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Location: Washington, DC

IRAQ -- (Senate - February 07, 2007)


Mr. CRAIG. Madam President, I have been on the floor of the Senate for the last half hour, listening to my colleague in what is, in fact, a very important debate for this country. I say that, even though the wringing of hands would suggest that somehow the debate is being blocked and the will of the Senate has been thwarted. I suggest quite the opposite. It has become a finger-pointing in a procedural way.

I believe the Republican leader came to the floor yesterday and said let's have a couple of votes, several votes; you can vote up or down on the Levin-Warner resolution; you can vote up or down on the Gregg resolution. It was then the leadership on the majority side, the Democratic side, blocked it. I think the American people are wise to the tactics at hand. They are not unaware, and they are frustrated by what is going on in Iraq today. Clearly, we are focused. Whether it is the Congress of the United States or a vast majority of the American people, we are becoming increasingly critical of a war that has frustrated many of us.

The Senator from Maryland voted against it. He said so a few moments ago. I voted for it. At the same time, I grow increasingly critical, as do many of the citizens of my State, as to what will be the future, what will be our success and/or failure and at a cost of how many more American lives.

I am critically concerned that this Government in Iraq now stand up. We have allowed them to form and to shape and to vote. They now have a Constitution. They now must lead. In leading, I hope it could be to stability to the region and that it will not offset and throw out of balance what the free world looks at and says is very important and that is, of course, the war on terror and the general stability of the Middle East.

Indeed, I think much has been lost in the debate around this country as to the significance of the Middle East itself. I was extremely pleased last week when that kind of an elder statesman of our country, Henry Kissinger, came before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and in a very real and important way, and in a bipartisan way, said: Let's not forget our perspective. While for the short term and for the moment we are focused on Iraq, as we should be, let's not fail to recognize that since World War II, we have been in the Middle East to bring stability to the region for a safer, more stable Western World.

I don't think there is any question about that. He was frank about it when he stressed diplomacy as an important tool. I have long advocated frank, open talks amongst our friends and neighbors around the world, not only about the region but about the role of Iraq within the region and what we must do. However, Dr. Kissinger also stressed that, under the present conditions in Iraq, withdrawal or the signs of withdrawal is simply not an option for America's forces. So anyone who comes to the floor today and says: Oh, but it is an option and we ought to start now, or we ought to send all the signals to our friends and neighbors around the world that we are beginning to pull back, is going against a trend that I think is critically important. They could set in motion the kind of activity in Iraq that could bring about a phenomenal genocide and the possibility of neighbors tumbling in on top of neighbors to create conflict in the Middle East that could bring down the whole of the region. If that were to happen, then I am quite confident that those who want to withdraw would find themselves in a very precarious situation. What do we do? Do we go back in with greater force to stabilize the region, when friendly, moderate Arab nations are now tumbling into war because we would no longer stand or we would no longer force, through a diplomatic process, those countries of the world to come together to work with us, to cooperate?

While most agree that the current situation in Iraq must be dealt with politically--and we have heard that time and again--and economically, our military involvement is critical to provide the Iraqis the stability they need in this new democratic process. I don't mind pegging timelines a little bit and I don't mind thresholds and measurements and I think it is important we not only send that message but that we get it done, we get it done for the sake of our position in Iraq and certainly forcing the Iraqi Government to move--those are all phenomenally important issues.

Let me stress two last facts. It is quite simple. The 116th from Idaho, the largest deployment of Idaho's troops in this war, was there and served and served honorably and proudly and the work they did was phenomenally important and we are proud of them. Let me also suggest that while many will say the general we now send to Iraq is the best military mind we have available at the moment, the author of the Army's war handbook on terror, we are saying to General Petraeus: You are the best there is, go forth and be successful, but, oh, by the way, we don't agree with the mission--what kind of a mixed message is that we now send to our military?

The Senator from Georgia was right. The world is listening to this debate. Our men and women in uniform are listening to this debate. The enemies of the cause are listening and saying: Oh, the Senate of the United States is getting cold feet. Our opportunities are at hand. All we have to do is wait them out. All we have to do is accelerate the violence, and they will turn out the lights in the green zone and go home.

Then the world, at least the Iraqi world, will erupt in a civil conflict, a civil war of phenomenal proportion.

