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To Revise United States Policy On Iraq--Motion To Proceed

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


TO REVISE UNITED STATES POLICY ON IRAQ--MOTION TO PROCEED -- (Senate - March 14, 2007)

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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, this is a defining moment. The American people are watching. The world is watching. The issue is clear: Will we stand with our soldiers by changing their mission to begin to bring them home or will we stand to keep our soldiers in Iraq's civil war? History will judge us. We can either continue down the President's perilous path or embrace a new direction. If we don't change course, we know what lies ahead: more American casualties, more American death, and more destruction. A new strategy that makes the Iraqis less reliant on our military is the best way forward. More of the same misguided policy will result in more of the same tragedy for our military. Let's try a new course and try it now.

We must proceed because Iraq is the overarching issue of our time. We are being told we need to be patient. We are being told we have to give the latest escalation a chance to succeed. But we have heard it all before. We have heard for years that this administration has a plan for success. We have heard for years that progress is just a few months away. We have heard for years that we have turned a corner. But the plans for success keep getting tossed aside for new plans, the timelines for progress keep getting extended, and we have turned so many corners that we have ended up back where we started: trying to control Baghdad.

It is time to change direction. There are too many parents who have buried their children, too many children left without their father or mother, and too many soldiers missing arms and legs and eyes and ears. It is time to change course, let the Iraqis step up to the plate and take responsibility for their own future, and begin to redeploy our troops out of Iraq.

Those of us who oppose the war are used to the administration's attacks. They have questioned our patriotism and called us defeatist. When we challenged the President's misguided policy, they accused us of having political motives and being partisan. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. Our motives have always been clear: to protect the lives of our soldiers.

The American people are far ahead of the administration. We have an obligation to stand up for our troops and stand up to our President when he stubbornly refuses to change course in Iraq. We are meeting our responsibility by changing the mission of our military, not micromanaging the war.

The recent hearings on Walter Reed should instruct us here today. They tell us how little faith we can put in this administration. The very people who hide behind the troops when their policies are questioned have failed to keep faith with our wounded soldiers. But just as importantly, the hearings on Walter Reed remind us all of the human costs of the war. This administration has done all it can to hide them from us. They have forbidden photographs of the coffins flown back from Iraq. The President has avoided attending the funerals of the fallen, and the tours at Walter Reed never included Building 18. But the hearings on Walter Reed swept away all the spin and camouflage and put our wounded soldiers back where they belong: at the heart of our debate about the war.

At the end of those hearings, everyone agreed that the Army had failed these brave soldiers. But we failed them long before they arrived at an Army hospital. This administration failed them when it trumped up the intelligence in order to make the case for war.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator has 30 seconds remaining.

Mr. KENNEDY. I ask unanimous consent for 30 additional seconds.

It failed them when it sent too few troops with too little armor. It failed them when it turned the reconstruction of Iraq into a political science project.

We in the Senate will fail them today if we do not vote to change course and to bring our soldiers home.

At the end of this debate, the American people will know where each of us stands. On our side of the aisle, we stand with the American people. The voters told us in November to change course and begin to bring our troops home, and that is what we are going to do. We stand for our constitutional system in which the Congress speaks for the people in matters of war and peace and can require that the President listen to them. Finally, we stand with our troops. We alone are insisting on a policy worthy of their courage and worthy of their sacrifice.

Peace and progress in Iraq must be earned by the Iraqis and their neighbors. We must no longer send our brave soldiers into an uncertain fate on the streets of Baghdad. Bring them home to the heroes welcome they have earned.

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Mr. KENNEDY. I thank the Chair. I do not intend to be long, and I am glad to yield at any time to the chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Mr. President, this is a defining moment for our country. The American people are watching. The world is watching. The issue is clear. Will we stand with our soldiers by changing their mission and beginning to bring them home, or will we stand with the President and keep our soldiers trapped in Iraq's civil war?

History will judge us. We can either continue down the President's perilous path or insist on a new direction. If we do not change course, we know what lies ahead--more American casualties, more wounded, more destruction.

A new strategy that makes Iraqis less reliant on our military is the best way forward.

