Chicago Sun-Times
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Obama Senate floor speech on start of 5th year of Iraq war. Transcript.


WASHINGTON--Just before 10 a.m. eastern time, White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) took to the Senate floor to talk about the failure of the war in Iraq.

click below for remarks.....

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama as delivered......

The Iraq War
Senate Floor
Wednesday, March 21st, 2007
Washington, DC

On Thursdays, Senator Durbin and I hold a constituent coffee so we can hear from the folks back home. A young man came a few months ago who was about 25, 26 years old. He had been back from Iraq for a year. The first months of that year he spent in a coma. An explosion had shattered his face, blinded him in both eyes, and has left him without the use of one arm.

He told us about how he was going through rehab, and he introduced us to his family. He has a wife and two young daughters like I do, and his wife talked for a bit about the adjustments they were making at home since dad got hurt. And I found myself looking at not just him, but at his wife, who loves him so much, and I thought about how their lives were forever changed because of the decision that was carried out four years ago.

The sacrifices of war are immeasurable.

I first made this point in the fall of 2002, at the end of the speech I gave opposing the invasion of Iraq. I said then that I certainly do not oppose all wars, but dumb wars – rash wars. Because there is no decision more profound than the one we make to send our brave men and women into harm’s way.

I’ve thought about these words from time to time since that speech, but never so much as the day I saw that young man and his wife.

The sacrifices of war are immeasurable. Too many have returned from Iraq with that soldier’s story – with broken bodies and shattered nerves and wounds that even the best care may not heal. Too many of our best have come home shrouded in the flag they loved. Too many moms and dads and husbands and wives have answered that knock on the door that’s the hardest for any loved one to hear.
And the rest of us have seen too many promises of swift victories, and dying insurgencies, and budding democracy give way to the reality of a brutal civil war that goes on and on and on to this day.

The sacrifices of war are immeasurable. It was not impossible to see back then that we might arrive at the place we’re at today.

I said then that a war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics would lead to a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I believed that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale or strong international support would only strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda and erode the good standing and moral authority that took our country generations to build. There were other experts, and leaders, and everyday Americans who believed this too.

I wish we had been wrong. I wish we weren’t here talking about this at the beginning of the war’s fifth year. Because the consequences of this war have been profound. And the sacrifices have been immeasurable.

Those who would have us continue this war in perpetuity like to say that this is a matter of resolve on behalf of the American people. But the American people have been extraordinarily resolved. They have seen their sons and daughters killed or wounded on the streets of Fallujah. They have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on this effort – money that could have been devoted to strengthening our homeland security and our competitive standing as a nation.

No, it has not been a failure of resolve that has led us to this chaos, but a failure of strategy – a strategy that has only strengthened Iran’s strategic position; increased threats posed by terrorist organizations; reduced U.S. credibility and influence around the world; and placed Israel and other nations friendly to the United States in the region in greater peril.

Iraq has not been a failure of resolve, it has been a failure of strategy – and that strategy must change. It is time bring a responsible end to this conflict is now.

There is no military solution to this war. No amount of U.S. soldiers – not 10,000 more, not 20,000 more, not the almost 30,000 more that we now know we are sending– can solve the grievances that lay at the heart of someone else’s civil war. Our troops cannot serve as their diplomats, and we can no longer referee their civil war. We must begin a phased withdrawal of our forces starting May 1st, with the goal of removing all combat forces by March 30th, 2008.

We also must make sure that we’re not as careless getting out of this war as we were getting in, and that’s why this withdrawal should be gradual, and keep some U.S. troops in the region to prevent a wider war and go after Al Qaeda and other terrorists.

But it must begin soon. Letting the Iraqis know that we will not be there forever is our last, best hope to pressure the Iraqis to take ownership of their country and bring an end to their conflict. It is time for our troops to start coming home.

History will not judge the architects of this war kindly. But the books have yet to be written on our efforts to right the wrongs we see in Iraq. The story has yet to be told about how we turned from this moment, found our way out of the desert, and took to heart the lessons of war that too many refused to heed back then.

For it is of little use or comfort to recall past advice and warnings if we do not allow them to guide us in the challenges that lie ahead. Threats loom large in an age where terrorist networks thrive, and there will certainly be times when we have to call on our brave servicemen and women to risk their lives again.

But before we make that most profound of all decisions – before we send our best off to battle, we must remember what led us to this day and learn from the principles that follow.

We must remember that ideology is not a foreign policy. We must not embark on war based on untested theories, political agendas or wishful thinking that has little basis in fact or reality. We must focus our efforts on the threats we know exist, and we must evaluate those threats with sound intelligence that is never manipulated for political reasons again.

We must remember that the cost of going it alone is immense. It is a choice we sometimes have to make, but one that must be made rarely and always reluctantly. That is because America’s standing in the world is a precious resource not easily rebuilt. We value the cooperation and goodwill of other nations not because it makes us feel good, but because it makes all the world safer – because the only way to battle 21st century threats that race across borders – threats like terror, and disease, and nuclear proliferation – is to enlist the resources and support of all nations. To win our wider struggle, we must let people across this planet know that there is another, more hopeful alternative to the hateful ideologies the terrorists espouse – and a renewed America will reflect and champion that vision

We must remember that planning for peace is just as critical as planning for war. Iraq was not just a failure of conception, but a failure of execution, and so when a conflict does arise that requires our involvement, we must do our best to understand that country’s history, its politics, its ethnic and religious divisions before our troops ever set foot on its soil.

