When the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took up the Biden-Hagel resolution opposing the President’s troop escalation proposal last week, I supported it as a first step toward ending our involvement in this war. That resolution didn’t go nearly far enough – it was nonbinding and just focused on the escalation – but putting the Senate on record against the "surge" was a small step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, the new Warner-Levin resolution that many Democrats are pushing is flawed and unacceptable. It rejects the surge, but it also misunderstands the situation in Iraq and endorses the President’s underlying approach. It’s basically a back-door authorization of the President’s misguided policies, and passing it would be a big mistake. Under the guise of constructive criticism, the Warner-Levin resolution signs off on the President continuing indefinite military operations in Iraq that will not address the fundamental political challenges in Iraq, and that continue to distract us from developing a comprehensive and global approach to the threats that face our nation.
Here’s a link to the resolution so everyone knows what we’re talking about. I’m going to pass over the first finding, which salutes the President as "Commander in Chief." And I’m not going to focus on finding (16), which salutes the muddled and wishy-washy report of the Iraq Study Group as "valuable." Instead, I’m going to focus on section 22 of the findings, which is nothing short of an endorsement of the status quo in Iraq and that is simply unacceptable. It rejects exactly what is most needed in Iraq – an "immediate reduction in, or withdrawal of, the present level of forces." If you vote for this resolution, you are voting against redeploying troops from Iraq. This resolution doesn’t fix the administration’s failed Iraq policy – it just takes us back to where we were before the escalation. It’s not enough to reject the "surge" if you aren’t willing to support a plan for redeploying our troops.
It’s all downhill from there in (b)2. The resolution goes on to support "continuing[ing] vigorous operations in Anbar province, specifically for the purpose of combating an insurgency." Apparently, some people think that our troops should be involved in putting down the Sunni insurgency in western Iraq. Actually, the President’s policy of maintaining a massive, open-ended military presence in Iraq has been inflaming the insurgency in that country from the start. I support the idea of targeted counter-terrorism missions to take out terrorist elements in Iraq, but we shouldn’t ask our brave troops to remain there to put down an Iraqi insurgency any more than we can expect them to end Shi’ite-Sunni sectarian conflict in Baghdad.
That’s why I introduced legislation this week to use Congress’s power of the purse to end our military involvement in Iraq. I was greeted with a tremendous response from this community. I’m extremely grateful for it because it was evidence of how badly change is both wanted and needed. But how does the Warner/Levin resolution change anything? We owe it to ourselves to demand action that will bring about change in Iraq, not take us back to a failed status quo.
Democrats in Congress have seemingly forgotten that we were in power when Congress authorized the President to go to war in Iraq. Supporting a de facto reauthorization puts us in serious jeopardy of repeating that mistake. We also have to remember that in November, Americans sent over 30 new Democratic Representatives and eight new Democratic Senators plus a very progressive Independent to fix a failed Iraq policy. The public is craving change in Iraq and a resolution like this one will not cut it. Now is the time for strong action.
Some have argued that any legislative vehicle that could be spun as a rejection of the President’s policies would be worth supporting. I understand that strategy, and it may sound good to some. But when all the spinning is done, what we are left with is the actual text of the legislation, which is an endorsement of the open-ended commitment of the U.S. military in Iraq.
It’s time for Congress to end our military involvement in this war. We must redeploy our troops from Iraq so that we can focus on the global threats that face us.
**UPDATE** - 5:58 pm
Thanks to everyone who has responded so far. I tell my colleagues in the Senate all the time about the hunger I see in this community, in my listening sessions in Wisconsin, and around the country, for real change. All of this is happening today amidst reports that the CBO is predicting the President will need significantly more troops for his escalation than what the White House is publicly saying. I understand how important it is to send a clear message to the White House. But we shouldn’t make the compromises made in this resolution just to beat a filibuster. Instead of trying to pass something that everyone can get behind, we should be taking a strong stand. If others want to block it, go right ahead. We have the support of a majority of Americans behind us. We should recognize that and act on it. Thank you again. I really appreciate the encouragement.