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July 1, 2003 9:14 AM CDT

Saluting our Men and Women in Uniform on a Job Well Done


In the recent war in Iraq, I am proud of the way our brave men and women in uniform performed. They liberated a country that had been under the grip of a dictatorship for decades. Their mission was just and their accomplishments were remarkable. From the historic liberation of Baghdad to the humanitarian assistance they are now bringing to the Iraqi people, our military forces have performed brilliantly.

The rebuilding of Iraq will not be easy. Iraq's people have lived under tyranny for so long and have very little experience with democracy. Recently, I met with Ambassador Paul Bremer, our country's point man in the renewal of Iraq. Ambassador Bremer and I have known each other for many years and worked together on the Incidents at Sea Agreement with the Soviet Union in 1972. He is a man of enormous capabilities and character, and will surely make our nation proud as he helps guide Iraq into a new era.

While Ambassador Bremer and his team work with our troops to bring stability to Iraq, our forces elsewhere in the region and around the globe continue to confront the terrorism that threatens America and the world. I am enormously proud of our military and their leaders who have fashioned a force unlike any the world has ever known, a force capable of delivering overwhelming might anytime, anywhere, if necessary, to keep America secure.

Several months ago, several of my Senate colleagues and I were privileged to visit our troops in the Persian Gulf region, Qatar, Kuwait and other areas. Our forces are extremely disciplined, flexible enough to win decisively in combat operations, and, now, to help the Iraqis meet their people's humanitarian and security needs.

I was extremely pleased by the careful and considered way in which the President initiated the action against Iraq. A decision to commit our sons and daughters to combat is never an easy one. Clearly, our President took a great deal of time before deciding this March to use military force. I was privileged to meet with him along with the Congressional leadership several days before the start of the conflict. President Bush showed steadfastness, courage, wisdom, and very balanced thinking as he approached his decision.

The Congressional decision to authorize the use of force against Iraq last October was equally measured. We took our constitutional responsibility seriously, thoroughly examining the circumstances and then voted overwhelmingly, 77 to 23, to authorize the Commander-in-Chief to use military force if, and only if, he determined that all diplomatic efforts to peacefully disarm Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime had been fulfilled. I am confident he did that and did it brilliantly.

Unfortunately, those efforts did not result in a new UN Security Council resolution of unity, as they had in October. It is important to note, however, that our President expended extraordinary efforts to bring what was a clear and growing threat to the attention of the United Nations and to try to build that consensus for a unified way to proceed.

The United Nations was unable to step up to its responsibilities of enforcing its own mandates largely because of the intransigence of a very few nations to block any form of meaningful enforcement of the Security Council resolutions. The failure of that body to step up to its responsibilities is most unfortunate, for the United Nations now faces a challenge unlike any before, with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, particularly those of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula, in Iran, and other areas of the world. This could have been ? and should have been ? the UN's finest hour.

In launching Operation Iraqi Freedom, our President fulfilled his responsibility to protect the American people from a grave and growing threat to our national security. He made the correct determination that Saddam Hussein, armed with weapons of mass destruction and in violations of 17 UN Security Council resolutions, posed an unacceptable threat to the security of this nation and, indeed, the world. Under the President's leadership, our forces performed brilliantly in liberating Iraq. The fall of Baghdad was a moment in history richly deserved by a courageous President who made the toughest decision any leader has to make.

After the liberation of Iraq, the President struck a note of humility in his historic address aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln several weeks ago. Instead of taking the credit himself, he gave it to the men and women of the armed forces and many others who brought about the successes enabling him to declare the end of major combat operations.

Now we are working to restore a secure environment in Iraq, and to bring a lasting peace with representative democratic principles to a land that has known little peace throughout its history. Our forces are capable of helping Iraqis realize this dream, but their task will not be easy. After decades of tyranny, it will take a long time for Iraqis to rebuild their country and today we are just witnessing the beginning.

In saluting our men and women in uniform, their families, and those who support them in this mission and in the war on terror, we must all commit to giving them the support and resources to do the job. The Senate Armed Services Committee reflected the will of the American people in authorizing just over $400 billion for next year's defense budget. Our bill sends a strong signal of support to our men and women in uniform ? from the Balkans to the Middle East to Korea and those standing watch here at home ? that we appreciate their sacrifice and honor their service. In the months and years ahead, we must all continue to do our part for the men and women who keep our country free.

About the Author

John W. Warner is Virginia's senior United States Senator and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.


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