Press Release

July 17, 2007
IT IS PAST TIME TO CHANGE COURSE IN IRAQ


Mr. President, I urge my colleagues to support the amendment offered by Senators Levin and Reid to the Defense Authorization Legislation.
  It is similar to the provisions Congress originally passed on the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill that President Bush vetoed.



 


We now have more information than we did three months ago when we acted on the Supplemental Appropriations bill.
  We know that President Bush’s “surge policy” has not worked.
  By the President’s own assessment, the Iraqis have failed to meet the most important interim benchmarks required for stability in Iraq.



 


The Levin-Reid amendment would change our mission in Iraq to limit U.S. involvement to conducting counter-terrorism operations, protecting U.S. forces and military infrastructure during redeployment, and training Iraqi forces.
  It would set a deadline of April 30, 2008, for all U.S. combat troops to be removed from attempting to quell the civil war in Iraq.
  We should not wait a single additional day in changing the U.S. mission in Iraq.



 


I have opposed the war from the inception.
  In October, 2002, I voted against giving President Bush the authority to use U.S. troops in Iraq.



 


I have likewise opposed the President’s management of this war. The administration misrepresented or ignored intelligence about Iraq.
  The administration’s efforts to garner international support for the war were totally inadequate.
  Our troops went to Iraq without adequate equipment.
  The President failed to prepare for the insurgency.
  The leadership in the White House wrongfully ordered the dismantling of the internal Iraqi police, putting the local communities at the mercy of the insurgents.
 



 


Our nation and the Iraqis have paid a heavy price for the administration’s mistakes.



 


To date, 3,614 U.S. soldiers have died and over 23,000 have been wounded, many sustaining life changing injuries.
  Seventy-seven of the brave men and women who have lost their lives have been from Maryland.
  U.S. taxpayers have spent at least $320 billion so far; according to the Congressional Research Service, the war in Iraq currently costs $10 billion per month.
  These expenditures represent lost opportunities in our own country.



 


Tragically, we have lost our focus in the war against terrorism.
  Afghanistan is not secure and Osama Bin Laden is still at large.



 


For over a year, there has been a significant increase in the level of violence in Iraq.
  The main reason for this escalation has been sectarian violence.
  U.S. military commanders have confirmed that the Sunni-Shiite conflict is the greatest source of violence in Iraq.
  Iraq is in the midst of a civil war, and the presence of American troops in the middle of a civil war is counterproductive.
  If fact, there isn’t one civil war raging in Iraq; there are many civil wars raging in Iraq.
  In Baghdad, Sunnis are fighting Shi’a.
  In Anbar and Diyala, Sunnis are fighting each other.
  In Southern Iraq, Shi’a are fighting each other.
  And around Kirkuk and Mosul, Kurds are fighting Sunnis.
  Our first priority should be to remove our troops from the middle of a civil war.
  The Levin-Reid amendment will do just that.



 


Mr. President, in order to bolster our military and refocus its attention on the global terrorist threat, this Congress has attempted on more than one occasion to redeploy U.S. forces and change the mission of our operation in Iraq.
  But President Bush and a minority in Congress have rebuffed the effort.



 


Instead, President Bush proposed a strategy he claimed would improve the situation in Iraq: increasing the number of troops deployed and stepping up traditional counter-insurgency operations.
  According to President Bush, increased U.S. troop levels would stabilize the country so that its national leaders could operate in a safe environment in which to reach political agreement on oil- and revenue-sharing laws and amend their constitution.



 


Furthermore, so the theory went, increased U.S. troop levels would enable us to accelerate training initiatives so that Iraqi army and police force could assume control of all security in the country by November 2007.
  President Bush sent over 28,000 more soldiers into Iraq with the hope of fulfilling the goals of his plan.



 


President Bush insists on continuing this “surge” policy.
  But the so-called “surge” is not working.
  Some of the most brutal acts of sectarian violence have occurred during the “surge.”
  For example, in March of this year, a truck bomb in a Shi’a neighborhood killed 150 people.
  The Shi’a-controlled police units responded by systematically kidnapping and murdering 70 Sunnis.
  This was not an isolated episode.



 


Approximately 600 U.S. soldiers have died during the surge and more than 3,000 have been wounded.
  Violence in many sections of Iraq has increased.



 


Despite the valiant efforts of our troops, terrorist attacks in Iraq and around the world continue to rise.
  Tensions between countries in the Middle East region are growing.
  Middle East autocrats have an even firmer grip on power.
  The Arab-Israeli conflict has deteriorated.
  Our military is stretched thin.
  And the most recent intelligence analysis reports that the al Qaeda group that attacked our nation, the al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is stronger now than at any other time since September 11, 2001.



 


The 2007 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill required President Bush to report to Congress and the American people on the progress Iraqis are making in achieving certain critical benchmarks.
  These benchmarks were established so there could be a “new way forward” in Iraq with regard to securing civilian populations, establishing the Iraqi Security Force’s capacity, and supporting an Iraqi Government that would have credibility and confidence at the national and provincial levels.
  We have now received the first report from the administration.
  This assessment confirms the failures of the President’s policy in Iraq by his own objectives.



 


The Iraqis have failed to make satisfactory progress in key areas. For example, it is critical for the Iraqi parliament to pass legislation ensuring the equitable distribution of hydrocarbon (oil) revenues.
  Without such legislation it is difficult to believe that the ethnic communities will have confidence in a central government.
  The Bush administration’s assessment on this benchmark: not satisfactory.



