Speaking on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, Rep. Jane Harman (D-36 CA), called for the immediate redeployment of troops, and to begin a three to six month window to help the Iraqi people with political and economic self-determination, while reducing our military footprint.

The text of her statement is below:

Statement of Congresswoman Jane Harman on the Floor
of the U.S. House of Representatives
Iraq Debate
June 14, 2006

            1,184 days ago, American troops invaded Iraq to rid Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction.

            The weapons weren't there.  But American troops still are.

            I've met some of those troops on my three trips to Baghdad and Afghanistan, as well as Pakistan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.  Our armed forces and intelligence personnel are extraordinary.  Many are on their 3rd and 4th tours.

            As a mother of two sons and two daughters, and as a newly minted grandmother, my heart goes out to families who have lost their dear ones.  I am deeply moved by the courage, dignity and patriotism of the men and women recovering from grievous wounds at Walter Reed and other US hospitals.
            Tragically, our action in Iraq led to a failed state - and our post-war mission cannot succeed.  There are too few troops to stabilize the country.  They are inadequately equipped.  

            They are fighting an insurgency we didn't predict, at constant risk from IEDs we can't find, with no clearly defined goals to help the new Iraqi government achieve political and economic security, and no exit strategy.

            Two major failures led us to war, and we had best learn some lessons or risk making the same mistakes again.  As Ranking Member on the Intelligence Committee, these failures haunt me.

            Had we got the intelligence right, I believe we could have made different choices - and the pain and loss and anger many feel could have been avoided.

            First was a massive intelligence failure in assessing Saddam's WMD capability.  The second - equally grave - was the politicization of intelligence by the President and a White House determined to push us toward war.

            The failure to assess Saddam's WMD capability accurately has been well documented.  As CIA weapons inspector David Kay put it, "we were all wrong."  Overriding the advice of intelligence professionals, Administration officials put stock in bogus sources, like CURVEBALL and self-promoters like Ahmed Chalabi.  

            But simply calling Iraq an intelligence failure ignores the larger policy failures that created the false momentum toward war.

The Bush administration cherry-picked intelligence and hyped the threat.  They talked in ominous tones about "mushroom clouds," even though many questioned evidence suggesting Saddam had nuclear weapons capability.  
They made a mantra of the claim that 9/11 hijacker Mohammad Atta met with Iraqi agents in Prague, a claim that has been thoroughly discredited.  

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz famously predicted we would be greeted as liberators - that Iraqis would throw rose petals - ignoring Intelligence Community assessments about the potential for armed resistance.

            Writing in Foreign Affairs, Paul Pillar - the intelligence community's senior Middle East analyst - described how the Bush administration disregarded the community's expertise, politicized the intelligence process, and selected unrepresentative raw intelligence to make its public case.  

            To date, nobody has been held accountable for this misuse of pre-war intelligence.

The intelligence failures did not end when we invaded Iraq.

            Our President declared "Mission Accomplished" in May 2003.  

            Senior U.S. officials in Iraq asserted in July 2003 that insurgent attacks represented "a limited problem of some bitter-enders" loyal to Saddam.  

            Yet three years after Saddam's fall 2,500 U.S. troops are dead - a number confirmed by the Pentagon just today - and insurgents appear more active than ever.

            We have surged intelligence resources into Iraq in a frantic effort to find the next IED.  

            As a result, we've taken our eye off the ball in Afghanistan, where Taliban fighters are reconstituting themselves even as the United States reduces the number of troops there.  Osama bin Ladin and Ayman al-Zawahiri are still at large, inspiring a new generation of recruits to the jihad.

Just as constant deployments to Iraq cause burnout in the Army, National Guard, and Reserves, we are also burning out large numbers of intelligence professionals.  And, assigning them to Iraq means they are not available to address other national security challenges like Iran and North Korea.

            There has been good news.  U.S. intelligence agencies, operating with special operations forces, have tracked down many key terrorist leaders.  

            The take down of Zarqawi showed the importance of fusing human intelligence, imagery, signals intelligence, and a military strike capability - in real time.  

            That's how intelligence ought to work.  It was a huge tactical victory.

            But tactical victories alone are not enough.

            We need a new strategy for Iraq - a dramatic change of course.

            We need to hold senior officials accountable for massive policy and management failures.  Replacing Donald Rumsfeld, the chief architect of the post-war policy, is long overdue.  He ignored the advice of senior military advisors, ignored the careful recommendations of those who understood nation-building, and ignored those horrified by a prison situation careening out of control.

            And he prides himself even now on refusing to change a failed policy.

            Congress must also provide aggressive oversight to learn why the Administration erred so grievously.  

Since I returned from my third trip to Iraq last September, I have been calling on the Administration to develop an exit strategy.  And I believe it is now time to begin the phased, strategic redeployment of U.S. and coalition forces out of Iraq on a schedule designed by military commanders, not designed by the US Congress.

The U.S. is part of the solution in Iraq, but our large military presence is part of the problem.  Beginning to reduce the "footprint," while maintaining an over-the-horizon strike force, will improve our chances for success.

I think we have 3-6 months to advance three objectives:

First, helping the new Iraqi government provide electrical power, particularly in Baghdad, and deliver other critical economic and social services to the Iraqi people.

Second, supporting the Iraqi government in its effort to disarm Shiite militias and integrate them into a trained Iraqi national security force.

Third, continuing the process, begun by our able Ambassador Khalilzad, of obtaining buy-in from Sunni political leaders.

Achieving these objectives will enable us to leave Iraq in better shape than we found it.

            The next three months are critical.  We have a moral obligation to assist Iraq on its path to democracy, but if clearly-defined minimum objectives cannot be achieved within that time frame, the prospects for success in Iraq could all but disappear.  So ... a change of course is urgently needed.

            The President's visit to Baghdad was important, but it is not a substitute for needed policy changes.

            And Congress cannot be infinitely passive.

            This debate today will only have meaning if in fact it leads to a change of course in Iraq.

            It is time for Congress to lead.

            This resolution, in my view, is a press release for staying the course in Iraq.  It does not signal a change in policy, and thus I cannot support it.

Originally posted to VeniceDave on Thu Jun 15, 2006 at 01:06 PM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.