Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate in favor of the Levin/Reed Amendment to the Defense Authorization Act.
Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“It is morning here in Washington, but dusk in Baghdad. As we debate this war yet again here at home, another day draws to a close for our troops in Iraq. Tonight they will sleep on foreign sand. Tomorrow they will draw yet again from an endless well of courage to face another day of war. Some will likely die. Many will surely be wounded. They will face hatred they did not create and violence they cannot resolve.
“One soldier described the average day as ‘Being ordered into houses without knowing what was behind strangers’ doors…walking along roadsides fearing the next step could trigger lethal explosives.’ The soldier who told that story tragically took his own life while on his second deployment. His name was Private First Class Travis Virgadamo of Las Vegas – he was 19 years old.
“As our troops rise in the morning, so will millions of innocent Iraqi citizens. Today, thousands of Iraqis will abandon their homes and neighborhoods today to flee as refugees to Iran, Jordan, Syria and other countries. Those Iraqis who remain will face what has become the daily norm of life in Iraq: Water shortages. Power outages. The constant threat of violence. And today, we learned, Cholera – an ancient disease that has now hit the ancient land of Iraq.
“Our 160,000 courageous troops and those millions of innocent Iraqi men, women and children, will wake to the 1,646th day of this war. One-thousand-forty-six days and nights of war. Remember – 1.2 million Iraqis have been killed since our military invasion.
“Here in Washington, we have a choice to make just minutes from now. If we reject the amendment before us, this war will rage on with no end in site. Our troops will remain caught in the crossfire of another country’s civil war. And our armed forces will continue to be strained to the breaking point.
“But there is a choice. There can be a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. If we stand together and adopt this amendment, today can be known as the first day of the end of the war. The first day Congress fulfills its Constitutional duty to have a plan to bring our soldiers and Marines home. We can begin to return our troops to safety and give them the hero’s welcome that has been earned and so long in coming. We can refocus our efforts on reaching the political solution that all experts, even the President’s own generals, agree must be achieved. And we can return our focus to the grave and growing threats we face from Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network, and others who have the will and capability to do us harm.
“I stand today with my colleagues, Senators Levin and Reed, in support of this amendment, this terrific piece of legislation – legislation that recognizes the duties of the separate and equal branch of government. I am grateful for the few Republicans who have shown the courage to join us.
“Countless words – reams of paper – and oh-so-much ink have been spent on the Iraq debate here in the Senate. So let me add here this morning that this amendment is a reasonable and responsible way forward. This amendment sets a binding path well within our Constitutional authority and without compromising our national security interests.
“This vote will come down to a question of courage and wisdom. President Kennedy once said, ‘A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality.’
“In just a few hours, the holiest day of the year will begin for those of Jewish faith. In chapter 28 of the Book of Job, we read, ‘But where shall wisdom be found? But where shall wisdom be found?’
“I say that wisdom lies with the American people who so oppose this war. I hope that wisdom is found here on the Senate floor today as well. When our grandchildren and generations to come study this war and their government, I pray that they will be able to say that this was a turning point in a war that has cost us so much.
“I ask my Republican colleagues for the courage and wisdom to join the American people and bring our troops home. Courage and wisdom demands that we do such.”