DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2007 -- (Senate - August 03, 2006)
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IRAQ AND THE MIDDLE EAST
Mr. KERRY. I came to the floor to speak about the Middle East and Iraq, and I intend to do so. But obviously, having sat here for the last almost half hour listening to how the Senator from South Carolina is going to go back to South Carolina and report, I couldn't help but listen to him say that he is going to be proud to tell South Carolinians that he and the Republicans have been doing what it takes to make America more secure. You can tell them that. But it doesn't mean it is true.
The fact is, the American people understand, I think pretty well, what is going on. Because life for the average American is getting tougher and tougher, they don't think Washington is doing very much for them at all.
Health savings accounts work just fine for people who can save money. Ask how many Americans are saving money. If you can't save money and you don't have the benefit of the tax deduction, then the health savings accounts don't do anything. That is why there are now 46 million Americans without health care. It has gone up 6 million people under this President.
Eleven million children have no health care at all in the United States of America--none, no health care. We are the only industrial Nation in the world that treats our kids like that. I hope he reports to the people of South Carolina, where there are a lot of kids who don't have health care, why there hasn't been a vote on the Senate floor to give children health care.
When it comes to making America more secure, I hope he tells them that North Korea has four times the nuclear weapons capability that it had 4 years ago. Are we more secure?
The fact is, for 3 years this administration didn't even engage with the British, the Germans, and the French in their efforts to try to reduce the potential that Iran would nuclearize. Three years standing on the sidelines, and now Iran is playing out its deadly game with Syria and Lebanon.
I think by any measure--and this is not what I came to the floor to talk about--the case is powerful that America is in fact less secure. Nothing underscores that more than when the Senator from South Carolina stands there and says how important it is to separate who is willing to fight terrorists, and we are fighting terrorists, he said, in Iraq.
Iraq is not a war of terrorists today. Iraq is a war principally that is civil. It is Iraqi killing Iraqi. The fact is, Iraq was never the central front in the war on terror, which was always in Afghanistan, always with respect to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. It is al-Qaida today that is in fact stronger around the world, with 60 to 80 countries in which it now has cells that it didn't have at the time of September 11, 2001.
I hope we will have this debate. Believe me, we will have this debate over the next months about whether we are more secure and about how you actually stand up for the security of the United States. One of the ways you stand up for the security of the United States is to have a sensible policy with respect to Iraq.
Yesterday I was at Arlington National Cemetery for the funeral of Lance Corporal Geoffrey Cayer, a 20-year-old from Massachusetts. Apart from the obvious heart-wrenching sadness of that moment, I was struck, as I walked up to the graveside, by the number of new headstones, all of which read Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom.
One of those now among the fallen is Phillip Baucus, the nephew of our friend and colleague Senator MAX BAUCUS. Phillip was a proud and brave Marine Corps corporal who gave his life serving this country last Saturday in Anbar Province in Iraq. He was an extraordinary young man from all I have read and from what Max told me personally. I know from
Max what he meant to his family and what a totally devastating blow this is to all of them. We offer our prayers for Phillip and for every family that has endured this kind of monumental loss. Phillip and Geoffrey Cayer and all those who have given their lives are a very tough reminder to all of us of the incredible sacrifices that America's children are making every single day.
With the violence in Iraq growing worse by the day, it was stunning to hear Secretary Rumsfeld come before the Armed Services Committee this morning with a laundry list of excuses and denials about what is happening there and its consequences for the region. General Abizaid candidly acknowledged that ``the sectarian violence is as bad as I have seen it,'' that he has rarely seen the situation ``so unsettled and so volatile.'' He warned of coming civil war and that ``failure to apply coordinated regional and international pressure ..... will further extremism'' and could lead to a widening and more perilous conflict.
But this morning Secretary Rumsfeld didn't call for that kind of diplomacy, didn't talk about that kind of diplomacy, didn't lay out a plan that the administration has for that kind of leadership and diplomacy, nor has President Bush reached out to undertake the kind of crisis diplomacy needed in Iraq or to leverage the regional pressure to stop Iraq from descending into irretrievable chaos.
