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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, again, I would like to thank my old friend from Hawaii for his patience so that, as the Republican ranking member of the committee, I may make a statement about the bill itself and about the situation in Iraq. I thank him for his courtesy, and I will try not to take too long a period of time. So I thank my old friend from Hawaii.

Mr. President, we have reached another moment of importance this week in debating the fiscal year 2008 Defense authorization bill. We will help set the course of the Nation's security policy and influence our participation in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Much of the debate, as we all know, will be about Iraq, and before I discuss that and my recent visit, I would note that many provisions in this bill constitute a good defense policy and will strengthen the ability of our country to defend itself.

Under the leadership of my good friend from Michigan, the chairman of the committee, Senator Levin, I think we have crafted an excellent piece of legislation. I think a testament to his leadership is that the committee voted unanimously to report the bill, and it fully funds the President's $648 billion defense budget request.

It provides necessary measures to try to bring under control waste, fraud, and abuse in defense procurement, and, frankly, it makes Members more accountable for their spending in the earmark process.

Again, I thank Senator Levin, the subcommittee chairs, and all the committee members for their work in bringing this issue to the floor.

Very briefly, we have authorized a 3.5-percent, across-the-board pay raise for all military personnel. We have increased Army and Marine end strength to 525,400 and 189,000, respectively. The committee also approved $2.7 billion for items on the Army Chief of Staff's unfunded requirement list, including $775 million for reactive armor and other Stryker requirements, $207 million for aviation survivability equipment, $102 million for combat training centers and funding for explosive ordnance disposal equipment, night vision devices, and machine guns.

The bill also authorizes $4.1 billion for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, known as MRAP vehicles, for all of the Services' known requirements.

The committee has come up with the money to support our troops, and I have no doubt the full Senate will follow step.

Money and policy statements are not all that is required at this moment in our national history. Courage is required--courage, not the great courage exhibited by the brave men and women fighting today in Iraq and Afghanistan, but a smaller measure: the courage necessary to put our country's interests before every personal or political consideration.

In this light, I would like to discuss America's involvement in Iraq, and finally I would like to make several points.

Final reinforcements needed to implement General Petraeus's counterinsurgency tactics arrived just several weeks ago. Last week I had the opportunity to visit with troops in theater. From what I saw and heard while there, I believe our military, in cooperation with the Iraqi security forces, is making progress in a number of areas. There are other areas where they are not. I would like to outline some of their efforts, not to argue that these areas have suddenly become safe--they have not; I want to emphasize the areas have not become safe--but to illustrate the progress our military has achieved under General Petraeus's new strategy.

Last year Anbar Province was believed to be lost to al-Qaida. On the map we see that U.S. and Iraqi troops cleaned out al-Qaida fighters from Ramadi and other areas of western Anbar. Tribal sheiks broke with the terrorists and joined the coalition side. It is a fact that some 16 out of the 24 sheiks in the Sunni area of Anbar Province have now joined with U.S. forces in their commitment to destroy al-Qaida in Anbar Province.

Ramadi, months ago, was Iraq's most dangerous city. It is now one of its safest. At considerable political risk, I point out that I visited, with Senator Graham, downtown Ramadi where the shopping areas were open. I did not visit without protection or without security forces with me. But the fact is, a short time ago it was one of the most dangerous cities in all of Iraq. Attacks are down from 30 to 35 a day in February to zero on most days now.

In Fallujah, Iraqi police have established numerous stations and have divided the city into gated districts. The violence has declined and local intelligence tips have proliferated. Throughout Anbar Province, thousands of young men are signing up for the police and Army, and the locals are taking the fight to al-Qaida. All 18 major tribes in the province are now onboard with the security plan. A year from now, the Iraqi Army and police could have total control of security in Ramadi, allowing American forces to safely draw down.

