Senate Democrats

Reid: The Time Has Come to Change Course in Iraq

Washington, DCWith the Senate preparing to vote on landmark legislation to change course in Iraq, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following speech in U.S. Senate calling for a new direction from failed Bush Administration policies that have left American troops patrolling an open-ended civil war.

Senator Reid’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.

Mr. President, on the eve of the fifth anniversary of this protracted war in Iraq, the Senate finally considers important legislation to direct President Bush to change the course of this civil war.

As members know, we will have votes on three resolutions:

S.J.Res.9, a Reid joint resolution. This resolution will finally direct the President to change the course in Iraq.

S.Res.107, the Murray resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that no action be taken to undermine the safety of the Armed Forces.

This amendment includes provisions to take care of our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and when they come home.

A vote Murray is a vote for the troops in battle and out of battle.

S.Con.Res.20, a Gregg Resolution on funding for American troops in the field.

The Gregg resolution ignores Congress, and its joint responsibility to wage war.

The Judd Gregg amendment is a feel good amendment. It doesn’t do anything.

But everyone should know if you vote against Murray, you are voting against the troops. A vote against Murray is a vote to sustain activities at Walter Reid.

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As members consider their votes, we all have a choice to make.

Will we continue to support President Bush’s failed policy that has our troops bogged down in the middle of an Iraqi civil war while the enemy that attacked us on September 11 grows stronger, or will we stand with the American people in demanding a new direction?

A direction that maximizes our chances for success in Iraq.

A direction that recognizes that the current policy has pushed our troops and their families to the breaking point.

A direction that sends a signal to the President that this Congress will hold him accountable and will no longer rubberstamp his failed policies.

My hope – my prayer – is that we will stand with the American people. We must have a new direction in Iraq.

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Monday will mark the beginning of the fifth year that our troops have been mired in a war in that far off country.

Five years of war, the President’s current approach in Iraq is not working. The country is closer to chaos than stability. U.S. troops are policing a civil war, not hunting and killing the terrorists who attacked America on 9/11.

Five years of war, the mission has changed. Saddam is gone. There were no weapons of mass destruction. The original mission no longer exists.

Five years of war, 3,200 Americans killed, over 22,000 wounded, over $400 billion spent, and still no end in sight.

The American military–the finest in the world–cannot and should not police an Iraqi civil war. As General Petraeus, our top commander in Iraq, recently observed, there is no military solution in Iraq. The war can only be won through diplomacy, and by forcing Iraq’s political factions to resolve their differences.

The key to success in Iraq is not to escalate the conflict by adding tens of thousands of additional troops to tread down the same road. It is to find a new way forward that gives our troops a strategy to complete the mission, so they can come home.

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The Reid legislation will give our troops the best chance to succeed in Iraq and the larger war on terror. It will direct President Bush to change course in Iraq by changing the mission.

My resolution will immediately transitions the mission and begins the redeployment of our troops in the next 120 days to training, force protection, and targeted counter-terror. Like the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, the goal in my resolution is to remove all combat forces not associated with these missions by Spring of ’08.

My resolution also recognizes a comprehensive strategy is required in Iraq – The phased redeployment shall be implemented as part of a comprehensive diplomatic, political, and economic strategy that includes Iraq’s neighbors and the international community.

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The Senate will then vote on two other resolutions related to our troops and Congress’ role.

I strongly support the Murray resolution and oppose the Gregg resolution.

S. Con. Res. 20, the Gregg resolution, misinterprets the Constitution by saying Congress’ only role is to rubberstamp Presidential decisions involving our troops.

Under the Gregg resolution’s misinterpretation of the Constitution, Congress’s only responsibility with respect to our armed forces is to blindly fund the President’s defense policies, even those that do not make America more secure and undermine our troops.

S. Res. 107, the Murray alternative to the Gregg resolution, strongly supports our troops but also properly interprets the Constitution by stating that the President and the Congress have shared responsibilities for decisions involving our armed forces.

Quoting from that resolution, “the President and the Congress should not take any action that will endanger the Armed Forces of the United States, and will provide necessary funds for training, equipment, and other support for troops in the field, as such actions will ensure their safety and effectiveness in preparing for and carrying out their assigned missions.”

In addition, the Murray resolution makes it clear that the Constitution gives Congress the responsibility to take actions that help our troops and veterans. The Murray resolution says that our responsibility to our troops does not begin and end when they are deployed. Supporting the troops means giving them the proper training before they are deployed and ensuring they receive the proper medical and other support when they return home.

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The way to succeed in Iraq is not to do more of the same. It is to change the mission and change the course.

Voting no today on the Reid and Murray resolutions, is voting to green-light the same failed policy in Iraq.

Voting no today on the Reid and Murray resolutions, is a vote to support President Bush maintaining an open-ended commitment to keep U.S. in the middle of an Iraqi civil war.

Voting no today on the Reid and Murray resolutions, is ignoring the message of the American people on November 7, 2006.

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Mr. President, my hope is that the Reid and Murray legislation will pass the Senate today, and the President will listen–listen and finally find a new way forward.

But if they do not, if the other side chooses to once again rubber-stamp a failed course, if the President does not listen, this Iraq debate will not end

The Senate will debate the war in Iraq until there is a change of course.

The other side may believe our troops and our country are best served by blindly endorsing the President’s open-ended commitment, than to demand he change course.

But Democrats do not.

We are going to do whatever it takes to give our troops the strategy they need, so they can come home.

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