by Hon. Robert C. Byrd / On The Floor Of The US Senate –
WASHINGTON (November 3, 2003) — It has been said many times on the floor of this senate that a vote for this supplemental is a vote for our troops in Iraq. The implication of that statement is that a vote against the supplemental is a vote against our troops. I find that twisted logic to be both irrational and offensive.
To my mind, backing a flawed policy with a flawed appropriations bill hurts our troops in Iraq more than it helps them. Endorsing and funding a policy that does nothing to relieve American troops in Iraq is not in my opinion a Support The Troops Measure. Our troops in Iraq and elsewhere in the world have no stronger advocate than Robert C. Byrd, Senior Senator from the great state of West Virginia, where mountaineers are always free.
I support our troops. I have been supporting our troops for more than 50 years, as a member of the Congress of the United States. I pray for the safety of our troops. I will continue to fight for a coherent policy that brings real help, not just longer deployments and empty sloganeering to American forces in Iraq.
The supplemental package before us does nothing to internationalize the occupation of Iraq and therefore, it is not, I say not, a vote for the troops in Iraq. We had a chance in the beginning to win international consensus on dealing with Iraq, but the administration was in too big a hurry. The White House was in too big a hurry. The administration squandered that opportunity, when the President gave the back of his hand to the United Nations and preemptively invaded Iraq, under this administration’s Iraq policy endorsed in the President’s so-called victory on this supplemental.
It is American troops who are walking the mean streets of Baghdad. It is American troops who are succumbing in growing numbers to a common and all-too-deadly cocktail of anti-American bombs and bullets in Iraq.
Mr. President, the terrible violence in Iraq on Sunday, the deaths of 16 soldiers in the downing of an American helicopter, the killing of another soldier in a bomb attack, and the deaths of two American civilian contractors in a mine explosion is only the latest evidence that the administration’s lack of post-war planning for Iraq is producing an erratic, chaotic situation on the ground with little hope for a quick turn-around. We appear to be lurching from one assault on our troops to the next while making little if any headway in stabilizing or improving security in that unfortunate country.
The failure to secure the vast stockpiles of deadly conventional weapons in Iraq, including shoulder fired surface-to-air missiles such as the one that may have brought down the US Helicopter on Sunday is one of many mistakes that the administration made that is coming back to haunt us today. But perhaps the biggest mistake, the costliest mistake (following the colossal mistake of launching a preemptive attack on Iraq) is the administration’s failure to have a clearly defined mission and exit strategy for Iraq.
The President continues to insist that the United States will persevere in its mission in Iraq and that our resolve is unshakeable. But it is time — past time — for the President to tell the American people exactly what that mission is, how he intends to accomplish it, and what his exit strategy is for the American troops in Iraq.
It is the American people out there. It is the American people who will ultimately decide how long we will stay in Iraq