South of Baghdad, operation Phantom Thunder is intended to stop insurgents present in the Baghdad belts from originating attacks in the capital itself. A brigade of the 10th Mountain Division, which I visited, is operating in Baghdad belts that have been havens for al-Qaida. All soldiers in the brigade are living forward. That means they are in outposts away from the headquarters 24-7, living, working, and fighting alongside Iraqi military. Commanders report that the local sheiks are increasingly siding with the coalition against al-Qaida.

Southeast of Baghdad, the military is targeting al-Qaida in safe havens they maintain along the Tigris River. In Baghdad itself, the military, in cooperation with Iraqi security forces, continues to establish joint security stations and deploy throughout the city. These efforts have produced some positive results. Sectarian violence has fallen. Since January, the total number of car bombings and suicide attacks declined. In May and June, the number of locals coming forward with intelligence tips has risen.

Make no mistake, violence in Baghdad remains at unacceptably high levels, suicide bombers and other threats pose formidable challenges, and other difficulties abound. Nevertheless, there appears to be overall movement in the right direction.

I have no doubt how difficult suicide bombers are to counter. Ask the Israelis. They literally had to seal their borders with Gaza and the West Bank because of the way people who are willing to sacrifice their own lives in order to take the lives of others are able to get through and do these horrendous acts that we are exposed to quite often on our television screens and in our newspapers in America.

In Diyala Province, Iraqi and American troops have surged and are fighting to deny al-Qaida sanctuary in the city of Baqubah. For the first time since the war began, Americans showed up in force and did not quickly withdraw from the area. In response, locals have formed a new alliance with the coalition to counter al-Qaida.

Why are some of these people now turning against al-Qaida? One reason is the extreme cruelty that is practiced by al-Qaida on a routine basis, which has caused many people to reject that kind of extreme violence and cruelty inflicted on the local people. Diyala, which was the center of Abu Mus' Ab al-Zarqawi's caliphate, finally has the chance to turn aside the forces of extremism.

I offer these observations not to present a rosy scenario of the challenges we continue to face in Iraq. As last weekend's horrific bombing indicates so graphically, the threats to Iraqi stability have not gone away, nor are they likely to go away in the near future when our brave men and women in Iraq will continue to face great challenges.

What I do believe is, while the mission to bring a degree of security to Iraq and to Baghdad and its environs in particular in order to establish the necessary preconditions for political and economic progress--while that mission is still in its early stages, the progress our military has made should encourage us. It is also clear the overall strategy that General Petraeus has put into place, a traditional counter-insurgency tactic that emphasizes protecting a population and which gets our troops off of the bases and into the areas they are trying to protect--that this strategy is the correct one.

Some of my colleagues argue that we should return troops to the forward operating bases and confine their activities to training and targeted counterterrorism operations. That is precisely what we did for 3 1/2 years, and the situation in Iraq got worse. Over 3 1/2 years we had our troops from operating bases going out--search and destroy as we used to call it during the Vietnam war--and going back to their bases. That was a failed strategy from the beginning. I am surprised that any of my colleagues would advocate a return to the failed Rumsfeld-Casey strategy.

No one can be certain whether this new strategy, which remains in the early stages, can bring about greater stability. We can be sure, should the Senate seek to legislate an end to this strategy as it is just beginning, then we will fail for certain.

Now that the military effort in Iraq is showing some signs of progress, the space is opening for political progress. Yet rather than seizing the opportunity, the government of Prime Minister Maliki is not functioning as it must. I repeat, the government of Prime Minister Maliki is not functioning as it must. We see little evidence of reconciliation and little progress toward meeting the benchmarks laid out by the President. The Iraqi Government can function. The question is whether it will.

To encourage political progress, I believe we can find wisdom in several suggestions put forward recently by Henry Kissinger. Intensified negotiations by the Iraqi parties could limit violence, promote reconciliation, and put the political system on a more stable footing. We should promote dialog between the Iraqi Government and its Sunni Arab neighbors, specifically Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, in order to build broader international acceptance for the Iraqi central government in exchange for that government meeting specific obligations with respect to the protection and political participation of the Sunni minority. We should begin a broader effort to establish a basis for aid and even peacekeeping efforts by the international community, keyed to political progress in Iraq.

