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Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2008--Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2008-Continued

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, the American people's opposition to this war is not the political passion of a moment, as some have suggested. It is a majority, a growing majority, a thoughtful growing majority reflecting the will of the people of this country. We need 60 votes because of recalcitrance, because of political game playing, because too many of our colleagues are more interested in protecting the President than they are in protecting our troops. We know to get 60 votes we need 11 Republicans.

Many Republicans, a growing number of Republicans in this body, have spoken out against this war. They have decided that we need to change course in Iraq. The problem is simply this. It seems like almost every Tuesday Vice President Cheney comes and speaks to the Republican lunch. The Republicans meeting in conference, having lunch, Vice President Cheney pulls up, his limousine drops him off at the door of the Senate, he comes in and speaks to them or other administration officials. The arm twisting, the lobbying by the administration, is making it that much harder to change direction in this war. That is why it is so difficult to get to 60. That is why we want a vote, we want an up-or-down vote, we want a majority vote, because a majority vote reflects public sentiment, reflects what the voters said last fall, reflects the policy that the Iraq Study Group has suggested, that the military has advised the President, but the President simply dug in and did not listen.

Last November voters in my State of Ohio, from Galion to Gallipolis, and across this Nation shouted from the ballot

boxes that we needed a new direction, that the Iraq war must end. They demanded that we refocus our efforts on securing our homeland so that the darkest day in our Nation's history, 9/11, is never repeated.

With Democrats in control of Congress this session we immediately, in January, began working to end the war. We immediately began to work implementing the full recommendations of the 9/11 Commission in order to make us safer, recommendations that will go a long way toward making this country safer. By working to end the war in Iraq and by passing the Commission's recommendation, we are executing a strategy to combat terrorism and to make our country safer.

Make no mistake, ending the war in Iraq itself is a counterterrorism strategy. Global terrorist attacks have increased sevenfold since we invaded Iraq--seven times, more than 700 percent. Our continued engagement in Iraq, frankly, is the best thing that ever happened to jihadist recruitment. We know America is a less safe country because of the war in Iraq. We know global terrorist attacks have increased sevenfold, seven times worldwide since the war in Iraq began.

Democrats brought to this Chamber not one piece of legislation to redeploy our troops out of Iraq in the safest, most orderly way possible, but many resolutions, many pieces of legislation. Each and every time either Republicans defeated the measure in Congress by threatening a filibuster or the President vetoed it in the White House--each and every time.

This week we find ourselves at the same impasse, the same struggle in this Chamber between a new direction and more of the same failed policies. Again, too many of my colleagues would rather protect the President of the United States than protect our soldiers and marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. More of the same means supporting the President, but it means something very different to Ohio families. It means more loved ones wounded, more loved ones killed. Mr. President, 156 people in my State have been killed in Iraq, 156 people. More than 1,100 Ohioans have been wounded. Ohio cannot afford more of the same.

Again, too many of my colleagues care more about protecting the President than they do about protecting our troops. Ohio families have had it with hollow promises by the President. From first declaring ``mission accomplished'' in 2003 to his visit last week in my home State of Ohio, in Cleveland, the President used grand pronouncements of success in an effort to buy more time, stay the course and buy more time; continue our involvement in this civil war and buy more time. Time and again those pronouncements were followed by increased violence and expanding chaos in Iraq. Time and again those pronouncements mean more names being added to the list of dead and wounded Americans. Mr. President, 3,617 Americans have died in the war in Iraq. At least 35,000 Americans have suffered serious injuries that will be with them and with us for 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years.

Every year I see Iraq slip further and further into a civil war with our Nation's military caught in the middle. The President sent our Nation's military into a war of choice on failed intelligence and, as we know, without proper body armor. Adding insult to injury, literally just today, a USA Today article revealed that nearly 4 years later our troops are still without the lifesaving equipment they need.

I remember before the attack, before we invaded Iraq, I was a Member of the House of Representatives. I voted against this war in October of 2002. We began questioning Paul Bremer during the beginning of 2003, before the attack. Mr. Bremer was the administrator in Iraq for the U.S. Government, the Provisional Government. We continued to focus on providing the kind of body armor for our troops and Mr. Bremer said we are doing the best we can, but we have not done very well. We have a lot to do. We still attacked that country, we still sent our troops into harm's way without that body armor.

As we discuss this issue, tonight in Baghdad it is early morning. The forecast calls for a high of 104 degrees. While our solders have some protection from the extreme heat, like water, shade, and the mini air-conditioning units, they are not protected from a far deadlier force in Iraq, the improvised explosive devices or IED bombs. The USA Today article highlighted the lack of planning to protect our soldiers riding in Humvees from the impact of IED bombs. Humvees have a very low ground clearance, a little less than a foot and a half. The bottom of a humvee is flat so when it is hit by an IED blast from the bottom, troops suffer the brunt of the explosion.

The Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, or MRAP--the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, on the other hand, has a 3-foot clearance, and its body is V-shaped so when the explosion happens, the explosion, if you will, is dissipated and more often than not the troops are not nearly as badly injured. The soldiers are much better protected.

