The Corner

The Senate Votes Down a Timetable For Iraq

Here’s what Joe Lieberman said about it Carl Levin’s (just defeated) amendment:

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: “It is no surprise to my colleagues that I strongly supported the war in Iraq. I was privileged to be the Democratic cosponsor, with the Senator from Virginia, of the authorizing resolution which received overwhelming bipartisan support.

“As I look back on it and as I follow the debates about prewar intelligence, I have no regrets about having sponsored and supported that resolution because of all the other reasons we had in our national security interest to remove Saddam Hussein from power, a brutal, murdering dictator, an aggressive invader of his neighbors, a supporter of terrorism, a hater of the United States of America. He was for us a ticking time bomb that if we did not remove him I am convinced would have blown up, metaphorically speaking, in America’s face. I am grateful to the American military for the extraordinary bravery and brilliance of their campaign to remove Saddam Hussein.

“I know we are safer as a nation, and to say the obvious that the Iraqi people are freer as a people, and the Middle East has a chance for a new day and stability with Saddam Hussein gone. We will come to another day to debate the past of prewar intelligence. But let me say briefly the questions raised in our time are important. The international intelligence community believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Probably most significant, and I guess historically puzzling, is that Saddam Hussein acted in a way to send a message that he had a program of weapons of mass destruction.

“I like the way in which the Warner amendment recited again the findings that led us to war against Saddam Hussein and, quite explicitly, cited the progress that has been made. I do think Senator Levin’s amendment doesn’t quite do this part enough, about the progress, particularly among the political leaders of Iraq. They have done something remarkable in a country that lived for 30 years under a dictator who suppressed all political activity, encouraged the increasing division and bitterness among the Shia’s, the Sunnis, the Kurds. These people, with our help and encouragement, have begun to negotiate like real political leaders in a democracy. It is not always pretty. What we do here is not always most attractive. That is democracy. Most important of all, 8 million Iraqis came out in the face of terrorist threats in January to vote on that interim legislation. Almost 10 million came out to vote on a constitution, which is a pretty good document, a historically good document in the context of the Arab world.

“What happened when the Sunnis felt they were not getting enough of what they wanted in a referendum? They didn’t go to the street, most of them, with arms to start a civil war; they registered to vote. That is a miraculous achievement and a change in attitude and action. They came out to vote in great numbers, and they will come out, I predict, again in December in the elections and elect enough Sunnis to have an effect on the Constitution next year.

“So I wish that some of that had been stated in Senator Levin’s amendment.

“I had other concerns about Senator Levin’s amendment, including particularly the last paragraph which I believe creates a timetable for withdrawal, and I think that is a mistake, particularly in the next 3 to 6 months as the Iraqis stand up a new government. It may not be the intention of the sponsors, but it does send a message that I fear will discourage our troops because it seems to be heading for the door. It will encourage the terrorists, and it will confuse the Iraqi people and affect their judgments as they go forward.”

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