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Providing for the Safe Redeployment of United States Troops From Iraq -- Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


PROVIDING FOR THE SAFE REDEPLOYMENT OF UNITED STATES TROOPS FROM IRAQ--MOTION TO PROCEED--Continued -- (Senate - February 27, 2008)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. INHOFE. Madam President, I would like to take a little longer view of what is going on right now in the war for the liberation of Iraq, the good things that are happening, the surge, and kind of go back to give a better perspective as to how we got here in the first place.

There was this euphoria that was going around back in the early 1990s: The Cold War is over, we don't need a military any longer. They talked about such things as the peace dividend at that time, and this is what precipitated 9/11. The Clinton administration came in, and this is the amount of the actual DOD budget at that time. This was the baseline. This is a very simple chart that tells us a lot. If we were to merely have maintained the level of defense spending as it took place in the last year of the Bush 1 administration and then had nothing except the inflation rate, which wasn't all that great, it would be this black line taking us up to fiscal year 2001. This was what would have happened if we didn't do anything else. But down here the red line indicates where President Clinton made his budget request. That was his annual DOD request. If you forget about the middle line, the difference between his request and if we just maintained the same position that we were in in fiscal year 1993, it would have been $412 billion less; in other words, in that short timeframe, we would have cut defense real spending in constant dollars by $412 billion.

The Congress didn't let that happen. This middle line, the green line, is what actually was budgeted. So what we did was to say to the White House: You are not taking good enough care of our military needs. And so we raised it by about $99 billion over that period. That means the real shortfall was $313 billion in that timeframe.

I show this chart because there was an attitude in this country at that time that there weren't any real serious problems. People kept saying we were the world's greatest superpower, and we appropriated more money than anyone else. I wanted it to continue that way, but there were some things that were going on that I would like to remind us of. That was called an acquisition holiday or a peace dividend. I think it was more of a holiday in leadership at that time. International terrorism took to the forefront as bin Laden began his war against freedom. Afghanistan was used as a training ground for terrorists, and the Taliban regime allowed al-Qaida unfettered mobility. We were on holiday. We were not fighting back. They took advantage of this in some major attacks.

Somehow I think the memory of the American people isn't very long because they forgot about these attacks that were taking place. Remember the first attack on the World Trade Center was in 1993, February 26. It was a car bomb that was planted in an underground parking garage below the World Trade Center, and that was way back in 1993. In 1996, the Khobar Towers, we remember that well. They were bombed by Hezbollah with the intelligence pointing toward al-Qaida, still al-Qaida. At the same time this was going on, in northern Africa their presence was visible at that time. Further on down in southern Africa we had the Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. That was in 1998. That was in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. It went unanswered at that time. So we had all of this going up through 1998.

Then there is the year 2000, when suicide bombers used a boat to attack the USS Cole while it was moored in Yemen.

Yemen is right at the horn of Africa on the other side. And now we know that as the squeeze has taken place, that has become a very prominent place for al-Qaida and for the terrorists. So you had Djibouti, we were starting to put troops in there, but we had that suicide bombing. That was a major thing. It let us know, it reminded us that we could have a ship, the USS Cole at that time, and have nothing but just a little outrigger going out there and blowing it up and causing the deaths and the damage that took place.

The response--this was back in the first of the Clinton years--was pretty benign. It was restrained and at best inconsistent. Operation Infinite Reach included cruise missile attacks against Afghanistan and Sudan. There was no real change. The administration was distracted at that time. This inadequate response has been cited as a factor emboldening al-Qaida to undertake further plans. Yet we continued on our holiday at that time. In Operation Restore Hope, we became embroiled in Somalia, and we remember what happened in the streets of Mogadishu when finally the people woke up when they saw the naked bodies dragged through the streets. President Clinton directed U.S. forces to stop all actions except those required in self-defense, and we withdrew from the country shortly thereafter.

It is kind of hard for America to get in the habit of withdrawing. We stake out our position, and we have historically stood strong and carried it out. In 1999, as a NATO member, the United States became involved in a bombing campaign against Yugoslavia and a subsequent U.N. peacekeeping force. The holiday that we were on at that time ignored the rising threats against our national security, mortgaged our military, leaving a bold challenge for the next administration.

The first Rumsfeld confirmation was rather enlightening because what we did at that time was to try to determine what our needs were going to be for the future. We had to rethink where we were before. And at that time we were trying to reevaluate where we were. We were recalling some of the bad things that had happened. We remember so well the 1991 Persian Gulf war. There was a group that went over, a bipartisan group. I remember Tony Coelho at the time. He had been the Democratic lead in the House. I was in the House at the time. We had the first freedom fight, and we sent a group over to Kuwait. It was the day that the war was officially over. The problem was the Iraqis didn't know that the war was over at that time, and so we had the first freedom fight. We went over there.

