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Providing for the Safe Redeployment of United States Troops From Iraq -- Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, first of all, I, too, want to express my respect for the Senator from Wisconsin. We have a lot of things on which we agree. This happens to be something on which we adamantly disagree. But I appreciate, as someone who pushes the limits in this body, his desire to have this debate because I think it is important.

We just heard the Senator from Michigan talk, and the statement would have been a fairly accurate reflection 2 years ago. But it has nothing to do, and it is not even anywhere close, to what is ongoing in Iraq today.

I think the case could have been made 2 years ago that Iraq was in a civil war. Nobody who has visited Iraq in the last 2 months can make that claim. It is not there. Outside of the Green Zone, I met with people whose daughters had been murdered by al-Qaida. I met with people whose father had been murdered. I met with both Sunni and Shia in the same village, in multiple villages, who had reconciled because they reject the terrorism of al-Qaida.

There is no question lots of mistakes have been made with the Iraq policy. But the claims under which we try to describe Iraq today in light of how it was 12 months ago are fictitious at best and damaging probably in terms of what the truth is.

Do we find ourselves in a very difficult situation? Absolutely. Is this an expensive war? Absolutely. Would we all like to not be where we are? I think almost everybody would agree to that. But probably the more important question for me is, where are we today compared to where we were 12 months ago, and have, in fact, the mistakes of the past been reflected in policies that have changed and bode for a greater future absent additional mistakes?

The desire of the Senator from Wisconsin to have us out in a way that limits our exposure is something that I would love to be able to see. But the practical nature of what he wants to accomplish could not be accomplished in less than 18 to 24 months. I mean, it could not happen. You go and talk to the military; it could not happen without us leaving tons of equipment.

But the point is, we should not dwell on that. The point is, did we make the necessary changes that can create an outcome that gives us an honorable exit from the situation, and does it leave a genocide behind? I firmly believe, having traveled--my trip prior to this one was 6 months before the surge. I want to tell you the difference is like night and day, everywhere I went. I duplicated places I went before.

So with the earnestness that the Senator from Wisconsin drives his position, we ought to reflect on what has been accomplished. I also find it very disingenuous to talk about the cost of this war by the person who sponsored more legislation and greater Government spending than anybody in this body in the 109th Congress, in the first session of this Congress.

The fact is, $349 billion worth of new spending was coauthored by the Senator from Michigan last year, $349 billion, the same Senator who voted to fund the bridge to nowhere.

I happen to agree we ought to be paying for the war. We ought to be paying for the war, and we could easily pay for the war by eliminating wasteful spending.

I would direct you to the Reader's Digest last month where they estimated $1 trillion we are missing in wasteful spending. That is an underestimate. So for us to make a claim of a fiscal nature, by the person who has cosponsored more spending than anybody in this body, and has voted against amendments to decrease wasteful spending, is somewhat less than genuine, I believe.

I think the other thing that needs to be said is we had a debate, and we actually funded the surge. It actually happened. We ought to be talking about what happened with that. To me, it is phenomenal, the difference. I will tell you, I am very--we lost a soldier from Ardmore, OK, a 19-year-old soldier killed by an IED.

How can it be that we can continue to do this unless we are doing it for the right reasons and the right cause? I believe if we walk away, no matter how we got there, rightly or wrongly, if we walk away, what I see happening, from my experience in Iraq in 1993 after the first gulf war and before this one, as a medical missionary, here is what I see happening: If we do what the Senator from Wisconsin wants us to do, and we effectively carry this out, I see an unstable northern Iraq. I see a war between Iran, Turkey, and Kurdistan. I see a marked civil war between Shia and Sunni, with involvement of the Sunni Triangle, Sunni crescent. I see a total destabilization of the Mideast. But beyond all of that, what I see is tremendous additional tragedy that we will have impacted onto the people of Iraq, and in the deaths of 500,000 to 1 million more people.

And the question ought to be: Do we have a moral obligation to fix what we started? The assessment of the Senator from Wisconsin is that we cannot fix it so therefore we ought to come home, we ought to get out, that it was a mistake to begin with; it does not matter what has happened in the past other than we learned from it.

The question is, what can we do about the future? I want to tell you, I do not buy everything the Pentagon says. I am pretty critical across their spending, across everything else. I accused them of lying to me on the training of Iraqi troops in 2006.

But when you see what has been transformed in the training of troops in Iraq, which is comparable to our training of our own troops over the same period of time, and what they have accomplished both in terms of synergism with both their equipment, their military leaders, and their troops, and they walk out of training as a Sunni and Shia together and you see that and you say we are going to walk away from that, we are not going to finish it, we are going to allow this thing to collapse--and it will.

So then the question is, have we made another mistake in not fulfilling an obligation in something that we started? I do not believe we can do that. If we do that, I think the blood of every Iraqi that is displaced or dies after that is on us--not on the Taliban, not on al-Qaida, not on Shia extremists, not on Sunni extremists but on us.