Taking such steps, we must recognize that no lasting political settlement can grow out of the U.S. withdrawal. On the contrary, a withdrawal must grow out of a political solution, a solution made possible by the imposition of security by coalition and Iraqi forces.

Secretary Kissinger is correct when he says ``precipitate withdrawal would produce a disaster,'' one that ``would not end the war but shift it to other areas, like Lebanon or Jordan or Saudi Arabia,'' produce greater violence among Iraqi factions, and embolden radical Islamists around the world.

The war between Iraqi factions would intensify. The demonstration of American impotence would embolden radical Islamism and further radicalize its disciples from Indonesia and India to the suburbs of European capitals .....

What America and the world need is not unilateral withdrawal but a vision by the Bush administration of a sustainable political end to the conflict.

As I said before, withdrawals must grow out of a political solution, not the other way around.

The Shias and the Sunnis and the Kurds:

They need the buttress of a diplomatic process that could provide international support for carrying out any internal agreements reached or to contain conflict if the internal parties cannot agree and Iraq breaks up .....

The American goal should be an international agreement regarding the international status of Iraq. It would test whether Iraq's neighbors as well as some more distant countries are prepared to translate general concepts into converging policies. It would provide a legal and political framework to resist violations. These are the meaningful benchmarks against which to test American withdrawals.

He goes on to point out:

Turkey has repeatedly emphasized it would resist a breakup by force because of the radicalizing impact a Kurdish State could have on Turkey's large Kurdish population. But this would bring Turkey into unwanted conflict with the United States and open a Pandora's box of other interventions.

Saudi Arabia and Jordan dread Shiite domination of Iraq, especially if the Baghdad regime threatens to become a satellite of Iran. The various Gulf Sheikdoms, the largest of which is Kuwait, find themselves in an even more threatened position.

Syria's attitudes are likely to be more ambivalent. Its ties to Iran represent both a claim to status and a looming vulnerability .....

Given a wise and determined American diplomacy, even Iran may be brought to conclude that the risks of continued turmoil outweigh the temptations before it.

He goes on to talk about a multilateral framework.

A forum for diplomacy already exists in the foreign ministers' conference that met recently at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. ..... It is in the United States' interests to turn the conference into a working enterprise under strong, if discrete, American leadership.

He goes on to say:

Neither the international system nor American public opinion will accept as a permanent arrangement, an American enclave maintained exclusively by American military power in so volatile a region.

I believe Secretary Kissinger is correct. I believe he is correct when he bases the premise that precipitate withdrawal would produce a disaster.

Many of my colleagues would like to believe that should any of the various amendments forcing withdrawal become law, it would mark the end of this long effort. They are wrong.

Should the Congress force a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, it would mark a new beginning, the start of a new, more dangerous, more arduous effort to contain the forces unleashed by our disengagement. Our efforts in Iraq today are critical to the wider struggle against violent Islamic extremism. Already the terrorists are emboldened, excited that America is talking not about winning in Iraq but is rather debating when we should lose.

Last week, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaida's deputy chief, said the United States is merely delaying our "inevitable'' defeat in Iraq and that: "The Mujahideen of Islam in Iraq of the caliphate and jihad are advancing with steady steps toward victory.''

If we leave Iraq prematurely, jihadists around the world will interpret the withdrawal as their great victory against our great power. The movement thrives in an atmosphere of perceived victory. We saw this in the surge of men and money flowing to al-Qaida following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.

If they defeat the United States in Iraq, they will believe anything is possible, history is on their side, and they can bring their terrible rule to lands the world over.

Recall the plan laid out in a letter from Zawahiri to Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi before his death. That plan is to take shape in four stages: Establish a caliphate in Iraq, extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq, clash with Israel; none of which shall commence until the completion of stage one: Expel the Americans from Iraq. The terrorists are in this war to win it. The question is, Are we?

