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Obama: Floor statement on proposed Iraq cap legislation.

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Three Democratic senators in the 2008 presidential contest are proposing caps on the number of U.S. troops in Iraq: Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois; Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

Obama has not yet introduced his bill for a cap and a phased redeployment, a concept he has long favored. Obama spoke about his new proposal to cap troop strength--and against President Bush's sending more soldier to Iraq from the Senate floor. "Time to change our policy, Mr. President," he said.

Footnote: The Senate worked late on Thursday, passing a wide ranging ethics bill. Watching from the Senate press gallery, a very relaxed looking Obama was talking awhile near the well of the chamber with Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who is also a 2008 contender. At one point Obama was chatting with Sen. Dodd; they looked like they were laughing. Then Obama-for-president booster Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois came by, popped in the conversation a bit and did a double backslap--Obama and Dodd at the same time.

this is a "rush" transcript of Obama's floor remarks provided by Obama's office....


MR. PRESIDENT, I WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK BRIEFLY ON WHAT IS A ROILING DEBATE HERE IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE AND ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND THAT IS THE PRESIDENT'S POLICY WITH RESPECT TO IRAQ. NOW, THERE ARE COUNTLESS REASONS THAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE HAVE LOST CONFIDENCE IN THE PRESIDENT'S IRAQ POLICY. BUT CHIEF AMONG THEM HAS BEEN THE ADMINISTRATION'S INSISTENCE ON MAKING PROMISES AND ASSURANCES ABOUT PROGRESS AND VICTORY THAT DO NOT APPEAR TO BE GROUNDED IN THE REALITY OF THE FACTS ON THE GROUND. WE'VE BEEN TOLD THAT WE WOULD BE GREETED AS LIBERATORS. WE'VE BEEN PROMISED THAT THE INSURGENCY WAS IN ITS LAST THROES.

