U. S. Troops Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act, 2007--Continued

Floor Speech

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: March 27, 2007
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. TROOP READINESS, VETERANS' HEALTH, AND IRAQ ACCOUNTABILITY ACT, 2007--Continued -- (Senate - March 27, 2007)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. GRAHAM. Madam President, I would like to associate myself with the comments of Senator McCain about what is going on on the ground in Iraq. I thought he did an excellent job of explaining that this new strategy is just what it is described as being--new. We are not sending more people to do the same old thing. It is a fundamentally different approach to how we handle the situation in Iraq.

The situation in Iraq is the result of not having enough forces on the ground in the early parts of the war. The security environment in Iraq got out of control. The terrorists seized an opportunity to divide the Iraqis by bombing the Samarra mosque, the third most holy site in the Shia region in Samarra. Ever since then, we have been in a conflict between Shias and Sunnis in Baghdad.

Anbar has always been about Sunni insurgents trying to topple this infant
democracy, and it has been the place where al-Qaida has been hiding.

The progress is that the Sunni insurgency--the tribal chiefs are beginning to understand that their lives are better with the unified Iraq; that if they can share in the oil revenues of the country, future Sunni generations will be benefited. I think Shias are beginning to understand that to reject Al-Sadr--his view of Iraq becoming a Shia theocracy is not going to be accepted by people in the neighborhood and other folks living in Iraq. So I think every group is beginning to understand that through political reconciliation, they have a better, brighter future. The way to get political reconciliation is to control the violence. That is why we need more troops, more troops to hold areas previously cleared, to buy time for political reconciliation and economic progress, and the early indications are that it is working.

Now, what is not working. The Congress is not working. I think the Congress is about to make history in all of the wrong ways. Do we really want to be the first Congress--maybe ever in the history of the country, that I am aware of--that would, by congressional enactment, set a hard date to withdraw from a war in Iraq with which our vital national security interests as Americans are intertwined? What are the consequences of leaving in March or any other date in 2008? What happens when we leave? No one who is offering these amendments has really thought that through.

I do believe that a failed State in Iraq jeopardizes our national security interests for decades, is a loss in the war on terror, is an empowering event for extremists, a death blow to moderation, and that we need to see this through by changing course, and this is exactly what we are doing.

Setting a timeline for withdrawal is saying you have no confidence in General Petraeus to execute the plan we sent him to execute. It is saying we have no confidence in our military to deliver, because the day you set that date, you are going to freeze political reconciliation. People are not going to do deals the same way when they know America is going to leave at a certain date because what happens when America leaves will be thought of in terms of the consequences of a particular deal.

If we leave and Iraq is in chaos, the police and the army are unable to deal with the wolves of terrorism, then they are overwhelmed, the country breaks apart, and the regional consequences and the consequences to the world are monumental, in my opinion.

The first rule of medicine is to do no harm. It should be the first rule of politics. And we have done harm with our Iraqi strategy. We have assumed the best and never planned for the worst.

Whatever mistakes the Bush team has made, and there are many, the Congress is about to make the greatest mistake of all; that is, to tell the enemy what they have to do to get us out of Iraq on their terms, not ours. It is a death blow to moderation. Who in the Mideast will try to come together knowing that the United States cannot be counted on? What effect would it have on the worldwide terrorist networks if they believe, through their acts of violence and barbaric behavior, that America will leave?

We cannot let suicide bombers determine the fate of the 21st century. We cannot let people who will blow up children in a car determine the fate of Iraq. We cannot let that happen. We are bigger than that. We are better than that. I believe passionately, after five visits, with one more to come, that the people in Iraq want more. They are dying for their own freedom. I would leave tomorrow if I thought the Iraqi people were incapable of solving their problems. I do believe the majority of Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds want the same thing that every Member of this body wants for their family--a better life. They have looked into the abyss, and they are making the changes they need to make.

If we restrict funding, if we restrict our military commanders' ability to go after the enemy in all of its forms, we are doing them a disservice. If you set a hard deadline for withdrawal, you have doomed us as a nation to lose in Iraq. What good would it be for one person to be maimed or to die waiting on that day to come? If you pick March 2008, what do you tell a family member of the U.S. military why their loved one died or was harmed, knowing that the date killed our efforts to be successful? This is irresponsible. This does everything wrong that the Congress could do at a time when things could get better.

I cannot promise you success. But I know our last best chance lies with General Petraeus. Our last best chance lies with a reinforcement of a country and a military that needs it. The military needs this money. They deserve this money without strings attached. They deserve a chance to turn Iraq around to make us free.

The House may be satisfied with this vote on the supplemental, and they may think this is a victory for the Democratic leadership in the House. I think this is a shameful chapter in the history of the House. These votes to pass this bill were literally bought. There is money in this bill, the supplemental bill, that has nothing to do with the military, nothing to do with Iraq, and there was money being spent to buy votes to make sure we drive ourselves out of Iraq without consequence and the thought of what happens.

If we do not pass a supplemental soon, Secretary Gates has laid out what happens in April, May, and June to our military. Because of time limitations, I will not go into detail on what happens to the military, but I can tell you with certainty that the military needs this money for ongoing operations, and every month and week that goes by without this money going into the Department of Defense, major decisions have to be made that compromise troop safety, that hurt the quality of life of families, and keep this surge from being successful.

If your goal is to end this war because you think we have lost, choose an honorable path. The honorable path would be to come to this floor, offer an amendment to stop funding now and get out of Iraq as soon as possible. A date certain a year from now, a year and a half from now, whatever date you pick, it ensures we lose, and it ensures that the people who are left there to fight until that day comes get injured and die in vain.

This is the wrong way to run a war. This is the wrong way to fight terrorism.

Three weeks ago, I was at Guantanamo Bay listening to Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, explaining why he was at war with us. He will be at war with us until his last breath. There are people like him in Iraq measuring us as a nation. Please do not send them the wrong signal. Fund our troops without condition. Stand behind General Petraeus because he deserves our support.

We sent him off to do a mission. Give him the resources to do it, and in time we will figure this out. This is not an open-ended commitment. I know as well as everybody else that we are not going to be in Iraq forever. But we need to be in Iraq on terms that will empower moderates and deflate extremists. I believe the Iraqi political leadership, given the breathing space, will have the ability, with our support, to reconcile their country because it is in their best interests. Literally thousands of Iraqis have died for their own freedom. What more can we ask of someone. Political reconciliation is hard. It took us 13 years to write our Constitution. We were at civil war among ourselves. Democracy is hard, but it is worth fighting for.