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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 -- (Senate - February 26, 2008)

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Ms. STABENOW. Madam President, first let me indicate that as my colleagues were speaking a moment ago, I think it is incredibly important to understand that, in fact, we are talking about a threat in 80 countries, and we do have a FISA law that, in fact, has worked, and no one is suggesting we do not have the need for strong intelligence and support for our intelligence operations. In fact, that is what all of us are willing to see happen. But what we are talking about in this resolution is whether we are going to continue to keep our focus on a country that is now in the middle of a civil war or whether we are going to redirect our efforts to address our real threats not only abroad but threats at home.

When we talk about the threats to our families, I would suggest that if we are now spending somewhere around $15 billion a month, some say, that when we look at what could be done here at home to address the very real threats of job loss, people losing their homes, children walking into schools that are crumbling, the lack of health care, those are also very important threats.

So we certainly want to make sure we are safe and address those threats abroad, but, more broadly, we have many threats affecting our families right now, and they expect us to use the very best judgment to keep them safe both from threats outside our country as well as from threats at home, including a huge economic cloud over many families.

Madam President, I rise today to lend my strong voice of support for the Feingold legislation to provide the safe redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq, and to refocus us on, in fact, those things that are threats to our country and to the families of this country. Tonight, 591 members of the Michigan National Guard will bed down after a long day of working and fighting and facing danger at every turn in the harshest physical conditions imaginable. For every single one of these men and women, a family will go to sleep in Michigan tonight worried that their son or daughter, father or mother, sister or brother won't make it home.

The true cost of this war cannot be measured in dollars and cents. The real cost is measured in the sacrifices of our brave men and women and their families every day. This cost is more than just the possibility and the reality of physical danger. This cost includes the sacrifices that every single American family makes by being apart from each other time and time again. It isn't right what is happening; it isn't fair; it isn't safe. It isn't making us safer as a country, and we need to change this policy.

That is why I am so grateful that, once again, Senator Reid has made it a priority for us to focus on the war in Iraq and what is happening to troops and families and people here at home, and the cost of the lost opportunity by spending upwards of $15 billion a month now in Iraq.

Tonight 591 Guard members in Iraq, with 591 families at home, 591 will have missed birthdays, missed Father's Days and Mother's Days, missed high school graduations and children's first steps or anniversaries or family funerals or holidays; 591 will have missed paychecks, sidetracked careers, with small businesses and farms put in economic danger; 591 lives that will never be the same; 591 sets of missed opportunities that will never be replaced. And these members of the Michigan National Guard make up only a fraction of the 160,000 men and women in uniform currently serving bravely and honorably in Iraq, or the countless others who have served.

In too many cases, these men and women are back in Iraq for their second, third, or fourth redeployment. In addition to the 591 who are already deployed, there are about 1,000 members of the Michigan National Guard who have been mobilized and who will deploy this year. Many of them will be doing their second, third, or fourth deployment to a combat zone. This year alone, there will be a thousand more missed paychecks, a thousand more missed birthdays and holidays and special occasions, and a thousand more lives that will never be the same.

Our fighting men and women are the greatest single resource our military has, and this Government is abusing that resource. America puts our trust in our military to defend us. When our sons and daughters join the military, they are putting their trust in us to give them the tools, the resources they need, and to treat them with the respect they have earned. The current administration policies on redeployment have violated that trust. Those policies have let our troops down. Once again, I am proud to join with my colleague from Wisconsin in saying: Enough is enough when it comes to placing our armed services in harm's way by stretching them to the breaking point with redeployment after redeployment. Enough is enough when it comes to being in the middle of a civil war. And enough is enough when it comes to this administration taking its eye off the ball on the war on terror.

We are all aware of the worsening situation in Afghanistan. However, this administration continues to focus on a civil war in Iraq. Our Armed Forces have traveled a tough road since we invaded Iraq. They have shouldered a heavy burden with pride, with confidence, and with honor. We have asked extraordinary things from them at every turn, and at every turn they have delivered. They have done us all proud. They have faced tough situations and have done their duty. Now we need to do what is right for them. It is time to face the tough situations. It is time to make the hard choices, to make them proud of us, and it is time to remove them from the civil war in Iraq, to change course, and to refocus, as this bill does, and redistribute our resources to those areas that truly address the threats facing our families and our country.

America's soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are always there when we call on them. The question is: Will we be there for them? What this legislation proposes is as simple as it is right. It requires our forces in Iraq to target operations against al-Qaida and other international terrorist groups.

Why is this important? Because al-Qaida has declared war against us. We know that. The people in Iraq are in the middle of a civil war that is something they now have to address and come to terms with and bring their own resources to address. So while our troops are in Iraq, they should be targeting those who have said they wished to do harm to us.