Al Haig, I ran into him the other day. We kind of relived that experience we had over there. We had with us a very special guest. He was the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the United States. He had his daughter. They were a family of nobility. They had a palace on the Persian Gulf. But, of course, they hadn't been there because that was a war zone, that was Kuwait. So we went over there, this group of nine of us, Democrats and Republicans, and I remember when the wind shifted, the oil fields were still burning. It was a mess over there. But they wanted to go back, the Ambassador wanted to go back and see what their house looked like, if it had been damaged in the war.

When we got there, we found that his house had been used for one of Saddam Hussein's headquarters. His daughter, she was either 7, 8, or 9 years old. I remember so well because she wanted to go up and see her bedroom and the dolls and all of that. We went up into this mansion on the Persian Gulf, a beautiful place, only to find out that her bedroom had been used as a torture chamber. There were body parts stuck to the walls. I saw a little boy who had his ear cut off, maybe 6 or 7 years old, because they found him carrying a tiny American flag. That was back at the time when unconscionable murders were taking place where Saddam Hussein, after that was over, started killing anyone who was suspect and torturing them to death. There are stories documented that people would beg to be dropped, lowered into vats of acid head first so they would die quicker.

Being put through grinding machines, like you are shredding documents; the open graves; the documentation of weddings that were for a while taking place--many of them outdoors; that is the way they did it over in that area--and Saddam's sons, at that time they were alive and the regime was in there, they would go through and bust up weddings and rape all the girls and take them and bury them alive. I actually looked down into those open graves, and people were so quick to forget what a monster he was.

I have often said, even if that had not happened, even if we did not have the problems with the terrorist activity in Iraq and the fact that they were training people in Iraq to be involved in terrorist activity--al-Qaida was very prominent--that even if that had not been the case, how could we as a country allow the hundreds of thousands of people to be tortured to death in such a cruel way? I do not think we could. Certainly, we could not if people had a chance to see it.

So the time went by, and they started talking about, of course, going into this liberation movement in Iraq.

Now, there has been a lot of discussion over the years about weapons of mass destruction. Those of us who were over there--I would say to you, Madam President, that while I have not been this many times to Iraq, I have actually been in the area 27 different trips--27 different times. Sometimes it was at CENTCOM, sometimes the Horn of Africa and other areas. But, see, the terrorist activity and the war was not just in Iraq. It was in the whole surrounding area. So in all those times I was there, I had a chance to, on a firsthand basis, see what was involved.

We know we had to go in there. We know we had to go in there and finish what had been started in Iraq.

Now, there are three things that were started. No. 1, we had to liberate Iraq from a tyrannical leader--we have already talked about him--No. 2, eliminate a safe haven for terrorists and their training camps; and then, No. 3, to help the Iraqi people create a free and democratic country strategically located right in the Middle East where we have the greatest needs.

Well, No. 1, the liberation of Iraq: After the first Persian Gulf war, I told you, we had what we called the first freedom flight into Kuwait. But that liberation was necessary to put an end to Saddam Hussein's regime of torture.

Now, when they talked about weapons of mass destruction, yes, weapons of mass destruction were not found. We know they were there. They were used on the Kurds in the north. Saddam Hussein used weapons of mass destruction to painfully murder thousands of his own people using gas that burned them alive. That was happening. But, nonetheless, for those of us who were aware, that was not the real reason.

If you look at the second reason, that Iraq was a major terrorist training area--a lot of us are familiar with Samarra and Ramadi, but some have forgotten or may have never even known about some of the other areas.

Sargat was an international terrorist training camp in northeastern Iraq near the Iranian border, run by Ansar al-Islam, a known terrorist organization. Based on information from the U.S. Army Special Forces, operators who led the attack on Sargat said: It is indeed more than plausible that al-Qaida members trained in that particular training camp.

Now, one of the interesting places where this was taking place was a place called Salman Pak. In Salman Pak they had--and I think it is still there to this day--on the ground an old fuselage of a 707, and that was used to train people on how to hijack airplanes. I have often wondered if that could have been where the perpetrators of 9/11 got their training. I have no way of knowing. We never will know. But we do know this: That location, along with the problems in Sargat, had major training areas for the terrorists. So we were able to shut those down. I would say this: That alone would be enough motivation for us to go and liberate the people of Iraq.

But the third one is to help the Iraqi people create a free and democratic country. Iraq is trying to do what we tried to do 230 years ago. They are risking their lives, as we risked our lives some 230 years ago. They are seeking a constitution, a parliament, freedom, and democracy. These are things they are trying to accomplish.