Those are the realities we deal with today. I hope this Senate stays on point. This is an issue that is critical to the future of our country, to the future of the free world, to the region of the Middle East, to any kind of stability we hope could be brought there. I hope we have the votes--and they ought to be up or down--and I don't mind being on the record at all. They need to be substantive, they need to have the force and effect of law, just not the ring of the politics of the Chamber, because that is what we are getting today--a heavy dose of politics and very little substance.

We hide behind procedure? I don't think so. Let us bring these issues forward. The Craig resolution? Up or down. Levin-Warner? Up or down. What is wrong with those votes? That is what we were sent here to do. I would hope our leadership could bring us to that.

So, to reiterate:

Many people around the country, including myself, have taken a much more critical look at the way the war in Iraq has been handled. However, through all the hardships our soldiers face day-to-day on the streets of Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq, it still remains evident to me that our success in Iraq and the success of the current Iraq government, is critical to the security of our Nation, the stability of the Middle East, and the fight against terrorism worldwide.

Indeed, much has been lost in the debates around this country as to the significance of the greater Middle East stability when looking at the situation in Iraq. Our country has maintained a presence in that region of the world since World War II, and it should not be a surprise to anyone that many countries there depend and rely on our presence there, both economically and for their own national security. After reviewing the recent transcript of Dr. Henry Kissinger before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I agreed with many of Dr. Kissinger's views on the current situation in Iraq as it relates to the Middle East as a whole, and the severe consequences the international community will face should we fail in Iraq.

Dr. Kissinger stressed diplomacy, something I have long advocated in this conflict and frankly for any conflict. I don't believe there is one Member of Congress who takes the decision lightly to send out troops into combat unless we all firmly believe it is a last option. I know I certainly didn't, and I know that an overwhelming majority of both Senators and Congressmen believed that as well when we authorized the use of force in Iraq back in 2002.

However, Dr. Kissinger also stressed that under the present conditions in Iraq, withdrawal is not an option for American forces. Such a withdrawal would have long reaching consequences on the war on terror worldwide, could lead to widespread genocide in Iraq and possible neighboring countries, as well as severe economic consequences for all Middle Eastern countries. It is clear that such a circumstance would mandate international forces be sent back into Iraq, but the costs at that point would be grave.

While most agree that the current situation in Iraq must be dealt with politically and economically, our military involvement is critical to providing the Iraqis the stability they need to let their new democracy take root. If we pull our troops out of Iraq now, or deny them much needed reinforcements as some would like to do, we risk losing Baghdad and possibly the entire country to full blown civil war. Under those circumstances, the government of Iraq would fall, and Iran and Syria would strengthen their grip on the Middle East, endangering the national security of America and our allies worldwide.

It is my hope that diplomatic efforts will continue in a more aggressive fashion to bring the international community to the realization of a failed State in Iraq, and the real consequences that we all face should our efforts fall short of stabilizing Baghdad and the country as a whole. Because the consequences are so high, I do not believe that our soldiers' withdrawal from Iraq should be placed on any timetable, and we need to reassure our soldiers and commanders in Iraq that we will continue to support their efforts. After all, they are operating in Iraq, but the work they are doing will have a far reaching effect to stabilize the Middle East.

Over the past few weeks, there have been many who have been outspoken about their disapproval of the President's new plan for Iraq. Not being an expert in military tactics, I do not believe it is my role as a U.S. Senator to play general for our soldiers as some are. Instead, I believe it is my duty in Congress to provide our soldiers with the resources and funding they require to do their job with the best equipment possible, while also pledging my unending moral

support for the work they do each and every day to keep Americans safe both at home and abroad.

Every 4 years the citizens of America go to the polls to elect a commander in chief, who is responsible to the American people to lead our military in times of peace and times of war. It is no mistake that the founding fathers gave the power to declare war to the Congress, but the power to lead the military to the President. Our soldiers should not have to follow 535 Congressional ``generals' who hold up critical funding while they second-guess tactical decisions of the commander in chief and military leaders.

Over the last few weeks a lot has been made of the troop reinforcement President Bush outlined to the American people. Prior to his speech, I and several other Members of Congress met with the President to discuss the current situation in Iraq. I made it very clear that Idahoans and I cannot continue to support the status quo; and he agreed. President Bush has spent the last many months working with his national security advisers, commanding officers in Iraq, Members of Congress and experts in the field of military issues in order to revise our national strategy with regards to Iraq and come up with a new strategy for victory.

