Recent Speeches

Toward a Rational Policy in Iraq

Mr. President. We have before us today a Supplemental Appropriations Bill that will finally start the process of bringing our troops home.

The United States today is in its fifth year in Iraq.

The Administration offers no apparent road out of Iraq. It offers only an escalation plan that keeps growing, and an open-ended commitment to a civil war.

The Congress of the United States has an obligation to express its voice on this matter and to offer a solution.

The search for a solution has been difficult. We have come to the floor many times this year, and we have struggled to find the right course of action.

I believe that path is before us today. 

This legislation would initiate the orderly drawdown of our forces and redefine the mission for a small supporting force that would remain.

It sets benchmarks for the Administration – and for the Iraqi government.

This legislation calls for actions which this Administration has stubbornly resisted, including the prompt phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq.

This redeployment would begin within 120 days of the legislation being enacted.

The legislation sets a goal, of March 31, 2008, for redeploying major combat forces from Iraq.

A smaller force would be allowed to remain, with its mission limited to:

  • Protecting American and coalition personnel and infrastructure;
  • Training and equipping Iraqi forces;
  • Conducting targeted counter-terrorism operations.

This Supplemental also calls for a vigorous “diplomatic, political, and economic strategy.”

This strategy would involve “sustained engagement with Iraq’s neighbors and the international community for the purpose of working collectively to bring stability to Iraq.”

This is the key to ending the violence in Iraq – the recognition that the solution to Iraq lies not in U.S. force, but in political accommodation among the Iraqis.

This legislation also sets benchmarks for the Iraqi government.

These include:

  • Deploying trained and ready Iraqi security forces in Baghdad.
  • Strengthening the authority of Iraqi commanders to make tactical and operational decisions without political intervention.
  • Disarming militias and ensuring that Iraqi security forces are accountable only to the central government and loyal to the Iraqi constitution.
  • Enacting and implementing legislation to ensure that Iraq’s oil is distributed to all Iraqi citizens in an equitable manner.
  • Enacting and implementing legislation that reforms the de-Ba’athification process in Iraq.
  • Ensuring a fair process for amending the Iraqi constitution to protect minority rights.
  • Enacting and implementing rules to protect the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi Parliament.

Finally, this Supplemental requires that the top U.S. Commander in Iraq report to Congress on progress by the Iraqi government in meeting these benchmarks – 30 days after this Act is enacted and every 90 days thereafter.

Our nation’s present course of action is untenable and unsustainable.

Our very purpose for being in Iraq bears little resemblance to the reasons Congress authorized the use of military force in October 2002.

What do we have as we enter the fifth year of this war?

A terrible human toll in dead and injured – 3,200 Americans killed, more than 24,000 wounded, with estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths that soar well into the six figures.

A toll on our treasury that is unsustainable.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the Iraq war is already the fourth most expensive war in U.S. history, behind World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

We are spending roughly $8.4 billion in Iraq a month – more than $2 billion a week.

So far we have spent nearly $400 billion in Iraq. Think of the opportunity costs to this nation.

Wars cost money. I understand this. But we cannot continue this level of spending on a distant civil war with no exit strategy.

If we keep our combat forces in Iraq for years to come – as this Administration seems intent on doing – it will likely become the second costliest war we have ever waged.

Our military cannot continue to bear this heavy burden. This war has eroded our troop readiness, depleted military equipment, and left our fighting forces weary.

Consider these developments:

  • Army and Marine officers say the rapid pace of deployments into Iraq has put the readiness of their troops into a “death spiral” – with 40 percent of gear worn-out, and soldiers and Marines left fatigued and under-trained. Our nation owes our fighting forces better than this.
  • The 3rd Infantry Division, scrambling to meet deployment orders, reportedly has sent injured troops back to Iraq – including ones so badly injured that they could not put on their body armor. We owe our fighting forces better than this.
  • The Army’s medical facilities are understaffed and under-funded – not just at Building 18 at Walter Reed – and its medical staff is overwhelmed. We owe our fighting forces better than this.
  • Some 1,800 Marine Corps reservists will get letters this week notifying them that they are being involuntarily recalled for a year, thanks to a shortage of volunteers to fill some jobs in Iraq.

This follows news that should make everyone in this chamber take notice: The 82nd Airborne Division – the storied “All-American” Division – is so strained by this war that it can no longer respond on short notice to a crisis.

For decades the 82nd Airborne has kept a brigade on round-the-clock alert – ready to respond to a crisis anywhere around the globe within 18 to 72 hours.

But The New York Times reported on March 20 that the 82nd Airborne can no longer meet this standard -- a standard it has long held with pride.

I believe the Supplemental that we have before us today is the solution to the Iraq problem.

It provides a vehicle for Congress to express its sense on Iraq – and to require the President to take concrete, measurable steps forward.

It sets clear deadlines and requires vigorous regional diplomacy.

It sends a message to an Administration marked by arrogance – and declares to the Iraqi government that their time has come.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, said as much Monday, March 26, in his farewell news conference.

Mr. Khalilzad was direct: The Iraqi leadership must understand, he said, that time is running out.

Finally, most importantly, this legislation begins the process of bringing our troops home.

We have a choice today. We can vote for a clear-headed Iraq policy, or do nothing. We can exercise our Constitutional oversight duties, or we can be a rubber stamp for a failed Iraq policy.

I urge my colleagues to choose the first path. To choose the other is to abdicate our responsibility.