Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)
Sunday, July 8, 2007; 4:11 PM
Delivered on the Senate floor, May 8, 2007
Ms. SNOWE. Mr. President, I rise to speak to the monumental and consequential matter regarding the future course of the United States and our courageous men and women in uniform in Iraq .
Today, we are at a profoundly challenging moment in time, and at a critical crossroads with respect to our direction in this war. That sense of urgency was compounded by my recent trip to Iraq this past weekend where I had the privilege of meeting with some of America's bravest and finest serving in Baghdad, including Mainers. I came away believing more firmly than ever that the Iraq Government must understand that our commitment is not infinite, and that Americans are losing patience with the failure of the leadership to end the sectarian violence and move toward national reconciliation.
My visit further underscored the fact that there is not a military solution to the problem, and in the final analysis, the situation requires demonstrable action by the Iraq Government on true political reform and reconciliation. My firsthand experience reinforced that political will and diplomatic initiatives must form the core of our success, and that our goal must be to bring about reconciliation as soon as possible so that all of America's soldiers including those from Maine can return home to their families and loved ones.
None of us arrive at this question lightly. In my 28-year tenure in Congress, I have witnessed and participated in debates on such vital matters as Lebanon, Panama, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. And indisputably, myriad, deeply-held beliefs and arguments were expressed on those pivotal matters, some in concert, some complementary, some in conflict. Yet, without question, all were rooted in mutual concern for, and love of, our great Nation. And there was, and should not be today, no question about our support for our brave and extraordinary troops.
It is therefore with the utmost respect for our troops that Senator EVAN BAYH and I today introduce a bill which allows them the ability to complete the mission they have selflessly undertaken, while assuring them that their valor shall not be unconditionally expended upon an Iraqi Government which fails to respond in kind.
Before proceeding any further, let me pause to express my deep appreciation and immense gratitude to Senator BAYH for his tremendous leadership and indispensable contribution in forging this welcomed, bipartisan measure. If there ever were a time for us to fashion a way forward, together, it is surely now, and because of Senator BAYH and his tireless efforts we have a measure that represents a significant step in the right direction. I thank him and his staff for bringing this fresh approach to fruition today.
The Snowe-Bayh Iraq bill requires that government to actually achieve previously agreed political and security benchmarks while the Baghdad Security Plan, commonly referred to as the "surge," is in effect, or face the redeployment of those U.S. troops dedicated to that plan.
Specifically, this legislation would require that, 120 days after enactment, a point in time at which our military commanders have stated that they should know whether the surge will succeed, the commander of Multi-National Forces, Iraq would report to Congress as to whether the Iraqi Government has met each of six political and security-related benchmarks which it has already agreed to meet by that time. These six benchmarks are: Iraqi assumption of control of its military; enactment and implementation of a militia law to disarm and demobilize militias and to ensure that such security forces are accountable only to the central government and loyal to the constitution of Iraq ; completion of the constitutional review and a referendum held on special amendments to the Iraqi Constitution that ensure equitable participation in the Government of Iraq without regard to religious sect or ethnicity; completion of a provincial election law and commencement and specific preparation for the conduct of provincial elections that ensures equitable constitution of provincial representative bodies without regard to religious sect or ethnicity; enactment and implementation of legislation to ensure that the energy resources of Iraq benefit Sunni Arabs, Shia Arabs, Kurds, and other Iraqi citizens in an equitable manner; and enactment and implementation of legislation that equitably reforms the de-Ba'athification process in Iraq .
The Iraqi Government must know that any opportunity gained from our increased troop levels in Baghdad is a window that we will soon close if it fails to take urgent action and show tangible results in tandem. If, at the end of 120 days, the commander of Multi-National Forces, Iraq reports the Iraqi Government has not met the benchmarks, then the commander should plan for the phased redeployment of the troops we provided for the Baghdad Security Plan, period.
