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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I would like to use about 10 minutes or so, if I may, to discuss what I think is an important topic for the country. The Senate has allowed itself to discuss progress in Iraq--or the lack thereof, depending on how you view these things--and to discuss a measure proposed by my good friend, Senator Russ Feingold, that would require us to withdraw troops, I think within a 120-day period, leaving troops behind in a very limited role and basically telling the world and our enemies we are leaving Iraq, and the people left behind would have a very limited function in terms of what they could do--a complete change in strategy. It would be saying to the Petraeus strategy: It failed, it didn't work, and we are going to replace the Petraeus strategy with the Feingold strategy.

Now, as much as I admire Senator Feingold--and that is a great deal, to be honest with my colleagues, because he takes his job very seriously, as do the rest of us, but he is willing to do and say things very few people will do or say, and I think that makes the country a better place. Sometimes I disagree with him. This is an occasion where I find the Feingold strategy replacing the Petraeus strategy would be a disaster for the country, the region, and our national security interests, and I say that with all due respect.

Now, one of the central theses of Senator Feingold and others who support this measure is that Iraq is a side venture, not part of the war on terror, and our presence there is making us less secure, not more, and that we have taken our eye off the ball. I would argue that the enemy doesn't see it that way. It is my belief and contention, and has been for a very long time, that Iraq has become the central battlefront in the war on terror. That happened when al-Qaida decided to go into Iraq after the fall of Baghdad and undermine this attempt at moderation in Iraq, tried to drive us out, and a year ago this time, I was worried that they were going to succeed.

For about 3, 3 1/2 years, we got it wrong in Iraq. We didn't have enough troops. We had a training model that was not delivering quality in numbers in terms of the Iraqi Army. The insurgency was thriving. There was a lawless period. You had the Abu Ghraib episode that allowed al-Qaida to go on a recruiting drive all throughout the Mideast.

Thank God we changed strategy this time last year. I wish to compliment the President, and all of those--particularly Senator McCain--who spoke loudly and clearly that we needed to change strategy. It wasn't a debate about changing in Iraq. Everybody wanted a change. Some wanted to just leave and worry about the consequences later. Senator McCain and others said: No, we need not only to stay, we need to put more troops on the ground and come up with a way to suppress this insurgency because without security there will never be reconciliation. I think the results are in, and they are overwhelming, and they exceed all expectations I had in terms of success for the surge.

But to the central point: If you believe, as I do, that this is one battle, the central battle in regard to a global struggle, not an isolated event, it is a battle you can't afford to lose. If Iraq fell apart, broke into three parts, became a chaotic state, the national security implications for our Nation are enormous.

They start with the following: Al-Qaida would be on every street corner in the Mideast saying that we beat America and ran them out of Iraq. What would that do in terms of a chilling effect on moderation in the region? Who would be the next group of moderates to stand up and say: Come help me fight against extremism, America, after our behavior of leaving Iraq, and those who helped us to try to make Iraq a better place, a new place? They would surely get killed. If we left Iraq, withdrew, gave the battle space in Anbar to al-Qaida totally, they would have killed everybody who tried to help us, and it would have taken decades to get over the consequences of that mistake. You cannot leave people behind to be slaughtered by terrorists and expect to ever win this war.

Here is what bin Laden said in 2002 about Iraq:

I now address my speech to the whole of the Islamic Nation. Listen and understand. The most important and serious issue today for the whole world is the Third World War. It is raging in the land of the two rivers. The world's millstone and pillar is Baghdad, the capital of the caliphate.

