Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, I-CT, delivered this speech in the Senate as that body considered passing a bill setting a timetable for withdrawal in Iraq.
In short, it means telling our troops to deliberately and consciously turn their backs on ethnic cleansing, to turn their backs on the slaughter of innocent civilians—men, women, and children singled out and killed on the basis of their religion alone. It means turning our backs on the policies that led us to intervene in the civil war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the principles that today lead many of us to call for intervention in Darfur.
For most of the past four years, under Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, the United States did not try to establish basic security in Iraq. Rather than deploying enough troops necessary to protect the Iraqi people, the focus of our military has been on training and equipping Iraqi forces, protecting our own forces, and conducting targeted sweeps and raids—in other words, the very same missions proposed by the proponents of the legislation before us.
That strategy failed—and we know why it failed. It failed because we didn’t have enough troops to ensure security, which in turn created an opening for Al Qaeda and its allies to exploit. They stepped into this security vacuum and, through horrific violence, created a climate of fear and insecurity in which political and economic progress became impossible.
For years, many members of Congress recognized this. We talked about this. We called for more troops, and a new strategy, and—for that matter—a new secretary of defense.
And yet, now, just as President Bush has come around—just as he has recognized the mistakes his administration has made, and the need to focus on basic security in Iraq, and to install a new secretary of defense and a new commander in Iraq—now his critics in Congress have changed their minds and decided that the old, failed strategy wasn’t so bad after all.
What is going on here? What has changed so that the strategy that we criticized and rejected in 2006 suddenly makes sense in 2007?
My colleague from Nevada, in other words, is suggesting that the insurgency is being provoked by the very presence of American troops. By diminishing that presence, then, he believes the insurgency will diminish.
But I ask my colleagues—where is the evidence to support this theory? Since 2003, and before General Petraeus took command, U.S. forces were ordered on several occasions to pull back from Iraqi cities and regions, including Mosul and Fallujah and Tel’Afar and Baghdad. And what happened in these places? Did they stabilize when American troops left? Did the insurgency go away?
On the contrary—in each of these places where U.S. forces pulled back, Al Qaeda rushed in. Rather than becoming islands of peace, they became safe havens for terrorists, islands of fear and violence.
So I ask advocates of withdrawal: on what evidence, on what data, have you concluded that pulling U.S. troops out will weaken the insurgency, when every single experience we have had since 2003 suggests that this legislation will strengthen it?
In following General Petraeus’ path, there is no guarantee of success—but there is hope, and a new plan, for success.
The plan embedded in this legislation, on the other hand, contains no such hope. It is a strategy of catchphrases and bromides, rather than military realities in Iraq. It does not learn from the many mistakes we have made in Iraq. Rather, it promises to repeat them.
Let me be absolutely clear: In my opinion, Iraq is not yet lost—but if we follow this plan, it will be. And so, I fear, much of our hope for stability in the Middle East and security from terrorism here at home.
I yield the floor.