WE'VE BEEN ASSURED AGAIN AND AGAIN THAT WE WERE MAKING PROGRESS AND THAT THE IRAQIS WOULD SOON STAND UP SO WE COULD STAND DOWN AND OUR BRAVE SONS AND DAUGHTERS COULD START COMING HOME. WE'VE BEEN ASKED TO WAIT. WE'VE BEEN ASKED TO BE PATIENT AND ASKED TO GIVE THE PRESIDENT AND THE NEW IRAQI GOVERNMENT SIX MORE MONTHS. AND THEN SIX MORE MONTHS AFTER THAT AND THEN SIX MORE MONTHS AFTER THAT. AND NOW, AFTER THE LOSS OF MORE THAN 3,000 AMERICAN LIVES, AFTER SPENDING ALMOST $400 BILLION AFTER IRAQ HAS DESCENDED INTO CIVIL WAR, WE HAVE BEEN PROMISED ONCE AGAIN THAT THE PRESIDENT'S PLAN TO ESCALATE THE WAR IN IRAQ WILL THIS TIME BE WELL PLANNED, WELL COORDINATED, AND WELL SUPPORTED BY THE IRAQI GOVERNMENT. THIS TIME, WE DIDN'T HAVE TO WAIT TO FIND OUT THAT NONE OF THIS SEEMS TO BE THE CASE. ALREADY, AMERICAN MILITARY OFFICIALS HAVE TOLD "THE NEW YORK TIMES" THAT THERE IS NO CLEAR CHAIN OF COMMAND BETWEEN IRAQIS AND U.S. COMMANDERS AND NO REAL INDICATION THAT THE IRAQIS EVEN WANT SUCH A PARTNERSHIP. JUST YESTERDAY, PRESIDENT -- PRIME MINISTER AL-MALIKI, THE PERSON WHO THE PRESIDENT SAID HAD BROUGHT THIS PLAN TO US, THE MAN WHO'S SUPPOSED TO BE OUR PARTNER IN CHIEF FOR THIS NEW PLAN, TOLD FOREIGN JOURNALISTS THAT IF THE UNITED STATES WOULD ONLY GIVE HIS ARMY BETTER WEAPONS AND EQUIPMENT, OUR SOLDIERS COULD GO HOME. THE PRESIDENT'S DECISION IS TO MOVE FORWARD WITH THIS ESCALATION ANYWAY. DESPITE ALL MILITARY RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE CONTRARY, HE'S GONE FORWARD TO WAGE THIS WAR BACK FROM 2002. FOUR YEARS LATER, WE CAN'T CHANGE THAT DECISION OR REVERSE SOME OF THE TRAGIC OUTCOMES, BUT WHAT WE CAN DO IS MAKE SURE THAT PROVIDE THE KIND OF OVERSIGHT AND CONSTRAINTS ON THE PRESIDENT THIS TIME THAT WE FAILED TO DO THE LAST TIME. MR. PRESIDENT, I CANNOT, IN GOOD CONSCIENCE, SUPPORT THIS ESCALATION. IT'S A POLICY THAT'S ALREADY BEEN TRIED AND A POLICY THAT HAS FAILED. JUST THIS MORNING, I HAD VETERANS FROM THE IRAQ WAR VISIT MY OFFICE TO EXPLAIN TO ME THAT THIS SURGE CONCEPT IS, IN FACT, NO DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WE HAVE REPEATEDLY TRIED, BUT WITH 20,000 TROOPS, WE WILL NOT IN ANY IMAGINABLE WAY BE ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH ANY NEW PROGRESS. THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS THAT WE HAVE TRIED THIS ROAD BEFORE. IN THE END, NO AMOUNT OF AMERICAN FORCES CAN SOLVE THE POLITICAL DIFFERENCES THAT LIE AT THE HEART OF SOMEBODY ELSE'S CIVIL WAR. AS THE PRESIDENT'S OWN MILITARY COMMANDERS HAVE SAID, ESCALATION ONLY PREVENTS THE IRAQIS FROM TAKING MORE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR OWN FUTURE. IT'S EVEN OWE ERODING OUR EFFORTS IN THE WIDER WAR ON TERROR AS SOME OF THE EXTRA SOLDIERS WILL COME DIRECTLY FROM AFGHANISTAN WHERE THE TALIBAN HAS BECOME RESURGENT. THE PRESIDENT HAS OFFERED NO EVIDENCE THAT MORE U.S. TROOPS WILL BE ABLE TO PRESSURE SHIA, SUNNI AND KURDS TOWARDS THE NECESSARY POLITICAL SETTLEMENT. HE'S ATTACHED NO CONSEQUENCES TO HIS PLAN SHOULD THE IRAQIS FAIL TO MAKE PROGRESS. IN FACT, JUST LAST WEEK WHEN I REPEATEDLY ASKED SECRETARY RICE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF THE IRAQI GOVERNMENT FAILED TO MEET THE BENCHMARKS THAT THE ADMINISTRATION HAS CALLED FOR AND SAYS IS AN INTEGRAL PART OF THEIR RATIONALE FOR ESCALATION, SHE COULDN'T GIVE ME AN ANSWER.

WHEN I ASKED HER IF THERE WERE ANY CIRCUMSTANCES WHATSOEVER IN WHICH WE WOULD TELL THE IRAQIS THAT THEIR FAILURE TO MAKE PROGRESS MEANS THE END OF OUR MILITARY COMMITMENT, SHE COULD NOT GIVE ME AN ANSWER. THIS IS SIMPLY NOT GOOD ENOUGH. WHEN YOU ASK HOW MANY MORE MONTHS AND HOW MANY MORE DOLLARS AND HOW MANY MORE LIVES IT WILL TAKE TO END A POLICY THAT EVERYONE NOW KNOWS HAS NOT SUCCEEDED, ‘I DON'T KNOW’ ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH. OVER THE PAST FOUR YEARS WE'VE GIVEN THIS ADMINISTRATION EVERY CHANCE TO GET THIS RIGHT. THEY'VE DISAPPOINTED US MANY TIMES. BUT ULTIMATELY IT'S OUR BRAVE MEN AND WOMEN IN UNIFORM AND THEIR FAMILIES WHO BEAR THE GREATEST BURDEN FOR THESE MISTAKES. THEY HAVE PERFORMED IN AN EXEMPLARY FASHION. AT NO STAGE HAVE THEY FALTERED IN THE MISSION THAT HAS BEEN PRESENTED TO THEM. UNFORTUNATELY, THE STRATEGY, THE TACTICS AND THE MISSION ITSELF HAVE BEEN FLAWED. AND THAT'S WHY CONGRESS NOW HAS THE DUTY TO PREVENT EVEN MORE MISTAKES AND BRING THIS WAR TO A RESPONSIBLE END.

