Menendez Statement On Feingold Amendment To Change Course In Iraq

Menendez Statement On Feingold Amendment To Change Course In Iraq

Washington - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today spoke on the Senate floor in favor of the Feingold-Reid amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill - an amendment that would require the president to redeploy troops from Iraq by June 30, 2008.

Audio of speech (call-in actuality information at bottom of release): http://demradio.senate.gov/actualities/menendez/menendez070920.mp3

Excerpts of speech:

On "Return on Success"

"The reality is that 'A Return on Success' is just 'Staying the Course' by a different name. We've tried this road - we've gone down it for four and a half years, with no turn of the wheel.

Going down this road has diverted attention from Osama bin Laden, who is back in business and roaming free in a safe zone along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. It has fomented terrorism, creating a training ground in Iraq and allowing al Qaeda to regroup to its strongest level since 9/11, according to intelligence estimates. It has stretched our military thin, wearing down troops serving extended tours, depleting our reserves and national guard, and compromising national security with a diminished preparedness to tackle other international threats. It has cost us dearly in national treasure and, most importantly, precious lives.

"Going down this road has not brought stability to Iraq nor made us any safer at home. It is clear we are being driven down a dead end street by an administration without a roadmap for a lasting peace."

On purpose of Feingold amendment

"A majority of Congress and a overwhelming majority of the American public has long been unified behind a course of action that we believe gives us the best chance for success and security - both in Iraq and here at home. And that is the purpose of this amendment.

"A responsible transition of our mission and withdrawal of our troops from Iraq on one hand gives a sense of urgency to the Iraqi government and security forces that is currently absent.Until they actually believe we won't be there forever, they will not take control of their country.

"At the same time, bringing our troops home allows our overburdened military to regroup. It allows us to have capability to respond to other threats in the world that might arise. It allows the replenishment of our National Guard, which is currently stretched so thin that response to disasters in the homeland has been affected.

"Most important about our plan and this amendment - it allows American families who have been separated and stressed by an ill-conceived war, to be made whole again. The alternative is an endless occupation in Iraq with more American blood spilled and no light at the end of the tunnel."

On war in historical context:

"Future generations will harshly judge this war policy and the choice to continue it indefinitely - they will still be paying the price. We have another opportunity, here today, to write an ending to this sad chapter, to turn the page and recommit to strengthening the military and targeting Osama bin Laden. We have the opportunity to change history for the better."

FULL TEXT OF SPEECH, AS PREPARED:

M. President, I rise as one who has voted against this war from the beginning in strong support of the Feingold-Reed amendment.

The last time we gathered here to vote on a change of course in Iraq was July 18 - two months ago.

Since that day, the Iraqi parliament - with its country in the grips of a civil war and with much work to do to achieve political reconciliation - took a month-long vacation.

Since that day, four bombs were set off in concert in northern Iraq, leaving more than 500 dead - the deadliest coordinated attack since the beginning of the war.

Since that day, despite a much ballyhooed cease fire in Al Anbar, Shiekh Abu Risha, our main ally in the province, was murdered... a mere 10 days after he shook hands with President Bush.

Since that day in July when we last had a chance to change course, another 160 sons and daughters of America have lost their lives in Iraq.

Another 160 flag-draped caskets flown to Dover. Another 160 renditions of Taps played at tear-soaked funerals. Another 160 American families that will have an empty seat at the table come Thanksgiving.

So here we are again.

The calendar changes, but the challenge does not.

Yet again, we meet here on the Senate floor to consider another proposal to responsibly and safely transition our mission in Iraq and bring our troops home... out of another country's civil war.

Yet again, as we have heard many times before through the course of this failed war policy, the president and his loyalists in this chamber are using that tired refrain:

"the plan is working, it needs more time, we cannot leave."

Now, as then, these words ring hollow.

The administration that brought us

the search for WMDs,

the "cakewalk,"

and "last throes"

is now pitching "A Return on Success."

But this president lost his credibility on Iraq about the time he stood on an aircraft carrier underneath a banner reading "Mission Accomplished"... almost four and a half long years ago.

The administration may be shopping a new catch-phrase, but we are not buying anything they are selling anymore.

The President, armed with questionable statistics, has presented us an open-ended, no-exit plan for the sons and daughters of America who continue to fight and die in Iraq.

The reality is that "A Return on Success" is just "Staying the Course" by a different name.

We've tried this road - we've gone down it for four and a half years, with no turn of the wheel.

Going down this road has diverted attention from Osama bin Laden, who is back in business and roaming free in a safe zone along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

It has fomented terrorism, creating a training ground in Iraq and allowing al Qaeda to regroup to its strongest level since 9/11, according to intelligence estimates.

It has stretched our military thin, wearing down troops serving extended tours, depleting our reserves and national guard, and compromising national security with a diminished preparedness to tackle other international threats.

