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Sen Byrd Speech -- Get US Out and UN In / 10-16-03

Remarks by U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd

October 16, 2003

Get the U.S. Out, and the U.N. In

Senator Byrd delivered the following remarks in support of an amendment that he offered with Senators Kennedy and Leahy that would spur a greater international role in the political and economic reconstruction of Iraq and in the security efforts there.

In all the discussion surrounding the President's request for $20.3 billion dollars for reconstruction activities in Iraq and Afghanistan -- in the question of whether the funding should be in the form or a grant or a loan, in the revelation of a series of frivolous proposed expenditures, in the dispute over whether reconstruction funding is a gold-plated add-on or an integral part of the occupation strategy -- there is an overriding issue that we must not allow to be lost in the noise of the debate.

That issue involves the fact that American taxpayers are being presented virtually the entire bill for the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq because of decisions that were made by the President before the war began, decisions to embrace an unprecedented doctrine of preemption and to invade Iraq without the support of the United Nations or the international community.

Those decisions are coming home to haunt us today. Because of the President's obstinance and go-it-alone mentality, it is American soldiers who are patrolling the most dangerous streets and cities of Iraq, and it is American taxpayers who are being asked to foot the bill for the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq.

It appears there is little relief in sight. After see-sawing back and forth, the United Nations Security Council is now expected to accept a revised U.S. resolution on Iraq, but the resolution on the table is little more than a fancy fig leaf designed to camouflage an empty gesture. The resolution proposed by the United States cedes no meaningful authority to the United Nations, and it is likely to have little impact on the number of foreign troops or the amount of international financial assistance that the U.N. will provide for the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq.

American troops in Iraq, and American taxpayers at home, need real help from the international community. The President needs to reach out to the United Nations, not merely attempt to paper over the glaring lack of support from the international community with a resolution that, as some Texans are wont to say, is all hat and no cattle.

The Administration's reckless misadventure in Iraq is exacting a high price in lost lives, lost respect for our nation in the world, and lost ground in the war on terrorism. And yet, in the past week, the only visible response from the President to the continuing chaos in Iraq has been to reshuffle the chain of command in Washington by creating a new entity to consolidate Iraq's reconstruction in the White House instead of the Pentagon.

The President misses the point. Instead of rearranging deck chairs, the President should be changing direction. Creating a new Iraq policy shop in the White House will not bring relief to American soldiers on the ground, and it will not save American taxpayers from having to shoulder virtually alone the staggering financial burden of rebuilding Iraq. If there is any shift in the balance of power over the reconstruction of Iraq -- and there should be -- it must be across oceans, not just across the Potomac. It is long past time to bring in the United Nations as a full partner with shared responsibility and shared decision-making for the future of Iraq. The President does not need another in-house committee to advise him on the future of Iraq. He needs to internationalize the stabilization and reconstruction effort.

Instead of instituting meaningful change in his Iraq policy, the President presented a bait-and-switch proposition to the American people: don't look too closely at the policy, just keep your attention on the policy shop.

We cannot undo what has been done in Iraq. But we can chart a better course for the future.

First and foremost, the Bush Administration should drop its stubborn insistence that the world community not have any authority in the political reconstruction of Iraq. The resolution that will be considered at the United Nations Security Council this morning makes some progress in promoting cooperation between the U.N. and the Iraqi Governing Council, but keeps the U.N. at an arm's length from the Coalition Provisional Authority. It is this Authority, headed by Paul Bremer, that exercises total authority in post-war Iraq.

Ambassador Bremer's first regulation as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority reads, in part, as follows:

"The CPA is vested with all executive, legislative, and judicial authority necessary to achieve its objectives, to be exercised under relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 1483 (2003), and the laws and usages of war. This authority shall be exercised by the CPA Administrator."

The new resolution that will be voted on today at the United Nations will not change the supreme authority claimed by Paul Bremer, who was installed in his post by the President without offering his nomination to the Senate for its advice and consent.

If the international community is going to continue to be squeezed out of the political decision making in the Coalition Provisional Authority, there is little incentive for the world to mobilize to come to the aid of post-war Iraq. The President's 'my way or the highway' approach to the governance of Iraq undermines the mission in Iraq and ignores the will of the American people. The United Nations is willing to help, but only if the Administration drops its false pride and bravado.

Before coming into office, then candidate Bush talked of a humble approach to foreign policy. "Let us reject the blinders of isolationism, just as we refuse the crown of empire. Let us not dominate others with our power -- or betray them with our indifference. And let us have an American foreign policy that reflects American character. The modesty of true strength. The humility of real greatness." Those were the words of candidate George W. Bush. But they have been far from the practice of President George W. Bush.

Similarly, the Administration ought to rethink its extreme good-versus-evil mantra that seems to be running this nation's foreign policy into a morass of confusion and danger.

The Administration's obstinance continues to strain America's relationships and undermines our credibility with other foreign powers. President Bush committed the United States to war without broad international support. He refused to go back to the United Nations prior to launching military attacks, and continues to stiff arm the international community even today when that help is so vital to the long-term interests of Iraq. Instead, the Bush Administration has adopted a go-it-alone mentality that threatens the stability of the Middle East and could spill over into other global arenas.

The United States needs help in Iraq. We need a plan that will bring relief to our overburdened soldiers by attracting significantly more foreign troops to Iraq, and bring relief to our taxpayers by attracting financial assistance from the international community for reconstruction.

