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Iraq Resolution Statement

March 15, 2007

Statement on Iraq Resolution

Senator Michael B. Enzi

March 15, 2007

Mr. President:  As I begin my comments on the resolutions we have under consideration, I want to first make very clear my strong support for the members of our armed forces and the vital work they are doing around the world every day.  I have the greatest admiration for them all for their heartfelt commitment to preserving our freedoms and maintaining our national security.  They are all true heroes and they are the ones who are doing the heavy lifting and making great sacrifices in our name so that we might continue to be the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Over the years, I have been to Iraq and I have met with the members of our armed forces there and, later, here in the United States when they have returned home.  These remarkable men and women exemplify the best qualities of our nation.  They volunteered to serve in the best trained force in the world and they deserve our complete and unwavering support.  If it were possible, I would like to have each and every one of our troops back home with their families and friends immediately.  We cannot, however, pull our troops out of Iraq at this point without facing extremely dire consequences for a long time to come.  I have spoken at length to our troops about their mission and they understand their mission.

I was thinking about them, and all the members of our military who are presently serving around the world as I began to prepare my remarks.  I thought back to the days, years ago, when I was first elected to serve as the Mayor of Gillette, Wyoming .  I made a habit of carrying around a copy of the Constitution with me everywhere I went.  I kept it in my coat pocket, next to my pen, and whenever I looked at it, it reminded me of two things – the government I was a part of, and the people I was elected to serve.

Then, when I came here to the Senate, the Constitution took on an even greater, deeper meaning for me.  I now saw it as my job description.  That is why I make sure to always keep it handy so it can continue to serve as a reminder of the detailed portrait it contains of our federal government and how it was designed to work by our Founding Fathers.  Today, it provides us with a good starting point for our debate and it provides some of the answers to the issues before us. 

The relevant parts of the Constitution are quite clear.  Congress must be consulted before any large scale military operation is begun.  But once that has been done, the Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces, the President, is to direct the effort that we approved.

The Founding Fathers had a good reason for establishing the President as the Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces and the one who is responsible for making the decisions affecting the actions of our nation’s military.

That doesn’t mean that Congress has no role to play in these decisions.  We all have an important role to play when it comes to matters like these.   Again, in their great wisdom, the drafters of our Constitution knew that Congress could – and should – influence policy – but they knew it would be impossible for us to have all the information available to the President to debate and assess before making a decision on the viability of every military operation.  The process of determining military strategy would be a nightmare if we were to be expected to debate all the intricacies of every policy and, by so doing, reveal some of the information obtained by our intelligence agencies on the House and Senate floor before reaching a decision.  Our procedure on the Floor is a good process for debating and considering legislation, but it’s a process that doesn’t lend itself well to producing a quick and informed military decision at a time of crisis.

Those thoughts were on my mind when the President put forward a new strategy for us to pursue in Iraq , recognizing that what we are currently doing is not working.  General David Petraeus, our U.S. Commander in Iraq , testified before us about that policy.  He is consulting with highly educated and trained members of the military, many from universities where criticism of U.S. efforts in Iraq has flourished.  It is evident that the President and his advisors are seeking analysis and recommendations from people who recognize the fact that the road ahead will be complicated and difficult. 

Listening to the debate, I have heard many of my colleagues sum up the President’s new strategy as just increasing the number of American troops in Iraq .  I don’t believe it is a matter of numbers.  The real question should be what the placement of these troops is designed to accomplish.  There is no question that there must be a clearly defined mission for them on the ground.  By having more forces on the ground, we may be able to decrease the vulnerability of our troops as they move from place to place.   That will provide them with the backup and protection they need to more safely pursue their mission.

 

In the months to come, it is clear that there are several things the new policy must do if it is to be successful.  First and foremost, the new campaign must provide the security the people of Iraq must have to feel safe at home.  If they do not feel secure under the protection of the United States , coalition, and Iraqi forces, they will turn toward terrorist organizations that will prey on their fears and provide a false sense of security.  America’s long-term security interests and the possibility of world peace will be best served by an Iraq that can sustain, govern, and defend itself, while serving as an ally in the war against the terrorists.

Looking long term, I think we would all agree that the future of Iraq will directly affect the balance of power in the Middle East .  That is why countries throughout the region are watching to see what action we will take in Iraq .  An immediate withdrawal of United States and coalition forces will leave our allies in the region forced to prepare for additional conflicts.

Our mission in Iraq has not been easy, and it will not get easier in the days to come.  After all, we are facing centuries-old difficulties as we work with the people of Iraq to help them overcome their religious and ethnic differences to form a nation that will work to benefit and protect all their people.

Ultimately, what the future of Iraq will be is up to the Iraqi people themselves.  Iraq must put together a working coalition of its three major groups, the Kurds, Sunnis, and Shia, as well as other ethnic and religious minorities.  They must work for national reconciliation through shared responsibilities as well as shared oil revenues that will be used to solve the problems that exist in their own backyard.  Such a reconciliation will not only be good for Iraq, but the Middle East as a whole. 

Looking back, the record is clear.  Like many members of the United States Senate, I supported the original decision in 2002 to take action against Saddam Hussein in Iraq .  The vote I cast that day was not an easy decision.  The tough ones are like that.  You make the best decision you can, based on the information you have on hand at the time you have to make it.  Those are the decisions that make us all lose sleep for years afterward.  Anytime you vote to put our nation’s young men and women in harm’s way, it stays with you long after the fighting is over and our troops are on their way back home.

Today, I remain concerned about the safety of the people on the ground: Americans, coalition allies, and the Iraqi people.  And there is good reason for my concern.   With today’s rapid communication made possible by the Internet, cell phones, and other technologies, what we say here can almost instantaneously find its way around the world and straight to the camps of both friends and foes – and they are both watching.  In fact, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the whole world is watching to see what we will decide to do.

Which leads me to ask, what do we hope to accomplish through this debate?  We have already approved the nomination of General Petraeus by a unanimous vote.  Now we are considering a resolution condemning a plan he hasn’t had a chance to put into action yet.  What sort of message will we send our troops with our vote on that? 

As members of the United States Senate, we have the opportunity to voice our opinions to the President and our constituents.  But the fact that we are even going through this debate at this point in time may give those who wish to do us harm hope and embolden them – and once emboldened they will pose an even greater threat to our troops.   

As we continue with our consideration of these resolutions, I want to be clear that I do not want to cut funding for the troops.  Their safety and their very lives depend on that funding.  When you are in a war, you don’t do that to the troops.

Looking ahead, in the months to come, Congress must continue to closely monitor the actions of the new Iraqi government, our military leaders, and our civilian leaders.  We should continue to express our opinions, and take whatever actions are necessary to ensure our troops are provided the best support possible so that they can come home soon.  We should not, however, further endanger the lives of Americans and Iraqis simply to make a statement and take a stand against the President.