CHANGE OF VOTE
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I support this amendment.
As we continue debating how best to support America's brave military forces in Iraq, we must be clear where we stand on the war. I strongly support our troops, but I strongly oppose the war. The best way to protect our troops and our national security is to put the Iraqis on notice that they need to take responsibility for their future so we can bring troops back home to America.
The administration's policy has put our troops in an untenable and unwinnable situation. They are being held hostage to Iraqi politics in which sectarian leaders are unable or unwilling to make the tough judgments needed to lift Iraq out of its downward spiral. We are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a failed policy that is making America more vulnerable and putting our troops at greater risk.
We have lost our focus on apprehending terrorists and on capturing those who seek to destroy America. Osama bin Laden remains at large. The war in Iraq has enabled al-Qaida to recruit terrorists more effectively to work against America.
Our policy in Iraq continues to exact a devastating toll. Nearly 4,000 American troops have died--80 in my State of Massachusetts--and 30,000 have been injured. We need to have a policy that is worthy of the valor of the brave men and women who have been fighting there for the last 4 1/2 years. The toll on Iraqis is immense. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed or injured, and more than 4 million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes. If that were in American terms, it would be 45 million Americans who would have lost their homes, effectively 20 Katrinas would have taken place here in the United States--when we look at what has happened to the Iraqi families during this period of time.
Nearly a half trillion dollars has been spent fighting this war. Our generals have acknowledged over and over again that a military solution alone is not the answer to Iraq's problems. After four bloody years, political reconciliation remains illusive, and Iraqi politicians are not being held accountable to any standard of progress or success. Yet the President unacceptably continues to impose the enormous burden of Iraq's sectarian violence on the backs of American troops, with an open-ended commitment--with an open-ended commitment.
Our military is stretched to its limits; it is nearing its breaking point. The American public has lost confidence in the current direction of the war. They are tired of a war based upon a failed policy that has made America no safer and that is subjecting our military to Iraq's intractable civil war. They are tired of the administration's promises that success is just around the corner. They want to know when the nightmare of Iraq will end.
How much longer will President Bush insist that our troops be held hostage to the abysmal failure of the Iraqi Government to make the political compromises essential to end violence, especially when there is no indication--no indication--that they will do so any time soon? How many more brave Americans must die? How many more billions of taxpayers' dollars must we spend? How much more of a burden must we place on our military?
We all know what is going on. President Bush's strategy is delay and delay. We never should have gone to war in the first place, and his misguided war has now gone on for more than 4 years. The situation is not improving; it is worsening. It is not showing signs of meaningful progress. Year after year, it has failed to deliver political reconciliation. The President finally admitted to Congress and the American people last week that his successor, the next American President, will inherit the war in Iraq. He calls himself a decider, but he refuses to make the decision to end the war.
President Harry Truman said: ``The buck stops here.'' The last thing President Bush wants is for the buck to stop on his desk. He is desperately trying to buy time in order to pass the buck to his successor in the White House.
The first President Bush went to war with Iraq after 52 Senators voted in favor of a resolution of approval. Now, 53 Senators have voted for a timetable to end the war. But this President vetoed the bill because he refuses to accept responsibility to end a war he never should have started.
It is time to stop this madness. This amendment does that. It requires our combat troops to begin to come home in 90 days. It requires a change in mission for our military. It requires the vast majority of our combat troops to come home in 9 months. It is up to us to end the open-ended commitment of our troops that the President has been making year after year. The Iraqis need to take responsibility for their own future, resolve their own political differences, and enable our troops to come home.
We need to tell the Iraqis now that we are going to leave, and leave soon. Only such a step can add the urgency that is so clearly necessary to end their differences. We can't allow the President to drag this process out any longer, and I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.
I yield the floor.
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