FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 5, 2007
PENCE OPENING STATEMENT ON GAO REPORT
"We Should Not Lose Sight of the Genuine Progress that Has Occurred thisYear"
WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Congressman Mike Pence, ranking member of theMiddle East and South Asia Subcommittee, gave the following opening statement during a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing today on theGovernment Accounting Office's Iraq Report:
"Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling this hearing and I welcome our distinguished witness.
"September is certainly a month of decision for this Congress and this nation on the subject of Iraq. And this report is helpful.
"I share everyone's frustration that four and a half years into the Iraq war effort that there is not a completely capable and far-sighted Iraqi government. I have traveled to this nation five times since the initiation of military hostilities. I have said to Iraqi leaders and Iwill say again in this committee today: I exhort the Iraqi government, which has just returned to session yesterday, not unlike this body, to redouble its efforts to make progress on their many challenging issues. I hope we do not lose sight of how difficult their job is-resolving sectarian disputes, resource controversies, potentially rehabilitating Baath Party Members-are all extraordinarily daunting tasks.
"Mr. Chairman, I respect our witness today, General Walker, but with all respect to him and to this body, I can't help but identify with the sentiments of Fred Kagan who wrote yesterday in The Weekly Standard, 'Through no fault of the GAO's, the organization was sent on a fool's errand by Congress. Its mandate was not to evaluate progress in Iraq, but to determine whether or not the Iraqi government had met the 18 benchmarks. As a result, as the report repeatedly notes, the GAO was forced to fit an extraordinarily complicated reality into a black-and-white, yes-or-no simplicity.'
"Kagan continues, 'One of the most striking things about the GAO Reportis its failure to take adequate notice of the Anbar Awakening and thegeneral movement within the Sunni Arab community against Al Qaeda inIraq and toward the Coalition. 'Anbar' appears twice in the document, both times in a comment noting that violence has fallen in that province, but without reference to the turn of the Sunni population against the terrorists.'
"Mr. Chairman, I witnessed the Anbar Awakening in my visit there this past April. I met with Sunni leaders. It is a remarkable development that the so-called Triangle of Death a year ago now has tribesmen, clerics and community leaders working hand-in-glove with American troops and, as they told me, declaring that an attack on an American is an attack on an Iraqi.
"I share Mr. Kagan's concerns that we should be considering whether the Iraqis (and our national assets there) are making progress, not whether they deserve a pass-fail grade on a congressionally created template.
"We should not lose sight of the genuine progress that has occurred this year. Even New York Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote today, 'Good news: the surge is tamping down violence.' This reality is often lost in the torrent of criticism directed at our involvement in Iraq.
"Mr. Chairman, I have significant concerns about this report. I look forward to the testimony. The front page of today's Washington Post reads, 'Military Officials in Iraq Fault GAO Report.' Specifically, the Pentagon said, 'we absolutely disagree with their characterization of sectarian violence.' Such attacks have actually fallen significantly this year, as have extra judicial killings. In an effort to rebuke the Iraqi government and encourage them to do more, I hope that we do not lose sight of the progress that our American forces and the Iraqi forces have made.
"Mr. Chairman, I look forward to our discussion on how we achieve a successful and stable victory for freedom in Iraq."