We must understand that setting up ballot boxes does not a democracy make – that real freedom and real stability come from doing the hard work of helping to build a strong police force, and a legitimate government, and ensuring that people have food, and water, and electricity, and basic services. And we must be honest about how much of that we can do ourselves and how much must come from the people themselves.
Finally, we must remember that when we send our servicemen and women to war, we make sure we’ve given them the training they need, and the equipment that will keep them safe, and a mission they can accomplish.
We must respect our commanders’ advice not just when its politically convenient, but even when it’s not what we want to hear. And when our troops come home, it is our most solemn responsibility to make sure they come home to the services, and the benefits, and the care they deserve.

As we stand at the beginning of the fifth year of this war, let us remember that young man from Illinois, and his wife, and his daughters, and the thousands upon thousands of families who are living the very real consequences and immeasurable sacrifices that have come from our decision to invade Iraq.

We are so blessed in this country to have so many men and women like this – Americans willing to put on that uniform, and say the hard goodbyes, and risk their lives in a far off land because they know that such consequences and sacrifices are sometimes necessary to defend our country and achieve a lasting peace.

That is why we have no greater responsibility than to ensure that the decision to place them in harm’s way is the right one. And that is why we must learn the lessons of Iraq. It is what we owe our soldiers. It is what we owe their families. And it is what we owe our country – now, and in all the days and months to come. Thank you.


Then the next step would be to vote against funding the occupation. The Bush administration is not going to bring the troops home as long as congress funds the occupation. Cutting the funding for the U.S. occupation of Iraq would mean congress does not support the Bush Iraq policy. It does not show a lack of support for American troops.

Do the members of congress believe Bush will leave soldiers in Iraq without the ability of contractors to cash in? Do members of congress believe Bush will leave the military in Iraq if those who have contributed greatly to his political rise aren’t able to collect on their military support contracts?

Read H R 1234 at

As always, powerful. I read that after that Sen. Conrad complimented obama for that speech effusively.
It is so obvious that this man has the skills, intellect and thoughtfulness to be a good president.
Bush was 'green' but, if anyone bothered to notice his lifelong pattern of continuing failures. with his connections and money to help him and yet he still blew it everytime. And no one paid attention to something that was such a glaring signal.

You know, even reading the title of this article baffled me. Five years of a war that not many teens know all that much about. It seemed like a week ago i was sitting in my geography class when a teacher came in and told us to turn on the news. We had no idea what was going on and why everyone was so sad, but as i reflect now on what the war has done to this country it makes me realize we maybe aren't as strong as we think.

The United States represents such a strong statement between our history and what we claim to emblemize every single day. Yet, are we all really doing that? You talk about that wounded man and his wife and two little girls, what baffles me is how we are letting this happen. Not many are truly trying to help those in need and what so many in my opinion don't realize is that it's not only the physical problems are men and women are coming back with- It's their change of mind, and heart. I can personally relate to this because of a coach that just got back from the war. Yes, on the outside we would all consider him to be fine. But what's going on on the inside of our soldiers? They aren't fine. Who could be fine after seeing so much death and destruction while knowing so many at home don't seem to care what's going on. I think this country needs to band together and support these people and figure out a way to make them feel welcome in every way back at home. A home that they will truly be able to call a home, not some place they came back to after the country forgot about them for two years while fighting based on their passion not politics.

Why are we having another repeat of the Korean War. We cannot forget about them and we can not minimize their mostly bad experiences. We have to be able to help them back into society for a long time. Not just a short welcome, it has to be on-going for those that have a harder time coping with what they endured.

This is great. I was little upset that i can go see the last comments in this blog so I see this comments is very excellent.

Three years later and here are my follow up thoughts.

I can understand why the American people are hyper-critical of their president at moment. But, as an American that has spent most if his life outside of America and thus able to step back from the picture, please let me assure you that he is doing a much finer job then many of you claim.

Your health industry is in such a state. You don't need the dissident media to tell you that $250 000 is too much for treatment. At least he tried to address this.

The world's economy is still incredibly fragile and, I'm sorry but, Obama can blame this on the previous administration (as well as Gordon Brown and Tony Blair) as much as he wants. Regardless of whether or not his decisions have aided recovery as much as possible, he did not create the situation and should not be blamed for it.

It may not be apparent in the isolationist bubble in which American's live (I mean NO disrespect by this. It is a fact, that when you live in a country physically, mentally and emotionally separated from the rest of the world - you are separated), but Obama has done infinite amounts of good to restore the worlds faith in American foreign policy. To have a president stand up and clarify that Muslim's have just as much right to worship near the WTC as any other religion, does a lot to tackle the racist and fascist propaganda that the Fox network spreads throughout your beautiful country.

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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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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 21, 2007 9:39 AM.

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