More of the same misguided policy will result in more of the same tragedy for our military. Let's try a new course and let's try it now because Iraq is the overarching issue of our time and because we need to protect our national security.

We are told we need to be patient. We are told we have to give the latest escalation a chance to succeed. But we have heard all of that before.

We have heard for years that this administration has a plan for success. We have heard for years that progress is just a few months away. We have heard for years that we have turned the corner.

But the plans for success keep getting tossed aside for new plans. The administration has benchmarks to measure success, but there are no consequences when the benchmarks are not met.

The timelines for progress keep getting extended. We have turned so many corners that we have ended up back where we started--trying to control Baghdad. It is time for a new direction.

Mr. President, I reference this document. It is: ``Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq.'' It is a report to Congress by the Department of Defense, embargoed until 3 o'clock this afternoon. It is now after that hour. Here is what this document, which has just been released by the Department of Defense, has to say on stability and security in Iraq:

The last two months of 2006, however, saw little progress on the reconciliation front. The first two of four planned reconciliation conferences were described in the last report (November 2006). These conferences laid solid groundwork for subsequent conferences, but there has been little progress since then and the conferences had no effect on quelling violence. On December 16-17, 2006, the Political Parties Conference was held in Baghdad. Speeches given by the Prime Minister and other Iraqi officials focused on political participation and national unity, and welcomed former Ba'athists into the political process, so long as they showed loyalty to the new national government. The Sadrist bloc, top Ba'athists, and many Sunni factions did not participate. A fourth conference of religious leaders has not yet been scheduled due to lack of financial support and attendance challenges.

Mr. President, too many parents have had to bury their sons and daughters. Too many children have been left without their father or their mother. Too many soldiers are missing arms or legs. Nearly 3,200 of our forces have been killed. More than 24,000 have been wounded. The casualties keep mounting. The violence in Iraq continues to spiral as well. Our troops are in the impossible position of trying to stabilize a country at war with itself.

The recent National Intelligence Estimate confirms the nightmare scenario unfolding for our troops. Iraq is sliding deeper into the abyss of civil war, and our brave men and women are caught in the middle of it. Prospects for halting the sectarian violence are bleak. Greater chaos and anarchy are looming ahead. Needless additional U.S. casualties are inevitable.

The intelligence community has finally determined what everyone but the Bush administration has been willing to admit for some time. As the Intelligence Estimate stated:

[T]he term ``civil war'' accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization, and population displacements.

Those are the words of the intelligence community. Secretary Powell agrees. Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan agrees. Only President Bush continues to stubbornly deny that our troops are policing a civil war.

The facts speak for themselves. According to the United Nations, nearly 35,000 civilians were violently killed in Iraq last year. In November and December of last year, more than 6,000 civilians were killed. Most were killed in Baghdad, where ``unidentified bodies killed execution-style are found in large numbers daily.'' More than 2 million refugees have fled the violence in Iraq, and another 1.8 million have been displaced internally.

Our military should not be caught in the middle of this quagmire. Only a political solution can solve Iraq's problems.

General Casey, in his June 2005 testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, called out for a political solution. He said:

If you look back historically at how insurgencies have been defeated, they have been defeated when the insurgents saw their options as better protected in the political process and their prospects for economic advancement can be better protected by the political process than fighting for them. And that's the essential element here.

Last August, General Abizaid spoke about the need for a political solution. He said:

Our troops are the best equipped, the best trained, the best led in the world. And I am enormously proud of them, and I have the utmost confidence in their ability to handle any mission. Yet, sectarian violence is worse than ever in Baghdad in particular. And I wonder about the validity of a strategy that says that less capable troops that are not as well equipped, trained or led as the best troops in the world can handle the security of this country if the upswing in violence has occurred despite the presence of the best troops in the world. It doesn't give me a lot of confidence in our underlying strategy. And it suggests to me--

This is General Abizaid--

it suggests to me that what we need is a political rather than a military solution.

