January 30, 2007
Mr. President, today in Iraq, we sadly find ourselves at the very point I feared most when I opposed giving the President the open-ended authority to wage this war in 2002 - an occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences in the midst of a country torn by civil war.
The American people have waited and the American people have been patient. We have given chance after chance for a resolution that has not come, and, more importantly, watched with horror and grief the tragic loss of thousands of brave young American soldiers.
The time for waiting in Iraq is over. The days of our open-ended commitment must come to a close. And the need to bring this war to an end is here.
That is why today, I'm introducing the Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007.
This plan would not only place a cap on the number of troops in Iraq and stop the escalation, more importantly, it would begin a phased redeployment of U.S. forces with the goal of removing of all U.S. combat forces from Iraq by March 31st, 2008 - consistent with the expectations of the bipartisan Iraq study group that the President has so assiduously ignored.
The redeployment of troops to the United States, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the region would begin no later than May 1st of this year, toward the end of the timeframe I first proposed in a speech more than two months ago. In a civil war where no military solution exists, this redeployment remains our best leverage to pressure the Iraqi government to achieve the political settlement between its warring factions that can slow the bloodshed and promote stability.
My plan allows for a limited number of U.S. troops to remain as basic force protection, to engage in counter-terrorism, and to continue the training of Iraqi security forces.
And if the Iraqis are successful in meeting the thirteen benchmarks for progress laid out by the Bush Administration itself, this plan also allows for the temporary suspension of the redeployment, provided Congress agrees that the benchmarks have actually been met and that the suspension is in the national security interest of the United States.
The U.S. military has performed valiantly and brilliantly in Iraq. Our troops have done all that we have asked them to do and more. But no amount of American soldiers can solve the political differences at the heart of somebody else's civil war, nor settle the grievances in the hearts of the combatants.
It is my firm belief that the responsible course of action - for the United States, for Iraq, and for our troops - is to oppose this reckless escalation and to pursue a new policy. This policy that I've laid out is consistent with what I have advocated for well over a year, with many of the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, and with what the American people demanded in the November election.
When it comes to the war in Iraq, the time for promises and assurances, for waiting and patience, is over. Too many lives have been lost and too many billions have been spent for us to trust the President on another tried and failed policy opposed by generals and experts, Democrats and Republicans, Americans and many of the Iraqis themselves.
It is time for us to fundamentally change our policy.
It is time to give Iraqis their country back.
And it is time to refocus America's efforts on the challenges we face at home and the wider struggle against terror yet to be won.