 


Another benchmark concerns disarmament of the militias.
  It is necessary that the Iraqi Security Force be the national military.
  Eliminating militia control of local security is an additional benchmark.
  The Bush administration’s assessment on these benchmarks: not satisfactory and unsatisfactory.



 


Our goal has always been for the Iraqi commanders being able to make tactical and operational decisions without political intervention to uncover and pursue all extremists.
  That Iraqi Security Forces provide even-handed enforcement of the law.
  The Bush administration’s assessment on these benchmarks: unsatisfactory.



 


It is critical that the Iraqi Security Force be able to operate independently.
  This benchmark is particularly important to draw down U.S. troops under the President’s policy.
  The Bush administration’s assessment on this benchmark: not satisfactory.



 


The Interim Report the administration released last week confirms that Iraqi Security Forces still cannot be trusted to enforce the law fairly, some have taken part in sectarian violence, and some have even turned on American troops.



 


In order to have national reconciliation and the political elements for stability in Iraq it is necessary to enact and implement legislation on de-Ba’athification reforms.
  The Bush administration’s assessment on this benchmark: not satisfactory.



 


Most troubling, the Iraqi government is seriously weakened and many predict its collapse.
  The major Sunni party is currently boycotting the government.
  Without Sunni participation, meaningful progress on any key political benchmarks is impossible.



Whatever progress the President’s Interim Report claims, it’s clear that our military has not curbed sectarian violence.
  Nor has the troop escalation prevented sectarian influence over and infiltration of the Iraq Security Forces, or forced Iraqi political leaders to make the tough decisions necessary to move toward peace.




 

 


I think it’s time to acknowledge that President Bush’s troop escalation has failed.
  It has failed to make Iraq more secure.
  The Iraqi government remains incapable of organizing its security forces or its legislature to achieve any semblance of stability or political reconciliation.




 


It’s time to change the mission in Iraq.
  The cost of further delay in lives, matériel, treasure, and our standing in the world is too great.
  President Bush’s strategy has put this nation at greater risk – a risk that metastasizes each day that we sit by and wait.
  Wait for what?
  For new evidence of failure to accumulate?
  For news that more American soldiers and Iraqi civilians have died?




 



It is critical for the U.S. to change policy in Iraq and it starts by removing our troops from the middle of a civil war.
  The Levin-Reed amendment would do that.




 


Our new mission must recognize that the opportunity for sweeping regional change – if it ever existed – has passed.
  Instead, we need to focus on realistic objectives, which include preventing the conflict in Iraq from igniting a broader regional war and preventing genocide.



 


Unfortunately, we cannot rewrite history.
  The U.S. does have a responsibility towards assisting the Iraqis and working for peace in that region.
  It is in the interest of our country to do that.
   




 


There is no easy path to achieve the objectives of stability in Iraq and protection of all of its ethnic communities.
  As the bipartisan Iraq Study Group noted, “There is no action the American military can take that, by itself, can bring about success in Iraq.”
  The effort will most certainly include stepped-up diplomatic efforts.



 


Iraq’s neighbors have a stake in Iraq’s stability.
  The war in Iraq has produced hundreds of thousands of refugees; an escalation in the conflict means even more refugees.
  An escalation in the conflict means the spread of fundamentalist insurrection and sectarian violence, and an increase in basic crime and lawlessness – and not just in Iraq.



 


We must support and broaden efforts made to create the International Compact for Iraq, a five-year plan launched this past April under the auspices of the United Nations with benchmarks for Iraq’s national reconciliation and economic reconstruction.
  That Compact includes formal commitments of support from the international community.



 


But we must begin to have a broader diplomatic and economic vision in the Middle East that includes engaging both the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Iraq and Afghanistan.



 


The various agencies of the United Nations are best suited to tackle the myriad problems plaguing Iraq.
  Matters of security training, economic and community development, and providing electricity, water, and sanitation service are all areas where the U.N. has expertise.



 


Just as important, the United States should request the OSCE to accept Iraq as a partner for cooperation.
  Afghanistan has begun to participate in OSCE proceedings under this program.
  This status could allow OSCE to assist Iraq with collective border security, police training, and immigration and religious tolerance efforts.



 


Engaging the U.N. and OSCE could help initiate much-needed multi-lateral and bi-lateral engagement, both with friendly nations such as Turkey and with hostile nations such as Iran and Syria; engagement of the international community to deal with Iran and Syria’s destabilizing regional policies; and a renewed effort to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

 




Iraq should request assistance from the United Nations and other international forces to help prevent continued ethnic cleansing.

 




According to the United Nations 2005 World Summit, a high level plenary meeting of the 60th Session of the General Assembly, states have a responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.
  This is an international responsibility – not solely a U.S. responsibility.




 


Mr. President, I believe the strategy I have just outlined presents the best chance of helping the Iraqis negotiate a government and governmental structure that has the confidence of its people, protects the rights of all its citizens, and builds the democratic institutions such as an independent judiciary and a market-based economy that are so vital to a successful country.



 


There’s a difference between being resolute and being stubborn.
  We can no longer ignore the overwhelming evidence or recoil from the cold reality the facts on the ground reveal.
  President Bush’s policy has failed.
  The world has an interest in a safe and secure Iraq, and I believe efforts to rebuild the country must be a shared responsibility among nations.
  There is no more time for delay.
  It is time to change the mission, re-deploy our troops currently stationed in Iraq, and internationalize the effort to bring stability to that country and to the Middle East.



 


Such a strategy could give the Iraqis a real hope of peace and gives Americans the best chance to achieve our objectives in that region of the world. Our soldiers have honored our country by their incredible service. We owe it to our soldiers to change our mission now so we have the best change to achieve these objectives.

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