Bin Laden did not get the memo that Iraq is not about a global struggle. Clearly, from his point of view, it is the defining battle in terms of his goals and ambition for the al-Qaida movement. The reason al-Qaida came into Iraq was to make sure we would lose, that moderation would fail. Their worst nightmare is for a mother to have a say about her children, and if we can pull this off in Iraq, where the different groups--the Sunnis, the Shias, and the Kurds--can live together under the rule of law, have a central government and local governments that work together and allow people to raise their children without fear and prosper together and a woman has a say about her children, that is an absolute nightmare for al-Qaida. They see the outcome in Iraq as very important to their agenda. I hope we are smart enough to see the outcome in Iraq in terms of our own national security because I have said a thousand times, you cannot kill the terrorists and win this war. Killing terrorists is a part of this war. The war is an ideological struggle. The high ground in this war is the moral high ground. That is why Abu Ghraib hurt so badly. That is why we have to, at every turn, showcase our values as being different from our enemy's. When we capture an al-Qaida operative, it becomes about us. The rules we employ in the capture of an al-Qaida member or any other terrorist showcases who we are, and we cannot use as an excuse they do terrible things and they don't believe the same things we do; therefore, we are going to throw the rules out and be like them. That is the one way to lose this war.

I am proud of my Nation standing by moderation in Iraq. I am sorry to the American people and all those who have gone to Iraq many times that we got it wrong so long. But wars are that way. The model we had after the fall of Baghdad allowed the enemy to grow and become stronger, and it made it difficult to reconcile the country, which is in our national interest.

A year ago about this time, a new general took over with a new strategy: 30,000 troops were interjected into the battle space. But it is not about 30,000 troops. This general understood how to win. We took the troops out from behind the walls, and they started living with the Iraqi Army and police forces in neighborhoods. We took each neighborhood block by block, securing people in a way where they felt comfortable enough to talk to us about their future, about their hopes, and about their dreams, and over time they helped us.

This infusion of military might into Anbar, where al-Qaida was roaming freely, allowed people who tasted the al-Qaida life to say: I don't want to live this way. The Sunni awakening was an effort by a very brave sheik, who is now dead, to break loose from the al-Qaida agenda and come to the American and coalition forces and say: I would like to align with you because this is not the way I want to raise my kids, these are not the hopes and dreams I have for my people in Anbar.

They killed him, and if you go to Anbar, there are photos of this guy everywhere. They killed him, but they did not kill his idea. As a matter of fact, at his funeral and thereafter, the people of Anbar have upheld this sheik as a model of the future, as a hero. Al-Qaida overplayed their hand. They tried to intimidate everybody around them. They are trying to intimidate us: Do it my way or die. Do it my way or watch your children die in front of you. Do it my way or we will burn your children right in front of you. Live my way religiously or lose everything you have, including your life.

You know what, the good news from the surge, beyond all other news, is that a Muslim population had a chance to experience this al-Qaida life and said no. That, to me, is the single most important event that has happened in the last year, that Muslims would turn on al-Qaida and fight them and say: You are wrong; this is not what the Koran teaches, this is not the way we are going to live our lives. And they have done something about it.

The sheik has given his life. Many others in Anbar have given their lives to make sure al-Qaida does not win. Al-Qaida lost in Anbar because we had enough military presence, along with a new attitude of the people who live there, to beat these guys. They are not 10 feet tall. They are thugs, and history is full of people such as this who have had ideas that certain groups are not worthy of living. The Nazis had their view of who could live and who would die, and it was based on racial stereotyping, prejudice. There have been other episodes in history where religious bigotry determined who lived or died.

The way you beat these people is not for the good people to come home and leave the battlefield to the enemy; it is for the good people to rally around the values that make this place worth living and fight these people. The way you win this war is you align yourself with people willing to take on the terrorists and extremists and fight back against al-Qaida, and that is what General Petraeus did. When the awakening occurred in Anbar, we put tanks around every leader we could find and told them: We are not leaving; we are here with you.

The Sons of Iraq is an organization that sprung up from the population, where almost 80,000 people now belong to this organization where they patrol the streets at night to make sure al-Qaida does not come back. Anbar is a completely different place. Al-Qaida has been diminished and defeated in Anbar, and they are moving to other places in Iraq. They are not defeated yet, but they are certainly on the run.

