Transcript

Sen. Snowe's Speech on the Iraq War

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Congressional Record
Saturday, July 21, 2007; 5:58 PM

Ms. SNOWE. Mr. President, first of all, I express my profound gratitude to my friend and colleague from Arizona, Senator McCain, the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, for his unsurpassed and exemplary leadership on so many defense and national security issues throughout his distinguished career.

I rise to speak to the monumental, consequential matter before us with regard to the future course of the United States and our courageous men and women in Iraq, and specifically to express my support and cosponsorship of the amendment that is presently before the Senate that has been authored by the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Levin, and Senator Reed of Rhode Island. I thank them for their hard work and outstanding leadership on this historic matter.

I recognize that none of us arrives at this debate 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. Indisputably, a myriad of deeply held beliefs were expressed on those pivotal matters--some in concert, some complimentary, some in conflict. Yet, without question, all were rooted in mutual concern for and love of our great Nation. Without question, that remains so today with the various proposals that are before us.

I remind my colleagues in the Senate that the framework that has been embraced in the amendment authored by Senator Levin and Senator Reed is one that is not without precedent throughout our history in the actions taken by this institution in previous conflicts. So it is not a departure from precedent but very consistent with precedent in the past. Where we make decisions to impose our imprint on a longstanding conflict is obviously of critical consequence to this Nation.

In my view, 4 1/2 years following the commencement of our military operations in Iraq , and 6 months after the troop surge was announced and was initiated, we now stand at the crossroads between help and reality with respect to the Iraqi Government's ability or even willingness to achieve national reconciliation for its own country and its own people.

The time has come to address that reality. The time has come to determine if our military and our strategy should continue on the basis of perpetually hoping the Iraqis will succeed or whether they actually possess the desire and the drive to place their national interest above their sectarian ambitions.

In my considered examination and analysis, taking into account my visits to Iraq --most recently in May--the facts and information we already have had at hand, the record of serial intransigence on the part of the Iraqi Government regarding its inability to forge the political underpinnings essential for national reconciliation, and the fact there is universal agreement that a military solution alone is not possible, I believe a dramatic and fundamental change in our strategy in Iraq is essential and that Congress must require it based on that reality.

Because while the hands of time have now advanced in what has been described as sort of the 11th hour for Iraqi political reconciliation, in fact, in many ways, I see progress has moved in a regressive fashion. We can no longer afford to place more American service men and women in harm's way to instill a peace that the Iraqis seem unwilling to seek for themselves.

I do not come to this conclusion casually or abruptly. Far from it. Indeed, following the President's address to the Nation in January, in which he unveiled a "New Way Forward in Iraq" through primarily increasing troop levels, I was among the first to publicly oppose that plan. In my view, it addressed neither the root cause of the violence in Iraq that was fueled by longstanding and deep-seated sectarian conflicts, nor the failure of the Iraqi Government to either demonstrate the will or capacity to quell that sectarian violence.

It is incumbent upon the Iraqi people and their Government to work toward their own national unity. At that juncture, when we were about to assume even greater risk on behalf of the future of Iraq , there was, frankly, no compelling evidence that the Iraqis were willing to assume similar risks for a united future that only they can truly secure.

Therefore, I then joined my colleagues Senators BIDEN, LEVIN, and HAGEL, in introducing a Senate resolution that opposed the surge and instead would have urged the President to increase our coun.ter.ter.ror.ism efforts, maintain the territorial integrity of Iraq , promote regional stability through a renewed diplomatic offensive, and continue the training of the Iraqi security forces--all without withdrawing precipitously.

I said at the time that it was essential for the


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