Congresswoman Jackson Lee Clarifies Her Comments On “Two Vietnams”

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-18) admits she misspoke when she referred to “two Vietnams” during a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of  Representatives on Thursday, July 12, 2010.

The Congresswoman was making a point regarding the war in Afghanistan, when she made the glaring error several times.

She has now issued a statement clarifying her remarks, which you can read below, but she is also urging people to focus on the original intent of  her message instead of  the mistake.

I’ve also posted the video link in case you missed it.

 Having spent the last week in Afghanistan visiting our resilient and dedicated soldiers and civilian reconstruction teams, I have a renewed appreciation for their dedicated and committed service to our nation. I thanked them when I was in Afghanistan, and I thanked them again on the floor of the House yesterday, Thursday, July 15, 2010, in my special order. However, as I recognized their commitment to our country and expressed our pride in the work they have done in helping the people of Afghanistan, I have come to the conclusion that it is important to have a date certain for their departure from Afghanistan by the months of June or July of 2011. I want the war in Afghanistan to end. Additionally, I would like to celebrate, along with our nation, our soldiers as heroes, and I would like them to return home to this great country and their wonderful families ready for new opportunities.

That is simply what my special order on the floor yesterday was about; plain and simple. Nevertheless, some have decided to make an issue of the example that I used, in my special order of five minutes, regarding the Vietnam War. If there was any reason to raise a point of concern, it was probably because I misspoke and did not add the phrase, after my discussion of North and South Vietnam, that “the nation was united as one.” However, my point is still accurate, and that is that the war between North and South Vietnam is similar to Afghanistan, in that those fighting against each other were Vietnamese and now the country lives as one Vietnam. However, it is South Vietnam that was consumed by North Vietnam and governed by the policies of North Vietnam. Allow me to cite for you the Congressional Research Service which has, on its 2010 website, this description of Vietnam: “Vietnam is a one-party, authoritarian state ruled by the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP), which appears to be following a strategy of permitting most forms of personal and religious expression while selectively repressing individuals and organizations that it deems a threat to the party’s monopoly on power. Most observers argue that the government, which already had tightened restrictions on dissent and criticism since 2007, intensified its suppression in 2009 and early 2010.” That definition confirms my statement on the floor.

Although we fought a bloody war, losing 58,000 soldiers, Vietnam remains, today, a communist country. In rushing to finish my statement in five minutes, I may have left out the fact that Vietnam is one nation today, but that does not diminish my point that we have a similar situation in Afghanistan: where American treasure is being spent even after crossing the point when the transition of leadership and military control should be placed in the people and the Government of Afghanistan. America lost 58,000 soldiers because the policies followed by our federal government worked against this nation declaring a victory and encouraging the world to work with Vietnam toward being a democratic state and thereby saving the lives of so many Americans. I do not want to see that delay occur in Afghanistan and see more of our soldiers falling in battle and losing their lives. The cause for which we went to Afghanistan has been achieved, and now this is a war of insurgents. This will ultimately have to be resolved by the people of Afghanistan. The way to solve this problem, as I see it, is to demand that the central government of Afghanistan provide the necessary services of security, electricity, economic opportunity and education to its people. For this to happen, the NATO allies must work to improve the central government, they must work to help eradicate the poppy fields, and they must work to stamp out corruption. Some of the International Security Assistance Forces can provide technical assistance and help build up the Afghanistan National security forces, but it is now time to bring our soldiers home in a timely fashion and no later than June or July 2011.

That was the reasoning of my special order of yesterday, July 15, 2010, and this attack on my words reminds me of what happened to those who were opposed to the Vietnam War. Their words were attacked rather than listening to the substance of their message. As for me, I will not stand silent, but rather I will give voice to the many families in America whose loved ones have lost their lives in Afghanistan. They deserve our respect, gratitude, and the acknowledgment that their loved ones did not die in vain. America must declare victory in Afghanistan and bring our soldiers home. At the same time, we can sustain that victory by continuing to provide technical and civilian humanitarian assistance to strengthen the people of Afghanistan so they can have a better quality of life.

We owe the families of our fighting heroes no less. Now is the time to call upon the Afghan government to take charge and build their nation. America’s national security will be the better for it. I believe my special order yesterday was very clear.

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