For America not to appreciate what has happened here, for this Congress not to celebrate what has happened in the last year I think is sad. We should be using this 30 hours to say to General Petraeus, thank you; to Ambassador Crocker, thank you; to all those under your command, thank you for having the courage and the wisdom to turn this around, and we acknowledge that you are turning it around. We know you have a long way to go yet, but thank God you have turned the corner, and we have turned the corner. And the corner I wanted to see turned was when the people of Iraq would stand up to the extremists and fight back with our help.

GEN David Petraeus said in May of 2007:

Iraq is, in fact, the central front in al Qaeda's global campaign.

GEN Michael Hayden, Director of the CIA, said in January 2007:

I strongly believe [that U.S. failure in Iraq] would lead to al Qaeda with what it is they said is their goal there, which is the foundations of the caliphate, and in operational terms for us, a safe haven from which to plan and conduct attacks against the West.

It is clear to me Iraq is a central battlefront. It is clear to me about 3 years we were losing. It is abundantly clear to me now that we are winning. The Iraqi people have stepped to the plate and produced results that are astonishing, and it has come from a new strategy that has produced better security.

The monthly attack levels have been decreased by 60 percent since June of 2007. How did that happen? This new strategy of General Petraeus of getting military power out into neighborhoods, staying on the insurgency, giving them no rest, emboldening the citizens to fight back has paid great dividends. It is still a dangerous place but what a dramatic change: a 75-percent drop in civilian deaths since the beginning of 2006. From January to December, sectarian attacks and deaths have decreased over 90 percent in the Baghdad security district. How did that happen? We had a plan to secure the capital city by getting out from behind walls, going into neighborhoods, providing firepower and assistance, and the Iraqi people have done their part.

Coalition forces cleared approximately 6,956 weapon caches in 2007, over twice what we found in 2006. How? People are telling us where the weapons are because they want a new country. They see us as a solution to their problems, not the problem, and they are coming forward telling us things they did not tell us last year because they have sensed momentum, they feel as if they are safer and they don't want to go back to the old ways and they are helping us help them.

Iraqi security forces in the last year are responsible for security in 10 of the 18 Iraqi provinces. One of the biggest stories in this year has been the improvement of the Iraqi security forces, particularly the army. The national police have been a real problem. Even they are beginning to turn around. There are 100,000 new members of the Iraqi security forces, many of them being able to operate independently from us, for a total of a half a million people in uniform.

The Iraqi people have stepped to the plate. They are helping themselves in a way I admire. The casualty rate among Iraqis is three times that of our American and coalition forces. Every American death we mourn, but the reenlistment rates among American soldiers, military members who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is through the roof. What do they see that we don't? Why do they go back so many times? I know what I hear. I hear overwhelmingly: Senator Graham, I want to get this right so my kids don't come. I hear from the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines: If we win here, it makes us safer at home. It is hard, it is tough, it is difficult, and they keep going back because they know the outcome in Iraq affects us at home. And God bless them for doing it.

One brief statement: Well done. You have exceeded every expectation I have had. You have done a marvelous job. You performed your mission beyond any measure. You are involved in the most successful counterinsurgency in military history. All those who have taken part will go down in military history. We should be celebrating as a nation what I think is one of the biggest military achievements in the history of the world. But we cannot quite do that. I don't know why.

Al-Qaida is diminished but not defeated, but they are on their way to being defeated.

The big debate has been, what will make the Iraqi politicians get their act together. If we threaten to leave them there, they will start doing business in a better way. I have always felt that if you threaten to leave Iraq, every moderate will be chilled and every extremist will be emboldened. If you want to bring back life to a diminished enemy, let them read some headline somewhere in the world: ``America begins to withdraw,'' as this Feingold resolution would suggest or as Senators Obama and Clinton would have suggested. You would literally breathe life into a defeated, diminished enemy. It would be music to their ears. For every moderate who has sacrificed, lost family members as judges, as lawyers, as policemen, as army members, it would be heartbreaking.