Withdrawing before there is a stable and legitimate Iraqi authority would turn Iraq into a failed state and a terrorist sanctuary in the heart of the Middle East. We have seen a failed state emerge after U.S. disengagement once before. It cost us terribly. In pre-9/11 Afghanistan, terrorists found sanctuary to train and plan attacks with impunity. We know that today there are terrorists in Iraq who are planning attacks against Americans. I do not think we should make this mistake twice.

Brent Scowcroft, whom we also know was opposed to the invasion of Iraq in the first place, has said:

The costs of staying are visible. The costs of getting out are almost never discussed ..... If we get out before Iraq is stable, the entire Middle East region might start to resemble Iraq today. Getting out is not a solution.

One of my great heroes and role models and a person whom I have had the great honor of getting to know recently is Natan Sharansky, a man of inestimable courage and knowledge. He recently had a piece that ran Sunday in the Washington Post. The title of his piece is: ``Leave Iraq, Embrace for a Bigger Bloodbath.''

In his statement, he talks about:

The truth is that in totalitarian regimes, there are no human rights. Period. The media do not criticize the government. Parliaments do not check executive power. Courts do not uphold due process. And human rights groups do not file reports.

He talks about the moral divide that separates societies in which people are slaves, from societies in which people are free.

"Some human rights groups undermine the very cause they claim to champion,'' he says.

Consider one 2005 Amnesty International report on Iraq. It notes that in the lawless climate of the first months after Hussein's overthrow, reports of kidnappings, rapes and killings of women and girls by criminal gangs rose. Iraqi officers at a police station in Baghdad said in June 2003 that the number of reported rapes was "substantially higher than before the war.''

The implication was that human rights may not really be improving in post-Hussein Iraq. But the organization ignored the possibility that reports of rape at police stations may have increased for the simple reason that under Hussein it was the regime--which includes the police--that was doing the raping.

He goes on to say:

A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces could lead to a bloodbath that would make the current carnage pale by comparison.

I am quoting from Natan Sharansky.

Without U.S. troops in place to quell some of the violence, Iranian-backed Shiite militias would dramatically increase their attacks on Sunnis; Sunni militias, backed by the Saudis or others, would retaliate in kind, drawing more and more of Iraq into a vicious cycle of violence. If Iraq descended into full-blown civil war, the chaos could trigger similar clashes throughout the region as Sunni-Shiite tensions spill across Iraq's borders. The death toll and the displacement civilians would climb exponentially.

He says:

Perhaps the greatest irony of the political debate over Iraq is that many of Bush's critics, who accused his administration of going blindly to war without considering what would happen once Hussein's regime was toppled, now blindly support a policy of withdrawing from Iraq without considering what might follow.

In this respect, the debate over Iraq is beginning to look a lot like the debate about the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s. Then, too, the argument in the United States focused primarily on whether U.S. forces should pull out. But many who supported that withdrawal in the name of human rights did not foresee the calamity that followed, which included genocide in Cambodia, tens of thousands slaughtered in Vietnam by the North Vietnamese and the tragedy of hundreds of thousands of ``boat people.''

Mr. Sharansky lives in the neighborhood. Mr. Sharansky understands the meaning of the word ``freedom.'' Mr. Sharansky understands the meaning of the word ``sacrifice.''

Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record the Kissinger and Sharansky articles.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
[From the International Herald Tribune Media Services, July 2, 2007]

A Political Program To Exit Iraq
(By Henry A. Kissinger)


Mr. McCAIN. Should we leave Iraq before there is a basic level of stability, we will invite further Iranian influence at a time when Iranian operatives are already moving weapons, training fighters, providing resources and helping plan operations to kill American soldiers and damage our efforts to bring stability to Iraq.

Iran will comfortably step into the power vacuum left by a U.S. withdrawal, and such an aggrandizement of fundamentalist power has great potential to spark greater Sunni-Shia conflict across the region.

