Floor Statement of Senator Barack Obama on the New Leadership Resolution on Iraq
Mr. President, the news from Iraq is very bad.
Last week, a suicide bomber stood outside a bookstore and killed 20 people. Other attacks killed 118 Shiite pilgrims. On Sunday, a car bomb went off in central Baghdad and more than 30 people died. And the road from the airport into Baghdad is littered with smoldering debris, craters from improvised explosive devices, and the memories of our sons and daughters.
The civil war rages on. The insurgents have started to change their tactics. They hide in buildings and along the streets and wait for our helicopters. They have shot down at least 8 U.S helicopters in the last month. More of our soldiers are dying and coming home with their bodies broken and their nerves shattered and a VA system completely unprepared for what they need to rebuild their lives.
It is not enough for the President to tell us that victory in this war is simply a matter of American resolve. The American people have been extraordinarily resolved. They have seen their sons and daughters killed or wounded on the streets of Fallujah. They have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on this effort – money that could have been devoted to strengthening our homeland security and our competitive standing as a nation. No, it has not been a failure of resolve that has led us to this chaos, but a failure of strategy – and that strategy must change.
There is no military solution to the civil war that rages on in Iraq. And it is time for us to redeploy so that a political solution becomes possible.
The news from Iraq is very bad, and it has been that way for the last four years.
We all wish that the land the President and the Vice President speak of, exists. We wish that there was an Iraq where the insurgency was in its last throes; where the people work with security; where the children play outside; where a vibrant new democracy lights up the nighttime sky. But there is no alternative reality to what we see and read about in the news—to what we have experienced these long four years.
There is no military solution to this war. At this point, no amount of soldiers can solve the grievances at the heart of someone else’s civil war. The Iraqi people – Shia, Sunni, and Kurd – must come to the table and reach a political settlement themselves. If they want peace, they must do the hard work necessary to achieve it. Our failed strategy in Iraq has strengthened Iran’s strategic position; reduced U.S. credibility and influence around the world; and placed Israel and other nations friendly to the United States in the region in greater peril. These are not the signs of a well-laid plan. It is time for profound change.
This is what we are trying to do here today. We are saying it is time to start making plans to redeploy our troops so they can refocus on the wider struggle against terrorism, win the war in Afghanistan, strengthen our position in the Middle East, and pressure the Iraqis to reach a political settlement. Even if this effort falls short, we will continue to try to accomplish what the American people asked of us last November.
This new effort is gaining consensus. I want to commend Senator Reid for his efforts. He took the time to listen to so many of us from both chambers of Congress to develop this plan.
The decision to begin a phased redeployment with the goal of redeploying all of our combat forces by March 31, 2008 is the right step. It is a measure the Iraq Study Group called for, an idea I borrowed from them, and an idea that more than 60 co-sponsors, from House and the Senate and from both sides of the aisle, have supported since I announced a similar plan in January.
The decision to allow some U.S. forces to remain in Iraq with the clear mission to protect U.S. and coalition personnel, conduct counter-terrorism operations, and to train and equip Iraqi forces is a smart decision. President al-Maliki spoke at a conference and warned that the violence in Iraq could spread throughout the region if it goes unchecked. By maintaining a strong presence in Iraq and the Middle East, we can ensure that the chaos does not spread.
The decision to begin this phased redeployment within 120 days is a practical one. Our military options have been exhausted. It is time to seek a political solution to this war. With this decision, we send a clear signal—not to our enemies—but to the Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds that they must find their own solution to the political and centuries-old battle being fought on the streets today.
And the decision to make this redeployment part of a comprehensive diplomatic and economic strategy in the region is the kind of leadership we need to re-establish our standing in the world and renew our allies’ respect for our cause.
While I strongly believe that this war should never have been authorized, I believe that we must be as careful in ending the war as we were careless getting in. While I prefer my approach, I believe that this new resolution does begin to point U.S. policy in Iraq and the region in the right direction.
An end to the war and achieving a political solution to Iraq’s civil war will not happen unless we demand it. Peace with stability doesn’t just happen because we wish for it. It comes when we never give in and never give up and never tire of working toward a life on earth worthy of our human dignity.
The decisions that have been made have led us to this crossroads—this moment of great peril. We have a choice. We can continue down the road that has weakened our credibility and damaged our strategic interests in the region. Or we can take a turn toward the future. That road will not be smooth, and there are risks involved with any approach.
But this approach is our last, best hope to end this war so we can bring our troops home and begin the hard work of securing our country and our world from the threats we face.
The President has said that he will continue down the road toward more troops and more of the same failed policies. The President sought and won the authorization from Congress to wage this war from the start. But he is now dismissing and ignoring the will of an American people that is tired of years of watching the human and financial tolls mount.
The news from Iraq is very bad, but it can change if we say enough.
Let this be the day that begins the painful and difficult work of moving from this crossroad.
Let this be the day that begins our pull toward the future with a responsible conclusion to this painful chapter in our nation’s history.
Let this be the day when we finally send a message that is so clear, so emphatic that it cannot be ignored.
Thank you, and I yield the floor.