We can win. We will win. We can. There is political progress all across the board, locally and at the regional and at the national government level. I would remind the Members of this body how long it took us to get a functioning government, a functioning government after our independence, one that was based on a constitution, one that was based on the rule of law. It was not smooth sailing. We did not do it in a short period of time. And we did not even get it right when it came to equal rights of individuals. We did not get it right. Yet we are frustrated with that.

I see a new day in Iraq. It is not over. It is dangerous, it is still very dangerous. But the progress, the improvement, the reconciliation between Shia and Sunni is unbelievable.

In province across province, the Shia, the Sunni awaking, the sons of Iraq phenomenon, the coordination of local governments across ethnic lines is in stark contrast with what was there a year and a half ago. Do we just abandon that? Think about the message it sends if we are not going to create a stable Iraq.

What immediately do they do? They immediately start going to their own intrinsic ethnic corner. We divide. We send the Kurds one way, the Shia one way, and the Sunni one way. We create a holocaust.

I want to say publicly I have had a lot of misgivings about what our country has done in the Middle East. But I have no misgivings at all at this time about the course we are on. T he leadership of General Petraeus, the leadership of Ambassador Crocker, the leadership of the people within Iraq, sheikhs within small communities risking their lives every day to stand up and say: I will join hands with a Sunni, with the Shia. I am going to reject al-Qaida and we are going to get our lives back together--that is happening. That is a dynamic that is forcefully happening because people want peace.

This will eliminate that movement. This will create insecurity. This will drive people to their corners. This will drive people to extreme positions. In fact, what we have accomplished in the last 12 months will be denuded and neutered out to the point where we will have created a worse situation rather than a better one.

To the soldiers and families who have sacrificed so much in this war, I say thank you from my family. The real problem of the administration, the mistake they made, is we should all be sacrificing for this war, not just our military families. We have refused to do that as Members of the Senate by making sure that we pay for this war, by getting rid of things that are lower priorities, getting rid of things that are duplicative. We didn't do that. We said, we will charge it to our kids. We can't ruffle any feathers and make the hard choices.

The Senator from Michigan said: We do things based on value and priorities. That is baloney. We do things based on how we get reelected, with the exception of the Senator from Wisconsin, who is one of the most honorable men in this body . He never thinks about that issue. He thinks about what he thinks is right. But the way we do things around here is what is politically expedient, not what is right. For her to claim that that is how we do things, when we can't even get rid of billions of dollars in duplicative programs, $8 billion worth of buildings that the Pentagon wants to get rid of because it might ruffle some politician's feathers somewhere--we don't do things based on priority or on value. We do it on political expediency.

Again , I thank the troops and the families who are sacrificing. I am amazed at the progress that has been made, literally amazed. I believe we ought to honestly look at that before we walk a different direction. We ought to truly reassess where we are. It is a big price. I know it is. We have paid a big price in this endeavor. It is fair to question whether we should continue it. But it is not fair to not look at what has happened over the last 12 months in a realistic and open assessment that says, is there light at the end of the tunnel? I will tell you, there is. Individually, in talking to Shia and Sunni families while over there, outside of the Green Zone, walking among them without protection, seeing the hope in their eyes that finally things are going to get back to where they can take care of their families, move ahead with their goals and their personal lives, the leadership exhibited by our military, not just in leadership roles but all the way down to the private and what they are doing and how they are doing it and how they are carrying it out in Iraq, is something we can all be proud of. I don't think we should jeopardize what they are doing by voting for this bill. It is great for us to question. Sometimes we haven't done that well enough. But to ignore the reality of what is happening today in Iraq and the trend lines and the movement lines and the economic growth lines and the power lines and the oil production lines and the agreement among Shia and Sunni at all of these regional and provincial levels, to ignore that is a grave mistake on our part.

It is my hope that we don't carry forward with this idea. It is also my hope that we will truly recognize, not be blinded, not be sold a bill of goods. I am not suggesting that. We should ask the tough questions. But to deny the marked change, the tremendous progress, the tremendous freedom, the tremendous lifting of the burden on the Iraqi people that has happened in the last 12 months and not say that means something and not say that that means we are going absolutely in the right direction--we haven't won this war, but we certainly have them on the run. We certainly have the Iraqi people enamored with us to the point where we are not despised. We are welcome now in the vast majority of Iraq. In 95 percent of Iraq we are welcome because we are a liberator of them from al-Qaida, not from Saddam but from al-Qaida, the one who cut their 8-year-old daughter's head off because she looked at them wrong, the ruthlessness of radical Islam. That is what is at stak e right now. We can differ in our approach on how we might battle that, but this is the heat sink right now. Iraq is the heat sink for al-Qaida. It is where they are, where they are coming.

We are winning. The Iraqi people are winning, and the Iraqi troops are winning. Let's not destroy that.

I yield the floor.


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