Also, our troops in Iraq would be required to focus on providing security for U.S. personnel, of course, and that is extremely necessary in order to bring the m home safely. I understand the Iraqi security forces are still developing, still learning, as I have met with them in traveling to Iraq. We have heard certainly of the continual need to train, the need for them to continue to develop, and we know we have a role in supporting that, and this bill recognizes that fact. It would allow our troops to continue to train Iraqi security forces, but only if our troops are training the Iraqis who have not been involved in the sectarian violence or attacks against our troops.

This bill will allow our troops to continue to train the Iraqi security forces, but only if that training does not result in our troops being in combat. Training, yes; but they need to step up at this point, after 5 years, and be the ones at the front line.

This bill also brings our troops home safely. It specifically allows our military to train and equip itself to ensure its safety. Most importantly, it requires that we begin to bring our troops home.

This administration said a surge was necessary; that the surge would give the Government of Iraq the time to reach the political solutions necessary to end their civil war and to end the violence. They said time was needed. Well, the Government has had time, and during this time our troops have continued to pay the price. Our troops have been caught in the middle of a civil war. They have been victims of IEDs. They have come home with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental and physical ailments. The bottom line is, it is time for our troops to be placed first and to begin to bring them home.

That is all this bill does, and it does that while allowing our troops to continue to focus on who we all agree is the real enemy: Al-Qaida.

On October 11, 2002, I was proud to be 1 of 23 Members of this body who stood in this Chamber and said the war was the wrong choice. This administration, I believe, since that time has in fact failed our troops and the American people by committing our troops to a war without a clear reason or goal, and by squandering resources that are desperately needed here at home to rebuild America and to invest in American communities. This administration has failed our troops by not having a clear mission for our Armed Forces in Iraq, by not providing the proper equipment and body armor and logistical support for the troops, by poor planning on the invasion in Iraq and the lack of planning for how to secure the country and what would happen after the initial attack. I believe they have failed by sending our brave men and women back into harm's way over and over again without the proper rest between redeployments.

History will be a harsh judge of this administration, because I believe they have failed the American people. This administration failed because they took their eye off the ball. This legislation is about putting our eye back on the target of what we ought to be doing together.

In closing, let me reemphasize the fact that while the most important thing is to be supporting our troops, to be addressing the threats to them while they are in harm's way, to address the lives lost and the people who are coming home who will need help the rest of their lives, it is also important to look at this from the standpoint of the precious resources that have been lost at a time when so many American families are struggling. We always make decisions based on values and priorities, and it is shocking to me, as we have seen this war go forward, to see upwards of, some say $12 billion, some say now upwards of $15 billion a month--not part of the normal budget--going directly on the national deficit, the national debt, to be paid by our children and grandchildren. But let's say it is $15 billion a month. To see that continue month after month after month, and to see us work together on a bipartisan basis to pass a critically important piece of legislation to increase health care for 10 million children across this country, which costs only $7 billion a year, and yet that is vetoed--there is not a willingness to invest in American children to the tune of less than half of what it is costing per month in Iraq--these are the wrong values and wrong priorities.

We see schools being rebuilt in Iraq, and yet I can go in too many schools in Michigan where there is a bucket in the corner to catch the water dripping from the roof, or we don't have the kind of computer technology in the classroom every single child will need to know how to use in any job they get, from working at a gas station to working at a technology company. We know we have crumbling roads and bridges here in America. We know every time we invest in and rebuild in America, those are jobs that aren't going to be outsourced to another country. Those are American jobs--rebuilding American roads and American bridges and water and sewer systems in America. We are told we can't do that, that there are not the resources to invest in America, but we are spending $15 billion a month in Iraq.

We now have a whole new group of industries producing what are called green collar jobs, and I am very proud to have joined in working with many of my colleagues to focus on the new alternative energy technologies and other things we need to do--small investments with huge results for energy independence and creating more jobs and addressing global warming.

And yet we consistently hear there are not the resources for any new investments in America. There are so many areas where we are told there is no money: for doing the bold research we need to solve Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease and to aggressively move forward on other health research; the desire not to help those who lost their jobs because of trade, to be able to go back and get the training they need to be able to move on to new kinds of jobs so that we have a middle class in this country; and that families can pay their mortgage and electric bill and heating bill and know that they have the opportunity to keep their standard of living in our country.

There is a lot at stake. And this bill, while it focuses on what we need to do to change the mission, to refocus on ways to truly keep us safe, to begin to bring our troops home from Iraq, from a civil war where we need to leave and redirect our troops to those areas where, in fact, we will be focusing on the real threat to our country, that is, on the surface, what this legislation does.

I would suggest it does more than that because this is about who we are as Americans, what our priorities are: No. 1, how to make sure we are truly smart enough to be focused on what keeps us safe; and, No. 2, understanding that we have much to do in our country.

Our families are feeling squeezed on all sides. Communities need help, and we have an opportunity to not only redirect our troops and our focus but to redirect critical dollars to be able to make sure, in fact, we are finally putting the interests of America's families first.

I urge my colleagues to support this important bill.

I yield the floor.

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