I think of that first election that took place out in Fallujah, when the Iraqi security forces were going to vote. I was there. I was in Fallujah actually for all three elections, I believe. But I remember the Iraqi security forces in that first election. Everybody remembers the purple fingers so they could identify who was voting in those elections. And these guys--the security forces--went out and voted the day before the elections. They did not wait for the elections. They were doing it the day before so they would be there on election day to provide the security.

People were risking their lives to go out and vote. We know the cases of people being attacked by the terrorists to keep them from voting. They were easy to identify because of the purple fingers. But these guys were gladly going in there at that time, going to vote, and then returning the next day to protect our people who were there.

Our men and women serving in Iraq are providing the Iraqis the same inspiration our forefathers provided us. Iraq is becoming an example to the world of how to reject terror and confront those who practice it. The world sees now the Iraqi citizens are realizing their potential, signing up as Concerned Citizens, sons of Iraq--72,000.

It is a pretty amazing thing when you look and see that instead of the mass graves and all these things, you are seeing a mass participation in Iraq. They are returning to normalcy now. A lot of people are asking: Is the surge really working? I do not believe anyone is out there who can conscientiously deny that the surge has worked.

It was about a year ago that General Petraeus went in. What happened? Three things happened. One was that Petraeus--by far, the greatest guy for the job out there; and I do not think anyone except moveon.org disagrees with that now--that Petraeus took over. Secondly, the surge, in certain strategic areas, increased in numbers. But the third thing that happened was there have been so many resolutions like the one that is before us right now that I refer to as ``resolutions of surrender'' that got the attention of a lot of the religious leaders.

I often draw a distinction from my own personal experience. I have met with the political leaders, of course, like all the other Members who have gone over there. I have done it more because I have been there more times. But the religious leaders are the ones who have the greatest impact on what is going on in Iraq. Up until--and this is a statement no one has refuted--up until about a year ago, our defense intelligence people would attend and monitor the Friday night mosque meetings that took place throughout Iraq. These are with the clerics and the imams, the religious leaders. Prior to that time, 85 percent of the messages that were preached, I guess you would say, in the mosques were anti-American. To my knowledge, there has not been an anti-American message given from a mosque in Iraq since last April because they realize if we leave, then the terrorists will move in.

So that is why we are getting--it has been talked about by many people on the Senate floor--the attitudinal change. The neighborhood watch programs--in my hometown of Tulsa, OK, we have a neighborhood watch program. We have them in Washington. They have them over there, with private citizens who have the courage to go out without any arms and confront terrorists; where they can, through their own intelligence and sheer numbers, determine where there are RPGs and IEDs that are not detonated, and then they identify them by little orange paint cans, where they draw a circle around there, and then we can go in there and detonate these and save many lives.

Well, we are today experiencing all that help. I can remember when our troops who were working out of Baghdad would come back to the Green Zone every night. They do not do that anymore. They go out and they actually bed down and live with the Iraqi security forces and their families, develop intimate relationships with them. It is a totally different thing there altogether.

I can remember there was not a way in the world you could walk through the markets in Baghdad. The last time I was there, I walked through, and I intentionally did not take anybody with me except an interpreter because I did not want to give that image that you have to have armed guards and all that, and I remember stopping and talking to people. I like to single out people who are holding babies. They have this love for us that they did not have before.

So we now see these changes that are taking place. We see that basic economics is taking root and Iraqis are spending money on Iraqi projects. Iraqis are taking back control of their country. We are helping the Iraqi people create a free and democratic country where representation and the rule of law are replacing coercion and terror.

The Iraqi Parliament has passed legislation that reforms debaathification. They have enacted pension reform that allows former Baathists to collect their pension. They have enacted laws defining provincial and central government roles and responsibilities to delineate what each person is supposed to do--the distinction between the police and the security forces, what their functions are, what their missions are.

They passed a 2008 budget. They did it sooner than we did it in this country. They enacted an amnesty law that could lead to the release of thousands of detainees, removing a stumbling block standing in the way of reconciliation.

More than any previous legislation, these new initiatives have the potential to spur reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites and set the country on the road to a more representative government, starting with new provincial elections.

Now, in the future, where do we go from here? Our Nation has paid, and continues to pay, a heavy price. People in this Chamber have talked about the heavy price. They are right. It is not cheap. It is very expensive. We have paid a heavy price in dollars and lives, with our sons and daughters and brothers and sisters. We are doing a difficult thing. But just as Americans have always tried to do the right thing, we are doing the right thing in Iraq.

Iraq is at a decisive turning point in their journey toward democracy. The fight in Iraq is not about today or tomorrow but about many tomorrows to come and about the future. It is about our grandchildren's grandchildren and the world they will live in.

