Between a visit to troops in Iraq and on his way to high-level meetings in Mexico, Congressman Rick Renzi made a stop in Payson to thank the community for its support in the past election.
"I came here to thank Gila County for standing by me," Renzi said. "The numbers were phenomenal and helped me with re-election."
He spoke to a full room at the Lincoln Day Luncheon at Tiny's Restaurant on Monday.
During his speech, he compared the struggle Abraham Lincoln faced in keeping the Union together to the struggle the country is currently engaged in over the war in Iraq.
"There is a real divide on where we are going with the security of our country," he said. "We cannot solve a problem that has built up over 50 to 60 years in the time it takes to play a football game."
While visiting Iraq, Renzi met with Iraqi women -- mothers left to raise their children alone after death squads executed their husbands and took away their sons. The women told him they are glad the U.S. is there.
Renzi said every night U.S. troops kill 30 to 40 members of Al Qaeda.
"Of the 21,500 troops the president wants to send into Iraq, 5,000 will go into the Al Qaeda breeding ground, and that's in our national interest. Another 1,000 of those troops will be deployed to stop the flow of weapons into Iraq from bordering countries."
He added, these are troops being requested by the generals on the ground in country.
If Al Qaeda is allowed to grow unfettered, it will gain strength and follow us home, he said. The troops are working hard and going after them.
The Congressman also addressed some of the money being spent in Iraq ... it is money used to buy books for children, to immunize children and to open 90 percent of the clinics in the country.
"We have suffered in Iraq," he said. "But if it had been left alone, it would have started a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. There would be nuclear proliferation there."
Changes are needed, he said, "The Iraqis have to be able to fight for and hold their capitol."
Renzi then pointed to the success for the Kurds in northern Iraq. "They revitalized the equipment Saddam left there, had 40 inches of rain and now have a bumper crop of tobacco, which they may start trading with Turkey -- a long-standing enemy."
He said it is arrogant of Congress and the Senate to presume to give advice on the war to the president.
While the nonbinding resolution passed by Congress Friday has no weight, it sends a signal, he said. A signal that may well be as devastating to the troops in harm's way today as the attitudes toward the Vietnam War were some 30 years ago.
In the fight against the resolution, Renzi said Sam Johnson, who fought in the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and was a prisoner of war for more than seven years, presented their closing argument.
Renzi shared several of the stronger points of Johnson's statement, "My fellow POWs would spend hours tapping out codes on the walls at night ... We promised to do something about our government. We would not gripe about it, we would run for office ... Stand behind our troops ... The pain inflicted by our country's indifference is tenfold that inflicted by our captors."
Renzi said the troops are asking to be allowed to finish their jobs with honor. They are asking for their victories not to be undermined.