We ought to try to strip away the labels for a minute, take away Democrat and Republican, take away the partisanship of this city, just measure this against history. How many times have any of us as United States Senators, or even previous to our being here, seen the concerted effort statesmen on an international level convening efforts in order to diffuse crises or to make peace where there was war or to try to stop war where there was conflict?
Instead today Secretary Rumsfeld announced ``there are a number of good things happening ..... amidst all of this difficulty, the currency is fairly stable, the schools are open, the hospitals are open, the people are functioning.'' Secretary Rumsfeld waxed optimistic about an Iraq where you ``see people out in the fields doing things and people driving their cars and lining up for gasoline and going about their business.''
He went to say that ``despite all of the difficulties, there are also some good trend lines that are occurring, and I think the period ahead is an important period.''
I respectfully think it is a lot more than important. This may well be the moment that decides the security and the framework for the security of the Middle East itself. It certainly could be that kind of moment with the proper vision and the proper statesmanship. It is time that the administration was candid about the situation and worked on rescuing what is salvageable in Iraq. The reason that candor is important, it is the only way to get other countries engaged and involved.
With now at least 2,578 Americans killed, over 19,000 wounded, and no end in sight, you can't just offer the ``same old, same old'' as more kids die for a policy that isn't working. Go to the hospitals, meet the kids, talk to them. Sure they want us to win. We all want to win. But ask them what is wounding them, what is killing them by and large. The vast majority of those killed and wounded are killed and wounded by IEDs, the new term of a new war, improvised explosive device.
What are our soldiers supposed to do about an improvised explosive device except go out and find them. And how do they find them? Usually when they explode, unless they are lucky enough to come across them some other way. Americans are right to wonder why, Ð3/ 1/2 years into this effort, it is Americans who have to go out and do that rather than Iraqis. After all, Iraq was able to fight a 10-year war with Iran, lost a million people, fought to a stalemate, during which time, I might add, we were providing a lot of the weapons to them.
I don't think we should be silent. I don't think we have the right to be. I can't be while this administration continues to deny reality and repeat the same mistakes and pursue the ``same old, same old'' policy day after day which puts more and more lives at risk, more and more lives on the line, without pursuing a policy that provides the least risk to our troops and greatest opportunity for success.
I have said it before and I believe it deeply, we in Congress have a special constitutional responsibility and a moral obligation to hold the executive branch accountable for making the right choices for our troops and our country. Frankly, that begins by demanding honesty when it comes to the war in Iraq.
The bottom line is--and here again the administration has not been honest--this administration is now sending more U.S. troops into the crossfire of an escalating civil war in Iraq. They still refuse to come clean with the American people about it.
I don't think we should endure more half measures, and staged, phoney debates. It is time for us all to confront and deal with the truth about the consequences of today's failed policy in Iraq.
No matter what the administration tells us, there is a civil war raging in Iraq. The President's policy of standing down U.S. troops as Iraqis stand up, which has been the mantra of the last 2 years or more, has now been exposed as a misleading myth. In fact, we are actually increasing the overall troop presence, even as they tell us that more Iraqi soldiers have been trained, and we have reportedly all but abandoned the hope of withdrawing significant numbers of troops this year, even as the Iraqi President tells us that Iraqis can take over the security responsibility throughout their country by the end of this year. That is what the Iraqis are telling us, even as U.S. forces are increasing
Yesterday, we learned more about our dangerously overstretched military when the top National Guard general warned that more than two-thirds of the Army National Guard's brigades are not combat ready. Can you please tell me how the Secretary of Defense can come up to the U.S. Congress and explain to us how two-thirds of the National Guard's combat brigades are not ready? And their equipment--large percentages of it--is in Iraq and it will not come back to the United States. That is going to cost billions of dollars for the United States, billions of dollars to replace the equipment and the wear and tear, billions which, I might add, is not in the budget today. Worst of all, there is no end in sight and no realistic plan to turn the tide.
