Transcript

Sen. Isakson's Speech on the Iraq War

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Congressional Record
Saturday, July 21, 2007; 6:03 PM

Mr. ISAKSON. Mr. President, I rise to address the issue before the Senate. I have stayed all night and listened to remarks from my colleagues on both sides. I have tremendous respect for each and every one of them.

I do have some issues, however, with some rhetorical questions that have been asked and not responded to and I think are some voices that have been referred to that have not been really answered that I would like to address in my few minutes.

First of all, the Levin-Reed amendment specifically calls for a withdrawal beginning 120 days from now and completed by the spring of next year. Unconditional, notwithstanding whatever action may be taking place on the ground, what progress may or may not have been made, a precipitous and a final withdrawal.

What I would like to talk about is something that no one has mentioned; that is, the consequences if that actually takes place. I would like to do it in the context of the rhetorical question that was asked by the Senator from New Jersey, who asked the question: How many more lives?

His reference, I know, was to the soldiers in the American and the allied forces in Iraq . But the question is meritorious as a response to the consequences of a Levin-Reed amendment passing.

I joined the Foreign Relations Committee this year, as the Presiding Officer has as well. I noted that he did what I did. He sat through almost all of the hearings we had in January and February on the question of the surge and the question of withdrawal and redeployment. We all heard the same thing. Expert after expert argued over whether the surge would or would not work, or the degree to which it would work.

But no one, no one--from former Secretary Madeline Albright or former Secretary Colin Powell to John Murtha, the representative in the Congress, to Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker, all of whom testified, and 20 others, everyone said the result of a withdrawal or redeployment at that period in January would mean countless untold loss of life in Iraq . And most of them said it would cause a great loss of life in the entire Middle East.

I have had visits from representatives of other Middle Eastern countries who have said: Please do not have a precipitous withdrawal because we will not be able to contain the sectarian violence that will certainly follow.

Now, does that mean we should remain as an occupying peacekeeper? No. But it means if we have objectives and benchmarks for victory, we should give ourselves the chance for that to take place.

In May of this year, we had the debate we are having again today. In May of this year, on the Iraqi supplemental--which was to fund the war in Iraq for our soldiers--we had this debate on whether we should withdraw. We decided not to do it. And that was the right decision. We further decided to put some benchmarks, that we should judge the merits of our progress in part by July 15, and then later on September 15. The President reported 3 days early on July 15 the progress that has been made.

Some has been made, some has not been made. But we all determined that it would be September, and the report of General Petraeus, the man we unanimously put in charge of the battle, as to whether we went forward, proceeded the way we were or changed our strategy.

I do not know what the results of the September 15 report are going to be, but I know I agree with the lady by the name of Lucy Harris. Lucy is the kind of person to whom we ought to all listen. Her son, Noah, 1LT Noah Harris, died in Iraq 2 years ago. He was an e-mail buddy with me during his tour, so I knew a little bit about why he was there and what he believed.


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