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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2006

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Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, before my friend from Connecticut leaves, I point out it is not partisanship that has caused the American people to leave this war; it is the incredible gap between the rhetoric of the administration of the last 2 years and the reality on the ground. Before we ever got into the open debate, the American people in droves were leaving this not just because Americans are dying, as tragic as that is, but because they do not think we have a plan.

What I think all Democrats and Republicans are deciding is, Tell us the plan, Stan. Tell us, Mr. President, what is the plan? It is the first time this has happened.

The purpose of the amendment is as clear as it is critical: to require the Bush administration to lay out what we need to do to succeed in Iraq. For the first time, our Republican colleagues have joined Democrats in insisting on a clear Iraqi strategy from this administration, a schedule to achieve it, and real accountability.

Let me be clear about what the amendment does not do. It does require the administration to explain in detail, in public, its plan for success--it has not been public, and that is why the American people have left this outfit--and do it with specific goals, a realistic schedule for achieving those goals, and the relationship between achieving the goals and redeploying U.S. forces. It does not set a deadline for withdrawal.

In providing the plan, both Democrats and Republicans are saying: I hope the administration will start by being realistic and state specifically what the mission is. Is the mission to protect every Iraqi, or is the mission different? As the military will tell, and no one knows better than my friends on the Committee on Armed Services, the mission dictates the force structure, and the more realistic mission calls for less force. We have to refocus our mission on preserving America's fundamental interests in Iraq. What are they?

First, we have to ensure that Iraq does not become what it was not before the war: a haven for jihadist terrorists.

Second, we have to do what we can to prevent a full-blown civil war that turns into regional war. I predict if there is a civil war, there will be a regional war.

To leave Iraq a stable and a united country with representative government, posing no threat to its neighbors, we need to proceed on three tracks at the same time: a political diplomatic track, an assistance track, and a security track. We cannot succeed in Iraq without all three of those succeeding.

On the diplomatic track, nothing is more important than getting Iraq's three main groups--Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds--to agree to changes in a constitution by next spring so that there is a consensus constitution.

My friend, the chairman of the committee, says without a political solution, we cannot do this. He is right. We need to know exactly what the administration is doing to convince each community to make the compromises necessary for a broad and sustainable political settlement.

We also need to know that the administration plans to engage the world powers and regional powers in this effort, as we did in the Six Plus Two Plan in Afghanistan, as we did in Bosnia. Iraq's neighbors have real influence with these different communities, and we need them to use that influence to arrive at a political settlement.

On the assistance track, the whole house of cards will collapse if Iraqis have no capacity to govern themselves, and if the Iraqi people cannot turn on the lights, drink the water, and walk out their front doors without wading into sewage.

So we need to know what specific steps the administration is taking to strengthen the capacity of Iraq's governmental ministries. We all know none of them can function now--none. Not a single Iraqi ministry is capable of functioning. The administration rejected the British plan to adopt these ministries. So what is the plan? What are you going to do, Mr. President, to make them able to function? How many regular police do we have to keep? What are the basic law-and-order requirements before we can draw down?

We need to stop this silliness about having trained 179,000 troops. Stop this silliness. Tell us what the facts are and tell us the relationship between the facts and our ability to draw down.

What is the plan to ensure that these local ministries are able to move on their own and coordinate Iraqi security forces?

Our amendment lays this out. The fact that our Republican colleagues have signed on to a very similar amendment makes it clear that all of us in this body are tired of not being told the facts.

So, Mr. President, the gap between this administration's rhetoric on Iraq and the reality on the ground has created a huge credibility gap. And I would have never thought this: Only this President could unite the Senate. He has united the Senate on a single point: What is the plan? That is what our amendment does.

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