Two of our nation’s most capable public servants have come before us today to assess the situation in Iraq. General Petraeus, Ambassador Crocker, every single one of us wants you to succeed in your efforts to the maximum possible extent. We admire the heroism and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform and the dedication of our diplomatic corps in Iraq, and we fully understand the terrible burden on their families.
Our witnesses have been sent here this morning to restore credibility to a discredited policy. We and the American people already know that the situation in Iraq is grim, and a growing majority of this Congress and of the American people want our troops out.
In October of 2003 I flew in a helicopter with you, General Petraeus, over Northern Iraq around Mosul. As we passed over the countryside, you pointed out to me several ammunition dumps that had once belonged to the army of Saddam Hussein. “I don’t have enough troops to guard these places,” you said. “Someday, this might come back to haunt us.”
Well, General Petraeus, you saw it coming. Those unguarded ammo dumps became the arsenals of insurgency. Those weapons have been turned against us. How very typical of this war.
The Administration’s myopic policies in Iraq have created a fiasco. Is it any wonder that on the subject of Iraq, more and more Americans have little confidence in this Administration? We can not take ANY of this Administration’s assertions on Iraq at face value anymore, and no amount of charts or statistics will improve its credibility.
This is not a knock on you, General Petraeus, or on you, Ambassador Crocker. But the fact remains, gentlemen, that the Administration has sent you here today to convince the members of these two Committees and the Congress that victory is at hand.
With all due respect to you, I must say … I don’t buy it. And neither does the independent Government Accountability Office or the Commission headed by General Jones. Both recently issued deeply pessimistic reports.
The current escalation in our military presence in Iraq may have produced some tactical successes. But strategically, the escalation has failed. It was intended to buy time for Prime Minister Maliki and the other Iraqi political leaders to find ways to move toward the one thing that may end this terrible civil conflict – and that, of course, is a political settlement. As best we can see, that time has been utterly squandered.
Prime Minister Maliki has not shown the slightest inclination to move in the direction of compromise. Instead of working to build national institutions – a truly Iraqi army, a competent bureaucracy, a non-sectarian police force – Maliki has moved in the opposite direction. The so-called “Unity Accord” announced with such fanfare a couple of weeks ago, is just another in a long list of empty promises.
Instead of acting as a leader for Iraq as a whole, Maliki has functioned as the front man for Shiite partisans. And he has presided over a Shiite coalition that includes some of the most notorious militias, death squads, and sectarian thugs in Iraq.
This is not what the American people had in mind. And when Mr. Maliki states, as he recently did, that if the Americans leave, he can find, quote, “new friends,” we are reminded most forcefully of his and his Party’s intimate ties to Iran.
In his recent visit to Anbar Province, the President made much of our cooperation in the fight against Al Qaeda with Sunni tribal militias. This alliance may in the short run be a positive development – but it also raises some serious and profound questions.
Anbar, of course, includes just five per cent of the population of Iraq – an important five per cent, but still only five. What’s more, by arming, training and funding the Sunni militias in that province, we are working against our own strategy of building national Iraqi institutions.
America should not be in the business of arming, training and funding both sides of a religious civil war in Iraq. Did the Administration learn nothing from our country’s actions in Afghanistan two decades ago, when by supporting Islamist militants against the Soviet Union, we helped pave the way for the rise of the Taliban? Why are we now repeating the short-sighted patterns of the past?
In Iraq today, we are wrecking our military, forcing their families to suffer needlessly, sacrificing the lives of our brave young men and women in uniform. And the enormous financial cost of this war is limiting our ability to address our global security needs, as well as pressing domestic problems such as health care, crumbling infrastructure and public education. The cost of this war in Iraq will be passed along to our grandchildren and beyond.
In the last few days, General Petraeus, media have reported that you are prepared to support a slow drawdown of our forces in Iraq – beginning with a brigade or two, perhaps at the end of this year.
This clearly is nowhere near enough.
We need to send Maliki’s government a strong message, loud and clear. Removing a brigade is nothing but a political whisper – and it is unacceptable to the American people and to the majority of the Congress.
As long as American troops are doing the heavy lifting in Iraq, there is no reason – none at all – for the Iraqis themselves to step up. Military progress without political progress is meaningless.
It is their country – and it is their turn. Prime Minister Maliki and the Iraqi politicians need to know that the free ride is over and that American troops will not be party to their civil war.
The situation in Iraq cries out for a dramatic change of course. We need to get out of Iraq, for that country’s sake and for our own. It is time to go – and to go now.