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Congratulating General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


CONGRATULATING GENERAL PETRAEUS AND AMBASSADOR CROCKER -- (Senate - April 09, 2008)

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, let me say briefly, I wish to offer my congratulations, along with those of others, to both General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker for their astonishingly good work over the last 9 to 12 months. In virtually every measurable way that you can look at Iraq, conditions have dramatically improved. That is a direct result of the smart military strategy that has put Iraq in a position where it can realistically aspire to be a relatively normal country by the standards of the Middle East and certainly an ally on the war on terror, which is extremely important.

I also think it is important for all of us to remember we have not been attacked here at home for almost 7 years--a direct result of the strategy of getting on the offense and pushing back against those who would attack us here at home, which we have done both in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

So it was an opportunity, with the appearance of the general and the ambassador, to congratulate them for their outstanding work over the last year. We look forward to going forward in Iraq in a way that leaves behind a stable country that can make a positive contribution to the security of the United States here at home and in the Middle East.

I yield the floor.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, 71 percent of the American people believe that invasion of Iraq was a mistake, a foreign policy blunder, some say the worst this country has ever done, the worst foreign policy blunder--71 percent. During that poll, there were a few percentage points where people had no opinion. So about 15 percent of the people think the invasion of Iraq was the right decision. We must get our troops home. The sooner we do that, the better off we are.

I look forward to General Petraeus's and Ambassador Crocker's hearing today before the two relevant committees in the House. When this is all over and done with, we will be able to assess when we can have a better opportunity of bringing our troops home. As we indicated earlier today, it seems difficult--when the violence is up, we need more troops and when it is down we need more troops. We can't have it both ways.

The military is at a breaking point. I am not saying that; I am repeating what others have said. General Cody, who is a four-star general on Active Duty, has said he has never seen our military in such a state of disrepair as it is now. So things aren't glowingly good. We have to work together to try to rebuild our military, and one way we can do that is focus on getting the right number of troops to Afghanistan and rebuilding our military, which is, as General Cody said, in very bad shape.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, the troops are coming home in an orderly way. Precipitous withdrawal we know would lead to a new haven for terrorists with the opportunity to attack us here at home. I think, clearly, we will debate this issue in the fall. The American people have this on their minds, obviously. They also have on their minds the economy, health care, and other matters. They are interested in their future. I think the American people are not interested in having additional attacks on the homeland in the future. That is something we will debate not only in the Senate but out on the campaign trail this fall.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, one of the things that will be debated this fall is whether our troops need to be in Iraq for another 50 or 100 years. I think that will be a pivotal part of the debate that takes place in the Presidential elections.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, of course, no one has said that, and my dear friend, the majority leader, knows it. That is a swipe at Senator McCain, who was talking about troop deployments overseas, not the continued engagement in warfare. The mainstream media--which has not been particularly friendly to the war--has hammered those who have accused Senator McCain of saying we were going to have a 100-year war in Iraq.

This is a deliberate misrepresentation of what he has said. Anybody who looks at the entire exchange, which occurred in a town meeting in New Hampshire back in January, knows precisely what he was saying. He was talking about having troops deployed overseas, which we have had in Germany and Japan and South Korea for many years. He was talking about a situation under which they are not under attack, not being killed or wounded but deployed overseas, not only to protect our security interests but also to reassure our allies. That is what Senator McCain was talking about. No one I know is suggesting--and it is almost laughable to suggest--that we are talking about that kind of lengthy military engagement.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, if one of the Democratic hopefuls had said it, I would also be trying to spin it in a way that looked good. The fact is, you can't spin what Senator McCain said at that town hall meeting in a favorable light. His record speaks for itself as to how he feels about the war in Iraq.

My friend always talks about the fact the American people don't want attacks here. Of course, they don't want attacks here at home. Of course, they don't. Everyone should understand, though, that prior to the invasion of Iraq, there was not a terrorist in Iraq, and now, of course, there are lots of them. We need to focus on Osama bin Laden, on his safe haven he has in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and as General Casey--also an active member of the military--said, we need to get more troops into Afghanistan. We can't do that when we have 140,000 troops this July in Iraq.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, one other thing. One thing we do agree on--in trying to end this exchange with something we do agree on--I think both the Democrats and Republicans agree the size of the Marines and Army is insufficient. I think there is bipartisan support in the Congress to increase the size of both the Army and the Marines. I think that is something we can agree on. Hopefully, that will be achieved in the coming years.


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