That is why, under the Snowe-Bayh measure, after 120 days, should the commander report that the Iraqi Government has failed to meet any of the benchmarks listed, he will then be required to present a plan for the phased redeployment of those combat troops sent to Iraq in support of the Baghdad Security Plan and to provide plans detailing the transition of the mission of the U.S. forces remaining in Iraq to one of logistical support, training, force protection, and targeted counterterrorism operations, for examples, those functions set forth in the Iraq Study Group Report, with the objective of successfully accomplishing this change in mission within 6 months of the date of his testimony before Congress. The commander must further indicate the number of troops needed to successfully complete the changed mission and the estimated duration of that mission. As General Petraeus stated in March.
I have an obligation to the young men and women in uniform out here, that if I think it's not going to happen, to tell them that it's not going to happen, and there needs to be a change.
My colleagues may recall that I opposed the surge because I did not, and still do not, believe that additional troops are a substitute for political will and capacity. General Petraeus said last month that a political resolution is crucial because that is what will determine in the long run the success of this effort. I could not agree more. The fact is, America and the world require more than Iraq's commitment to accomplishing the benchmarks that will lead to a true national reconciliation, we must see actual results. The Iraqi Government must find the will to ensure that it represents and protects the rights of every Iraqi.
After our 4-year commitment, Iraq's Government should not doubt that we must observe more than incremental steps toward political reconciliation, we require demonstrable changes. While limited progress has been mad on necessary legislative initiatives such as the Hydrocarbon Law, it is in fact a sheaf of laws and not just a single measure that must pass to ensure that all Iraqis have a share and stake in their government. Chief among these are constitutional amendments which will permit Iraqis of all ethnicities and confessions to be represented at the local level of government. Yet, so far, the review committee has yet to even finish drafts of these critical amendments.
I believe we were all encouraged by the recent ambassadorial meetings in Baghdad and last week's ministerial conference called at the Iraqi Government's request. These diplomatic talks are vital to securing Iraq's border, reversing the flow of refugees, and stemming the foreign interference which exacerbates sectarian divisions. But we also look for the Iraqi Government's leadership in dismantling the militias and strengthening the National Army so that it is truly a national institution that can provide the security so desperately desired by all Iraqis in every province.
We are now 3 1/2 months into the surge, and our troops have made gains in reducing the still horrific levels of violence on Baghdad through their heroic efforts. Yet it is deeply concerning to me that, mirroring the slowness with which the Iraqi Government has moved on political reforms, their sacrifice remains by and largely unmatched by their Iraqi counterparts.
Last month, Leon Panetta, a member of the Iraq Study Group, wrote the following in a New York Times Op-ED, "..... every military commander we talked to felt that the absence of national reconciliation was the fundamental cause of violence in Iraq . As one American general told us, 'if the Iraqi Government does not make political progress on reforms, all the troops in the world will not provide security.' He went on to enumerate the progress or, more to the point, the lack of progress toward the agreed upon benchmarks and concluded that 'unless the United States finds new ways to bring strong pressure on the Iraqis, things are not likely to pick up any time soon.'"
In fact, over the past few months, many have come to the realization that political action by the Iraqi Government is a paramount precursor to national reconciliation and stability and, without it, the Baghdad Security Plan is only a temporary, tactical fix for one specific location. And while we are hearing about incremental successes, I agree with Thomas Friedman who said recently in an interview, "there's only one metric for the surge working, and that is whether we're seeing a negotiation among Iraqis to share power, to stabilize the political situation in Iraq , which only they can do ..... telling me that the violence is down 10 percent or 8 percent here or 12 percent there, I don't really think that's the metric at all."
To this day, the public looks to the United States Senate to temper the passions of politics and to bridge divides. And if ever there were a moment when Americans are imploring us to live up to the moniker of "world's greatest deliberative body," that moment is upon us.
If I had a son or daughter or other family member serving in Iraq , I would want at least the assurance that someone was speaking up to tell the Iraqi Government, and frankly our government as well, that at my family's sacrifice must be matched by action and sacrifice on the part of the Iraqi Government. I would want to know that the most profound of all issues was fully debated by those who are elected to provide leadership. For those of us who seek success in Iraq , and believe that a strategy predicated on political and diplomatic solutions, not merely increased troop levels, presents the strongest opportunity to reach that goal, let us coalesce around this bill, which will allow us to speak as one voice, strong, together, and united in service to a purpose we believe to be right.