Mr. President, in October
of 2002, I delivered a speech opposing the War in Iraq.
I said that Saddam Hussein
was a ruthless man, but that he posed no imminent and direct threat
to the United States.
I said that a war in Iraq
would take our focus away from our efforts to defeat al-Qaeda.
And, with a volatile mix
of ethnic groups and a complicated history, I said that the invasion
and occupation of Iraq would require a U.S. occupation of undetermined
length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.
In short, I felt the decision
unfolding then to invade Iraq was being made without a clear rationale,
based more on ideology and politics than fact and reason.
It is with no great pleasure
that I recall this now. Too many young men and women have died.
Too many have been maimed. Too many hearts have been broken. I fervently
wish I had been wrong about this war; that my concerns had been
America and the American
people have paid a high price for the decision to invade Iraq and
myriad mistakes that followed. I believe that history will not judge
the authors of this war kindly.
For all these reasons,
I would like nothing more than to support the Kerry Amendment; to
bring our brave troops home on a date certain, and spare the American
people more pain, suffering and sorrow.
But having visited Iraq,
I'm also acutely aware that a precipitous withdrawal of our troops,
driven by Congressional edict rather than the realities on the ground,
will not undo the mistakes made by this Administration. It could
It could compound them
by plunging Iraq into an even deeper and, perhaps, irreparable crisis.
We must exit Iraq, but
not in a way that leaves behind a security vacuum filled with terrorism,
chaos, ethnic cleansing and genocide that could engulf large swaths
of the Middle East and endanger America. We have both moral and
national security reasons to manage our exit in a responsible way.
I share many of the goals
set forth in the Kerry Amendment. We should send a clear message
to the Iraqis that we won't be there forever, and that by next year
our primary role should be to conduct counter-insurgency actions,
train Iraqi security forces, and provide needed logistical support.
Moreover, I share the frustration
with an Administration whose policies with respect to Iraq seem
to simply repeat the simple-minded refrains of "we know best"
and "stay the course." It's not acceptable to conduct
a war where our goals and strategies drift aimlessly regardless
of the cost in lives or dollars spent, and where we end up with
arbitrary, poll-driven troop reductions by the Administration -
the worst of all possible outcomes.
As one who strongly opposed
the decision to go to war and who has met with servicemen and women
injured in this conflict and seen the pain of the parents and loved
ones of those who have died in Iraq, I would like nothing more than
for our military involvement to end.
But I do not believe that
setting a date certain for the total withdrawal of U.S. troops is
the best approach to achieving, in a methodical and responsible
way, the three basic goals that should drive our Iraq policy: that
is, 1) stabilizing Iraq and giving the factions within Iraq the
space they need to forge a political settlement; 2) containing and
ultimately defeating the insurgency in Iraq; and 3) bringing our
troops safely home.
What is needed is a blueprint
for an expeditious yet responsible exit from Iraq. A hard and fast,
arbitrary deadline for withdrawal offers our commanders in the field,
and our diplomats in the region, insufficient flexibility to implement
For example, let's say
that a phased withdrawal results in fifty thousand troops in Iraq
by July 19, 2007. If, at that point, our generals and the Iraqi
government tell us that having those troops in Iraq for an additional
three or six months would enhance stability and security in the
region, this amendment would potentially prevent us from pursuing
the optimal policy.
It is for this reason that
I cannot support the Kerry Amendment. Instead, I am a cosponsor
of the Levin amendment, which gives us the best opportunity to find
this balance between our need to begin a phase-down and our need
to help stabilize Iraq. It tells the Iraqis that we won't be there
forever so that they need to move forward on uniting and securing
their country. I agree with Senator Warner that the message should
be "we really mean business, Iraqis, get on with it."
At the same time, the amendment also provides the Iraqis the time
and the opportunity to accomplish this critical goal.
Essential to a successful
policy is the Administration listening to its generals and diplomats
and members of Congress - especially those who disagree with their
policies and believe it is time to start bringing our troops home.
The overwhelming majority
of the Senate is already on record voting for an amendment stating
that calendar year 2006 should be a period of significant transition
to full Iraqi sovereignty, with Iraqi security forces taking the
lead for the security, creating the conditions for the phased redeployment
of United States forces from Iraq. The Levin Amendment builds on
The White House should
follow this principle as well. Visiting Iraq for a few hours cannot
resuscitate or justify a failed policy. No amount of spin or photo
opportunities can change the bottom line: this war has been poorly
conceived and poorly managed by the White House, and that is why
it has been so poorly received by the American people..
And it's troubling to already
see Karl Rove in New Hampshire, treating this as a political attack
opportunity instead of a major national challenge around which to
rally the country.
There are no easy answers
to this war. I understand that many Americans want to see our troops
come home. The chaos, violence, and horrors in Iraq are gut-wrenching
reminders of what our men and women in uniform, some just months
out of high school, must confront on a daily basis. They are doing
this heroically, they are doing this selflessly, and more than 2,500
of them have now made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Not one of us wants to
see our servicemen and women in harm's way a day longer than they
have to be. And that's why we must find the most responsible way
to bring them home as quickly as possible, while still leaving the
foundation of a secure Iraq that will not endanger the free world.