Leaving prematurely would induce Iraq's neighbors, including Saudi Arabia and Jordan, Egypt and Israel, Turkey and others, to feel their own security eroding and may well induce them to act in ways that prompt wider instability. The potential for genocide, wider war, spiralling oil prices, and the perception of strategic American defeat is real.

This fight is about Iraq but not about Iraq alone. It is greater than that and, more important still, about whether America still has the political courage to fight for victory or whether we will settle for defeat, with all the terrible things that accompany it. We cannot walk away gracefully from defeat in this war.

General Petraeus and his commanders believe they have a strategy that can, over time, lead to success in Iraq. General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will come to Washington in September to report on the status of their efforts and those of the Iraqis. They ask two things of us: the time necessary to see whether their efforts can succeed and the political courage to support them in their work. I believe we should give them both.

I know that Senators are tired of this war, tired of the mounting death toll, tired of the many mistakes we have made in this war and the great effort it requires to reverse them, tired of the war's politicization and the degree to which it has become embroiled in partisan struggles and election strategies. I understand this fatigue. Yet I maintain that we, as elected leaders with a duty to our people and the security of their Nation, cannot let fatigue dictate our policies.

The soldiers I met last week have no illusions about the sacrifices necessary to achieve their mission. On July 4, I had the great privilege to be present as 588 troops reenlisted in the military and another 161 were naturalized as U.S. citizens. Tragically, two of those who were scheduled to be naturalized as U.S. citizens were killed very shortly before the ceremony.

Those men and women taking the oaths of enlistment and citizenship in the center of Saddam's al Faw Palace, they understand the many hardships made in our name. They have completed tour after tour away from their families, risking everything, everything for the security of this country. They do so because they understand the circumstances that, however great the costs of this war, the costs are immeasurably greater still if we abandon it prematurely. All they ask is that we support them in their noble mission.

I wish we had planned to fight this war correctly the first time. But we can no more turn back the clock to 2003 than we can wish away the consequences of defeat by imposing some artificial deadline for withdrawal. Last week in Iraq, I met the bravest men and women our country has to offer, and not one of them told me it was time to go or that the cause is lost.

They are frustrated with the Iraqi Government's lack of progress. They are buffeted by the winds of partisanship in Washington, talking today of surges and tomorrow of withdrawal, voting to confirm General Petraeus and then voting for a course that guarantees defeat. But in the end, they know the war in Iraq is part of a larger struggle, a war of moderation and stability against the forces of violence and extremism.

They recognize that if we simply pack up and leave, the war does not end--it merely gets harder.

Finally, I would like to give a couple of quotes. General Lynch, who is the third ID commander of the U.S. forces, says:

Pulling out before the mission was accomplished would be a mess. We find the enemy regaining ground, reestablishing sanctuaries, building more IEDs and the violence would escalate.

GEN Anthony Zinni, one of my particular heroes, who opposed the war in Iraq, said:

..... that we cannot simply pull out of Iraq, as much as we may want to. The consequences of a destabilized and chaotic Iraq, sitting in the center of a critical region of the world, could have catastrophic implications. .....There is no short-term solution. It will take years to stabilize Iraq. How many? I believe at least five to seven.

In the Baker Hamilton report, there is a lot of selective quoting. But I would like to point out that they said:

Because of the importance of Iraq, the potential for catastrophe in the role and the commitments of the United States in initiating events that have led to the current situation, we believe it would be wrong for the United States to abandon the country through a precipitous withdrawal of troops and support. A premature American departure from Iraq would almost certainly produce greater sectarian violence and further deterioration of conditions, leading to a number of adverse consequences outlined above. The near-term results would be a significant power vacuum, greater human suffering, regional destabilization, and a threat to the global economy. Al-Qaeda would depict our withdrawal as a historic victory. If we leave and Iraq descends into chaos, the long-range consequences could eventually require the United States to return.

That is page 30 of the Iraq Study Group report.

Finally, I understand, I believe very well, how difficult this issue is for many of our Members. I know the sorrow and the frustration that they and their constituents feel. If I knew a great option as to how we could preserve our Nation's security and withdraw and stop the unfortunate casualties that are incurred by these brave young people, I would embrace it tomorrow.

