Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Floor Statement on President's Decision to Increase Troops in Iraq | U.S. Senator Barack Obama

Floor Statement on President's Decision to Increase Troops in Iraq U.S. Senator Barack Obama:

"The fact is that we have tried this road before. In the end, no amount of American forces can solve the political differences that lie at the heart of somebody else's civil war. As the President's own military commanders have said, escalation only prevents the Iraqis from taking more responsibility for their own future. It is even eroding our efforts in the wider war on terror as some of the extra soldiers will come directly from Afghanistan, where the Taliban has become resurgent.

The President has offered no evidence that more U.S. troops will be able to pressure Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds toward the necessary political settlement, and he has attached no consequences to his plan should the Iraqis fail to make progress. In fact, just last week, when I repeatedly asked Secretary Rice what would happen if the Iraqi Government failed to meet the benchmarks the President has called for and says are an integral part of their rationale for escalation, she couldn't give me an answer. When I asked her if there were any circumstances whatsoever in which we would tell the Iraqis that their failure to make progress means the end of our military commitment, she could not give me an answer. This is simply not good enough. When you ask how many more months and how many more dollars and how many more lives it will take to end the policy that everyone now knows has not succeeded, ``I don't know'' isn't good enough.

Over the past 4 years, we have given this administration every chance to get this right, and they have disappointed us many times. But ultimately it is our brave men and women in uniform and their families who bear the greatest burden for these mistakes. They have performed in an exemplary fashion. At no stage have they faltered in the mission that has been presented to them.

Unfortunately, the strategy, the tactics, and the mission itself have been flawed. That is why Congress now has the duty to prevent even more mistakes and bring this war to a responsible end. That is why I plan to introduce legislation which I believe will stop the escalation of this war by placing a cap on the number of soldiers in Iraq. I wish to emphasize that I am not unique in taking this approach. I know Senator Dodd has crafted similar legislation. Senator Clinton, I believe, yesterday indicated she shared similar views. The cap would not affect the money spent on the war or on our troops, but it would write into law that the number of U.S. forces in Iraq should not exceed the number that were there on January 10, 2007, the day the President announced his escalation policy.

This measure would stop the escalation of the war in Iraq, but it is my belief that simply opposing the surge is not good enough. If we truly believe the only solution in Iraq is a political one--and I fervently believe that--if we believe a phased redeployment of U.S. forces in Iraq is the best--perhaps only--leverage we have to force a settlement between the country's warring factions, then we should act on that. That is why the second part of my legislation is a plan for phased redeployment that I called for in a speech in Chicago 2 months ago. It is a responsible plan that protects American troops without causing Iraq to suddenly descend into chaos. The President must announce to the Iraqi people that within 2 to 4 months, under this plan, U.S. policy will include a gradual and substantial reduction in U.S. forces. The President should then work with our military commanders to map out the best plan for such a redeployment and determine precise levels and dates."

con·cept: January 2007