Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I sat here for the last hour or so and listened to the discussion, and what one concludes is that, once again, we are locked in a debate about the future of Iraq. I think many people watching this debate listen and think: Does this solve anything?
But in many ways, thanks to the courage of a few Senators on the other side of the aisle, the debate has undergone a major shift in the past few weeks. We are no longer simply asking whether we should change course, it is clear today that a majority in this body believe we must change course. Today, a majority of the Senate sees that the surge is not working, and a majority believes there has been no progress on political reconciliation.
The question I hear repeated is: Do we change course now or do we wait until September? I have heard distinguished Members of this body say: Why not wait until September? I believe the answer is clear. When you know things are moving in the wrong direction, why wait to act? And a growing majority in the Senate agrees.
While there are over 50-plus votes to support this view, there doesn't appear to be the 60 votes needed to bring the debate to a close, and there still are not the 67 votes needed to overcome a Presidential veto. So those of us who believe we need to change course, and need to change course now, have no option other than to press for a vote until we prevail.
The good news is that this debate may slowly be moving away from the partisan bickering and toward a bipartisan way out of Iraq. A growing number of well-respected Republicans have made it clear that they believe the President's current strategy is not sustainable. This includes Senators Warner and Lugar, two of the most distinguished Senators in this body, who have introduced an amendment calling on the President to develop a plan to transition the mission, and potentially -- potentially -- draw down our troops.
This includes Senators Hagel, Smith, and Snowe, who have cosponsored the Levin-Reed amendment calling for a binding timetable to redeploy our troops.
This includes Senator Voinovich, who, according to reports, has informed the White House that the only way to salvage the President's legacy is to begin moving out of Iraq.
And this includes Senators Domenici, Collins, Alexander, Bennett, Gregg, and Sununu, who have embraced legislation to implement the Iraq Study Group's recommendations.
These Senators are to be commended for their courage, and I believe the ranks will only continue to grow as time goes by. Why? Because despite repeated predictions that security and stability in Iraq are just around the corner, this has proved illusory. The security situation has not improved. There has been no progress toward political reconciliation. None.
Simply put: Violence in Iraq continues unabated, and we have heard it said on the floor over and over again, just in the past few days: 25 people killed Sunday, attacks across Baghdad, 10 killed in a car bomb blast in a busy commercial area, a triple bombing attack in Kirkuk killing 85 yesterday, wounding 183. And within hours of that attack, several men in Iraqi military uniforms attacked a Shia village in Diyala fatally shooting 28 men, women, and children.
This is why we need a change in course. And these are not isolated incidents. They are not the exception. They are the norm, day in, day out. Every day there is more -- more bombings, more shootings, more IEDs, more kidnappings, more death squads.
Has the surge led to a reduction in violence? No. The news continues. We also heard last week of a firefight between U.S. forces and Iraqi police.
This cannot be the right direction. The surge wasn't supposed to be a silver bullet, but it was supposed to give the Iraqi Government the space and stability needed to come to a political accommodation. But has this happened? The answer has to be no. Is this likely to happen in the next 55 days? The answer is no. In fact, the Iraqi Parliament will be taking a month-long vacation during this critical period. That is 30 out of the 55 days.
But of greatest concern is the fact that there has been little, if any, progress in the political arena. Even by the administration's account, the Iraqi Government hasn't made progress in meeting the benchmarks. You have heard this, and there are two more reports due on benchmarks, so we will hear more of the same.
If you talk about benchmarks, to me the most critical has always been debaathification -- a terrible mistake made by us and now supported to continue by Ahmed Chalabi to prevent former Baathists from working. You can never have a united Iraq as long as you have debaathification on a level that even today still exists. The absence of holding provincial elections, passing an oil revenue sharing law, ensuring that authorities are not undermining members of the Iraqi security forces, ensuring that the Iraqi security forces provide evenhanded enforcement of the law -- simple things not done.
There is a misbegotten belief that we can turn Iraq into a democracy -- a country with little infrastructure for democracy, a government where ministers don't show up, where parliamentarians don't arrive, where long vacations are taken in the middle of war and strife. At the same time, the Pentagon reported last week that there has been a slight reduction in the number of Iraqi security force units capable of independent operations. So there is even deterioration on that front.
Yet we are told to wait. Something good might happen. So what should we do? Rather than wait another 8 weeks, I think we should act now. I think the Senate should approve the Levin-Reed amendment, which, to date, is the only amendment, as the majority leader has stated so often, with teeth –- in 120 days redeployment begins, and out by April 30th of next year. It is clear, it is definitive, and it has the support of a majority of this body.
No State has suffered more than California from this war. We have nearly 400 dead and 3,000 wounded; 400 dead, 400 young men and women dead from the State. I hear some States say they have had five or six. We have had 400 people killed in this war. It is clear we must change course, but the President and some in this body say, again, we should wait.
Let me tell you why we should not wait. Here is what we will lose in 8 weeks, if current trends continue. Hundreds more U.S. troops dead. At this present rate, that is 200 more dead. More than 1,000 U.S. troops injured. Actually, if the present rate continues, 1,200 to 1,500 more. Several thousand more Iraqi civilians killed. At the present rate, 4,000 to 6,000 by waiting. Nearly 100,000 more Iraqi civilians displaced and another $20 billion spent.
