|Iraq exit strategy needed immediately
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy
The following is a statement as prepared for delivery by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., during the U.S. Senate’s debate over the development of an exit strategy from Iraq. The senator delivered the remarks on March 14, 2007.
This is a defining moment. The American people are watching. The world is watching. The issue is clear: will we stand with our soldiers by changing their mission and beginning to bring them home? Or will we stand with the president and keep our soldiers in Iraq’s civil war?
History will judge us. We can either continue down the president’s perilous path or embrace a new direction. If we don’t change course, we know what lies ahead — more American casualties, more death and more destruction.
A new strategy that makes the Iraqis less reliant on our military offers the best way forward.
More of the same misguided policy will result in more of the same tragedy for our military. Let’s try a new course — and let’s try it now.
We must proceed because Iraq is the overarching issue of our time.
We are being told that we need to be patient. We are being told we have to give the latest escalation a chance to succeed.
But we’ve heard it all before.
We’ve heard for years that this administration has a plan for success. We’ve heard for years that progress is just a few months away. We’ve heard for years that we’ve turned a corner.
But the plans for success keep getting tossed aside for new plans. The timelines for progress keep getting extended. And we’ve turned so many corners that we’ve ended up back where we started — trying to control Baghdad.
It is time to change direction.
There are too many parents who have buried their children. Too many children left without their father or a mother. Too many soldiers missing arms, legs, eyes and ears.
It’s time to change course, let the Iraqis step up to the plate and take responsibility for their own future, and begin to redeploy our troops out of Iraq.
Those of us who opposed the war are used to the administration’s attacks. They have questioned our patriotism and called us defeatist. When we challenged the president’s misguided policy, they accused us of having political motives and being partisan. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. Our motives have always been clear: to protect the lives of our soldiers. The American people are far ahead of the administration.
We have an obligation to stand up for our troops and stand up to our president when he stubbornly refuses to change course in Iraq. We are meeting our responsibilities by changing the mission of our military, not micromanaging the war.
The recent hearings on Walter Reed should instruct us here today. They tell us how little faith we can put in this administration. The very people who hide behind the troops when their policies are questioned have failed to keep faith with our wounded soldiers.
But just as importantly, the hearings on Walter Reed remind all of us of the human costs of the war. This administration has done all it can to hide them from us. They have forbidden photographs of the coffins flown back from Iraq. The president has avoided attending the funerals of the fallen. And the tours of Walter Reed never included Building 18.
But the hearings on Walter Reed swept away all the spin and camouflage, and they put our wounded soldiers back where they belong — at the heart of our debates about the war. At the end of those hearings, everyone agreed that the Army had failed these brave soldiers. But we failed them long before they arrived at an Army hospital.
This administration failed them when it trumped up the intelligence in order to make a case for war. It failed them when it sent too few troops with too little armor. It failed them when it turned the reconstruction of Iraq into a political science project. And we in the Senate will fail them today if we do not vote to change course and begin to bring our soldiers home.
At the end of this debate, the American people will know where each of us stands. On our side of the aisle, we stand with the American people. The voters told us in November to change course and begin to bring our troops home, and that's what we're going to do.
We stand for our constitutional system, in which the Congress speaks for the people in matters of war and peace, and can require that the president listen to them. And finally, we stand with our troops.
We alone are insisting on a policy worthy of their courage and sacrifice. Peace and progress in Iraq must be earned by Iraqis and their neighbors.
We must no longer send our brave soldiers to an uncertain fate on the streets of Baghdad. We must begin to bring them back home, and to the hero’s welcome they have earned.