Speeches & Floor Statements
Posted on November 24, 2003
Mr. President, I rise today to express my outrage at events that transpired this weekend in Iraq. No one expects terrorists to follow the rules, but what they did to two soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division this weekend in Mosul is beyond the pale. We have lost 431 men and women in the conflict in Iraq; my heart goes out to the families and friends of each and every one. Here's how the Associated Press describes what happened, as reported in The Tennessean and a number of other papers across the country:
Iraqi teenagers dragged two bloodied 101st Airborne soldiers from a wrecked vehicle and pummeled them with concrete blocks yesterday, witnesses said... Witnesses to the Mosul attack said gunmen shot two soldiers driving through the city center, sending their vehicle crashing into a wall. The 101st Airborne Division said the soldiers were driving to another garrison. About a dozen swarming teenagers dragged the soldiers out of the wreckage and beat them with concrete blocks, the witnesses said. "They lifted a block and hit them with it on the face," Younis Mahmoud, 19, said. It was unknown whether the soldiers were alive or dead when pulled from the wreckage.That's what the Associated Press wrote. Mr. President, I ask the article appear in full in the Record following my remarks. You can't help but feel a sense of anger when reading a story like that. Command Sergeant Major Jerry Wilson and Specialist Rel Ravago were on their way from one garrison to another. The terrorists laid waiting for the soldiers to drive by, and ambushed them. Even worse, they made every effort to be as brutal and bloody as possible. It makes me sick to my stomach. At the same time, we also remember how many of our troops have lost their lives in this struggle. 431 men and women from our Armed Forces have given their lives since Operation Iraqi Freedom commenced. Forty-eight of them were from the 101st Airborne, based in Fort Campbell on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee. 2,067 have been wounded overall. And as much as we all wish it weren't the case, more will follow. Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a loved one, especially loved ones as young as those that are serving our country in Iraq. We can only hope the knowledge that these soldiers died fighting to keep us safe will provide some comfort in this time of grief. To those families, we can only say this: the hopes and prayers of a grateful nation are with you. But in the midst of this sorrow, we must remember why our troops are in Iraq. We must strengthen our resolve. Iraq is freer today than it has been for more than a generation. An evil dictator has been toppled, his regime is gone. The people of Iraq, by and large, are grateful; according to polls, the vast majority of them support continued American presence in their country. In fact, in the horrible incident involving the two soldiers in Mosul, U.S. troops were alerted to the attack by sympathetic Iraqis. We are making progress in Iraq: the power is on, schools are re-opened, markets are buzzing, and the southern port is open. But danger lurks. And we must labor on. A stable, democratic Iraq in the midst of the Middle East could become our greatest ally in the War on Terror. It would change the world. But if we give up and throw in the towel, an unstable Iraq would quickly become a hotbed of terrorism far worse than Afghanistan. The stakes are high. Failure is not an option. Our troops and their families bear the burden of this cause more than any other. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten. In a few days, Mr. President, we will celebrate Thanksgiving. In the first Thanksgiving proclamation, President George Washington "recommend[ed] to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude." Ours is a blessed nation, and we have much to be grateful for. This Thanksgiving we should be especially grateful for the men and women of our Armed Forces, fighting the terrorists over there so fewer can attack us here, at home. Whether helping to open a new school in Kirkuk or securing the area around Baghdad International Airport; our troops are standing in harms way. They are doing it for us. For thousands of families, the Thanksgiving table will have an empty space this year. It will be hard. We should all save a place in our hearts for those military families this Thanksgiving. We give thanks for their courage, too. So today, I say thank you to the men and women of our Armed Forces. We stand in awe of your strength. We are humbled by your sacrifice. We are grateful for your courage.