Make no mistake, the onus is now on the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government to act, and I was extremely pleased to hear President Bush reiterate that fact. The efforts of our soldiers have given the Iraqi people a great opportunity to live in a free and stable country, but they must stand up and accept that responsibility.

My home State of Idaho has shared some of the burden of this war in Iraq. The 116th Brigade Combat Team served courageously for twelve months in Kirkuk and surrounding areas, and they have since returned home to their families. I had the opportunity to visit them in Iraq and was extremely proud of the feedback on these soldiers I received from Iraqi government officials, civilians, and U.S. military leaders. I would also like to spotlight all Idahoans who are serving in the Armed Forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. I am eternally grateful for their service and I will continue to provide them with all the support I can give.

It is my hope that Members of Congress will not pursue antiwar politics to the detriment of our soldiers in the field. Our soldiers have been fighting courageously in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world to protect each and every American life, and I believe it is incumbent for the Congress to stand behind them. Numerous bills and resolutions have been proposed in the Senate to disapprove of their mission, cap troop levels, withhold funding for the reinforcements, or even completely de-fund the troops serving in Iraq. I cannot and will not support any legislation that I see as unproductive to our current efforts in Iraq, because I believe it places our forces in greater danger and could embolden our enemies to continue their attacks against innocent Iraqis, Americans and our allies.

In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in January of this year, General Hayden, the Director of the CIA, responded to a question regarding what would happen if we pulled out now from Iraq. Director Hayden responded, Three very quick areas:

No. 1, more Iraqis die from the disorder inside Iraq. No. 2, Iraq becomes a safe haven, perhaps more dangerous than the one Al Qaeda had in Afghanistan. And finally, No. 3, the conflict in Iraq bleeds over into the neighborhood and threatens serious regional instability.

He went on to state that this directly and immediately threatens the United States homeland because it:

provides Al Qaida that which they are attempting to seek in several locations right now, be it Somalia, the tribal area of Pakistan or Anbar province--a safe haven to rival that which they had in Afghanistan.

During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, GEN David Petraeus supported President Bush's plan to increase troop levels in Baghdad and Anbar province. In response to questioning before that committee, General Petraeus made it clear he believes that the reinforcement of soldiers into Baghdad and Anbar in Iraq will bolster the Iraqis' ability to stabilize their government and defeat the insurgency, instead of allowing them to continue to buck that responsibility, as some have asserted.

Many in Congress have stated publicly that this is the last chance the United States has to get it right in Iraq. If that is the case, I feel there is no general better qualified to be in charge of our ground forces and get things turned around on the ground than General Petraeus. I recognize that the American people have grown weary over the last months since the violence has escalated in Iraq, but I remain optimistic that the Iraqi government, with the aid of our soldiers, can turn things around.

I had the pleasure of meeting General Petraeus during one of my two trips to Iraq and was very impressed by his knowledge of the situation and his expertise in counterinsurgency. I have no doubt that General Petraeus is the right man to lead our forces in Iraq and I believe that he will overcome the new challenges he now faces. Let us not send the right man and then tell him it is the wrong job.

In closing, while I share the concerns of many of my colleagues regarding the situation in Iraq, I will support the President's plan to provide the reinforcements necessary to provide stability in Baghdad and Anbar province. I am hopeful that this plan will give the Iraqi government the best chance to stand on their own two feet and make the positive strides necessary to take control of the security situation and function as a stable government. It is this Senator's personal opinion that resolutions condemning the President's new way forward send the wrong message to our soldiers, the Iraqi people, and especially our enemies.

I certainly appreciate and support the role of Congress to provide oversight with respect to U.S. military engagements. However, I do not believe we should cripple the Commander in Chief's ability to work with our military leadership to defeat our enemies, and passing a resolution condemning the President's new plan for Iraq would do precisely that. Instead, I support resolutions that call for the support of the American people and Congress to give the President's plan a chance to work. Mistakes have been made, unquestionably, and the violence in Baghdad and Anbar province has grown to a level that few predicted, but I am not yet ready to throw in the towel on this President's new plan and our soldiers' ability to assist in stabilizing Iraq before they even get a chance to try.


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