Part of this debate is going to be proposals that people have made about how we can best leave. I intend to engage in vigorous discussion and debate. I would like to again begin this debate by pointing out I respect the views of my colleagues on this issue.

I understand their frustration. I intend to be respectful of their views, and I hope we can have a debate and discussion on this issue, as we consider various amendments, that will better inform the American people of both points of view. I hope over time somehow we can find a way to come together in this body and in this Nation because this war has divided this Nation in the most terrible way.

I saw it once before. I saw it once before, a long time ago, and I saw a defeated military, and I saw how long it took a military that was defeated to recover. I saw a divided nation beset by assassinations and riots and a breakdown in a civil society. That is why we need, in my view, to try to come together--and I do not know how we do that--beginning with respecting each other's views so we can come together and hopefully end the tragedy of Iraq and at the same time ensure America's security.

I will be saying a lot more on this issue as we continue the debate. I say again, I respect the views of my colleagues. Then, finally, I again pay my compliments to the distinguished chairman of the committee, who put together, as is his wont, a bipartisan package that will ensure our Nation's security in the future, as exemplified again by a unanimous vote of the committee in reporting out the Defense authorization bill.

I yield the floor.


Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, I certainly appreciate the passion of the Senator from California and her concern for the men and women serving in the military and those who have sacrificed a great deal already. The fact is, according to Lee Hamilton and Henry Kissinger, General Zinni, and according to literally almost every--not all--respected national security expert in this country, it is acknowledged that we will have a lot more casualties.

The Senator's concern is emotional and well-founded and very moving. I am also moved by the fact that Henry Kissinger and Lee Hamilton say Congress should drop fixed deadlines for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. As Commander in Chief, the President needs flexibility on troop withdrawals. He will accept no bill that has a timeline or a fixed date for withdrawal. Lee Hamilton says:

The American people have the war in Iraq figured out. They know American troops cannot settle Iraq's sectarian conflict, and they want to withdraw responsibly. They do not want a messy or sudden withdrawal to prompt wider sectarian strife and an escalating humanitarian disaster.

To some degree, I have seen this movie before. I remember when the debate was going on on the floor of the Senate on our withdrawal from Cambodia on December 15, 1970. Mr. Gravel, now one of the candidates for President of the United States, said:

We come back to the argument of protecting American forces. It is simple. Take the forces out and we do not have any problem. It is simple. Do not get into Cambodia. Do not get involved. Then we do not get into anything.

Yes, there was an argument on the floor of the Senate about withdrawal. There was an argument that prohibited the United States from being involved in Cambodia. Three million people were slaughtered--one of the great acts of genocide in modern history. Yes, we cared about American casualties after Vietnam and we withdrew. The North Vietnamese attacked and millions of people got on boats, thousands were killed in reeducation camps, and thousands were executed. I have seen this movie before. I have seen this movie before from the liberal left in America, who share no responsibility for what happened in Cambodia when we said, no, as I quote Senator Gravel:

We come back to the argument of protecting American forces. It is simple. Take the forces out and we do not have any problem. It is simple. Do not get into Cambodia. Do not get involved. Then we do not get into anything.

Mrs. BOXER. Madam President, will the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. McCAIN. I would like to finish my comments, and then I will be glad to yield to the Senator from California.

Continuing to quote Senator Gravel:

What would happen if Cambodia fell tomorrow? It may well fall. ..... Obviously, it would become communistic. We would have some gnashing of teeth, but life would go on. We would have our traffic jams and everything else.

There were no traffic jams in Phnom Penh, Madam President, not a one. In fact, all of the people were killed or told to walk out of the city.

Life would go on. Basically, that would increase the casualties of Americans in South Vietnam. That would be the difference, except the American people are going to get up and say, ``We do not want Americans getting killed at that rate.''