Mr. President, if you are going to change course or set the right course, you have to do it based on the realities. I believe that starts by acknowledging the reality of the civil war that is going on right now. The administration denies it because it doesn't fit their rhetoric, but by objective standards, that is what is happening.
In the first 6 months of this year, 14,338 Iraqi civilians were killed--civilians--mostly in sectarian violence. They were not killed by al-Qaida. They were not killed by Islamic terrorists from another country. They were killed by Shia on Sunni and Sunni on Shia. That is sectarian violence.
Prime Minister al-Maliki acknowledged last week that an average of 100 Iraqi civilians are being killed every day--civilians. And the violence has only been getting worse. Mr. President, 2,669 civilians were killed in May; 3,129 civilians were killed in June. That is nearly 6,000 Iraqi civilians killed in 2 months alone. Since the February 22 bombing of the Shia mosque in Samara, the Government reports that 30,359 families--about 182,000 people--have fled their homes due to sectarian violence and intimidation. They are refugees, which is part of the definition of a civil war.
This is not just a civil war; by historical standards, it is a relatively large-scale one. A recent academic analysis published in the New York Times showed that the median number of casualties in civil wars since 1945 is 18,000. Estimates of total casualties in Iraq vary, but the number is almost certainly above twice that many.
Larry Diamond, whom many Senators know and have talked to, is an expert. He was over there with Paul Bremer in the Coalition Provisional Authority. Here is what he said:
In academic terms, this is a civil war, and it is not even a small one.
The Iraqis from all sides understand what is going on in their country. They are not afraid to speak the truth.
Haidar al-Lbadi is a prominent Shiite legislator. This is one of the people we are working with in the democracy that we have offered and that they have fought for and voted for. He said:
Certainly, what is happening is the start of a civil war.
Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni legislator--so you have Shia and Sunni--also described the recent violence as:
The start of a civil war.
Another leading Sunni, Adnan al-Dulaimi, said recently:
It is nothing less than an undeclared civil war.
The Iraqis are ready to tell you it is a civil war. Still, the administration continues to deny the facts about that. If you don't acknowledge the facts, it is difficult to put together a plan to be able to adequately deal with them.
This is the same administration, incidentally, that everyone, I hope, remembers downplayed the insurgency. Do you remember that? Do you remember when it was first clear that chaos was giving way to a determined insurgency? What did the administration do month after month? Secretary Rumsfeld told us they are ``just a bunch of dead enders.'' At one point, he even suggested that Baghdad was safer than Washington, DC. Vice President Cheney told us the insurgency was ``in its last throes.''
Just look at the results. Since then, the number of Iraqi insurgents has increased by 20 percent, and the insurgency is more than six times stronger now than in May 2003. Once again, it is our troops who pay the most significant price. In fact, the number of IED attacks on U.S. troops has nearly doubled since January.
Now, in the face of all of the evidence to the contrary, the administration continues to deny that there is a civil war. The only ones, it appears to me, they are fooling are themselves. This appears to be one more inconvenient truth they prefer not to deal with. In fact, Secretary Rumsfeld said just a few months ago that if civil war did break out, Iraqi forces, not U.S. troops, would be the ones dealing with it.
I hope everybody hears that. Secretary Rumsfeld, in another one of his misjudgments, or misstatements, said a few months ago that if civil war breaks out, Iraqi forces, not U.S. troops, will be the ones to deal with it. So why are U.S. troops being augmented in their number? Why did it take sending more troops to the city of Baghdad? One more misjudgment and misleading statement. So we are sending more troops into the crossfire. The administration doesn't want to say that, but that is what is happening.
When the President announced his plan last week to increase the U.S. troop presence in Baghdad, he said that the troops would come from other areas of Iraq. He didn't mention that additional troops had been sent into Iraq from Kuwait and that current deployments were being extended as new troops arrive. The net bottom line of that policy, which he didn't mention but the Washington Post and the New York times did report, is that the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq is going to increase by several thousand. He didn't mention that the recently announced deployment schedule could bring the number of U.S. troops in Iraq even higher in the coming years.