AND THAT'S WHY, MR. PRESIDENT, I PLAN TO INTRODUCE LEGISLATION THAT I BELIEVE WILL STOP THE ESCALATION OF THIS WAR BY PLACING A CAP ON THE NUMBER OF SOLDIERS IN IRAQ. I WANT TO EMPHASIZE THAT I'M NOT UNIQUE IN TAKING THIS APPROACH. I KNOW THAT SENATOR DODD HAS CRAFTED SIMILAR LEGISLATION. SENATOR CLINTON, I BELIEVE, YESTERDAY INDICATED SHE SHARED SIMILAR VIEWS.


THE CAP WOULD NOT AFFECT THE MONEYS SPENT ON THE WAR OR ON OUR TROOPS, BUT IT WOULD WRITE INTO LAW THAT THE NUMBER OF U.S. FORCES IN IRAQ SHOULD NOT EXCEED THE NUMBER THAT WERE THERE ON JANUARY 10, 2007, THE DAY THE PRESIDENT ANNOUNCED HIS ESCALATION POLICY. NOW, THIS MEASURE WOULD STOP THE ESCALATION OF THE WAR IN IRAQ BUT IT'S MY BELIEF THAT SIMPLY OPPOSING THE SURGE IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH. IF WE TRULY BELIEVE THAT THE ONLY SOLUTION IN IRAQ IS A POLITICAL ONE, AND I FERVENTLY BELIEVE THAT, IF WE BELIEVE THAT A PHASED REDEPLOYMENT OF U.S. FORCES IN IRAQ IS THE BEST, PERHAPS ONLY, LEVERAGE WE HAVE TO FORCE A SETTLEMENT BETWEEN THE COUNTRIES' WARRING FACTIONS, THEN WE SHOULD ACT ON IT. THAT'S WHY THE SECOND PART OF MY LEGISLATION IS A PLAN FOR PHASED REDEPLOYMENT THAT I CALLED FOR IN A SPEECH IN CHICAGO TWO MONTHS AGO. IT'S A RESPONSIBLE PLAN. IT PROTECTS AMERICAN TROOPS WITHOUT CAUSING IRAQ TO SUDDENLY DISSEND INTO CHAOS. THE PRESIDENT MUST ANNOUNCE TO THE IRAQI PEOPLE THAT WITHIN TWO TO FOUR MONTHS UNDER THIS PLAN U.S. POLICY WILL INCLUDE A GRADUAL AND SUBSTANTIAL REDUCTION IN U.S. FORCES. THE PRESIDENT SHOULD THEN WORK WITH OUR MILITARY COMMANDERS TO MAP OUT THE BEST PLAN FOR SUCH A REDEPLOYMENT AND TO DETERMINE PRECISE LEVELS AND DATES. DRAWING DOWN OUR TROOPS IN IRAQ WILL PUT PRESSURE ON THE IRAQIS TO ARRIVE AT A POLITICAL SETTLEMENT THAT IS NEEDED AND ALLOW US TO REDEPLOY ADDITIONAL TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN AND ELSEWHERE IN THE REGION AS WELL AS BRING SOME BACK HOME. THE FORCES REDEPLOYED ELSEWHERE IN THE REGION COULD THEN HELP TO PREVENT THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ FROM BECOMING A WIDER WAR, SOMETHING THAT EVERY INTERNATIONAL OBSERVER IS BEGINNING TO WORRY ABOUT. IT WILL ALSO REASSURE OUR ALLIES IN THE GULF, IT'LL ALLOW OUR TROOPS TO STRIKE DIRECTLY AT AL QAEDA, WHEREVER IT MAY EXIST, AND DEMONSTRATE TO INTERNATIONAL TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS THAT THEY HAVEN'T DRIVEN US FROM THE REGION. MY PLAN WOULD COUPLE THIS PHASED REDEPLOYMENT IN AN ENHANCED EFFORT TO TRAIN IRAQI SECURITY FORCES AND WOULD EXPAND THE NUMBER OF OUR PERSONNEL -- ESPECIALLY SPECIAL FORCES WHO ARE DEPLOYED WITH IRAQIS AS UNIT ADVISORS AND FINALLY WOULD CONTINUE ECONOMIC AID WITH IRAQ WITH THE TANGIBLE SOLUTION TO REACH A SETTLEMENT. ONE FINAL ASPECT OF THIS PLAN THAT I THINK IS CRITICAL: IT WOULD CALL FOR THE ENGAGEMENT BY THE UNITED STATES OF A REGIONAL CONFERENCE WITH OTHER COUNTRIES THAT ARE INVOLVED IN THE MIDDLE EAST, PARTICULARLY OUR ALLIES BUT INCLUDING SYRIA AND IRAN TO FIND A SOLUTION TO THE WAR IN IRAQ. WE HAVE TO REALIZE THAT NEITHER IRAN NOR SYRIA WANT TO SEE THE SECURITY VACUUM IN IRAQ FILLED WITH CHAOS, TERRORISM, REFUGEES, AND VIOLENCE AS IT COULD BRING A DESTABLIZING EFFECT THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE REGION AND WITHIN THEIR OWN COUNTRIES.


