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

Floor Speech

By:  Mitch McConnell
Date: April 26, 2007
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. TROOP READINESS, VETERANS' HEALTH, AND IRAQ ACCOUNTABILITY ACT, 2007--CONFERENCE REPORT -- (Senate - April 26, 2007)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, 3 months ago, President Bush set a new course in Iraq. He proposed a plan to secure Baghdad and its resident population, and he asked GEN David Petraeus, one of our best military minds of this generation, to carry out the mission. A Democratic-controlled Congress approved the general without dissent and wished him well.

Then something strange happened. Soon after sending General Petraeus into the field of battle, the Democratic leadership began its own change in course. It decided this new mission was over before it even had time to work.

We were told in January by some of our Democratic colleagues to listen to the generals. Yet this week, with our top general in Iraq here to report on progress, most of those on the other side of the aisle covered their ears. The Speaker of the House skipped General Petraeus's briefing altogether, didn't even go listen to him.

This posture may be calculated to impress opponents of the war at home, but it frustrates our troops abroad, and today the Democratic leadership does further damage by passing a war spending bill that has no chance--no chance--of being signed into law, a bill that calls for withdrawing U.S. troops without regard to conditions on the ground, a bill that says we leave in October if the Iraqis have made progress and that we leave in July if they haven't.

Let me say that again. This bill says that we leave in October if the Iraqis have made progress and leave in July if they haven't. Either way, we are gone.

It should not be this way. We should uphold our end of the bargain and pass a bill that funds our troops and gives us a reasonable period of time to judge this new strategy.

The Iraq Study Group has outlined the stakes. They said premature withdrawal would ``almost certainly produce greater sectarian violence and further deterioration of conditions. The near-term results would be a significant power vacuum, greater human suffering, regional destabilization, and a threat to the global economy. Al-Qaeda would depict our withdrawal as a historic victory. If we leave and Iraq descends into chaos, the long-term consequences could eventually require the United States to return.''

That is the Iraq Study Group which has been so frequently cited by our good friends on the other side of the aisle.

Bin Laden knows the stakes, too. In a letter last year, bin Laden had this to say: America's defeat in Iraq would mean defeat in all its wars.

Yesterday, the commander of a senior Afghan Islamist group said bin Laden is personally involved in attacks on Americans in Iraq. General Petraeus went even further. He said al-Qaida has declared war on all of Iraq.

I call on my friends on the other side to have an open mind and listen to the general. We must give this plan for winning the military component of our strategy in Iraq a real chance to succeed. Without it, there is no political solution. Just 4 months old and operating at half its ultimate strength, the Baghdad security plan is already having an effect. Military leaders say the increased violence around Baghdad is a sign that the terrorists are shaken. The latest attacks were meant to be dramatic and to be visible. They were meant to force our withdrawal and ultimately our humiliation.

George Orwell said:

The quickest way to end a war is to lose it.

This is a road we must not take. This legislation is tragic. If the Iraqis make progress, we leave; if they don't, we leave. This is not a choice, it is a mandate for a defeat that al-Qaida desperately wants.

It is not too late to change course. I ask my colleagues to be as patient as our soldiers and marines--and, indeed, the terrorists--and draft a bill that does not arbitrarily circle a date on the calendar and trigger withdrawal without regard to conditions on the ground. Then we can tell our troops that help is on the way, that they can finish this mission, and that they will return with honor. If not, if we give up, we will truly have reason to fear because if we cannot win this most important battle, how will we ever win the war?

I yield the floor.