It has cost us dearly in national treasure and, most importantly, precious lives.

Going down this road has not brought stability to Iraq nor made us any safer at home.

It is clear we are being driven down a dead end street by an administration without a roadmap for a lasting peace.

And now they expect the American people to buy the no-exit occupation they are selling? The deployment of more than 100,000 American troops for as far in the future as the eye can see? No end in sight?

Today, we are living with the consequences of the Administration's failed policy.

Over 3,700 troops have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the war, including 97 service members with ties to New Jersey.

We have now spent over $450 billion on the war in Iraq, with a burn rate of $10 billion a month.

Frankly, I never believed the Administration's estimate that the so-called surge would only cost $5.6 billion and these new numbers only prove once again that we have been misled.

Despite the meager improvements in the Anbar province cited in General Petraeus' report last week, the situation in Iraq continues to grow worse.

Sectarian violence surrounding Baghdad has surged this past week in connection with the holy month of Ramadan.

At least 22 people have been killed in a series of bombings and shootings in Diyala and Kirkuk.

Moreover, General William Caldwell has reported that there is evidence that Sunni extremist groups in Iraq have been receiving funds from Iran.


And in terms of reconstruction, oil production in Iraq is still lower than it was before the warand Baghdad is getting approximately 7 hours of electricity a day, significantly less than before the war.

How can we be expected to support a war plan about which every independent report portrays a situation of chaos, far away from stability or political reconciliation?

In fact, according to the latest report card on Iraqi progress, the president's war policy is still flunking.

Even if the debatable metrics used to compile the report are solid, half of the benchmarks have not even seen a minimal amount of progress. Half.

And now that it's clear that the benchmarks are perhaps impossible to achieve with our current strategy, we see a concerted effort to play down their importance.

In General Petraeus's testimony it was evident -

the original goals of the escalation, to give the Iraqi government and political factions breathing room to achieve reconciliation, have not been met.

The benchmarks are now an afterthought and success is being measured in different and less stringent terms.

It's a recurring pattern that no longer fools anyone - make a bold proclamation, fail to meet expectations, change the discussion.

Moving the goal posts may appease some in this chamber, but it does not help us achieve the lasting peace that is ultimately more important.

And when all else fails, the president and his supporters often respond to rightful criticism of their disastrous war plan with a question meant to change the subject - "well, where are your ideas?"

But what they fail to realize is that a majority of Congress and a overwhelming majority of the American public has long been unified behind a course of action that we believe gives us the best chance for success and security - both in Iraq and here at home.

And that is the purpose of this amendment.

A responsible transition of our mission and withdrawal of our troops from Iraq on one hand gives a sense of urgency to the Iraqi government and security forces that is currently absent.

Until they actually believe we won't be there forever, they will not take control of their country.

At the same time, bringing our troops home allows our overburdened military to regroup.

It allows us to have capability to respond to other threats in the world that might arise.

It allows the replenishment of our National Guard, which is currently stretched so thin that response to disasters in the homeland has been affected.

Just yesterday, it was announced that half of the Army National Guard in my home state of New Jersey - that's 6,200 soldiers - will be deployed as soon as late next year, almost two years before the deployment was originally scheduled.

That will leave our National Guard at half strength in a state at serious risk for a terrorist attack. That's 6,200 soldiers taken away from their loved ones to be tossed into another country's civil war.

Most important about our plan and this amendment - it allows American families who have been separated and stressed by an ill-conceived war, to be made whole again.

The alternative is an endless occupation in Iraq with more American blood spilled and no light at the end of the tunnel.

M. President, throughout this war, many have drawn the obvious parallels between this failed war policy and another quagmire 40 years ago.

The comparison is valid and important.

It is said that those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.

Because I fear history is being repeated, I want to draw upon the words of Robert Kennedy, who served in this chamber and delivered this statement about the Vietnam War in March of 1968.

He said:

"We are entitled to ask -- we are required to ask -- how many more men, how many move lives, how much more destruction will be asked, to provide the military victory that is always just around the corner, to pour into this bottomless pit of our dreams?

"But this question the Administration does not and cannot answer. It has no answer -- none but the ever-expanding use of military force and the lives of our brave soldiers, in a conflict where military force has failed to solve anything in the past."

M. President, our past teaches us that our current struggle and our current predicament are best solved by a new course.

Future generations will harshly judge this war policy and the choice to continue it indefinitely- they will still be paying the price.

We have another opportunity, here today, to write an ending to this sad chapter, to turn the page and recommit to strengthening the military and targeting Osama bin Laden.

We have the opportunity to change history for the better. I urge my colleagues to begin that change today and vote for a new course in Iraq.

Call-in actuality info:

(800) 511-0763

Actuality number is 1648

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