Finally--and this is the most important thing of all--he did not explain why this strategy, which hasn't been working for these past several years, is suddenly going to work, and the fact that a few months ago U.S. and coalition troops in Baghdad increased from 40,000 to 55,000. Guess what happened? The violence got worse. Now the President says we are going to send a few more thousand.
The question is, Why is this going to be any different? I remember this psychology very well. Back in 1964 and 1965 when Lyndon Johnson responded to the so-called attack of the Gulf of Tonkin and we upped our troop level by 5,000 troops in Vietnam, I responded to that call and found what we all now know was a matter of history--very different from what we are being told by our own administration.
One thing is clear to me under this administration's approach: It is highly unlikely that we are going to be drawing down significant numbers of U.S. troops from Iraq this year. That is despite the fact that Secretary Rumsfeld said on Wednesday that there are some 275,000 trained Iraqi security forces, with 325,000 expected to be trained by the end of the year. General Martin Dempsey, the American general in charge of training Iraqi forces, said in June that the new Iraqi Army would be formed and at full strength by the end of this calendar year. Iraqi President Talabani declared just yesterday that Iraqis could take over security in the entire country by the end of the year.
If the Iraqis are standing up, as the administration tells us, why aren't U.S. troops standing down, as they told us they would? I think the rhetoric of ``as they stand up, we will stand down'' is as hollow and misleading as the rhetoric that ``we will be greeted as liberators'' or ``mission accomplished'' or, frankly, ``stay the course,'' which means more of the same and is not an adequate response to the needs of dealing with the civil war.
The bottom line is this: The approach hasn't worked because the underlying assumption that more troops are the solution to the problem is fundamentally flawed. I will say that again. You can put in a lot more troops, but our own military leaders have told us there is no military solution. So why are you putting in more troops? Our own generals, the Iraqi leaders, and even the Secretary of State herself, have told us that there is no military solution to the insurgency. And just today, Secretary Rumsfeld acknowledged there is no military solution to the sectarian violence. So in fact, all of us can agree that the only hope for salvaging a measure of lasting success in Iraq, which I emphasize is what we all want--the difference is not what we want, the difference is in how you get it. The evidence is mounting month by month that the course this administration is on is not the most effective, least risk, most efficient way to get it.
The only way to resolve this insurgency is a political solution that all of the Iraqis can buy into. So the question then looms large: Why isn't that happening? If Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and if our own generals and if the Iraqis themselves say there is no military solution, why are we adding more troops? Why are the Iraqi troops not able to deal with the situation? The answer is simple: because until you resolve the fundamental differences that bring Sunni to kill Shia and Shia to kill Sunni, you are not going to stop this process.
I believe there is only one way to resolve that, and that is to engage in the kind of intensive diplomacy that has been so inexplicably lacking from this administration in its approach to Iraq. I know what some of the wise guys say in Washington and what some of the pundits say and what the conventional wisdom is. People love to dismiss diplomacy these days. It is the easiest thing in the world. Why talk to them? We have to go out and be tough and so on.
There was a time not so long ago in this country, practiced by Republican Presidents, such as Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford, as well as Democrats, where diplomacy was exhausted before the United States resorted to military means. We used to understand that diplomacy was the primary means of advancing America's national security interests. We used to remember that war is the ultimate failure of diplomacy--and the best way to end it.
Unfortunately, our current diplomacy has been almost absent--an ambassador left to his own devices on the grounds, an occasional fly-in visit from the Secretary of State or the President, but no ongoing talks or shuttle diplomacy. In fact, so much of what we used to take for granted in national security policy has now been called into question.
We used to know that, despite our differences and political philosophies in the Senate--and I remember watching the Senate in those days as a young kid and a student of government--the two great parties of this country were able to cooperate to craft international policies in our national interest. We used to understand that the unique and historic role of the United States in world affairs required a farsighted and multifaceted approach to protecting our people and our interests. We used to value as a national treasure the international alliances and institutions that enhanced our strength, amplified our voice, and reflected our traditions and ideals in maintaining a free and secure world. You can look at the history of the Cold War and what Woodrow Wilson tried to do, as well as Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower, with the Marshall Plan and other efforts to bring countries together and to try to honor the effort through statesmanship, to be able to forge viable alliances and peace.
