Senator Dodd Votes Against Iraq Supplemental, Rejects President's War Plan
“I wish that I could look at Iraq and say, with a clear voice and a clean conscience: ‘I share our President’s confidence.’ But the truth tells me otherwise.”
May 24, 2007
Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) today sent a strong message of disapproval to the President and conveyed the views of millions of Americans by speaking out against the Iraq War Supplemental legislation currently under consideration by the Senate. In explaining his decision to vote against the bill, Senator Dodd cited the lack of strong timetables for troop withdrawal, no definitive guidance to transition U.S. forces away from combat operations, an ambiguous mission and strategy, and a lack of accountability for both the President and the Iraqi government.
Senator Dodd had been a strong proponent the Feingold-Reid-Dodd proposal which contained timetables for troop withdrawal and mandated a responsible transition in mission, all backed by Congress’s constitutional power of the purse. By a vote of 67 to 29 on May 16, the Senate decided not to debate this amendment.
“I cannot, in good conscience, support the half-measure that has taken the place of Feingold-Reid-Dodd,” said Dodd. “Instead of establishing realistic timetables, this supplemental does one thing only: It delays for four months, until funding runs out again, the decision we all know is coming: ultimately, combat troops will be redeployed from Iraq. This bill allows four more months of reckless endangerment of our troops and our national security.”
Senator Dodd’s prepared remarks are below:
Mr. President, I rise today to announce that I am voting against the Iraq War supplemental.
I wish I didn’t have to.
I wish that I looked at Iraq and saw a stable, united government, a society free of terrorists and insurgents, and liberal democracy around the corner, if only we spent another billion dollars, or a hundred lives, or another year of waiting. I wish that our surge had, at long last, brought quiet to the tortured city of Baghdad. I wish that our President’s policies were working.
I wish that I could look at Iraq and say, with a clear voice and a clean conscience: “I share our President’s confidence.”
I wish; and even as I wish, the truth tells me otherwise. It tells me that 3,415 men and women in uniform have already sacrificed everything in Iraq, with no end in sight. It tells me that our military is being hollowed out by the Iraq experience, that two thirds of our Army in the United States and 88 percent of our National Guard are forced to report, “Not ready for duty, sir.” It tells me that the American people demand an end to this war, and that the Iraqi people—for whose sake we toppled a dictator and established elections, precisely so we could hear their voice—demand the same.
I look at this bill and I don’t see the truth in it. It exists in a world in which the President’s plans are all meeting their mark. It gives us a status-quo strategy that has failed and failed again. It writes the President a blank check.
I had hoped that this supplemental would have passed with strong timetables for withdrawal, a unambiguous line in the sand. A responsible supplemental would have established definitive guidance for the President to transition the mission of our forces away from combat operations. It would have defined that mission clearly as counter-terrorism, training of Iraqi forces, and American force protection. It would have required a diplomatic and economic strategy in Iraq. And it would have held both the President and the Iraqi government accountable. The Feingold-Reid-Dodd bill contained just such timetables, and mandated a responsible transition in mission, all backed by Congress’s constitutional power of the purse.
But I cannot, in good conscience, support the half-measure that has taken its place. Instead of establishing realistic timetables, this supplemental does one thing only: It delays for four months, until funding runs out again, the decision we all know is coming: ultimately, combat troops will be redeployed from Iraq. This bill allows four more months of reckless endangerment of our troops and our national security.
A Senator shouldn’t talk like that, some will say. I’ll be told I’m declaring surrender right here on the Senate floor. Those are the words that will come from the other side of the aisle, Mr. President, big, grand words—surrender, triumph, defeat, victory—words that will blur and swirl together until they lose all mooring in reality. The President’s supporters want to paint us a picture of a world in which we line up on a field of battle, the terrorists on one side and America on the other, and fight pitched warfare until one side waves the white flag.
But Iraq does not exist in that world. General Petraeus tells us that there will be no military solution; so does the Iraq Study Group. Senator Hagel, a war hero and member of the Foreign Relations Committee, tells us that “there will be no victory or defeat in Iraq….Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there….Iraq is not a prize to be won or lost.”
So I am not conceding defeat in Iraq—because there is no defeat to be conceded. There is only the hope that Sunni, Shia, and Kurd will reconcile in government, call off their militias and death squads, and turn against the foreign terrorists who have helped to spark this civl war. Our combat presence in Iraq cannot make that hope real. We can, and must, continue to assist the Iraqis in trying to reach these goals—but we cannot do it with military might alone. In the end, the challenges in Iraq can only be addressed through political means.
We are told, again and again, that we are failing to “support the troops”—support that is subject to only the vaguest of measurements: “messages” and “signals” and “resolve.”
We answer with fact. We answer with young lives lost and dollars squandered. We answer with the wisdom of James Baker and Lee Hamilton. We ask how any conceivable definition of “support” would leave our troops stranded in a civil war of strangers, with no mission or end in sight. And we say, unequivocally, that the only way to support our troops is to bring them home—now.
In fact, from the very outset of this war, it has been the President’s defense policies that have hollowed out our Armed Forces and further threatened our national security. To reverse this negligence, Democrats have taken concrete action for our troops, again and again.
In 2003, I offered an amendment to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill to add $322 million for critical protective gear identified by the Army, which the Bush Administration had failed to include in its budget. But it was blocked by the Administration and its allies.
In 2004 and 2005, I authored legislation, signed into law, to reimburse troops for equipment they had to purchase on their own, because the Rumsfeld Pentagon failed to provide them with the body armor and other gear they needed to stay alive.
And last year, working with Senators Inouye, Reed, and Stevens, I offered an amendment to help address a $17 billion budget shortfall to replace and repair thousands of war-battered tanks, aircraft, and vehicles. This provision was approved unanimously and enacted in law.
That, Mr. President, is support—support that can be measured, support that carries a cost beyond words.
And it is support that will continue, even if this supplemental fails, as it should. The Defense Department has ample funds to maintain our combat troops in Iraq until they can be withdrawn responsibly. The failure of this bill will not turn funds off like a spigot—the military simply does not work like that. Instead, our troops are supported by the more than $150 billion in the Pentagon’s regular Operations and Maintenance Account—and in the meantime, we might negotiate with the President for a responsible drawdown of combat troops. Any implication that we are stranding our soldiers in the desert—without fuel or bullets or rations—is totally specious.
And it follows that the President’s Memorial Day deadline is totally arbitrary. The lives of our troops are more important than the President’s vacation schedule! Why should he set timelines for Democrats but not for Iraqis?
Instead, let us vote down this bill and then join President Bush at the table, with the dignity befitting an equal branch of government, and the authority vested in us by the American people and our Constitution. Let us bring this disastrous war to a responsible end. And after four years of failed policy, let our voice be loud and unmistakeable: “This far, and no further.”
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