Last week, General Petraeus, the new commander of our forces in Iraq, stated that there is ``no military solution'' in Iraq. But no one in the administration has been able to clearly articulate a political solution or how it can take hold in the midst of this chaos. Instead of giving the Iraqis a necessary incentive to get their political house in order by beginning an orderly redeployment of our troops out of Iraq, the President stubbornly insists on sending more and more troops into Iraq's civil war. Escalation didn't work in Vietnam and it will not work in Iraq either.

The President's latest proposal--to increase the number of our troops in Iraq--makes no sense at all. Sending more troops into the cauldron of Iraq's civil war is not the solution.

In addition to the fact that we know a military solution is not the answer, the administration still has not leveled with us on the number of troops the President plans to send to Iraq for the surge.

On January 10, the President announced he had committed more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. Within a few days, this number had been revised to 21,500.

The CBO estimated that it would be far higher--as much as 35,000 to 48,000 troops when support troops are included.

On February 6, I asked General Pace and Secretary Gates for the best military estimates of the actual size of the escalation, and their answer was an additional 10 to 15 percent. General Pace said:

You're going to need no more than another 2,000, 2,500 troops on the ground.

By February 15, the number had more than doubled. General Schoomaker told the Armed Services Committee his estimate was somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 troops when you included imbedded trainers.

Then, on March 6, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England told a House committee: ``About 4,000, maybe as many as 7,000.''

Last week, at the request of General Petraeus, Secretary Gates authorized an additional 2,200 military police troops.

We still don't have an accurate total for the size of this escalation. The administration refuses to speak with clarity and candor. Since the current surge began, Shiite militias in Baghdad may be lying low, but violence has increased elsewhere in Iraq. In Diyala Province, in 3 months, American casualties have exceeded the number for the entire year of 2006. In January this year, 83 American soldiers were killed, compared to 62 in the same month a year ago. Eighty more Americans were killed in February of this year. In the same month last year, we lost 55 soldiers. Already, in 2 weeks this March, we have lost more than 31 soldiers, the same number killed in the entire month of March of 2006.

This is what today's report from the Defense Department points out on page 18, under the section ``Attack Trends and Violence'':

The total number of attacks on and casualties suffered by coalition forces, the ISF, and Iraqi civilians for the October-December reporting period were the highest of any 3-month period since 2003.

It continues:

Coalition forces continued to attract the majority of attacks, while ISF and Iraqi civilians continued to suffer the majority of the casualties.

That is today's report.

Continuing our open-ended commitment to stay in Iraq will not bring victory, it will not stop the violence, and it will not protect our national security.

The administration has outlined military, economic, and political benchmarks to measure success, but it has not given any timeline to achieve them, and it has not stated any consequences if the benchmarks are not met. This same administration supported timelines for every Iraqi election and for drafting the Constitution. Yet it remains emphatically opposed for any timeline for the redeployment of our military.

The American people have been patient. But America now has been in Iraq longer than it took us to win World War II. Instead of progress, we continue to see unacceptably high levels of violence, death, and destruction. We are putting too much strain on our Army, especially the Army National Guard. The Army is overextended. Many soldiers are now on their third rotation. To deal with the recruitment shortages, we have eased the standards and increased the bonuses. The Department of Defense is formalizing a policy to redeploy reservists more often and for longer. But in the long run, we can't protect our Army if we don't end the war.

Our troops have done their part. They have served with great courage. We are proud of their service, and we are ready to welcome them home.

It is time to change course. It is time to ask the Iraqis to step to the plate and take the responsibility for their own future, and it is time to begin to redeploy our troops out of Iraq. It is time to put the Iraqis on notice that our military will no longer be a permanent crutch for them to lean on. As General Abizaid told the Armed Services Committee last November:

I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.

It is time for American combat troops to begin to come home.

Those of us who opposed the war are used to the administration's attacks when we disagree with their wrong-headed policy. We have come to expect that. They have questioned our patriotism and call us defeatists. When we challenged the President's misguided policy, he accused us of having political motives and being partisan.

Before the war, Vice President Cheney said we hadn't seen all the intelligence he had seen. But after the war, when things were going badly, the President said more than 100 times that we had seen the same intelligence.