We used to say that politics stopped at the water's edge. We used to call on our people to share in the sacrifices demanded by freedom. Our leaders used to raise hopes and inspire trust, not raise fears and demand blind faith
We used to measure America's strength and security by our moral authority, our economic leadership, and our diplomatic skills all together, as well as by the power of our military.
I want people to stop and think about how much things have changed. Last week, one of the most noted, honored columnists in America, New York Times' Tom Friedman, wrote the following. He had just come back from the Middle East. He wrote his previous book ``From Beirut to Jerusalem,'' which won a Pulitzer prize:
Our President and Secretary of State, although they speak with great moral clarity, have no moral authority. That's been shattered by their performance in Iraq.
That moral authority is something that Presidents struggle to hold onto, to nurture and create, through Republican and Democratic administrations alike.
I believe the key to any hope of stabilizing Iraq is changing course and engaging in sustained diplomacy from the highest levels of America's leadership that matches the effort of our soldiers on the ground.
History tells us the results of that kind of effort. In 1995, most recently, there was a brutal civil war in Bosnia involving Serbs, Croats, and Muslims. Faced with a seemingly intractable stalemate in the face of horrific ethnic cleansing, the Clinton administration took action--I might add, they took action that was opposed by a lot of people on a partisan basis--and led by Richard Holbrooke they brought leaders in the Bosnian parties together in Dayton, OH. I know at the time Mr. Yeltsin didn't even want to appear, didn't want to be part of it. But it took persuasion and leverage that ultimately helped to bring Russia, then the Soviet Union, to the table. They brought leaders of the Bosnian parties together in Dayton, OH, and representatives from the European Union, Russia, and Britain to hammer out a peace agreement that brought relative stability to the region. That is the kind of effort we have to engage in if we are going to secure Iraq and extricate ourselves ultimately.
While an international process has begun to bring reconstruction and economic aid to Iraq, a real national compact forged with the support of countries in the region, is needed to bring about a political solution to the insurgency and end the cycle of Shia-Sunni violence.
This strategy can work. It is the only strategy that ultimately will work. No matter what happens ultimately, the hope of bringing American troops home from Iraq is going to depend on the quality of the negotiating process which leverages a new security arrangement for the region. That is the bottom line. We are not going to be able to leave without it, and Americans ultimately are going to want to leave.
A Dayton-like summit that includes the leaders of the Iraqi Government, the countries bordering Iraq, the Arab League, NATO, and I know from talking with members--recently I was in Brussels talking with members of NATO, I talked with people at the United Nations, I talked with people with respect to the Arab League--they are all waiting. They are ready to try to do this, but it takes leadership to pull those parties together.
The fact is, we can enable the Iraqis to engage in the intensive diplomacy to forge a comprehensive political agreement that addresses security guarantees, oil revenues, federalism, and disbanding of the militias, and all the parties would agree on a process for securing Iraq's borders.
These are the key elements of a political agreement necessary to decrease the violence, and they are not the tasks for which U.S. troops can or should be responsible. They are the responsibility of civilian personnel, particularly the Iraqis.
Success is going to require the collective effort that engages members of the international community who share our interest in a stable Iraq. To enlist their support, we have to address their concerns about a security arrangement in the region after we have withdrawn from Iraq. That is why the summit should lay the groundwork for creating a new regional security structure that strengthens countries in the regions and the wider community of nations.
That, incidentally, is what we should have been doing all of last year under resolution 1559 of the United Nations, when we should have been dealing with the issue of the disarmament of Hezbollah.
I believe--and I think others share this belief--that the only way to ultimately be successful in Iraq is to lay down a strategy that extricates the United States because even our generals have said our large force presence is a magnet for the terrorists and adds to the problem of the insurgency. So part of the solution is to reduce that American presence. I believe if we were to redeploy those forces after we set some responsible timeframes, that is the most effective way to proceed.
