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Public Statements

9/11 Commission and Iraq

Location: Washington DC

Mr. MCCONNELL. Mr. President, I wish to talk about a couple of events that are in the news: the proceedings of the 9/11 Commission and the debate about the President's policy in Iraq.
As I said last week, I am troubled by the partisanship and public posturing of some members of the 9/11 Commission, both in the hearing room and in TV studios.
I am not the only one who is troubled. The former National Security Advisor under President Clinton, Tony Lake, has said the hearings are "a sad spectacle that has become so partisan."
And Max Holland, a former fellow at the University of Virginia who is writing a history of the Warren Commission, notes that "in some respects" the proceedings of the commission are "definitely a new low." He added that "this is a commission charged with establishing facts and the truth rather than posturing for political gain. But some of the hearings amounted to lecturing and posturing."
Still others, like Professor Juliette Kayyem, of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, who served on a congressional terrorism panel to investigate the 1998 African embassy bombings, have questioned why 9/11 commission members have granted so many interviews. She notes that "they have become too public," and that "tempts commissioners into making assessments and conclusions prematurely."
My understanding of the 9/11 Commission was that it was to impartially determine the facts and make non-partisan recommendations on how to go forward.
So far, the 9/11 Commission's descent into "gotcha" questioning has only highlighted a tendency to fight each other rather than the terrorists. Unfortunately, while American politicians are busy blaming each other, the terrorists are busy plotting our doom.
This partisanship, unfortunately, is not confined to the 9/11 Commission. Clearly, the central front in the war against terrorism has shifted to Iraq. Al Qaeda operatives and foreign terrorists have flocked to Iraq to make a desperate final stand against American troops, and we must see to it that they lose.
On the issue of Iraq, the most important thing this body could do is to have an open and honest debate about how to build a moderate democracy in that country. If Senator KERRY, in particular, believes he has a solution to the difficult challenges facing our troops and diplomats in Iraq, let him offer a plan, rather than simply guessing and criticizing.
Let me be clear: placing the UN in charge in Iraq is not a plan. It is a pure fantasy.
America did the right thing by liberating the Iraqi people from Saddam's tyrannical regime, and by so doing, we are making the American people safer. Succeeding in our efforts to help the Iraqis replace one of the most repressive regimes on the planet with the single most representative government in the Arab World will dramatically alter the political landscape of the Middle East.
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Only if the citizens of the Middle East experience the freedoms and opportunity of democratic reform can we hope to win the war against terrorism. We can kill terrorists one by one in Afghanistan and Iraq, but until we change the individual and personal calculations of thousands of young men who are taught to value death over life, there will always be more terrorists around every street corner. A free Iraq will be an oasis of liberty in the heart of the Middle East and a source of democratic influence on its undemocratic neighbors.
Bringing democratic reform to the Middle East is not a lofty hope but a necessary reality and a long-term strategy. Citizens who can voice their frustrations at the ballot box are less likely to do so by strapping bombs to their bodies.
It is no coincidence that democratic Muslim states such as Turkey and reforming states such as Jordan, Egypt, and Morocco are not state supporters of terrorism, while oppressive states such as Syria and Iran provide aid and succor to international terrorists.
President Bush's multi-tiered approach to combating terrorism is the right one. And it is improving.
Likewise, our Nation's efforts can be improved upon if we conduct our debates with the gravity and objectivity required by the high stakes of the war against terrorism, but forgive me for not being optimistic.
Until now, the critics have proposed two alternatives to President Bush's plan to stay the course in Iraq. One alternative is to cut and run or to cede control to the U.N., whose member states by and large want America to cut and run.
Unless failure is our goal, these are not serious proposals. And they discount the very simple fact that unless America delivers on its commitment to eliminate havens for terrorists and support democracy in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, we will embolden the terrorists who delight and attack when America wavers.
How do I know this? Because Osama bin Laden has told us. In his 1998 "Declaration of War Against the Americans" bin Laden noted, and I quote: "When tens of your soldiers were killed in minor battles and one American Pilot was dragged in the street of Mogadishu, you left the area in disappointment, humiliation and defeat, carrying your dead with you."
Former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger recently noted that Bin Laden also observed: "when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, they naturally gravitate toward the strong horse."
The terrorists are watching us closely, and we must show strength, not weakness. We must not allow Iraq to become another Somalia because going home early is the surest way to embolden the terrorists and ensure the failure of our efforts to bring peace and security to the Middle East.
It is clear to this Senator that al-Qaida wants us to fail in Iraq, just as it wants us to fail in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida terrorists and other foreign Jihadis are aligning themselves with violent Iraqi insurgents whose radical ideology has no place in a democratic Iraq. These zealots want the United States to appear in the Arab world as a weak horse.
The terrorists are watching us closely, and we must show our strength, not our weaknesses, as we confront the security challenges in Iraq that lie between despotism and democracy.
I yield the floor.

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