I ask you, is this an acceptable cost of waiting? It is not to me. Secretary Gates and other administration officials made it clear in January we should know in a matter of months if the surge was working. Here it is July. It is very clear the surge is not working. Every day there are more bombings. If you measure things in real terms, that kill people -- there are more bombings, more killings, more IEDs, more violence. Casualties have jumped since the surge began. As I said, we are now losing 100 of our people every month. The 331 troops killed during April, May, and June is the highest 3-month total since the war began 4 1/2 years ago.
How is this a sign of progress? Tell me how is it a sign of progress, when more people are killed, more displaced, Iraqis turn up in the morgue by the dozens every day? Because if this trend continues, 2007 will be the deadliest for our troops since this war began. Why wait to act?
Waiting is not going to change the political situation either. Will we see the Iraqi Government pass an oil revenue-sharing law by September? Does anyone believe that? I don't think so.
Will we see reform of the debaathification system by September? I don't think so.
Will we see provincial elections or an Iraqi security force that is free from sectarian influence? I don't think so. As a matter of fact, the answer to all these questions is no. We haven't seen movement on the political front in the past 7 months, so why do we believe it will happen in the next 2 months? This is especially true, given that the Iraqi Parliament is taking a month off in August.
The surge was not supposed to be this silver bullet. It was supposed to give the Iraqi Government the space, the stability needed to come to a political solution. But as I say, this has not happened. As important, moving out of Iraq would open the door to a reevaluation of our national security interests in the region.
I happened to listen to Senator Lugar on the floor in what I think was one of the most eloquent speeches I have heard. Let me quote from him.
“Our course in Iraq has lost contact with our vital national security interests in the Middle East and beyond. Our continuing absorption with military activities in Iraq is limiting our diplomatic assertiveness there and elsewhere in the world.”
We know our Nation faces major challenges and the primary focus on Iraq has allowed these problems to fester. It has sapped our ability to act elsewhere, both by crippling our military's readiness and by draining our soft power around the world. Our challenges today, our real national interests, include: preventing terrorists from gaining safe haven in Pakistan and Afghanistan; preventing the violence in Iraq from spreading throughout the Middle East, Afghanistan, and the cities of Europe; stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons technologies and strengthening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. This is the national interest of this country.
Containing Iran and compelling it to abandon its uranium enrichment program and pursuing a sustained and robust diplomacy aimed at achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace -- I am delighted the President has taken on this as a major initiative with priority and that the Secretary of State will be in charge of this effort.
Finally, improving the image of the United States and repairing the damage done to our credibility around the world.
Does anyone believe, truly, this war has gained us respect in the council of world nations? Does anyone believe that? Because if they do, they are smoking something. Because it has not. There has never been a time when America has less credibility abroad than today.
Does anybody believe this war is quelling a new generation of terrorists? It is doing exactly opposite.
Peter Bergen, whose books I have read, whose statements I follow, said the other day on CNN that he estimates terrorists have increased sevenfold, that is 700 percent, since the war in Iraq began. Is this our interest? Is our interest to encourage every madrasah all throughout the Arab and Islamic world to essentially preach to create a new generation of terrorists? That is what is happening right now and we are not addressing it. We are not spending the money, the $10 billion a month to see that there are normal schools in these countries that teach youngsters how to become educated, to accept a place of economic upward mobility in what is a modern world. No. Instead, the sores fester and the terrorists grow. That is the reason that, as far as air traffic is concerned, we are in orange alert today.
The simple truth is that none of these initiatives can be pursued adequately so long as we are bogged down in Iraq. Iraq dominates our Nation's psyche, it dominates our Nation's pocketbook, and it dominates in the loss of our men and women.
I think each deserves the continuous attention of this administration, and the longer we wait to begin a redeployment of our troops, the longer we delay the day of reckoning, the longer we refuse to take the diplomatic steps that are necessary to engage with Syria, to engage with Iran, the harder it is going to be to achieve a successful outcome. I believe this.
I believe the time has come to change course. Waiting is not going to change the facts on the ground. Oh, I wished I believed that. I wish I could say, in 2 months, we are not going to lose 200 men and women; in 2 months, 4,000 or 5,000 additional Iraqis will not be killed; 100,000 additional Iraqis are not going to be displaced, and we are not going to spend another $20 billion of our treasure. But I cannot.
In total, we have lost more than 3,600 of our brave men and women, almost 500 since this surge began 5 months ago. Nearly 27,000 have suffered injuries, and many of these injuries are more serious than anything we have ever seen in the history of veterans' care, people who will require care for the rest of their lives.
We lose 100 of our people every month. So why wait to act? The most recent Pentagon quarterly report on Iraq concluded that the "aggregate level of violence" in Iraq has remained "unchanged" -- unchanged. Five months into the surge, the level of violence in Iraq, according to the recent Pentagon report, is unchanged, and Deputy Director of National Intelligence Tom Fingar testified to Congress last week the violence in Iraq has not yet been reduced significantly.
At the same time, even as we have appropriated $450 billion for this war, spending has increased to $10 billion a month; Armed Forces are stretched thin, equipment is warn, recruiting is down, and nobody knows what happens to the military come April when deployments cannot be met. So why wait to act?
We are going to be paying the costs of this war for decades. Yet this President has asked for more time. Waiting another 2 months will not change anything. It will be more of the same. As has been said on this floor tonight a myriad of times, but I must echo it: The President shows no inclination to listen to a majority of the Senate, to the American people or to the House of Representatives. He has provided no exit strategy, no plan to begin redeploying our troops. Come September, there is no reason to believe anything will have changed. Why wait to act?
I yield the floor.