Iraq supplemental conference report before the Senate today has been
widely described as a victory for President Bush. If hardball politics
and lock-step partisanship are the stuff of which victory is made, then
I suppose the assessments are accurate. But if reasoned discourse, integrity,
and accountability are the measures of true victory, then this package
falls far short of the mark.
end, the President wrung virtually every important concession he sought
from the House-Senate conference committee. Key provisions that the
Senate had debated extensively, voted on, and included in its version
of the bill such as providing half of the Iraq reconstruction
funding in the form of loans instead of grants were thrown overboard
in the conference agreement. Senators who had made compelling arguments
on the Senate floor only days earlier to limit American taxpayers' liability
by providing some of the Iraq reconstruction aid in the form of loans
suddenly reversed their position in conference and bowed to the power
of the presidency.
us today is a massive $87 billion supplemental appropriations package
that commits this nation to a long and costly occupation and reconstruction
of Iraq, and yet the collective wisdom of the House and Senate appropriations
conference that produced it was little more than a shadow play, choreographed
to stifle dissent and rubber stamp the President's request.
this take-no-prisoners approach is how the President and his advisers
define victory, but I fear they are fixated on the muscle of the politics
instead of the wisdom of the policy. The fact of the matter is, when
it comes to policy, the Iraq supplemental is a monument to failure.
for example, that before the war, the President's policy advisers assured
the American people that Iraq would largely be able to finance its own
reconstruction through oil revenues, seized assets, and increased economic
billion in this supplemental earmarked for the reconstruction of Iraq
is testament to the fallacy of that prediction. It is the American taxpayer,
not the Iraqi oil industry, that is being called upon to shoulder the
financial burden of rebuilding Iraq.
community, on which the Administration pinned such hope for helping
in the reconstruction of Iraq, has collectively ponied up only $13 billion,
and the bulk of those pledges, $9 billion, is in the form of loans or
credits, not grants. But still, the President claims victory for arm-twisting
Congress into reversing itself on the question of loans and providing
the entire $18 billion in U.S. tax dollars in the form of outright grants
to Iraq. I readily admit that how this convoluted logic can be construed
as a victory for the President is beyond me.
is only part of the story. On May 1, the President stood on the deck
of the USS Abraham Lincoln - - strategically postured beneath a banner
that declared "Mission Accomplished" - - and pronounced the
end of major combat operations in Iraq.
that day, however, more American military personnel have been killed
in Iraq than were killed during the major combat phase of the war. According
to the Defense Department, 376 American troops have been killed to date
in Iraq, and nearly two-thirds of those deaths 238 have
occurred since May 1. When President Bush uttered the unwise challenge,
"Bring 'em on" on July 2, the enemy did indeed "bring
them on", and with a vengeance! Since the President made that comment,
more than 165 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq. And as the
death toll mounts, it has become clear that the enemy intends to keep
on "bringing 'em on."
billion in this supplemental, required to continue the U.S. military
occupation of Iraq over the next year, and the steadily rising death
toll, are testament to the utter hollowness of the President's declaration
aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and the careless bravado of his challenge
to "bring 'em on".
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 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. I support
our troops, I pray for their safety, and 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.
package before us does nothing to internationalize the occupation of
Iraq and, therefore, it is not -- I say NOT -- a vote "for our
troops" in Iraq. We had a chance, in the beginning, to win international
consensus on dealing with Iraq, but 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 and American troops who are succumbing in growing numbers
to a common and all too deadly cocktail of anti-American bombs and bullets
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 turnaround. 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
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 U.S. 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.
continues to insist that the United States will persevere in its mission
in Iraq, that our resolve is unshakable. 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 American troops in Iraq. It is the American people who
will ultimately decide how long we will stay in Iraq.
not enough for the President to maintain that the United States will
not be driven out of Iraq by the increasing violence against American
soldiers. He must also demonstrate leadership by presenting the American
people with a plan to stem the freewheeling violence in Iraq, return
the government of that country to the Iraqi people, and pave the way
for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. We do not now have
such a plan, and the supplemental conference report before us does not
provide such a plan. The $87 billion in this appropriations bill provides
the wherewithal for the United States to stay the course in Iraq when
what we badly need is a course correction. The President owes the American
people an exit strategy for Iraq, and it is time for him to deliver.
great respect and affection for my fellow Senators and my colleagues
on the Senate Appropriations Committee. But I have even greater respect
and affection for the institution of the Senate and the Constitution
by which it was established.
