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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006

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Location: Washington, DC


NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2006

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AMENDMENTS NOS. 2518 AND 2519

Mr. MCCAIN. Mr. President, the Iraq amendment under consideration today constitutes no run-of-the-mill resolution and reporting requirement. It is much more important than that, and likely to be watched closely in Iraq--more closely there, in fact, than in America. In considering this amendment, I urge my colleagues to think hard about the message we send to the Iraqi people. I believe that, after considering how either version will be viewed in Iraq, we must reject both.

Reading through each version, one gets the sense that the Senate's foremost objective is the drawdown of American troops. But America's first goal in Iraq is not to withdraw troops, it is to win the war. All other policy decisions we make should support, and be subordinate to, the successful completion of our mission. If that means we can draw down troop levels and win in Iraq in 2006, that is wonderful. But if success requires an increase in American troop levels in 2006, then we should increase our numbers there.

But that is not what these amendments suggest. They signal that withdrawal, not victory, is foremost in Congress's mind, and suggest that we are more interested in exit than victory. A date is not an exit strategy. This only encourages our enemies, by indicating that the end to American intervention is near, and alienates our friends, who fear an insurgent victory. Instead, both our friends and our enemies need to hear one message: America is committed to success in Iraq and we will win this war.

The Democratic version requires the President to develop a withdrawal plan. Think about this for a moment. Imagine Iraqis, working for the new government, considering whether to join the police forces, or debating whether or not to take up arms. What will they think when they learn that the Democrats are calling for a withdrawal plan? The Republican alternative, while an improvement, indicates that events in 2006 should create the conditions for a redeployment of U.S. forces. Are these the messages we wish to send? Do we wish to respond to the millions who braved bombs and threats to vote, who have put their faith and trust in America and the Iraqi Government, that our No. 1 priority is now bringing our people home? Do we want to tell insurgents that their violence has successfully ground us down, that their horrific acts will, with enough time, be successful? No, we must not send these messages. Our exit strategy in Iraq is not the withdrawal of our troops, it is victory.

If we can reach victory in 2006, that would be wonderful. But should 2006 not be the landmark year that these amendments anticipate, we will have once again unrealistically raised the expectations of the American people. That can only cost domestic support for America's role in this conflict, a war we must win.

I repeat that. This is a war we must win. The benefits of success and the consequences of failure are too profound for us to do otherwise. The road ahead is likely to be long and hard, but America must follow it through to success. While the sponsors of each version of this amendment might argue that their exact language supports this view, perceptions here and in Iraq are critical. By suggesting that withdrawal, rather than victory, is on the minds of America's legislators, we do this great cause a grave disservice.

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