The few MRAPS in theater have proven their effectiveness and clearly saved lives and clearly saved many of our soldiers and marines from injury. What infuriates me and should infuriate everyone across this Nation is that the Pentagon and the administration, similarly to back in 2002 and 2003 when they failed to work hard to provide the body armor to prepare for this war, the Pentagon and the administration again did not immediately work to fix the problem of the humvee's susceptibility to IEDs; the needless loss of life from this willful ignorance to correct the glaring problem of the unprotected humvees could have been prevented, but arrogance and stubbornness from the administration kept the administration from doing the right thing.

The President, in some sense, is proud of his stubbornness. Instead he should be ashamed of it. His stubbornness has led to a failed policy in Iraq and to a failed policy on the war on terror. The President has yet to define victory. He has yet to tell us how many years it will take to achieve whatever his definition of victory is. Will we be in Iraq for 5 more years, 10 more years, 15 years? Will hundreds more Americans die? Will thousands more of our service men and women die? Will tens of thousands die?

The President has yet to hold himself and his administration accountable for fomenting a civil war, in breeding more global terrorism. Remember, we have seen an increase in attacks of sevenfold since the time of the attack and the beginning of this war.

The path he is wed to has simultaneously increased the threat of terrorism, reduced our nation's capability to protect against it, and made us less safe. That stubbornness is not leadership. That defensiveness is not leadership. That finger-pointing from the White House, from some of my colleagues, is not leadership. And supporting the President's strategy in Iraq, rather than supporting the troops because you support the President, is not leadership.

Blocking another vote to bring our troops home, and that is exactly what they are doing tonight by their partisan antics, by their petty political games, blocking an up-or-down vote so the American people's will can be expressed, by blocking another vote to bring our troops home, is not leadership.

Lives are at stake. Our homeland security is at stake. Global security is at stake. Last week, we learned that al-Qaida is at pre-9/11 strength. That is frightening news. Of course, it is a cause for outrage because it did not have to be that way. We also learned last week that the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is fostering the next generation of al-Qaida at an alarming rate.

What kind of signal exactly do the President and his supporters think we send by failing to secure the region where we know al-Qaida lives and trains and plans with--according to military analysts--relative freedom, the same region that served as the breeding ground for global terrorism through al-Qaida before 9/11, the same region we now know that al-Qaida trained in before the deadliest attack on our Nation's soil, the same region where Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind 9/11, not Iraq, Osama bin Laden, the same region where he is believed to be hiding, free to plot the next attack on our beloved homeland?

Over the objection of military advisers, the 9/11 Commission, and the voice of a nation, the President, again that word ``stubbornly,'' insists on staying the course with the failed policy in Iraq. Staying the course with the President's failed policy has not just forced our Government to take our eye off the ball of terrorism, it has caused us to drop it.

Again, global terrorist attacks have increased seven times since we invaded Iraq, sevenfold since we invaded Iraq. Prior to World War II, the French built the Maginot Line. Same thought the line would prevent Germany from attacking France. History proved the French wrong. The President's strategy in Iraq is the Maginot Line of the 21st century. It imperils our Nation by mistakenly focusing our attention in the wrong direction. We have dropped the ball on capturing Osama bin Laden. We have dropped the ball on securing Afghanistan. We have dropped the ball on implementing the 9/11 Commission recommendations, and anyone who thinks those are not signals that al-Qaida is paying attention to is surely mistaken.

Supporting the President's policy does not just fail to effectively target terrorism, it puts the bull's-eye squarely on our Nation. Ending the war in Iraq is not just about bringing our troops home. Ending the war in Iraq is not just about ensuring veterans get the health care and the benefits they have been denied, and the Presiding Officer tonight has done perhaps more than anybody in this institution about that.

Ending the war is not just about a new direction in our foreign policy. Ending the war is not about returning our focus to where it might be if our Nation and our community, our families are to remain safe. Ending the war is about reengaging full force on the war on terror to make us safer.

I applaud my Republican friends who chose to stand up to the President. More and more of them have taken steps of bravery with every vote we bring to the floor. But it is not enough. With every lost vote, we add more lines to the list of men and women lost in Iraq.

Every lost vote we add more names to the list of wounded. With every lost vote, we empower al-Qaida. We keep hearing the same rhetoric: If we do not fight the terrorists in Iraq, we will have to fight them here. Good line but bad logic. The real truth is: If we do not fight the terrorists where they are in cells around the world, in Afghanistan, and where they really are, then we will fight them here.

In the Senate, those of us committed to ending the war of choice and securing our Nation will keep fighting. I appreciate the leadership of so many of my colleagues who have shown courageous leadership on this crisis of our generation. Our fight to end the war and refocus our efforts has just begun. We want to vote, we want a majority vote to reflect the growing, thoughtful opposition to this war. A huge majority of the American people are trying to overcome the furious lobbying effort of the President and the Vice President. Our fight to end this war has just begun. We are going to change this policy. The safety of every American depends upon it.


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