I cannot believe people do not understand the consequences to the world if the American Congress said: We are going to leave Iraq in a set period of time. I cannot believe we do not understand how that would resonate throughout the world. It would be music to an enemy that is really on the run. It would rip the heart out of those who brought this about. And you want political progress in Iraq to go forward? Tell al-Qaida we are going to leave and see what kind of progress we get in Iraq.

The politicians in Baghdad have been frustrating to deal with, sort of similar to here at home. But you know what. I am here to say something I did not think I would say last year: Well done. The debaathification law has passed. What does that mean? It means the Shias and the Kurds have welcomed people back from the Sunni Baathist Party that ran the Government under Saddam to their old jobs, made them eligible for their old government jobs, and they are saying to their Sunni Baathist neighbors: Let's build a new Iraq; let's not look backward.

Can you imagine how hard, I say to Senator Lieberman, that must have been, to have grown up in Iraq, and the people who ran the Government under Saddam Hussein made their life miserable and you have a chance to be on top; you can fire them all and make them miserable, and then suddenly, after a lot of dying, you realize: Wait a minute, we have to go forward, not backward. The debaathification law is a huge step toward reconciliation.

A $48 billion budget was passed.

Politicians in the Congress can relate to one thing: money. We are always fighting to get our fair share for our State and our districts. The $48 billion budget that was passed has money allocated to every region of Iraq, and reconstruction can now go forward. And the ministries delivering the money are better than they have ever been but with a long way to go.

The fact that Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds would share the wealth of the country with each other seems to me to suggest that they view Iraq as a country. And to give money to someone who may have been involved in trying to kill your family just months ago is very difficult to do. But they have overcome, I think in great measure, the biggest impediment that every country eventually has to overcome--and that is forgiveness. There is a long way to go in Iraq, but we are a lot closer to getting there than we were last year. And the only way we are going to lose is for Washington to screw it up.

The provincial powers law, it passed the Parliament and went to the Council of Presidents. It will allow local elections in every province beginning in October. And I predict if that law becomes reality, Sunnis will vote in large numbers, and they boycotted in 2005.

The central government run by the Shias came to the conclusion that we are going to decentralize power; we are going to let each province elect their local leaders, instead of trying to micromanage everything from Baghdad. You know what that means? Democracy.

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Menendez). The Senator is advised by the Chair that there is a preceding order to recess at 12:30.

Mr. GRAHAM. To be continued. I yield.

Mr. LIEBERMAN. Mr. President, with the indulgence of the Chair, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in morning business on another subject for up to 10 minutes.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. GRAHAM. May I have 2 minutes to finish my thoughts?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. GRAHAM. The provincial election law was vetoed by Abdul Mahdi, a Shia Vice President, over the issue of whether governors elected to the province can be replaced by a majority vote in the Parliament. That is going to their Supreme Court. It is a unique and novel issue, and, to me, it gives great hope because they are resorting to the law rather than the gun. It is constitutional democracy playing out in front of us. It is something we should celebrate.

Amnesty: There are thousands of people in the jails of Iraq now, mostly Sunnis, who have been tied to the insurgency. The Parliament passed a law that will allow a community of Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds to go through the files of the people in jail and say to some of those who have taken up arms against the Government: Go home, my brother, and let us build a new Iraq. That is a stunning development.

Now, how did all this happen? Iraq is war weary. People are tired of living in fear. We have given them better security; we put al-Qaida on the run, which has been trying to stir up trouble ever since Baghdad failed; and people have a sense of economic and political hope they have never had before. Oil revenues are up, have doubled. Oil production is up 50 percent. The economy is moving forward at a very fast pace. All of this is due, in my opinion, to resolve, to the surge, to the bravery of the Iraqi people and the American military and coalition forces who brought it about.

To my friends and colleagues in Congress: We are going to win in Iraq. Finally, we have a model that will lead us to a stable and functioning government rejecting terrorism and aligning with us in the war on terror. And the only way we will lose now is for Washington to lose its will and undercut this model. I hope we understand what this debate is about. It is about winning and losing a battle that we can't afford to lose.

I yield the floor.

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