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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, as to the effect of this amendment, whether it is good or bad, I am here to say I think it is a terrible idea. I don't think it is remotely a good idea. The intent of the amendment is to take care of the troops. I don't question anybody's intent or motivation. If you want to take care of the troops, let them win. What we are about to do with this amendment is something we have never done in the history of this country. We are about to go down the road where the Congress steps into military operations and creates congressional mandates that will basically change the relationship between the commander--the executive branch--and the congressional branch in a way that I think is very ill-suited to winning the next war. It is a dangerous precedent to allow troop rotations to be governed by politicians who are looking for the next election.

Commanders do not get elected. They make decisions in the national security interest apart from the next political election. The moment you put politicians in the role of making troop deployments, then you are allowing the political moment to determine what the outcome of the war will be. Not only is this constitutionally ill-advised and unfounded, politically it is a disaster in the making, to allow any Congress during any war to step in and say troops can only go here and they can't go there, they have to stay home this much--it basically destroys the ability of commanders in the field to get the resources they need to fight and win the wars we send them to fight and win.

The easy way to do this, the right way to do it, is to stop the war. The consequences of this amendment are devastating, in terms of a constitutional relationship between the branches. It interjects politics into military decisions in a way that will come back to haunt this country. The effect of this amendment on the surge will be to kill it. Why don't you say you want to kill it? Why create a situation, through troop rotations, that will have the effect of making sure the surge cannot go forward, because the ripple effect of this ever becoming law would be to stop the surge at a time when the additional troops do matter and are making a difference when it comes to defeating al-Qaida.

The waiver provision--the President of the United States is not going to begin to entertain this. No President would. No President could sit on the sidelines and watch the authority of the Commander in Chief be taken over by the political moment. The relationship this amendment would create between future Commanders in Chief and the Congress and the military is a dangerous precedent because it would allow the political moment to take over troop deployments. The needs of the war at the time would become no greater than the poll for the moment. We cannot win a war that way.

In World War II you were in for the duration--and it is tough. My Lord, the troops need to be praised. They need to be paid more. They need to have better benefits. Their families need more services. But the last thing in the world we should do, in the name of helping them, is to put 535 people in charge of where they go and how they go--because we are not exactly visionary. I don't think we have risen to the level in this Congress of being able to say we are visionary leaders for this country. I think what we have done is reinforced at every turn that this is about the political moment.

Congress is at 20-something percent for a reason. What I can't understand is what the 20 percent see and like.

I ask my colleagues not to make a mistake for the ages. Not in the name of taking care of the troops should we fundamentally put politics in military decisions, as we have never done before. In the name of protecting the troops we should not destroy a surge the troops are involved in that is beginning to defeat the most vicious enemy known to the planet, al-Qaida. The effect of this amendment, regardless of its intent, is to destroy a strategy that we sent General Petraeus off to execute, in a back-door way, and to fundamentally put politics in decisions in a way that will haunt this country forever, so I urge a resounding ``no'' vote.


Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I thank Senator Lieberman for offering this amendment because it is a very detailed list of activities that the Iranian Government is engaging in.

I say the Iranian Government purposefully, because I do believe that parts of their Government are deeply involved in trying to undermine our activity in Iraq. I hope this is something we can rally behind. I hope this is one of the amendments the whole Congress can get behind, the whole Senate can get behind, just as we have with pay raises and other things to help the troops.

I guess I would ask the question a different way: Do you doubt that what Senators Lieberman and McCain have just alleged about Iranian activity is true? Does any Member of the Senate question the accusations that are being leveled at the Iranian operatives and Government vis-a-vis their involvement in Iraq? Is it something we can all agree on?

I would say that if you disagree, come to the floor and tell us why we are wrong. As you have just heard from Senators McCain, Lieberman, and Kyl, the accusations are very serious and they run deep. The accusations basically say that the Iranian Government, through the Quds organization, their military revolutionary, their guard component, is actively involved in undermining the young democracy in Iraq, and actively involved in killing Americans.

If you doubt that, if you disagree with that, come and tell us where we are wrong. If you agree with that concept, this a chance to speak up and say that is wrong. I hope everyone in this body can muster the ability to tell the Iranian Government that what you are doing in Iraq is wrong and must stop.

