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Location: Washington, DC



Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I rise to discuss the situation in Iraq. President Bush, last night, reiterated America's commitment and resolve to finishing the job in Iraq. First, I think the President made it clear how high the stakes are in Iraq by demonstrating that Iraq is front and center in the global war on terror. Just listen to Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden is quoted as saying: ``The whole world is watching this war'' and that the Iraq war will result in either ``victory and glory or misery and humiliation.'' Al-Qaida certainly recognizes how high the stakes are. So do our European allies.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said the other day that ``[t]here can be no question a stable and democratic Iraq is in the vested interest of not just Germany, but also Europe.'' That was Schroeder, who was not exactly a cheerleader for the Iraq war.

Yet we continue to hear the refrain from some quarters that it is time to cut and run, that we should set arbitrary deadlines for withdrawal, to get out while we can. If September 11 taught us anything, it is that retreating in the face of terrorism and hoping for the best is not the way to protect American lives. Quite the opposite. It is a display of weakness, and it is an invitation to America's enemies. As the President forcefully conveyed last night, we must take the fight to the enemies, or they will take the fight to us on our shores and on their terms.

Second, the President outlined a clear plan regarding the future of our engagement in Iraq. He explained his two-tier strategy there, involving both the democracy building side and the military side of the equation.

On the democracy building side, the President rightly reminded the American people of the important progress that has been made in just 1 year. The terrorists, for all of their heinous acts, simply could not interrupt the transfer of sovereignty, nor could the terrorists derail the January elections. The Iraqi people were too determined to move their country forward. The Iraqi people cast their ballots for freedom and democracy and against terrorism. In so doing, the Iraqi people set an example other democracy activists in the Middle East have begun to follow. The Iraqi people are also moving forward in the drafting of their constitution, which their political leaders have publicly declared will indeed be completed by the August 15 deadline.

On the military side, President Bush discussed his new approaches to training the Iraqi security forces to fight the enemy and defend freedom. Some in this country belittled the Iraqi security forces. They have been running them down. Frankly, I find this reprehensible. More than 2,000 members of the Iraqi security forces have laid down their lives defending freedom in their country, fighting alongside our troops, and more Iraqis keep enlisting every single day. These volunteers are Iraqi patriots, and the President was right to acknowledge the supreme sacrifice made by these friends of freedom.

Iraq has two ways it can go. We can leave the country to be preyed upon by murderers who want to turn the country into a Taliban-like nation, a haven for terrorist camps, and a factory of hatred, or we can stand and fight by defending liberty and democracy in Iraq and demonstrating an alternative to the ways of terror and of Saddam Hussein. We can help Iraqis help themselves and, in the process, help the United States by making the Middle East a more democratic and peaceful region. And when Iraq is strong enough to stand up on its own two feet and Iraqi security forces can fully defend their own country, our troops will stand down and come home.

Third, the President rightly noted the progress that is being made on the ground. The elite media in our country, however, is always focusing on bad news. They teach them in journalism school that only bad news is news. You would never know, for example, that more than 600 Iraqi schools have been renovated to date, or that construction is underway at 144 new primary health care facilities across that country. You won't find that written about in the elite media.

Finally, I was pleased to see the President pay tribute to our brave men and women in uniform. They are an inspiration to all of us, and I am confident that the American people throughout our great land will take up the President's invitation to honor them over the Independence Day holiday.

Our work in Iraq is challenging, but it is a noble endeavor, an endeavor in which progress is being made every single day--a message President Bush delivered very clearly last night.

I yield the floor.

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