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Public Statements

Dr. Coburn Remarks On The War in Iraq

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Location: Washington, DC


Dr. Coburn Remarks On The War in Iraq

Mr. COBURN: Mr. President, I have not come to the floor, except once, in the 2 years I have been here to discuss the war in Iraq. I have been to Iraq and had experience in Iraq as a medical missionary during the first gulf war.

I am very much concerned as to how the world will read us. What we know is that enemies try to defeat us not by trying to defeat us on the battlefield or in Iraq; they try to defeat our will, try to defeat the will of the American public.

Senator DeMint talked about leadership. Leadership is laying out the real consequences of our action. What are those consequences? What next? What is going to happen next? What is going to happen? We heard this morning that we are trying to delay this resolution. We are not trying to delay it. As a matter of fact, they are saying we would not debate it. We are debating it right now. The fact is, we believe you ought to have a resolution that says we support our troops in this group of resolutions. Unless we get some semblance of saying we want to send a signal to our troops that we support them, we should not have a rule that precludes that.

So politics aside, and the next election aside, and the Presidential election aside, what does it mean to the American people about what we end up doing in Iraq? That is the question we should be asking. We should be making sure that the mistake we do not make is to have an ill-informed American public about what the consequences will be.

Regardless of whether we should be in Iraq, we are there. We cannot change that. The question comes, what does the Iraq Study Group say? They said we needed to secure Baghdad; they said we needed reinforcements to be able to do that; they said we needed more funds to make a difference in people's lives. These are the funds that go to the generals to actually approve things.

Can we accomplish something in Iraq or do we walk away? Here is what happens when we walk away. No. 1, there will be a genocide in Iraq. The minority Sunni population will scatter out of Iraq, and those who don't will be killed.

The northern Iraqis, the Kurds--what will happen to them? If we are gone and full-blown civil war breaks out, what will happen to the Kurds? This is a group of 36 million people who have not had a homeland since the Ottoman Empire. Genocide was committed against them by Saddam. What will happen to them? They will be seen as a risk to Turkey. Turkey already has problems with its Kurdish population.

What will happen in Lebanon? Probably civil war.

What will happen in Jordan?

What will happen to the Sunni gulf states, as they now fear Iran and its dominance?

This is a war Iran wants us to leave. Why? Because they want to empower themselves to be the dominant force in the Middle East. We can talk about all of the resolutions and how we disagree; that is basically political posturing, and you can disagree. But as the Senator from South Carolina said, unless you put something into force of action, it is criticism, not leadership. We need to calculate whatever we do in this body, based on what the outcome of that calculation is going to be, not by giving bellicose speeches that set up false choices that are not there. The fact is we have an obligation to the very people--the innocent people--in Iraq today.

We can walk away from that, but history will judge us harshly. The estimates are there will be 5 million people displaced out of Iraq. There will be between 700,000 and 1 million additional Iraqis who will die. Do we not have an obligation to make that not happen? Do we not have an obligation to do what is in the best long-term interests of this country? Is it in our best interest for this country to get out of Iraq? Is it? How does that fit with the war on terror and our ability to conduct that war when we create in Iraq, by withdrawing, a new state that is run by al-Qaida and by the Shia, which will in fact have the funding to dominate in the international arena with terrorism and hatefulness and murder and pillaging of innocent people?

It is not as simple as everybody here wants to make it seem. It certainly should not be political. But that is where we are going. The very comment that we cannot have a debate on supporting the policy, that we will not allow a resolution that says we are going to support our troops--why don't they want that? It is because that will get the highest number of votes. That will become the story--not the story that somebody postured in a position that is well-intended and well-meaning, that they don't think a surge or a reinforcement in Iraq is correct.

America is at a crossroads. The crossroads is whether we will fulfill and carry out the responsibilities, some of which we added to ourselves by our very position, but whether we will fulfill that. We will be judged by history.

To undermine many of the steps that the Iraq Study Group said, which is in the President's plan, nobody knows if this will work, but I guarantee it will not work if we send a signal to those who oppose us that this is it. All they do is sit and wait. More of Iran's influence and more dollars from Iran coming into Iraq--more to defeat us. If you defeat the will of the American people--and, by doing that, that is our problem--if we allow that to happen as leaders in this country, then we will be responsible for that 5 million displacement, for those million deaths, and the millions that will follow when you have a Middle East dominated by Iran with a nuclear weapon.

We should think long and hard. The American people should not respond just to the urge to get out of Iraq but respond to the well-thought-out consequences of what happens next. And what happens next is a disaster, not only for the people of Iraq, for the people of the Middle East, but also for the national security of this country and our ability to carry out our foreign policy in the future.

I earnestly pray that we will consider the actions here and the words here in light of what comes next, not in terms of politics but what happens to our country.

Denying the heritage we have of sacrifice for freedom and liberty and denying that it costs something and walking away from that, we will reap that which we sow as we walk away from it. Caution to us as we do that.

Mr. President, I yield back the remainder of my time.


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