The question we must ask ourselves as a nation is: Why is Iran doing this? Everyone has a reason for whatever decision they make as a governmental body. Every organization has a reason for whatever decision they make. Iran has a reason. Can we figure that out? Is it a mystery to us? It is not a mystery to me. The reason I think Iran is trying to destabilize Iraq and drive Americans out of Iraq and the region is because Iran's worst nightmare is a functioning democracy on their border.

Iran is a theocracy controlled by some of the most brutal people in the Middle East. The Iranian President is up there in terms of rhetoric with Adolph Hitler. He is saying things in 2005, 2006, and 2007 that you thought were coming out of the 1920s and 1930s. Does he mean it? I think he does.

Senator McCain said the second prize would be a missile with a nuclear weapon aimed at Israel. That is second prize. First prize for a nuclear-armed Iran would be a terrorist organization getting the bomb.

Now, does anybody believe Iran is trying to produce power through a nuclear program for peaceful purposes? Come here and say so. Do you have any doubt that the Iranian regime is trying to go nuclear for all of the wrong reasons? I have no doubt, I have no doubt that they are in Iraq trying to kill Americans so we will leave. I have no doubt they wish the Maliki government and anything like the Maliki government to fail. They are not interested in a democracy in their backyard. Neither is Syria. The biggest threat they can imagine is to have neighbors who can decide their own fate, to have people next door who can vote for their own leaders, where Sunnis, Shiahs, and Kurds come together, form a new economy and a new government. That is a dictator's, a theocracy's worst nightmare.

I completely understood why Iran is doing what they are doing. What I cannot understand is why we are doing what we are about to do. Why would we abandon this infant democracy, even though it is harder than we would like. We have made mistakes that are too numerous to count. But look at our own history. It took us 11 years to write our own Constitution. Four years ago the people in Iraq were living under a brutal dictator. Four years ago the police force had one mission: Take care of the dictator. The Army had one goal: Take care of the dictator.

Now you have people trying to come together and found a new country out of the ashes of a dictatorship. If you look at history, at our own history, you know how hard it is. But let me tell you the payoffs are enormous if we could pull this off. And when I say ``we,'' I mean Americans and the big moderate forces in Iraq. It will transform the region.

Look at what happened to Qadhafi when Saddam Hussein went down. Things matter. If we fail in Iraq, it matters. And all the momentum that would be built by a successful outcome, which I think is very possible, that same--a different type momentum will be created by failure.

Who is the biggest winner and loser in Iraq? If Iraq fails, if the Government collapses and it becomes a chaotic situation, who would win? I would argue that at the top of the list would be al-Qaida, because al-Qaida would have a place to operate. I am not saying al-Qaida dominates all of Iraq. I am saying they will have regions in Iraq where they use fear and intimidation to operate and they will be stronger.

I do believe with all of my heart and soul that if Iraq fails and this new democracy is curbed, the biggest winner will be the Iranian state. They will have influence over parts of Iraq that will make them stronger.

Another big loser would be Turkey, because the Kurdish north will become incredibly unstable. So I do not think it is a mystery as to what Iran is up to. They are trying to destroy a force that presents a great threat to their existence, their existence as a theocracy that suppresses any form of moderation.

We have a magic moment in the Middle East to change it for the better. It is going to be hard, it is going to be tough, and it is going to take sacrifice, but it will work if we stay with a model that has always worked.

What is that model? When people get up and preach the destruction of their neighbor and they preach genocide and they preach hate and division, the model that has always worked is for the good people to say no. Every time someone like the President of Iran has come along with his hateful, destructive message and no one checks it, over time good people die. Eventually, the killing gets to be so great and the carnage is so hard to look at, good people rally to stop it. We have a chance here to head off what I think is a bloodbath in the making. We have a chance to control an Iranian Government that is up to no good. We have a chance to stand with the forces of moderation and affect the outcome in Iraq for the better.

Will they become the United States of Iraq overnight? No. But here is, indeed, good news, that due to the surge, with additional military capability, there is something going on in Iraq that should be encouraging. Al-Qaida flourished under the old strategy. They were able to dominate different regions of Iraq. When they had control of those regions, they did what every thuggish group has done in history. They did what every ideologically driven, hate-filled group has always done. They overplayed their hand. They have done some vicious, terrible things, and the people who have lived under their thumb have said: I have had enough. This new strategy has empowered these people in the Sunni areas of Iraq to turn away from al-Qaida and embrace something new. It has been possible because of General Petraeus and our brave men and women. Indeed, it is good news.

