Politics & Policy

Our Responsibility to the Troops

Sen. Lieberman on funding the war.

Editor’s Note:  The following is the text of the statement Senator Joe Lieberman made on the floor of the U.S. Senate today on the subject of providing funding for the war in Iraq.

Mr. President, in the days ahead, this Congress and the President of the United States face a choice on the critical question of funding our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a choice between brinksmanship and statesmanship… a choice between continuing to stalemate largely along partisan lines or uniting across partisan lines in support of our troops. We all know what our most important responsibility is. Our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are looking to us. They need the funding that only we in Congress can provide them. The money is running out. I understand that many in this chamber saw the supplemental appropriations bill as an opportunity to force a withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, and that many of us argued vigorously against the amendments that attempted to do that. Each side has now had an opportunity to make its case, and the result is clear: there are not enough votes in Congress to enact a mandatory date for withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. The time for having debates and sending messages on this troop funding bill should be over. It is time to get our troops the equipment, the training, the supplies they need—and without delay. We in this chamber have a responsibility to make certain that—no matter what our disagreements and differences here in Washington—our men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan are not caught in the political crossfire. Only a couple of months ago, the Senate confirmed a new Commander to implement a new strategy in Iraq, General David Petraeus. That new strategy is now being implemented, and it is achieving some encouraging, if early, signs of success. Indeed, progress has been won even though the full complement of troops has not yet arrived in Iraq. Yet, now many in Congress would pull the plug on this new strategy and thwart the work of our troops before they are given a fair chance to succeed.

I am aware that public opinion has turned against the war in Iraq. The American people are deeply frustrated by the multiplicity of mistakes and errors that have been made. Progress has been too slow. The savagery of our enemy, which the American people witness on television every night, has been demoralizing. Many simply want to leave and wash our hands of what they perceive as a mess.

But, leadership requires sometimes that we defy public opinion if that is what is necessary to do what is right for our country. In fact, at a time like this, we are required to do what each of us believes is right, and that might not be what is popular.

And what is right, I firmly believe, is that we cannot allow our nation to be defeated in Iraq by the same terrorist enemy with which we are engaged in a world-wide conflict. The global war on terrorism which we are waging is a world-wide struggle against a barbaric totalitarian foe that is Al Qaeda. And today, it is Al Qaeda that we are fighting in Iraq. Al Qaeda itself has declared Iraq to be the central front of their larger war against our way of life.

All of us who are privileged to serve this great country in positions of leadership have a very serious choice to make.

Our judgment can be guided by the polls and we can withdraw in defeat. We can rationalize our action with the reassuring but falsely hopeful words like redeployment. No matter what we say, our enemy will know that America’s will has been broken by the barbarity of their blood lust—the very barbarity we declare we are fighting, but from which we would actually be running. Mr. President, my main point is this: Now is not the time for more delay, for prolonged legislative posturing and bargaining over the supplemental appropriations bill. It is the time to do our duty to fund our troops, stand by our allies, and do everything we can to help them win the war against Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Rather than inventing new ways to vent our frustration with the war on Iraq, or with the President by handcuffing General Petraeus and undermining his strategy, let us give him and his troops our support as they and their Iraqi allies fight to win for us.

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

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