Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The day after the speech...

A couple of noteable iems this morning.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd introduced his amendment today capping the size of American troops in Iraq, his attempt to halt the president's build up of American forces there without first obtaining congressional authorization. Here's what he had to say at the Senate committee meeting:

Mr. Chairman, I believe that the state of disarray in Iraq is terribly much on the minds of all Americans. As is the tragic loss of life of some of the most courageous of our young men and women in uniform.

As the first action by this Committee in the new Congress, I strongly believe we must demonstrate to the American people that we share their concerns and doubts about the President’s proposed plan’s to escalate our involvement in Iraq.

More important, I believe that we must demonstrate that we are prepared to lead on this issue – not simply sit back, fearful of taking positions most of us believe are in the interests of our country, namely to change the primary mission of our forces in Iraq from referees of sectarian violence and to undertake missions designed to turn over responsibility for Iraq’s security to Iraqis.

I was struck by the fact that when Secretary Rice was before this Committee earlier this month almost all of the Members of this Committee expressed serious reservations, if not outright opposition to the President’s plan to escalate our failed policies in Iraq.

I am unequivocally opposed to the escalation of US involvement in the ongoing civil war in Iraq. I want the Congress to consider meaningful and binding legislation to block that escalation. And I believe that should happen sooner rather than later.

Stopping the escalation of US forces is clearly only the first step.

There must also be a meaningful de-escalation of US combat activities in Iraq, to be achieved through the redeployment of US forces both within Iraq and to elsewhere in the region. It is critical that US combat troops get out of urban areas where sectarian conflict is greatest.

This will enable US forces to concentrate on expediting the equipping and training of Iraqi security forces to enhance their ability to bring security to Iraq, securing Iraq’s borders from outside interference and continuing effective counterterrorism initiatives to protect vital US security interests in the region.

Mr. Chairman, as you know on January 16, I followed up my statement of opposition to the President’s plan in Committee with the introduction of binding legislation in opposition to the President’s proposal to escalate US combat involvement in Iraq.

I have done so by statutorily limiting troop levels to those on the ground as of January 16, 2007, absent the explicit authorization in advance from Congress to increase those levels --An authorization which I would oppose as would a majority of the Senate and the House, I suspect.

There is ample precedent for this approach. 1974, Vietnam, 1983, Lebanon, 1984 US troops permanently based in Europe, 2000, Colombia.

In some cases these caps have been effectuated by restricting funding. In other cases the approach I have taken to simply prohibit additional troops without explicit authorization has been followed.

I feel very strongly that we must act now. If we sit back and let several weeks go by, the President will interpret this delay as lack of resolve on our part. I do not lack that resolve and I think that it is important that members go on record as to whether they are for or against the escalation of our involvement in Iraq.

And with all due respect, I do not think that the resolution before us is definitive enough on that score.

The text of my amendment is section two of my bill (S. 308). A copy of my amendment has been made available to all members.

And should my amendment prevail I will move that the text of the resolution as amended be reported as an original joint resolution of this committee with appropriate technical corrections to be made to the text to achieve that result.

The troops that my amendment would prevent being deployed to Iraq are destined for Baghdad – a city of 6 million people in the throes of sectarian conflict. Surely those troops will be less at risk outside of Iraq than on the streets of Baghdad.

As to the troops that remain, it has been my recommendation, to embrace the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, most especially the recommendation to “change the primary mission of US forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly.”

Under those circumstances the cap levels envisioned in my amendment should be more than adequate to respond to unforeseen contingencies.

I believe that the American people are tired of the Congress not living up to its responsibilities to weigh in to change the course of US involvement in Iraq when we all know in our hearts that this needs to be done.

If we were able to authorize the President to go war in 2002 – a vote many of us regret – surely we can take meaningful steps to right that wrong – it is long overdue that we do so.

I hope you, Mr. Chairman, and other members of the Committee will support this amendment.


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