Jul 11 2007
Mr. President, once again the Senate is confronted with a series of votes over the future of Iraq.
These votes present a very simple choice:
- Continue with more of the same;
- Or change course.
And to me the choice is crystal clear. The United States should and must change course in Iraq.
We must begin to redeploy our forces and reevaluate what is truly in our national interests.
This is not the first time we have been confronted with such a choice.
Many of us have voted over and over and over again for change.
Yet, this President has refused to listen. He’s worn blinders. He’s ignored the views of Congress and the American people.
Majorities in both the Senate and the House have voted to redeploy our forces from Iraq.
But the President vetoed this legislation.
And there were not the votes to override.
So we’re back again facing many of the same questions.
Will the President listen this time?
And in this current debate, new voices have emerged, raising significant concerns about the progress of the war.
This includes Senator Lugar, the deeply respected Senator from Indiana, who said in a very eloquent speech before this body – which I’ve had the privilege of reading in detail and I’d like to quote him:
“In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved.”
This includes Senator Warner, who has said that waiting until September is “too long.”
This includes Senator Voinovich, Senator Hagel, Senator Smith, and Senator Snowe, who have all questioned the current path.
Will the President listen?
Iraq: a nation in chaos
Moving from the Halls of Congress to the streets of Baghdad, it is clear to see that this is not a rhetorical game.
It’s about the facts on the ground.
And the facts are this:
It’s been four and a half years since United States forces entered Iraq. That’s longer than we conducted World War II. Yet the nation remains in chaos.
Violence continues unabated.
The insurgency is as strong as ever.
The internecine fighting between Shia and Sunni is as strong as ever.
And every day, there are more bombings, more IEDs, more deaths.
In total, we have lost 3,600 of our brave men and women, almost 500 just since this surge began 5 months ago.
On average, 4 United States troops are being killed every day in Iraq.
And has the surge worked?
Five months into it, it’s clear that the surge has failed to stop the violence.
Fatalities and sectarian attacks are on the rise.
At no period in the war have we lost as many American troops as in the last 3 months.
If the trend continues, 2007 will be the deadliest since the war began.
No Movement on the Political Front
The promise of the surge was not that it would solve all of Iraq’s problems.
But that it would increase security and stability so that Iraq’s government could confront the difficult political questions.
So we must ask the question: Has it?
In this area too, there has been no progress.
No progress on passing an oil revenue sharing law.
No progress on reforming the de-Baathification system, which to a great extent was responsible for the insurgency in the first place.
No progress in holding provincial elections, and
No substantial progress on any other benchmark.
In fact, the Maliki government seems to be under siege.
Sectarian tensions are mounting.
And there have been calls for a no-confidence vote in the Prime Minister.
So the vaunted surge has not worked and there has been no political progress.
Yet, this President has asked for more time and more resources.
And he gives no hint that he recognizes how dire the situation is. He gives no indication that he believes the course must be changed. He provides the American people with no exit strategy.
To me, this represents a major failure of leadership.
Transition the Mission
I believe America’s continued mission in Iraq is counterproductive.
Therefore, the time has come for a change of course.
I believe that within 120 days we must begin to redeploy our combat troops.
The goal would be to transition the majority of U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of April 2008.
And that’s exactly what the Levin-Reed Amendment does.
A small supporting force would remain in Iraq for the purposes of training, counterterrorism, and force protection.
This would move the vast majority of our troops out of harm’s way.
U.S. National Security Interests
But just as importantly, moving out of Iraq would open the door to a reevaluation of our national security interests in the region.
Our nation faces major challenges, and the primary focus on Iraq has allowed these problems to fester unaddressed.
- Preventing terrorists from gaining safe haven in Afghanistan, that’s an abiding national security interest of this country. Senator Lugar alluded to it in his remarks. I certainly agree. And to prevent Iraq from becoming a safe harbor for terrorists should remain a national security goal of the United States.
- Secondly, preventing the violence from spreading throughout the Middle East, Afghanistan and the cities of Europe;
- Thwarting Iranian domination of the region, and persuading the Iranian government that continued development of nuclear weapons is not in its best interests. This can’t be done by not talking to Iran. It can only be done by talking to Iran and this is what we should be doing.
- Pursuing an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. Yesterday afternoon I met with the Foreign Minister of Egypt and he agreed that this is a window of opportunity to move toward a peace settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Again, overlooking that opportunity is a big mistake;
- And finally containing the damage done to our credibility around the world. Our credibility has suffered, the war has spawned terror. Over this past weekend, I happened to hear Peter Bergen, the distinguished expert on Osama bin Laden, speaking on CNN. And he estimated that terrorism has increased sevenfold because of our involvement in Iraq. And many people say we leave Iraq, and the Middle East collapses. I don’t believe that. We leave Iraq and we leave Sunni and Shia to come to grips with the problems between them with the United States being a buffer and creating the point of attack for terrorists and insurgents. So I say remove that point of attack and begin to solve some of the problems.
The simple truth is that none of these initiatives can be pursued adequately so long as we are bogged down in Iraq.
So I believe the time has come to change course.
We’re four years and $450 billion into this war.
Costs are increasing at $10 billion a month.
We’re losing 100 soldiers a month.
Our armed forces are stretched thin, equipment is worn, recruiting is down, and no one can estimate what impact will come next April when our military will be unable to meet the rotations.
We will be paying the costs of this war for decades to come.
Thanks to medical science and battlefield medicine, so many soldiers are saved who in past wars would have died, but they are saved with egregious injuries, and we all know that. We’ve all seen the people with traumatic brain injuries, amputees, single, double, quadruple amputees. We have seen people who will need care for the rest of their lives. And many of them indeed.
So we’ve got a choice.
More of the same or change course.
The Levin-Reed Amendment represents a change of course. It represents this United States Senate standing up and saying forcefully we want our people out. We want redeployment within 120 days, and we want us off the streets, we want us no longer to be that point of attack between Shia and Sunni.
My colleagues, this choice could not be clearer. It’s time to act.
I am very much in support of the Levin-Reed Amendment, and I very much hope we will have a chance to vote on the substance of it.
Thank you, and I yield the floor.