Senator, upon taking office, swears an oath to support and defend the
Constitution. It is the Constitution not the President, not a
political party, but the Constitution to which Senators swear
an oath of loyalty. And I am here to tell you that neither the Constitution
nor the American people are well served by a process and a product that
are based on blind adherence to the will of the President at the expense
of congressional checks and balances. It is as if, in a rush to support
the President's policy, this White House is prepared to put blinders
on the Congress.
spending bill is a case in point. One of the earliest amendments that
was defeated on the Senate floor was one that I offered to hold back
a portion of the reconstruction money and give the Senate a second vote
on whether to release it. Apparently, the President and his supporters
did not want to give the Senate an opportunity to review the progress
or lack of progress in Iraq and have a second chance to
debate the wisdom of spending billions of taxpayers' dollars on the
time, the conference committee was given opportunities to restore or
impose accountability on the administration for the money being appropriated
in the Iraq supplemental. And time after time, the conference majority
beat back those measures. The conferees, for example, defeated, on a
party line vote, an amendment I offered which would have required that
the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq be confirmed
by the Senate. Senate confirmation would have ensured that the person
who is managing tens of billions of dollars in Iraq for the American
taxpayers would be accountable to the public. The current appointee,
L. Paul Bremer III, is not. He answers to the Secretary of Defense and
the President, not to Congress or the American people.
approved a provision creating an inspector general for the Coalition
Provisional Authority, but I am dismayed that this individual is not
subject to Senate confirmation. I am dismayed that the conferees defeated
my amendment that would have required the inspector general to testify
before Congress when invited. And I am dismayed that the President can
refuse to send Congress the results of the inspector general's work.
Could it be that the President's supporters in Congress are afraid to
hear what the inspector general might tell them? Could it be that the
President's supporters in Congress would rather blindly follow the President
instead of risking reality by opening their eyes to what could be uncomfortable
also stripped out my amendment to the Senate bill that would have required
the General Accounting Office to conduct ongoing audits of the expenditure
of taxpayer dollars for the reconstruction of Iraq. On the Senate floor,
my amendment requiring such audits was adopted 97 to 0. In the House-Senate
conference, it was defeated by the Senate conferees on a 15 to 14 straight-line
throughout the Iraq supplemental conference report, provisions euphemistically
described as "flexibilities" give the President broad authority
to take the money appropriated by Congress in this bill and spend it
however he wishes. I tried to eliminate or limit these flexibilities
and in a few cases succeeded but there remain billions
of dollars in this measure that can be spent at the discretion of the
President or the Secretary of Defense. Although the money is appropriated
by Congress, these so-called "flexibilities" effectively transfer
the power of the purse from the Legislative Branch to the Executive
definition of victory is simple and straightforward: success, conquest,
triumph. Within the constraints of that simplistic definition, I suppose
one could construe this package to be a victory for the President.
believe there is a moral undercurrent to the notion of victory that
is not reflected in the dictionary definition. I believe that most Americans
equate victory more closely with what is right than with simply winning.
It is one thing to win, and the tactics be damned; it is quite another
to be victorious. Victory implies doing what is right; doing what is
right implies morality; morality implies standards of conduct. I do
not include arm-twisting and intimidation in my definition of exemplary
standards of conduct.
we should not forget that not all victories are created equal. In 280
BC, Pyrrhus, the ruler of Epirus in Northern Greece, took his formidable
armies to Italy and defeated the Romans at Heraclea, and again at Asculum
in 279 BC, but suffered unbearably heavy losses. "One more such
victory and I am lost," he said.
to Pyrrhus that we owe the term "pyrrhic victory," to describe
a victory so costly as to be ruinous. This supplemental, and the policy
which it supports, unfortunately, may prove to be a pyrrhic victory
for the Bush Administration.
report before the Senate today is a flawed agreement that was produced
by political imperative, not by reasoned policy considerations. This
is not a good bill for our troops in Iraq. This is not a good bill for
American taxpayers. This is not good policy for the United States.
is not always about winning. Sometimes, victory is simply about being
right. This conference report does not reflect the right policy for
Iraq or the right policy for America. I oppose it and I will vote No
on final passage.