Senate Democrats

REID: BUSH REPUBLICANS STAND ALONE ON IRAQ

Washington, DC–Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following remarks on the Floor of the U.S. Senate, calling on Bush Republicans to put aside their partisan slogans on Iraq to support a real plan for the future. Democrats, America’s generals, and Iraq’s government are united behind the need to change in Iraq, and it is time for Bush Republicans to explain why they are standing alone behind a failed policy.

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

Mr. President, here is the lead sentence from an article in yesterday’s New York Times.  It ran under the headline of “U.S. General in Iraq Outlines Troop Cuts.” Quote:

“The top American commander in Iraq has drafted a plan that projects sharp reductions in the United States military presence there by the end of 2007, with the first cuts coming this September, American officials say.”

This announcement from our military was one piece of good news for those of us who believe we need a new course in Iraq. But it was not the only good news we received this weekend.

Another encouraging sign came from Baghdad, where the Prime Minister made it clear he also believes it is time to start thinking about the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Together, these reports–one from General Casey and one from the Iraqi Prime Minister–provide a glimmer of hope to those of us who have been demanding a new direction.

Mr. President, this afternoon, I would like the Senate to note how similar General Casey’s apparent plan to withdraw U.S. forces is to the plan put forward by Senate Democrats last week.

Our plan–designed by Senators Levin and Reed–said much the same thing as our military leaders said in the New York Times. Specifically, that it is time for Iraqis to take responsibility for their own security and government, so that the phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq can begin by year’s end.

As we all know, the Republican Majority rejected the Levin/Reed proposal, even though it represents our best chance at making sure our troops in Iraq succeed and Iraq as a country succeeds. And even though it is entirely consistent with the plan of our top military commander in Iraq.

By rejecting our amendment, Republicans made clear they were intent to “stay the course” and stay forever in Iraq.

But Mr. President, I wonder how the Majority feels today, now that that General Casey’s plan is in the open?

Now that it is clear Congressional Republicans stand alone in opposition to troop redeployments–apart from the American people, apart from our military commanders, and apart from the Iraqi government?

Do they disagree with General Casey that we need to begin ending the open ended commitment in Iraq? Do they still believe a plan for reducing our troops levels is defeatist and unpatriotic? Do they have a plan now? Or do they still want to “stay the course?”

These are questions Republicans will have to answer.

The open-ended commitment the Majority advocates is simply not sustainable for our military or the Iraqi people. We must transform the U.S. mission in Iraq and begin the responsible redeployment of U.S. forces this year

The war is now costing the American people upwards of $10 billion per month.  The military has been stretched thin, with every available combat unit in the Army and Marine Corps serving multiple tours in Iraq.  We’ve lost over 2,500 lives – 15 last week alone. We’ve seen more than 18,000 wounded – one-third of them grievously. And Iraq, according to a new report in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, has lost 50,000 of its citizens since 2003!

We cannot continue to pay these costs. Nor we can we continue to try and engage growing threats like North Korea, Iran and Somalia with our engagement in Iraq tying one hand behind our back.

The phased redeployment this year will put Iraqis in charge of their own security and allow many of our troops to be redeployed.  Some will come home and some will be available to deal with other crises, such as in Afghanistan, where the resurgent Taliban threat must be eliminated and where those responsible for the attacks on this nation still apparently roam free.

It’s time for a new direction.

General Casey realizes this.  

The American people realize this.  

The Iraqi government realizes this.  

And it’s time for the Republicans in the United States Congress to realize this as well.

We don’t need a September or October surprise, with the President and Republicans proclaiming victory and announcing troop redeployments just in time for the mid-term elections. 

We need a non-partisan approach that provides the Iraqis and our troops with the best chance for success now, in June.  It’s time to end this game of partisan politics, of blindly rubberstamping the White House, and of publicly rejecting ideas that are being embraced in private by our military leaders.

Our troops and Iraq are too important to fall victim to these political games.

Which leads me to another important subject the Senate must consider–a subject which has also fallen victim to partisan politics–amnesty for terrorists who have killed U.S. troops.   

I have come to the floor many times to discuss rumors that Iraq would grant amnesty to terrorists. Now that rumors of the Prime Minister’s amnesty plan have turned into fact, I must admit, I still have serious concerns.

According to news reports, the Prime Minister will pardon those who engage in “legitimate acts of resistance.”

What are legitimate acts of resistance against those who liberated a nation from a brutal dictator?

Is it a sniper who shoots a U.S. soldier trying to restore power to a Baghdad neighborhood?

Is it placing a roadside bomb next to a convoy of Army civil engineers trying to repair a road in the Sunni triangle?

Is it detonating an improvised explosive device next to a team of U.S. soldiers who were attempting to open an Iraqi school?

I think not.

Just who is this resistance?

What are they resisting – freedom and democracy?

And why should they be given immunity for attacks they have perpetrated against U.S. and coalition forces?

The concept is outrageous and an insult to all the brave American soldiers who serve with distinction every day. President Bush needs to forcefully tell the Iraqi Prime Minister that his Amnesty plan–as it has been reported–is not welcome.

The Senate had the chance to send this message last week, but the Majority strenuously resisted the attempts of Democrats. 

I hope Republicans will revisit that decision in light of the latest developments. And I hope President Bush will stand up for our troops by demanding the Iraqis drop any intentions they may have to let terrorists go free. 

I support reconciliation in Iraq; however, not at the expense of our troops. They have sacrificed too much to see their service dishonored or their safety put at risk.

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