Senate Democrats

REID: IT IS TIME FOR A REAL DEBATE ON IRAQ

“The longer it takes for this Republican Congress to hold President Bush accountable for his mistakes, the less safe America becomes.”

Washington, DCSenate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate, calling on the Republican Senate to finally engage in a real debate on the war in Iraq. In the weeks since Senate Republicans voted to rubber stamp the White House’s failed policies instead of joining Democrats in demanding a change of course, the Administration’s Iraq policy has continued to move in the wrong direction.

With recent events across the Middle East and elsewhere having laid bare the consequences of staying the course in Iraq, the time has come for a new direction.

The text of Senator Reid’s remarks, as prepared, is below.

Mr. President, one-month ago–on June 22nd–the Senate held a debate about the raging war in Iraq.

In that debate, Democrats–led by Senators Carl Levin and Jack Reed–gave voice to the concerns of the American people and advocated that the Bush administration change course in Iraq.

We argued that the administration follow the law and make 2006 the year of transition, with Iraqis taking charge of their own security and government, so that American forces can be redeployed by year’s end.

Our plan would have given the Iraqi people their best chance for success, while also giving America the best chance to confront the growing threats of North Korea, Iran and terrorism.

Our plan would have engaged regional powers to help bring stability to Iraq, and would have reminded the countries of the world of their commitment to invest in Iraq’s long-term economic prosperity.

Our plan would have refocused America’s military, diplomatic, and economic might on the terrorist threats that face us in Iraq and globally, including Osama Bin Laden–who remains free 5 years after 9/11.

And our plan would have tracked closely with the plan of the commanders of U.S. forces in Iraq, led by General Casey, who have developed a similar strategy for success.

Despite that fact, Republicans chose not to join Democrats in a serious Iraq debate. Instead, they put their political needs ahead of America’s security.

As they have in nearly every Iraq debate, Republicans blindly rubber-stamped the President’s mismanagement of the war, and fell in line behind his failed policy.

One month later, here are the consequences of “staying the course” in Iraq:

In the last month, nearly 3,000 Iraqis have died – an average of 100 a day. 100 more killed just yesterday. This is a Civil War.

In the last month, over 50 U.S. soldiers have been killed, and over 250 have been wounded.

In the last month, nearly 10 billion dollars of taxpayer money has been spent.

In the last month, the price of gas has shot past three dollars a gallon

In the last month, North Korea–on the Fourth of July–tested new long-range missiles

In the last month, Hezbollah has terrorized Israel

And in the last month, Al Qaeda may have found a new sanctuary in large swaths of Somalia.

These are the costs of “staying the course” in Iraq, and of a rubber-stamping Senate.

My question today is how long will America be forced to pay them?

The longer it takes for this Republican Congress to hold President Bush accountable for his mistakes, the less safe America becomes.

Democrats have asked for another Iraq debate before the August recess.

We want to give rubber-stamping Republicans another chance to demand President Bush change course in Iraq. Not because we want to score political points, but because our national security demands it.

We live in a dangerous world, but nearly everywhere you look–from the Middle East to Asia–America’s enemies have been emboldened by the Administration’s mismanagement of Iraq.

They are taking advantage of our damaged reputation in the world–and the fact that Iraq has tied our hands–to redouble their efforts and threaten us and our allies.

The Middle East has faced threats and problems for decades. Every American president since World War II has struggled to bring freedom, stability, and prosperity to this region. But the war in Iraq has destabilized the Middle East and taken our attention and our resources away from other threats.

So far, the result of the Iraq war has been instability and no security. One of the biggest winners thus far has been Iran.

Iran continues to thumb its nose at the United States.

The war in Iraq has given it exactly what it wants – greater influence in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.

The longer we go without a strategy for success in Iraq, the stronger Iran gets, and the more confident it is in supporting terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which is now terrorizing Israel.

Israel has every right to defend itself from Hezbollah’s terrorist acts. While it defends itself, the United States should be standing by its side. Unfortunately, because Iraq has tied our hands and exhausted our resources and our reputation, the Bush Administration has had to sit on the sidelines.

The President was ineffective at finding a solution during the G-8 summit, and he went nearly two weeks without dispatching his Secretary of State to the region.

Finally, yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice left for the Middle East.

Hopefully, Secretary Rice’s surprise visit to Lebanon is not a continuation of the Bush photo-op foreign policy, but a serious effort to follow up calls for American leadership. The Bush Administration’s cowboy diplomacy cannot be replaced by couch potato diplomacy.

Democrats have called for a special envoy to emphasize the need for full time leadership.

We need to do the hard work to put Iran back in the box, and bring stability back to the middle-east. That job can be started–but frankly the job can’t be finished–by the Secretary of State during her brief visit this week.

What we need is a full-time special-envoy–someone who can work around the clock with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Europeans, and Israel.

Together, we can bring some good out of this terrible situation, by finding ways to support the Lebanese government, disarm Hezbollah, and ultimately, contain Iranian power.

The challenge will be for this Administration, and its Republican rubber-stamp allies in Congress, to step up and do the job.

Mr. President, we need a new direction.

This week, the Iraqi Prime Minister will meet with President Bush and address a joint session of Congress. When he’s here, we need President Bush to communicate that our commitment in Iraq is not unlimited. He needs to announce a change of course in his failing policy

If we hope to live in a world that is safe and secure, we must end the open-ended commitment in Iraq that is costing this nation over 2 billion dollars per week and requires the deployment of one hundred twenty five thousand troops.

We must transition the mission in Iraq so that we can marshal our resources to the other threats America faces – threats like Bin Laden who remains free 5 years after 9/11, Iran, and North Korea.

And we must ensure the Senate is more than a rubber-stamp for the Executive branch.

There are only two weeks before the August recess. Just six real voting days.

There are a number of important subjects that deserve our attention, but none more important than the war in Iraq. The Senate can no longer turn a blind eye to what is happening.

It is costing us too many lives, too many dollars, and too much of our national security.

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