Issue Position - Securing our Nation and Changing Course in Iraq
Protecting the safety and rights of its people is the first and foremost function of any responsible democratic government. As a prosecutor, that's my mission every day as I serve the more than 1.1 million residents who live in Minnesota's largest county. Likewise, the protection of America's national security both at home and abroad is among the most important responsibilities of our government in Washington.
With Hurricane Katrina, we had the first major test of our nation's Homeland Security Department. It was a test that Washington failed. Not only did the current administration fail the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, it failed in a more fundamental purpose: Protecting our nation. We need leaders in Washington who are willing to do what it takes to protect our nation.
Around the world we see both rays of hope and dark shadows of danger. But rogue nations like North Korea and Iran are developing nuclear weapons, and terrorism remains a global concern. As a nation, we must be prepared to use our unique power and influence to protect our national interests while also engaging in diplomacy and international alliances to foster peace, freedom and democratic progress in the world.
Immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the American people pulled together as one nation -- and much of the world community stood with us. But the administration in Washington squandered the opportunity to build a foreign policy that would keep us unified against the threats we face.
It also squandered the opportunity to ask all of us including the wealthiest among us to share in the sacrifice of paying for our homeland security and the invasion of Afghanistan.
During my travels around the state, I've met with a lot of veterans and their families. I've welcomed those who've returned safely from serving abroad, and I've grieved with families and communities who've suffered the ultimate loss. Several employees in my own office have been called up and deployed overseas to Iraq and elsewhere.
While I support the invasion of Afghanistan, I disagreed with the decision to invade Iraq. After three years, it has become obvious to those who favored the war and to those who opposed it that the Bush-Cheney administration was not truthful about the reasons they gave for invading Iraq, nor were they truthful about having a plan to secure the peace and protect our troops once we invaded.
Whether it was their categorical (but false) assertions about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or their repeated (but unsupported) claims of Iraq's ties to Al Qaeda, or their frequent (but untrue) assurances that America would go to war only with broad international support, or their constant (but divisive) attempts to "spin" the war by going after those who disagreed with them, the Bush-Cheney administration did not give honest information to the American people. This conduct has not only damaged America's credibility throughout the world, but also undermined the American people's confidence in our own government.
I have often said that I believe that the political debate in this country should be shaped not by a 24-hour T.V. shout-fest about what is right and left, but instead a serious debate about what is right and wrong. Given the stakes in Iraq, leaders in this country must do what we believe is right, not merely what is politically expedient. With more than 2,600 Americans killed, countless Iraqis dead and over $320 billion spent, the Bush-Cheney administration must not be allowed to stonewall and simply maintain the status quo. We must change our course in Iraq. We must draw down our forces in a responsible way.
The priorities in Washington need to change.
As your U.S. Senator, here's what I'll fight for:
I will fight for accountability for the run-up to the Iraq war. Trust in the integrity of our government and our leaders is essential to the health of democracy. I will continue to demand that the administration account for their actions that have brought us to this point. And there must also be accountability from those who unjustly profited from this war through illegal contracts, kickbacks and fraud that have hurt the interest of the citizens of both Iraq and the United States.
I will fight for a change of course in Iraq. 2006 should be the year that the Iraqi government decreases its dependency on the United States. It should be a year of transition in which we bring a significant number of our troops home.
Since April, I have been asking the President to give the nation a clear plan to bring our troops home safely. As with any effective plan, there should be a realistic time-frame based on specific milestones and benchmarks, with honest and current information from the administration about the status of our efforts, the training of the Iraqi forces, and the restoration of basic services to Iraq. In fact, the leaders of Iraq's otherwise sharply divided Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis agreed that there should be a time frame for the drawdown of American troops. If the president is unwilling to provide a plan, Congress should call upon the Joint Chiefs of Staff to do so. By establishing such a plan and setting a time frame for a drawdown of forces, we send an important signal to the people of Iraq that we do not intend to stay indefinitely and that we expect them to take on the responsibility of governing and securing their own nation. That is why I oppose establishing permanent military bases in Iraq.
I also believe we have to manage our exit from Iraq in a responsible way. I do not support immediate withdrawal of our troops, as has been suggested by some, because the situation is just too precarious. We also must engage other countries in our efforts, including those countries in the region. By making clear that we will not be staying in Iraq indefinitely, we will jumpstart our diplomatic efforts to involve other countries.
I will fight for our government to do all we can to protect our brave men and women who are serving our country abroad. They need the best equipment and intelligence to keep them as safe as possible. And when they return, we must honor their service and bravery by giving them the education and health care benefits they were promised. I am committed to ensuring that our veterans and their families, particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, receive all they deserve.
I will fight to make sure our government is doing the best it can to protect our nation against further terrorist attacks. I believe we need to do more to screen cargo that comes through our ports and to secure our nuclear and chemical plants. Our local communities also need federal support to properly equip and support our first responders law enforcement officers, firefighters, frontline health care workers and other emergency personnel.
I will fight for a competent, accountable Federal Emergency Management Agency to prepare for and respond to catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina. In Minnesota, we've had experiences with disasters like the 1998 St. Peter tornado, the 1997 flood in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks and the Mississippi and Minnesota River floods of 1993. Minnesotans know that fast action and federal support were crucial in recovering and rebuilding in the aftermath of these natural disasters. We must not let Washington shirk its responsibilities to protect Americans right here at home.