..... it means we are going to put more money in, and if there is a danger that Cambodia will be overrun 6 months from now, we would have to escalate to the next higher step, and they will devise some way of getting American troops in there. Or they would go the mercenary route until they butcher enough of those people.


This, to my mind, is wrong, and adds nothing to our security. Supposing South Vietnam fell, and became totally Communist tomorrow, and then Cambodia fell and became totally Communist; would that appreciably change the life of my colleague from Kansas? Would that change his life?

The debate goes on and on. It is very worthwhile reviewing the debate that went on about Cambodia and Vietnam, not to mention, as I mentioned earlier, the impact of losing a war on America, our military, and others.

The Senator from California and I am sure the Senator from Delaware will speak very movingly about the strain on the families of the men and women and the strain on our troops.

By the way, we do in this authorization bill before us increase the size of the Marine Corps and the Army, and we need to increase it even more because of the challenges around the world--something that some of us have sought to achieve for a long period of time.

But the fact is, when you lose a war, the consequences of failure are far, far more severe on the military than the strain that is put on the military when they are fighting. It is a fact. It is a fact of military history. It is a fact of the war that we lost in Vietnam, which took us well over a decade to restore any kind of efficiency in our military.

I will be glad to yield to the Senator from California.

Mrs. BOXER. Madam President, I thank the Senator for yielding. The Senator made the point that the liberal left wants us out of Iraq. I want to make sure the Senator is aware that the latest polls show 70 percent of the American people want us to have a strategy to leave. And my question is, A, is the Senator aware of that? And, B, the followup to that question is, has the Senator read the various proposals, the Levin-Reed proposal, which I strongly support? There is no precipitous withdrawal.

I think the Senator is setting up a straw man, if you will, here. The fact is, those of us who want to leave want to do it in the right way----

Mr. McCAIN. I ask for the regular order.

Mrs. BOXER. And we also change the mission to continue training the troops, and so on. I want to make sure the Senator is aware of that point.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona.

Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, I thank the Senator from California for that thoughtful question. The fact is, I do read the polls, and if the Senator from California had paid attention to my opening statement, she would have known that I made it very clear that I understand the frustration and sorrow of the American people. I also know a lot of us are not driven by polls. A lot of us are driven by principle, and a lot of us do what we think is right no matter what the polls say.

So I appreciate the concern of the Senator from California about whether I read the polls. I appreciate that greatly. But I do know also that when you send a signal, and I appreciate the Senator's concern--I was talking about the liberal left addressing the war in Cambodia, is what I was speaking of. The record is clear, and I will be glad to provide other quotes of a similar nature. But I do also know that those of us who study history, those of us who spend time in Iraq, those of us who spend time with various leaders, such as General Zinni, such as General Scowcroft, such as Secretary of State Baker, such as many others, we all know what the consequences of a date for withdrawal will be. And it isn't my opinion alone. It is shared by a broad variety of national security experts in this field.

I also point out that it does have an effect on the troops in the field when they see effort after effort after effort to withdraw, to force them to be withdrawn and, obviously, a failure of their mission.

I welcome this debate, as I said earlier. I think it is important to inform the American people. I think it is important to have a respectful exchange of views. And I will continue to respect the views of the Senator from California, but I will tell her that I have seen this movie before, and I have seen what happens when we have a defeated military and we have people who assure us that a withdrawal is without consequences.

I believe, as Henry Kissinger as recently as a few days ago said:

..... precipitate withdrawal [from Iraq] would produce a disaster. It would not end the war but shift it to other areas, like Lebanon or Jordan or Saudi Arabia. The war between the Iraqi functions would intensify. The demonstration of American impotence would embolden radical Islamism and further radicalize its disciples from Indonesia and India to the suburbs of European capitals.

Natan Sharansky says the same thing. A person who knows about oppression, who knows about freedom, who served as a beacon to me and a hero in my entire life says:

A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces could lead to a bloodbath that would make the current carnage pale by comparison.

All of these are statements by people for whom I have the greatest respect. I hope we will heed some of their admonitions.

Madam President, I yield the floor.

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