It is not just Iraq. Right now, a lot of concern is taking place as to Iran and Ahmadinejad and some of the political leaders and the things they are promoting. One of the greatest obstacles they have in Iran is they are right next door to Iraq, and there are so many people who share family members, and they are looking over wistfully and seeing that people are getting married without the disruptions, that girls are actually getting an education. This is not the Iraq they knew before. So these things are happening.

Secretary Gates said:

If we were to withdraw, leaving Iraq in chaos, al Qaeda almost certainly would use Anbar province ..... as another base from which to plan operations not only inside Iraq, but first of all in the neighborhood and then potentially against the United States.

Al-Qaida is not the only threat to America and our ideals. I mentioned a minute ago Ahmadinejad. He said, on August 28, 2007--just a short while ago--

Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region.

Now, what he was talking about is the type of resolution we are considering right now. He is saying a cut-and-run resolution would create a huge power vacuum. What else did he say? He said that expecting this defeatism, expecting that we would vote for this--which we are not. We are not going to vote for this resolution. We know that. We have had the same resolution voted down 71 to 24 the last time we had a vote on it. But, nonetheless, he said: ``Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap. .....''

So you have Iran filling the gap that would be there if we were to get up and leave in the victorious moments we are having now.

Iran's nuclear work continues, including recent doubling of their enrichment of uranium, which could easily be used as part of a nuclear weapons program, a decision in the hands of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In the last 2 years Iran has continued to develop ballistic missile technology, launching missiles over 2,000 kilometers.

Coalition forces have intercepted Iranian arms shipments in Iraq, including materials that are used to make explosively formed penetrators, the EFPs, the most deadly of the IEDs, which are being used against American troops. This is what Iran is doing today.

Coalition forces have also detained Iranian agents in Iraq. A lack of a secure and stable Iraq means instability in the Middle East and a clear avenue for terror and oppression to spread. Instability in the Middle East will continue to spread, as it already has, into Africa, Asia, and Europe, and ultimately find its way to our shores.

We know what is happening right now in Africa. I know probably more than some of the others do, because I have seen firsthand. I have sat down and talked with such Presidents as President Museveni in Uganda. I have talked to Prime Minister Meles in Somalia--in Ethiopia, and many of the others, including John Kufuor in Ghana, all about the threat they face of terrorism all throughout Africa. In our infinite wisdom here, it was our decision a few years ago to go in and help the Africans build five African brigades, so that as this moves into their area, they are able to fight off terrorism without using our troops. We have such programs as the 1206, 1207, and 1208, where we are arming and equipping, training and equipping programs for these countries. These are things we are helping them do so we can avoid having to be on the front lines of the battle against the terrorists. They can do that too.

Patrick Henry said:

We shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles with us.

That is what is happening over there at this time.

So the coalition forces have been doing a great job, and right now we are observing the successes of the surge. They watch with great interest as defeatist legislation is repeatedly brought up on the floor, hoping that Congress will do what they cannot: give them victory in Iraq and the Middle East. So we must not try to micromanage our military. One of the two bills that is on the floor right now would actually micromanage it. It is as if we in our infinite wisdom in the Senate are smarter than General Petraeus, General Odierno, and all of the professionals. Yes, I was in the U.S. Army many years ago, so I have some hands-on experience in this type of thing, certainly not that of the professionals. The worst thing we can do is try to micromanage our military and place restrictions on them, telling them how many troops they should withdraw and what our troop strength should be over there, and at the same time anything we do over here, the enemy knows we are doing it also. Our professional warriors want to and can succeed with our support.

That is what this is all about. I have no doubt in my mind we will defeat these things. In a way, I am glad Senator Feingold brought these bills to the floor, because this gives us a forum to talk to the American people about things they may not be getting in the media. It is interesting that it used to be when I went over to Iraq, the first thing the kids over there would ask me is why doesn't the media like me. They don't talk that way anymore. Even people who were anti this administration, people such as Katie Couric, went over and observed what is going on. Once you go and observe, you can see we are winning, this is working, and this liberation is taking place.

I know my 30 minutes has expired, but we are here to continue what we have started. The worst thing we could do right now is to take success out of the hands of the military who are successfully winning the liberation of Iraq and start to micromanage this politically from the Senate floor. This isn't going to happen. We are winning over there now. It is so refreshing, after all these years. Yes, it has been a long time. People keep reminding us this is longer than World War II. I know that, because each year I have had an opportunity to spend time over there, quality time, and see the changes that are taking place via the plan of this genius named David Petraeus, it is working. So we don't want to get in their way, and we won't get in their way, and we will go ahead and defeat these bills and let the military run the liberation as they see fit, and we are going to join them in our victory.

I yield the floor.

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