More than 2 years ago, I called on the administration to focus on the training of the Iraqi security forces and to begin to redeploy our troops out of Iraq. I said the Iraqis need to take responsibility and that we should set a goal of about a year for the redeployment of most of our forces out of Iraq. Rather than debating the merits of the policy, the Republican spin machine went into overdrive. A year ago, on the third anniversary of the war, Vice President Cheney went on national television and said:

I would not look to Ted Kennedy for guidance and leadership in how we ought to manage national security.

Well, the American people certainly know we cannot look to the Vice President and this administration for national security. The administration has been consistently wrong about the war in Iraq. Year after year, they insist on a dangerously incompetent strategy. They were wrong about the link between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein. They were wrong about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. They were wrong about America being greeted as liberators. They were wrong about the insurgency being in its last throes, and they are wrong to deny that Iraq is a civil war.

The American people are far ahead of the administration. For all of us who oppose this misguided war, our goals have always been clear: protect the lives of our soldiers and protect our national security.

We have an obligation to stand up for our troops and stand up to the President when he stubbornly refuses to change course in Iraq. Our legislation will do that. It will change the mission of our military away from combat and require the President to begin to redeploy American combat troops out of Iraq in 4 months. The target date for the completion of the redeployment is March 2008--1 year from now. A limited number of troops would remain in Iraq after that to train and equip the Iraqi security forces, to conduct counterterrorism, and to guarantee the safety of our soldiers.

Our proposal is consistent with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group's finding. It recommended that:

The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi Army, which would take over primary responsibility for combat operations. By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.

Those are the words of the Iraq Study Group.

Legislation is clearly necessary to give the Iraq Government enough of an incentive to step up to the plate, work out its political differences, and take responsibility for Iraq's future. It is also consistent with the wishes of the American people, who want most of our troops home within a year. How much clearer does it have to be before Republicans in Congress and the President finally respond to the voices of the American people?

We are meeting our responsibilities by changing the mission of our military. We are not micromanaging the war. Many of us oppose the war, but all of us support our troops. We don't want to keep sending more and more of them into the middle of a civil war. Under no circumstances do we want them to go to war without proper armor and equipment. Our troops deserve better. Their families and loved ones deserve better.

For the good of our men and women in uniform and the American people, it is time for us to take a stand. We need to adopt a new strategy. We need to make clear to the Iraqi Government that the mission of our troops must change and that we have a clear timeframe for their departure from Iraq.

The recent hearings on Walter Reed should inform our debate as well. They tell us how little faith we can put in this administration. The very people who hide behind the troops when we question their policies have failed to keep faith with our wounded soldiers. As importantly, the hearings on Walter Reed remind all of us of the human costs of the war. This administration has done all it can to conceal them from us. They have forbidden photographs of the coffins flown back from Iraq. The President has avoided attending the funerals of the fallen. The tours of Walter Reed never included Building 18.

But the hearings on Walter Reed swept away all the spin and camouflage. They put our wounded soldiers back where they belong: at the heart of our debates about the war.

At the end of those hearings, everyone agreed that the administration failed these brave soldiers, but we failed them long before they arrived at Walter Reed. The administration failed them when it trumped up the intelligence in order to make the case for war. It failed them when it sent too few troops with too little armor into battle. We in the Senate will fail them today unless we vote to change course and begin to bring our soldiers home. At the end of this debate, the American people will know where each of us stands. On our side of the aisle, we stand with the American people. The voters told us in November to change course and to begin to bring our troops home, and that is what we are going to do.

We stand for our Constitution, in which the Congress speaks for the people in matters of war and peace and can require the President to listen.

We stand with our troops. We, and we alone, are the ones insisting on a policy worthy of their courage and sacrifice.

We stand for protecting America's national security. The war in Iraq has been a disaster from the start. It has made America more hated in the world. It has made it harder to win the war against terrorism. It has made it harder to work with other nations on every issue.

Peace and progress in Iraq must be earned by Iraqis and their neighbors. We must no longer send our brave soldiers to an uncertain fate on the streets of Baghdad. We must begin to bring them home to the hero's welcome they have surely earned.

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