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Statement Of U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell On Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki's Visit To The United States

Location: Washington, DC

Senator McConnell Floor Remarks Following Iraqi Prime Minister's Speech Before Joint Session Of Congress

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor immediately following Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki's speech before a joint session of Congress:

"Today we mark a step forward in the War on Terror. A mere three and a half years ago, the dictator Saddam Hussein would have addressed his regime's legislature of lackeys. Today, the democratically elected prime minister of Iraq addressed a joint meeting of the United States Congress.

"A mere three and a half years ago, the dictator Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq. He terrorized his own countrymen with murder, torture, and weapons of mass death. He posed a security threat to the entire region, and to the United States. The international community decided he had to face serious consequences.

"In March 2003, America led a multinational coalition of forces to depose the dictator and liberate Iraq. Since then, that country has made remarkable progress as it throws off the shackles of tyranny and embraces democracy.

"Iraqis have held three successful national elections, ratified a constitution, elected a permanent unity government, and formed a cabinet with a strong prime minister at its head—Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who we had the pleasure of hearing from today.

"It took our country 13 years to go from independence to the implementation of our Constitution. Iraqis have done it in three—and under the glare of the 24-hour news cycle and the threat of terrorist attacks.

"When Prime Minister Maliki ascended to the podium today, it was hard to deny the importance of the moment. His presence in this Capitol represents a victory for democracy. And his country is, and will continue to be, an important ally in the War on Terror.

"Of course there will be many tough days ahead in Iraq. There is no denying that the security situation represents a real challenge. But America does not avoid challenges, and we do not abandon our allies when the going gets tough.

"We are moving forward in Iraq. The country recently realized its highest oil production and export levels since before its liberation. And during the past three years, per capita income in Iraq has doubled.

"I would also like to call to my colleagues' attention an article titled "Iraq as a Sovereign Nation," written by the prime minister, that appeared in Monday's Wall Street Journal. It points to very tangible proof that Iraq is moving forward.

"The Iraqi province of Al-Muthanna, located at the southernmost border of that country, has become the first province in which local Iraqi forces have taken full responsibility for law enforcement and security, taking over for Coalition forces.

"President Bush has frequently said, "As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." That is exactly what has happened in Al-Muthanna, home to over half a million Iraqis.

"Local Iraqi police and the military have stood up, and taken the place of 1,400 Coalition troops. The governor of Al-Muthanna has command of the provincial police. Iraqi national police and Iraqi army troops will operate in the province under the control of the prime minister and the national government.

"The transfer of power in Al-Muthanna is only the first step. The prime minister writes that "current estimates envision half of Iraqi's provinces transferring security responsibility by the end of 2006." He and I agree that this process should not be driven by an arbitrary timeline but by the situation on the ground; nevertheless this is an encouraging sign.

"He goes on to write that the decisions for future transfers of power will be made based on the threat assessment in the province, the readiness of the local Iraqi forces, the readiness of the local governmental authorities, and the overall Coalition force posture.

"The historic event of local control in Al-Muthanna represents an important step forward in our mission in Iraq. As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down, and we will leave behind a proud and free Iraq.

"The prime minister ends his article by saying, "With God's help, and continued assistance from the Coalition, our regional neighbors and the larger international community, our people will unite and prosper. Together, we can and will succeed."

"I commend the prime minister for his vision and leadership. America will and must continue to stand by Iraq. None of what has been achieved in the last three years there has been easy. But we have succeeded, and we will continue to succeed, because freedom and democracy are stronger than the terrorists' tools of mayhem and fear.

"Great credit must go to President Bush for his strong leadership in the War on Terror, which has enabled us to reach the point of a transfer of power in Al-Muthanna—and soon, in other provinces as well.

"I also commend the new Iraqi government and the Iraqi police and security forces for their hard work in promoting stability in their country.

"And of course, I know my colleagues join me in thanking the men and women of America's armed forces for their courage, dedication, and sacrifice.

"Stability in Iraq means stability in the region and greater security here at home. As the prime minister said in his speech today, "Do not imagine that this problem [of terrorism] is solely an Iraqi problem, because the terrorist front represents a threat to all free countries and free peoples throughout the world….The responsibility of facing this challenge lies on the shoulders of every country and every people that respects and cherishes freedom."

"The prime minister is exactly right, and for that reason America must stand firm in the War on Terror. And we must stand side by side with our Iraqi allies in their war on the terrorists."

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