "A final judgment on the value of activities in Iraq
cannot be made until Iraq is stable and secure," the suggested amendment said.
She said she would introduce her proposal as a separate resolution, one
that is unlikely to ever reach the House floor for a vote.
"With their resolution, the Republicans are in denial as to why we went
into Iraq, in denial as to the current state of stability and security in Iraq
and are denying our men and women the benefits, the equipment and the quality
intelligence that they deserve as they serve our country," Pelosi said.
Republicans said the Democrats were harping on problems for partisan
purposes and overlooking significant progress in much of Iraq. They also said
Democrats had voted to cut intelligence and military spending, yet now were
criticizing shortcomings in those areas.
"The Iraqi people are living in freedom for the first time," said Rep.
Jim Saxton, R-N.J. "They know it, and they love it.''
"The fact of the matter is there are many success stories ..." he added.
"I am proud to stand here today to commend the Iraqi people and to say again
to our troops: Thanks for a job well done.''
"All too often, the whining from the critics tends to drown out the great
success of our troops,'' said Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va.
While Pelosi voted against the resolution, her deputy, Minority Whip Rep.
Steny Hoyer, D-Md., voted for it. "I'll support it as an expression of
gratitude'' to U.S. forces, he said. But then he attacked Republicans. "On a
matter of highest national importance, the majority has undermined the
© 2004 San Francisco Chronicle