At the end of the day, this war on terror is about choices. Our hopes and dreams are that people in the Mideast, if given a choice, will reject al-Qaida and find a new way. Our hope and dream is that the Iranian regime will not get stronger but weaker. The only way to ensure that it will get weaker is to make sure its neighbors are protected from its vicious behavior. The only way we will ever win this war is not just killing al-Qaida but giving the power to those who say no to al-Qaida to control their own destiny. The only way we will ever control Iran is to stand up to it, just as we had a chance with Hitler and we let many opportunities pass.

Do I believe Iran is going to conquer the world? No. But I do believe Iran unchecked will change the world for the worse. I believe with all my heart and soul that Iranian efforts to get a nuclear weapon are real, and if they are successful, we will have a nightmare on our hands because I think they would use the weapon or at least empower somebody who would use the weapon. That would create chaos in the Mideast. I know that if I am the Prime Minister of Israel, I am not going to sit on the sidelines and watch that happen. I believe if Iran gets more out of control than they are now, you are going to create a nuclear arms race in the Mideast. I believe if Iraq can push through the hard times and we can achieve stability and say no to al-Qaida and contain Iran, momentum will be built for the next generation of those in Iraq and all over the Mideast to embrace a form of living we can tolerate.

There are plenty of people in Iraq--and I have met them, and you have, too--who are dying for their own freedom. What more can we ask? If you want to be a judge in the United States, you go through a confirmation hearing, and it is pretty awful. If you want to be a judge in Iraq, they try to
kill your family. If you want to be a political leader in the United States, it is a pretty tough life, but in Iraq it could end your life.

To those who are willing to raise their hand and say: I am willing to stand up to al-Qaida, I have had enough, God bless you. May God bless you. May the United States have the courage to stand by you. To those who see Iran as a growing threat, God bless you. May the United States have the courage to stand by you. To the young men and women who are going for the third and fourth time, God bless you. You see it better than anybody else. You know why you go back. You go back because you see hope where people here see no hope. You see change where we deny change exists. You see the ability to make the world better through your sacrifice, and you see the ability of passing on a better world to your children. You see the ability to affect things for the better so your kids won't have to do what you are doing. God bless you.

I hope and pray that this Congress, this Senate, and this country can muster the will to do the things that have always worked in the past. When you see evil, don't appease it; confront it. When you see hatred and bigotry, change it. Be willing to do the hard things now so that there will be a better life for those who come behind.

This strategy called the surge has been long overdue. We have paid a heavy price for misunderstanding the nature of what was required after the fall of Baghdad. We have been stubborn, and at times we have been arrogant. But at the end of the day, we are a good people. We stand for the good. The best we have is our men and women in uniform, and they are there in large numbers, volunteering to stay and to keep reenlisting. Whatever mistakes we have made in the past, let's not compound them.

I argue to my colleagues that the biggest mistake is yet to come, a mistake for the ages. That would be to adopt a policy that will make sure Iran wins and this new democracy in Iraq fails, to adopt a policy that will allow al-Qaida to come back stronger than they were before--and they will, as surely as I am standing here speaking--and slaughter those who have chosen to say no to them. If that happens, there will be a whole generation of moderation in the Mideast silenced. That will mean the next generation of Americans will be in the Mideast for a bigger war to fight. It is really literally up to us, as a democratically elected body, as to what course we take.

I do not question anybody's intent, patriotism, or motivation. But don't be blinded by the mistakes of the past. Don't misunderstand our enemy. Our enemy does not want to be misunderstood. Al-Qaida has written out the script for the world. The script says: Get us out of the Mideast, destroy forms of moderation in the Gulf States, and destroy Israel. They have written it down, just as Hitler wrote it down. I believe it can be stopped, just as Hitler was stopped. The Iranian leadership is not hiding where they want to go. They are challenging us to stop them. I hope we will rise to the occasion because we can stop them. The strongest weapon in our arsenal is not just the brave men and women who take up arms but the value system of our country which is so much superior to the hate-filled demagoguery of al-Qaida and to the totalitarian nature of Iran.

These are monumental times which I thought I would never live to see. I never thought in my lifetime I would see the world go backward instead of forward when it comes to standing up to evil. But such is life, such is fate.

To the brave men and women who have reenlisted and gone back for the third and fourth time, here is what I can say about you: History will judge you well because when your country needed you the most, you did not follow the political moment; you followed ideals that will last for a lifetime--truth, justice, and the American way.

God bless you.

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