AND SO, AS ODIOUS AS THE BEHAVIOR OF THOSE REGIMES MAY BE AT TIMES, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE INCLUDE THEM IN A BROADER CONVERSATION ABOUT HOW WE CAN STABLIZE IRAQ. MR. PRESIDENT, IN CLOSING, LET ME SAY THIS. I HAVE BEEN A CONSISTENT AND STRONG OPPONENT OF THIS WAR. I'VE ALSO TRIED TO ACT RESPONSIBLY IN THAT OPPOSITION TO ENSURE THAT HAVING MADE THE DECISION TO GO INTO IRAQ, THAT WE PROVIDED OUR TROOPS, WHO PERFORMED VALIANTLY, THE SUPPORT THEY NEED TO COMPLETE THEIR MISSION. I HAVE ALSO STATED PUBLICLY THAT I THINK WE HAVE BOTH STRATEGIC INTERESTS AND HUMANITARIAN RESPONSIBILITIES IN ENSURING THAT IRAQ IS AS STABLE AS POSSIBLE UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES. AND FINALLY, I'VE SAID THAT PUBLICLY IT IS MY PREFERENCE NOT TO MICROMANAGE THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF IN THE PROSECUTION OF WAR. THAT ULTIMATELY I DO NOT THINK IS THE IDEAL ROLE FOR CONGRESS TO PLAY. BUT AT A CERTAIN POINT, MR. PRESIDENT, WE HAVE TO DRAW A LINE. AT A CERTAIN POINT, THE AMERICAN PEOPLE HAVE TO HAVE SOME CONFIDENCE THAT WE ARE NOT SIMPLY GOING DOWN THIS BLIND ALLEY IN PERPETUITY. WHEN IT COMES TO THE WAR IN IR IRAQ, THE TIME FOR PROMISES AND ASSURANCES ARE WANING AND PATIENCE IS OVER. TOO MANY LIVES HAVE BEEN LOST, TOO MANY BILLIONS HAVE BEEN SPENT FOR US TO TRUST THE PRESIDENT ON ANOTHER TRIED AND FAILED POLICY OPPOSED BY GENERALS AND EXPERTS, OPPOSED BY DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS, OPPOSED BY AMERICANS AND EVEN THE IRAQIS THEMSELVES. IT'S TIME TO CHANGE OUR POLICY, MR. PRESIDENT. IT'S TIME TO GIVE IRAQIS THEIR COUNTRY BACK, AND IT'S TIME TO REFOCUS AMERICA'S EFFORT ON THE WIDER STRUGGLE AGAINST TERROR YET TO BE WON. MR. PRESIDENT, I THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME. AND I WOULD SUGGEST THE ABSENCE OF A QUORUM.

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1 Comment

Ms. Sweet,

Today's Sun-Times carries the following headline both on page one and page 11 -- "Obama: U.S. Must Retreat"

I know that you didn't write the article in question -- and that reporters don't write their headlines in any case -- but do you think that "retreat" is a fair and accurate characterization of Sen. Obama's position?

After all, neither your story about Obama nor the Bloomberg piece contained the word "retreat."

Was it a retreat when the United States left occupied Japan? What about when our troops left the Philippines? How about when we left Lebanon?

I would argue that we did not "retreat" in those cases and that leaving Iraq would not be a retreat either.

I know that you aren't responsible for the misleading headline, but such linguistic sloppiness reflects poorly on the ST and should be a concern to all of its journalists.

Thanks for your time,

-- SCAM

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on January 18, 2007 8:31 PM.

Sweet reprise: Emanuel's Clinton/Obama choice. "I think that I am going to hide under this desk." was the previous entry in this blog.

Durbin on the ethics bill: is the next entry in this blog.

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