The legislation included a sensible plan to redeploy U.S. forces in Iraq paired with progress made by the Iraqi government in meeting diplomatic and security benchmarks. The legislation would ensure adequate rest between tours of duty of both active duty and Guard and Reserve forces, while also requiring that their service in Iraq not be extended beyond a year for any tour of duty.
Senator Byrd’s remarks
Four years ago, I stood in this very spot and warned against an ill-advised invasion of Iraq. Today, the situation in Iraq has spiraled out of control into a bloody, deadly sectarian civil war. Yet, the President and his team continue to hold fast to their stay-the-course nonsense. While they do, thousands of brave young Americans place their lives in jeopardy everyday. That reality is one that this nation and the world did not have to experience. It is a tragic reality brought on by a war of choice and an occupation that has yielded neither stability nor reconciliation.
Four years ago today, the President landed on the deck of the U-S-S Abraham Lincoln to declare, “Mission Accomplished.” Four years ago. It feels like an age. For thousands of our soldiers and their families, and likely for the Iraqi people, it feels like a lifetime. How wrong the President was then, and how wrong he continues to be today.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” No matter how many times the President wishes it were so, peace in Iraq will not be found at the barrel of an American gun. No matter how hard the President hopes it will happen, sectarian violence will not be quelled with U.S. forces occupying the Iraqi nation. Cross your fingers. Pull out your lucky rabbitís foot. Even nail a horse shoe over the Oval Office door. But, hoping for luck will never change the deadly dynamic in Iraq.
Peace demands an Iraqi-led political solution to transcend the ethnic and sectarian divisions that are splitting the country apart — a political effort which, to date, the Iraqi government has been unable or unwilling to take on. Our legislation could have spurred that progress, but President Bush has defiantly said no. This White House clings to its “foolish consistency.”
When he took office as President more than six years ago, George W. Bush issued a call for renewed responsibility in government. Where are the echoes of that call today? What is responsible about clinging to this failed course in Iraq and refusing to consider a new path? What is responsible about the President continuing to foster and manipulate the fears of the American people? Faced with the tragic consequences of its misjudgments in Iraq, the Bush Administration is paralyzed, unwilling to acknowledge, much less remedy, its catastrophic blunders.
President Bush has gone as far as to say that the way out of Iraq “will be decided by future presidents.” What an outrageous abdication of responsibility!
It is unacceptable to pass the buck to future leaders, while our brave troops fight and die today in the cross hairs of this Iraqi civil war. The time to begin rectifying this dreadful blunder is now. Not in two years. Not with the next President. But now!
With the supplemental bill, Congress responded to the calls of the American people. We offered a new beginning in reconstruction and stability for Iraq. Our proposal could have generated political reconciliation and economic security in Iraq. Our bipartisan plan shifted the responsibility for the Iraqi nationís long-term success to the Iraqi people themselves.
Put plainly, Congress offered a plan that could have meant a brighter future for Iraq — a future controlled by the Iraqi people themselves, with continued support from the United States. But the President has flatly rejected that plan. It is a sad day for our nation and for the world.
Before the war began, I urged the President to think through the consequences. There was no doubt as to the military outcome of war between the United States and Iraq; our military might was certainly unquestioned. But I was very concerned about the repercussions that would follow this certain military victory. Tragically, the repercussions I feared all have come to pass. Oh, how I wish that I had been wrong.
Once again, I urge the President to think through the consequences of his choices, the consequences of his rejection of this new plan for Iraq, the consequences of clinging to false hopes. For that is what this veto does. This veto endorses the falsehoods that took us to war. It cements failed policies in place. This veto ensures that hundreds, maybe thousands more, will die in Iraq without any true plan for peace. It forces our military to continue to pursue a mission impossible, creating democracy at the point of a gun.
I am sorry that this day has come to pass. I am sorry that the horrors of this deadly and mishandled occupation have become the stuff of political gamesmanship. There is ample blame to go around for that fact.
I have seen clashes between the Legislative and Executive branches. I have seen Presidents make mistakes in the past. Everyone makes mistakes. I certainly have. But I have never seen such arrogance in a White House that seals its eyes and ears, and blindly sends so many people to their doom. I pray for our troops, for our President, for our country, and for the people of Iraq.
President Bush has chosen to hold hostage $100 billion for our troops to his failed policies. But his choice is not the last word. Congress will get to work on a new version of the supplemental appropriations conference report. We will not delay. But we also will not stop our efforts to stand for what is right and to craft policies that reflect the true strength of America — humility, modesty, honesty. We will continue to press for a strong, intelligent foreign policy that does not rely on military might alone. And we will not stop in our efforts to bring peace to Iraq and our troops home from war.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.