Weekly Column of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander May 27, 2007 “Memorial Day”

Posted on May 25, 2007

Memorial Day is a time of remembrance when the sacrifices of the past can serve to light our nation’s future. This Memorial Day, we honor our fallen heroes – including the 81 Tennesseans who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. But we also should not forget those Volunteers who today are wearing our nation’s uniform. More than four years into the Iraq war, perhaps the best way to remember those still serving as well as those who have fallen is to replace our partisan votes on Iraq with a united way forward. 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?” We owe it to these troops – past and present – to reach a bipartisan agreement on the next political step for Iraq that puts to rest any frustrations our men and women in uniform have for their lawmakers on Capitol Hill. They know we need a political solution in Washington, D.C., as much as we need one in Baghdad. More and more of my colleagues in the Senate are looking for a way to come together on a way forward in Iraq. This week six more senators – three Republicans and three Democrats- joined Senator Ken Salazar from Colorado and myself in supporting the recommendations of the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group. So now four Republicans and four Democrats – from the north, south, east and west – are asking for a new attitude for this debate. I expect there will be more senators joining our effort. In June, when we return to Washington after spending the week of Memorial Day in our home states, Senator Salazar and I – joined by this bipartisan group of senators – will introduce the legislation we have drafted to implement the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations. Those who know the Senate know that we usually do our best and most constructive work when a handful of senators cross part lines to take a fresh look at a problem, embrace a new strategy and try to do what’s right for our county. The Iraq Study Group report is a strategy for tomorrow. It aggressively encourages diplomatic efforts. It gets our troops out of the combat business and into the support, training, and equipping business as soon as it can honorably be done. As early as the spring of next year, it could reduce our troop levels in Iraq to about half of today’s level, keeping Special Forces in the country to focus on countering terrorist threats and continuing to support and train the Iraqi Army. The President has spoken well of the report and the Democratic majority in Congress have borrowed parts of the report. That it why it has a chance to work. It has the seeds of bipartisan consensus. So on this Memorial Day weekend as we remember the brave soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have fallen, let us pay tribute to them by putting the partisan bickering aside and finding a fresh, unified voice on the way forward in Iraq.