The President's proposal does neither. His $87 billion spending request places the entire burden of securing and rebuilding Iraq squarely on the shoulders of American forces and American taxpayers. That burden should not be carried by the United States alone.

That is why we have proposed an alternative.

What Senator Kennedy, Senator Leahy, and I have offered is more than an invitation to the international community to assume a large and vital role in the reconstruction of Iraq. It is a demand, in behalf of the American people, that the President go to the nations of the world and work in partnership with them. It is a mandate for a new policy in Iraq, a policy that will bring peace more quickly and stability more assuredly.

The amendment says, "Mr. President, your plan for Iraq has not worked. It is costing lives each day. And it is jeopardizing the long-term security of the Middle East. We need to share political power in Iraq with the United Nations, and we must be willing to listen to the rest of the world. Share the responsibility, attract new partners for peace, and protect our men and women in Iraq." That is what this amendment would require. It is a commonsense approach to what is quickly becoming an American quagmire in Iraq.

These are dangerous times, times that demand determined, disciplined leadership. The path ahead is not a certain one. But what is certain is that the United States cannot afford to blaze this path alone. America relied on strong alliances, diplomacy, and, only when necessary, armed force to lead the world in the 20th Century. However, the Bush Administration's 21st Century America seems all too ready to focus solely on armed force rather than on strong alliances and diplomacy.

Simply put, we need a plan that will bring relief to American soldiers by attracting significantly more foreign military troops to Iraq, and we need a plan that will bring relief to American taxpayers by attracting meaningful financial assistance from the international community for the reconstruction of Iraq. We need a framework to begin to bring American troops home, supplemented by international forces on the ground in Iraq.

Currently, the United States has approximately 120,000 troops in Iraq. They are augmented by about 20,000 foreign forces, primarily from Great Britain. Another 10,000 troops from Turkey would help, but it would still leave more than 100,000 American troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future.

In an interview published in the Chicago Tribune on October 5, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the head of the coalition forces in Iraq, predicted that it will be years, not months, before the United States can draw down its forces from Iraq. Until a new Iraqi Army is trained and ready to assume command, the only relief for American soldiers is to build up foreign troop presence in Iraq.

International financial assistance is equally important. American taxpayers cannot afford to bear the full cost of the reconstruction of Iraq. We all know that the $20.3 billion requested by the President in this supplemental is just a down payment. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that rebuilding Iraq is expected to cost $56 billion over the next four years, according to an estimate reached by the World Bank, the United Nations, and the Coalition Provisional Authority. So far, other countries have pledged less than $2 billion to the effort.

The amendment that Senators Kennedy and Leahy and I are offering would require the President to reach out to other nations for both military and financial support.

Our amendment provides that, after April 1, 2004, Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Funds can only be obligated if:

I. The President certifies to Congress that the U.N. has adopted a new resolution authorizing a multinational security force under United States leadership in Iraq and providing a central role for the U.N. in the political and economic development of Iraq;

The President certifies that he has a detailed plan in place for the reconstruction of Iraq, including a significant commitment of financial assistance from other nations; and

Congress approves the release of the rest of the funds for the reconstruction of Iraq.

As part of his certification to Congress, the President must establish a plan -- a timetable -- for withdrawing American troops from Iraq. This is a way to get the U.N. in and the U.S. out. It is a real alternative to the Administration's bull-rush approach. And it is a significant gesture to the Iraqi people that America is not an occupier, but a real liberator.

The Byrd-Kennedy-Leahy amendment limits the funds for the reconstruction of Iraq that may be obligated prior to April 1, 2004, to the $5.1 billion in funds for Iraqi security and $5 billion for economic reconstruction.

Our amendment compels the President to work with the United Nations, and it requires Congress to evaluate the progress of the reconstruction effort at the halfway mark next year. Most important, the amendment changes the course of the Iraq relief and reconstruction effort from a unilateral burden to an international obligation.

It is important to note that the full $5.1 billion that the Administration has requested for the Iraq Defense Corps and for improving the Iraqi national security force is exempted from this amendment. Only the non-security portion of the reconstruction program is subject to a second vote.

It seems to me that this is the least we can do provide relief to American soldiers in Iraq and to safeguard the interests of the American taxpayers in the Administration's program to finance the rebuilding of Iraq. We have a far clearer vision today of the cost of rebuilding Iraq than we did six months ago, and I expect we will have an even better assessment -- or we certainly should -- six months from now.

This amendment gives the President six months to round up international military and financial support for Iraq, and his Administration six months to demonstrate that the reconstruction program is working. Most importantly, my amendment gives the American people some assurance that Congress is not walking away from its responsibility to provide oversight of the hard earned tax dollars that are going to Iraq.

If all is going as planned, Congress can quickly and in good conscience release the remainder of the money. But if unforeseen problems or serious shortfalls in expectations emerge, Congress has an opportunity to make a mid-course correction in America's involvement in post-war Iraq. The American taxpayers deserve no less.

This is not an anti-reconstruction amendment. It does not affect any of the money being appropriated for American military operations in Iraq. It merely requires a progress report and certification from the President at the halfway mark, and a vote from Congress on whether the remaining funds for Iraq reconstruction are needed and are justified. This is a simple amendment to interject congressional oversight into the expenditure of U.S. taxpayer dollars for the reconstruction of Iraq, and I urge my colleagues to accept it.

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