THE PATRIOT ACT
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
VICTORY IN IRAQ
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I rise today to speak on Iraq's stunning march toward freedom and democracy and America's efforts to support her progress. I believe, as does President Bush, that it is squarely in our national security interest to help the Iraqis build a thriving and healthy democracy. Democracy is the ultimate antidote to terrorism.
We all know for democracy to flourish we must defeat the terrorists who still linger in Iraq. The mission facing our country is simple: We must defeat them by standing up the pillars of Iraq's democratic institutions so that country can become a hinge of freedom in the greater Middle East.
We know the terrorists cannot defeat us on the battlefield; our military might is absolutely unmatched. We know they cannot defeat our ideas, because when people are given a choice, they will choose liberty and democracy over terror and tyranny every time.
So this debate turns on just one simple question: do we have the will to win in Iraq?
This summer, American intelligence forces intercepted a letter written by Ayman al-Zawahiri, one of the leaders of Al Qaeda, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. In his letter, al-Zawahiri said that al Qaeda's goal was quite clear: ``Expel the Americans from Iraq.'' He went on to say this:
..... [T]he mujahedeen['s] ongoing mission is to establish an Islamic state, and defend it, and for every generation to hand over the banner to the one after it until the Hour of Resurrection ..... The Americans will exit soon, God willing.
So the terrorists' intent is plain. They are not only dedicated to driving us out of Iraq, they are also dedicated to turning Iraq into a breeding ground for terror and anarchy.
We must not let them succeed. That is why I am so concerned about the comments of those who suggest that the battle in Iraq is unwinnable. What signal does that send to the terrorists? What signal does it send to our troops who are putting it on the line every day in Iraq?
Here is what Congressman DENNIS KUCINICH, a leader of the House Democrats' ``Out of Iraq Caucus,'' said: ``It is time for a new direction in Iraq, and that direction is out.'' It's pretty clear where he stands. And he is not an outlier in his party.
The ``Out of Iraq Caucus'' is composed of about 70 Democratic House members. Their goal is America's complete withdrawal from Iraq. Personally, I don't think it makes sense to set an arbitrary withdrawal date, so the terrorists can circle that date on their calendars and wait for us to leave. It seems to me that the better course is to determine our troop needs based on military requirements on the ground, as determined by our military leaders.
House Minority Leader NANCY PELOSI herself has endorsed the immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, and claims that her position represents the majority of her caucus. Leader PELOSI endorsed H.J. Res. 73, a resolution that states:
The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.
So that is the position of the House Democratic Leader, Ms. PELOSI.
Now, the chairman of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean, has said recently the United States can't even win in Iraq. He says, ``The idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that, unfortunately, is just plain wrong.''
Let me say that again. Howard Dean, the leader of the Democratic Party, believes that ``The idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that, unfortunately, is just plain wrong.
That is Howard Dean's assessment of the situation.
Chairman Dean later tried to qualify his comments about the unwinnable nature of the battle in Iraq, but no matter what he says now, it still sounds like ``cut and run'' to me. If it is not ``cut and run'' it is at least ``cut and jog.''
Let me be clear. Proponents of immediate withdrawal certainly have the right to hold that view, and I believe they do so with patriotism in their hearts. But I must respectfully question their judgment.
Our goal should be to achieve victory in Iraq, not merely to pull out based on an arbitrary date on the calendar.
The fact is, we are already on the road to victory in Iraq. The transformation of Iraq from the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein to freedom and democracy in just two and a half years is a remarkable success story.
It took us 11 years in our country to get from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution.
And freedom took another giant step forward yesterday with the elections for the first permanent democratic government in Iraqi history.
Of course, the news we have now is still preliminary. But early news reports indicate that 11 million Iraqis went to the polls yesterday, once again staining their fingers with indelible purple ink to signify that they had voted.
That is an overall turnout rate of over 70 percent, compared to 60 percent here a year ago, which was a good turnout for us, higher than normal--70 percent of them going to the polls, proudly holding up their ink-stained fingers, many of them not certain they wouldn't be killed by exercising that right to vote. What is there not to admire about that, an extraordinary performance on the part of the Iraqi people?
As I indicated, that turnout rate exceeds that of their previous election, the constitutional referendum in October. And the turnout rate for that referendum exceeded the rate for the election prior to that, for the interim government in January. Most important, turnout among Sunnis yesterday appears to have been particularly robust, as with each election Sunnis have gotten more involved in the democratic process.
We may not know the results of the elections yet, but we know the Iraqi people are the winners. They have repeatedly defied the terrorists by voting for democracy over tyranny. Yesterday's elections have created a 275-member council of representatives, who will govern Iraq with the consent of the people.
It is odd to me that at such a moment of triumph in that country, there are still those who call for America to stop short. Granted, not everything in Iraq has gone just as we would have wanted it to.
Unfortunately, such is the nature of military conflict. We've all heard it said that no battle plan survives the first shot. But there can be no doubt that tremendous progress has been made. Maybe it would be a good idea to review the progress that has been made in Iraq in the last two-and-a-half years.
Back during the Saddam Hussein era--when he was in power from 1979 to 2003--in that period, over 4,000 political prisoners were summarily executed, 50,000 Kurds were killed, 395,000 people were forced to flee Iraq, there were no free elections whatsoever, no free newspapers, and Hussein, of course, stood above the law.
What has the situation been since 2003, since the fall of Saddam? Iraqis are now innocent until proven guilty, and Saddam himself is being given a fair trial, something he gave no one.
Seventy-five Kurds were elected to the interim Parliament, when during Saddam's regime, 50,000 of them were murdered. Over 270,000 people repatriated, when during Saddam's regime, 395,000 people left the country; 9.8 million Iraqis freely voted on the Constitution. There are over 100 free newspapers in Iraq. They have a robust free press there, and Hussein, as I suggested earlier, is now on trial, being given the kind of trial he gave no one.
So much has improved, much is left to do, but now we are heading in the right direction. Iraqis are feeling positive about the direction of their country as well. According to an ABC News study, 77 percent of Iraqis think the security situation in the country will be better in a year. Two-thirds of them expressed confidence in the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi police.
These people are on the ground in Iraq every day. They are living in the midst of the war on terror. I think we should give their opinions great weight.
Look at all the progress that has been made. The 24-year reign of terror is over, and a new democratic, free Iraq is emerging. Voter turnout in their national elections yesterday was reportedly very heavy, as I indicated. So Iraqis are optimistic about their future. They think the fight against the terrorists is worth fighting. They think democracy is worth fighting for.
We should stand by them and do no less. We need to complete the job, and our strategy is to stay and win--not cut and run.
I yield the floor.