Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Remarks of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) Iraq Study Group Legislation

Posted on May 24, 2007

Senator Pryor is right that it is time to stop having partisan votes on Iraq. If I were an American fighting in Iraq, I would look back at us and wonder, “What are they doing in Washington, D.C. arguing and sniping at each other while we are fighting and dying?” I would be thinking, “If they are going to send us to Iraq to do a job, at least they could agree on what the job is.” We owe it to our troops and to our country to find a bipartisan consensus to support where we go from here in Iraq. We need a political solution in Washington D.C. as much as we need one in Baghdad. The announcements today by four more senators, each well-respected - Pryor, Bennett, Casey, Gregg - suggest that the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group are the way to do that. Three Republicans, three Democrats - from north, south, east and west - some relatively new senators and some who have been here along time – fresh voices for a fresh approach and a new attitude for this debate. Before the end of the week, I expect there will be two more, one Democrat and one Republican. And then in June, when we return to Washington, we intend to offer the legislation that Senator Salazar and I have drafted to implement the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. Today we are only six senators, perhaps eight by the end of the week, a modest beginning. But even we six or eight are a more promising bipartisan framework of support for a new direction in Iraq than we have had in some time in the Senate. And those who know the Senate know that we usually do our best and most constructive work when a handful of senators cross party lines to take a fresh look at a problem, embrace a new strategy and try to do what’s right for our country. We are not going to put hundreds of thousands of troops in Iraq We are not going to get out tomorrow. And the current surge on troops in Baghdad, which we all hope is successful, is not by itself a strategy for tomorrow. The Iraq Study Group report IS a strategy for tomorrow. It would get the United States out of the combat business in Iraq and into the support, equipping, and training business in a prompt and honorable way. It will reduce the number of troops in Iraq. Those that stay will be less in harms way - in more secure bases, imbedded with Iraqi forces. Special Forces will stay to counter Al Qaeda. The Report says this could - not must, but could - happen in early 2008, depending on circumstances. The Report allows support for General Petraeus and his troops by specifically authorizing the current surge. Because there will still be a significant longer term presence in Iraq, it will signal to the rest of the Middle East to stay out of Iraq. It aggressively encourages diplomatic efforts. The President has recently spoken well of the report, and embraced parts of it – but it is not his plan. The Democratic majority has borrowed parts of the report – but it is not the Democratic majority plan. That is why it has a chance to work. It has the seeds of bipartisan consensus. We will introduce our legislation in June making the recommendations of the ISG the policy of our country and inviting the president to submit a plan based on those recommendations. I hope the president will embrace this strategy. I believe more senators will. It is ironic for the oldest democracy to be lecturing the youngest democracy about coming up with a political consensus, when we ourselves can’t come up with one. This is the foremost issue facing our country. The Iraq Study Group Report is the most promising strategy for a solution: getting out of the combat business in Iraq and into the support, equipping and training business in a prompt and honorable way.