IRAQ -- (Senate - March 13, 2007)
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Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I rise, first, to offer strong words of support for the statement that was just offered by the distinguished Senator from Massachusetts. I also rise today to speak in support of the Iraq resolution the Senate will consider tomorrow.
The news from Iraq is very bad. Last week, a suicide bomber stood outside a bookstore and killed 20 people. Other attacks killed 118 Shia pilgrims. On Sunday, a car bomb went off in central Baghdad, and more than 30 people died. The road from the airport into Baghdad is littered with smoldering debris, craters from improvised explosive devices, and the memories of our sons and daughters.
The civil war in Iraq rages on. The insurgents have started to change their tactics. They hide in buildings and along the streets and wait for our helicopters. They have shot down at least 8 U.S. helicopters in the last month. More of our soldiers are dying or coming home with their bodies broken and their nerves shattered to a VA system completely unprepared for what they need to rebuild their lives.
It is not enough for the President to tell us victory in this war is simply a matter of American resolve. The American people have been extraordinarily resolved. They have seen their sons and daughters killed or wounded in the streets of Fallujah. They have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on this effort--money they know could have been devoted to strengthening our homeland security and our competitive standing as a nation. The failure has not been a failure of resolve. That is not what has led us into chaos. It has been a failure of strategy, and it is time that the strategy change. There is no military solution to
the civil war that rages on in Iraq, and it is time for us to redeploy so that a political solution becomes possible.
The news from Iraq is very bad, and it has been that way for at least 4 years. We all wish the land the President and the Vice President speak of exists. We wish there were an Iraq where the insurgency was in its last throes, where the people work with security, where children play outside, where a vibrant new democracy lights up the nighttime sky. We wish for those things, but there is no alternative reality to what we see and read about in the news, to what we have experienced these long 4 years.
I repeat, there is no military solution to this war. At this point, no amount of soldiers can solve the grievances at the heart of someone else's civil war. The Iraqi people--Shia, Sunni, and Kurd--must come to the table and reach a political settlement themselves. If they want peace, they must do the hard work necessary to achieve it.
Our failed strategy in Iraq has strengthened Iran's strategic position, reduced U.S. credibility and influence around the world, and placed Israel and other nations in the region that are friendly to the United States in greater
peril. These are not signs of a well-laid plan. It is time for a profound change.
This is what we are trying to do here today. We are saying it is time to start making plans to redeploy our troops so they can focus on the wider struggle against terrorism, win the war in Afghanistan, strengthen our position in the Middle East, and pressure the Iraqis to reach a political settlement. Even if this effort falls short, we will continue to try to accomplish what the American people asked for last November.
I am glad to see, though, that this new effort is gaining consensus. I commend Senator Reid for his efforts. He took the time to listen to so many of us from both Chambers of Congress to help develop this plan.
The decision in particular to again begin a phased redeployment, with the goal of redeploying all our combat forces by March 30, 2008, is the right step. It is a measure the Iraq Study Group spoke of, an idea I borrowed from them, an idea that, in a bill I introduced, now has more than 60 cosponsors from the House and Senate and from both sides of the aisle. They have supported this plan since I announced a similar plan in January.
The decision to allow some U.S. forces to remain in Iraq with a clear mission to protect U.S. and coalition personnel, conduct counterterrorism operations, and to train and equip Iraqi forces is a smart decision. President al-Maliki spoke at a conference and warned that the violence in Iraq could spread throughout the region if it goes unchecked. By maintaining a strong presence in Iraq and the Middle East, as both my bill and the leadership bill does, we can ensure that the chaos does not spread.
I should also add that the decision to begin this phased redeployment within 120 days is a practical one. Our military options have been exhausted. It is time to seek a political solution to this war, and with this decision we send a clear signal to the parties involved that they need to arrive at an accommodation.
While I strongly believe this war never should have been authorized, I believe we must be as careful in ending the war as we were careless getting in. While I prefer my approach as reflected in my bill, I believe this resolution does begin to point U.S. policy and Iraq in the right direction. An end to the war and achieving a political solution to Iraq's civil war will not happen unless we demand it. Peace with stability does not just happen because we wish for it.
It comes when we never give in and never give up and never tire of working toward a life on Earth worthy of our human dignity. The decisions that have been made have led us to this crossroad, in a moment of great peril.
We have a choice. We can continue down the road that has weakened our credibility and damaged our strategic interests in the region or we can turn toward the future. The road will not be smooth. I have to say there will be risks with any approach, but this approach is our last best hope to end this war so we can begin to bring our troops home and begin the hard work of securing our country and our world from the threats we face.
The President has said he will continue down the road toward more troops and more of the same failed policies. The President sought and won authorization from Congress to wage this war from the start. But he is now dismissing and ignoring the will of the American people who are tired of years of watching the human and financial tolls mount.
The news from Iraq is very bad, but it can change if we in this Chamber say ``enough.'' Let this day be the day we begin the painful and difficult work of moving from the crossroad. Let this day be the day we begin pulling toward the future with a responsible conclusion to this painful chapter in our Nation's history. Let this be the day when we finally send a message that is so clear and so emphatic that it cannot be ignored.
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