Let me say one or two words in closing. I keep hearing colleagues say everybody loves the politics of this, but a lot of young people's lives are on the line. They may want to play to the politics of cut and run versus stay the course, but that is not what this is about.
If you were to adopt a policy that sets some timeframes and deadlines, you still leave the President the discretion to be able to keep certain forces there to complete the training; you leave the President the discretion to keep forces there to fight al-Qaida; you leave the President the discretion to use forces to protect American facilities; and you maintain over-the-horizon ability to protect American interests in the region.
I think we need to get away from this simplistic sloganeering and get into a real discussion about how one makes Iraq a success and our policy in the region a success. We know that Prime Minister Maliki understands this, which is why he has talked openly about a timeframe for the reduction of U.S. forces.
We know that Ambassador Khalilzad and General Casey are discussing with the Iraqi Government the formation of a joint commission to outline the terms and conditions of the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. We know Mr. Rubaie has already said there is an ``unofficial `road map' to troop reductions that will eventually lead to a total withdrawal of U.S. troops.'' And we know that General Casey has drafted a plan for significantly reducing U.S. troop levels by the end of 2007. And we know that the polls of Iraqis have shown that 87 percent of Iraqis, including 94 percent Sunnis and 90 percent Shia, support their Government endorsing a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
So it seems to me that if the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi people, the Ambassador, the top military commander, and a majority of Americans can see that the time has come for an adequate timeframe to get Iraqis to fight for democracy for themselves as much as we have done it for them, why can't the Bush administration?
Even as we consider the way forward in Iraq, we obviously can't lose sight of what is happening in a war raging on the other side of the Middle East. Watching the news from the Middle East these days is an exercise in continual heartbreak as Israel continues military operations to defend itself against Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the missiles still rain down on northern Israel.
Our hearts go out to people suffering all across the Middle East. We all want peace. The death of every child--Lebanese in Qana or Israeli in Haifa--is an unspeakable tragedy. But we know from the hard lessons of the past that lasting peace is not going to come easily, and it will not come without the kind of sustained involvement at the highest levels of the U.S. Government that, again, as in Iraq, we have not seen from this administration.
In fact, the violence we are seeing now is in part the bitter fruit of a number of years of U.S. neglect in the region, neglect which I saw personally when I visited with President Abbas on the West Bank right after he was elected. It is another disastrous byproduct of being distracted and bogged down in Iraq.
Our inattention to diplomacy and the failure to disarm Hezbollah and stop the flow of weapons from Iran and Syria, as required by U.N. resolution 1559, left Israel to respond to this terrorist organization's provocations with a bloody war that threatens to spread into a larger conflict.
In fact, just a few hours ago, General Abizaid testified that if 1559 had been fully implemented, we wouldn't be in this situation today.
It is clear that our compromised position in Iraq, combined with our diplomatic isolation in the region, has reduced our leverage and undermined our ability to bring about the lasting resolution that is so desperately needed.
Obviously, the people of Israel can count on the stalwart support of the United States during these difficult times. At the same time, the Lebanese people must know that Americans also care deeply about protecting innocent civilians and preserving their fragile democracy. That is why we have to work urgently to achieve a viable and sustainable peace agreement that includes an international force capable of ensuring Israel's security and Lebanon's complete territorial sovereignty, the return of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers, and the permanent removal of the threat caused and posed by Hezbollah.
Given these dire circumstances, it is imperative that we do everything in our power to accomplish this as soon as possible and, Mr. President, we should not be afraid of talking to any country that will help us advance this objective, and that includes Syria and Iran. But that cannot be the end of our involvement. In fact, it has to be the beginning of a new--entirely new--more significant, greater Middle East initiative that we undertake in order to create the kind of sustained diplomatic engagement in the region that is the only way to resolve these crises.
The unmistakable lesson is that we need more than crisis diplomacy; we need preventive diplomacy--a preventive diplomacy in the best traditions of our country that addresses the underlying problems before they explode. That means putting an end, once and for all, to state sponsorship of terrorism. And that requires a renewed commitment to work ceaselessly to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East.
I yield the floor, and I thank my colleagues for their graciousness. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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