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Remarks of Senator John F. Kerry on Iraq

Location: Washington, DC

It's been days since the President was flown to an aircraft carrier to announce that hostilities in Iraq had ended.  Now, clearly, it's time for the President to step forward and tell the truth that the war is continuing and so are the casualties.

To tell the truth that our forces face an ongoing challenge simply to protect themselves. We need to look at this from the perspective of those in the field—who are taking fire every day; who do not know friend from foe; who have no idea when they will come home.  It is time for the President to tell the truth that we lack sufficient forces to do the job of reconstruction in Iraq and meet the President's goal of withdrawing in a reasonable period.

To tell the truth that America should not go it alone—that international support to share the burden is as critical now as it should have been in the months leading up to the war.  We now know that the State of the Union message, well after the vote on the Iraq resolution, contained information that was wrong—and at least some in the Administration knew it.

But just because a mistake was made, does not mean we should compound it by making further mistakes.  International support and alliances are not weakness, but strengths.  Diplomacy, cooperation, multilateralism, making friends in the world is not weakness as this administration would have some believe.

America is now viewed widely as an occupying power.  We face a resistance movement that is capable of gaining greater strength by the day.  And our service men and women remain vulnerable because they are too few to succeed in a peacekeeping mission for which they are neither trained nor equipped.

I believe there are four urgent steps that we should take in order to win the peace.

Number one—We increase overall troop strength with more allied troops with the right skills and training.  And that means particularly, that people with Arabic speaking skills, and even, hopefully, Muslims.  Without adequate security, every other peacekeeping goal is at risk.  That means you have to immediately offer NATO a role to give Allies a graceful way to participate.  Without real allies in real numbers, especially Arab-speaking, we are asking our young men and women to bear a needless risk for an length of time that is undescribed.  We also need greater United Nations involvement in the humanitarian and governance transformation. And the world needs to be invested in the outcome in Iraq

Second, we have to train Iraqis more rapidly to carry out what always was an obvious job—of restoring civil order in the aftermath of the victory.  The police functions have to be provided in an adequate form, we need to protect the people, and guarantee the safety of our own troops in that process.  Such an effort will require international police trainers and mentors as well as military trainers in an accelerated commitment.

Third, we have to lay out immediately and publicly a clear plan for the transfer of power to Iraqis as soon as possible.  The sense of American occupation works against our peaceful goals, works against the transformation of democracy ultimately, works against our troops and their safety, and works against our greater goals in the Middle East.  We promised the Iraqis democracy, but we're sending mixed signals about really letting them run their own country.

Fourth, we must move more quickly to provide the basic services, such as electricity, and transportation.  Without economic recovery, the gap between the expectations and the reality will be a major retardant on popular support for the United States activities in Iraq.  Peacekeeping is linked to the humanitarian and to the governance transformation and the global investment in that is the fastest, most effective way to be able to strengthen our goals and provide safety to our troops.

We now know that the Administration went to war without a thorough plan to win the peace.  It is time to face that truth and to change course—to share the post-war burden internationally—for the sake of our country, for our standing in the world, and most of all for the young Americans in uniform who cannot be protected from enemy attack by an announcement, no matter how well staged, that hostilities are over.

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