Address Delivered at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International
- Remarks made by Senator Edward M. Kennedy
- 27 January 2005
Thank you Dr. Fukuyama for that generous introduction.
I'm honored to be here at the School of Advanced International Studies. Many
of the most talented individuals in foreign policy have benefited from your
outstanding graduate program, and I welcome the opportunity to meet with you
on the issue of Iraq.
Forty years ago, America was in another war in a distant land. At that
time, in 1965, we had in Vietnam the same number of troops and the same
number of casualties as in Iraq today.
We thought in those early days in Vietnam that we were winning. We thought
the skill and courage of our troops was enough. We thought that victory on
the battlefield would lead to victory in the war, and peace and democracy
for the people of Vietnam.
We lost our national purpose in Vietnam. We abandoned the truth. We failed
our ideals. The words of our leaders could no longer be trusted.
In the name of a misguided cause, we continued the war too long. We failed
to comprehend the events around us. We did not understand that our very
presence was creating new enemies and defeating the very goals we set out to
achieve. We cannot allow that history to repeat itself in Iraq. //
We must learn from our mistakes. We must recognize what a large and growing
number of Iraqis now believe. The war in Iraq has become a war against the
We have reached the point that a prolonged American military presence in
Iraq is no longer productive for either Iraq or the United States. The U.S.
military presence has become part of the problem, not part of the solution.
We need a serious course correction, and we need it now. We must make it
for the American soldiers who are paying with their lives. We must make it
for the American people who cannot afford to spend our resources and
national prestige protracting the war in the wrong way. We must make it for
the sake of the Iraqi people who yearn for a country that is not a permanent
battlefield and for a future free from permanent occupation.
The elections in Iraq this weekend provide an opportunity for a fresh and
honest approach. We need a new plan that sets fair and realistic goals for
self-government in Iraq, and works with the Iraqi government on a specific
timetable for the honorable homecoming of our forces.
The first step is to confront our own mistakes. Americans are rightly
concerned about why our 157,000 soldiers are there -- when they will come
home -- and how our policy could have gone so wrong.
No matter how many times the Administration denies it, there is no question
they misled the nation and led us into a quagmire in Iraq. President Bush
rushed to war on the basis of trumped up intelligence and a reckless
argument that Iraq was a critical arena in the global war on terror, that
somehow it was more important to start a war with Iraq than to finish the
war in Afghanistan and capture Osama bin Laden, and that somehow the danger
was so urgent that the U.N. weapons inspectors could not be allowed time to
complete their search for weapons of mass destruction.
As in Vietnam, truth was the first casualty of this war. Nearly 1400
Americans have died. More than 10,000 have been wounded, and tens of
thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children have been killed. The weapons
of mass destruction weren't there, but today 157,000 Americans are.
As a result of our actions in Iraq, our respect and credibility around the
world have reached all-time lows. The President bungled the pre-war
diplomacy on Iraq and wounded our alliances. The label "coalition of the
willing" cannot conceal the fact that American soldiers make up 80% of the
troops on the ground in Iraq and more than 90% of the casualties.
The Administration also failed to prepare for the aftermath of "victory" -
and so the post-war period became a new war, with more casualties,
astronomical costs, and relentless insurgent attacks.
The Administration failed to establish a basic level of law and order after
Baghdad fell, and so massive looting occurred.
The Administration dissolved the Iraqi army and dismissed its troops, but
left their weapons intact and their ammunition dumps unguarded, and they
have become arsenals of the insurgency.
The Administration relied for advice on self-promoting Iraqi exiles who were
out of touch with the Iraqi people and resented by them - and the result is
an America regarded as occupier, not as liberator.
The President recklessly declared "Mission Accomplished" when in truth the
mission had barely begun. He and his advisors predicted and even bragged
that the war would be a cakewalk, but the expected welcoming garlands of
roses became an endless bed of thorns.
The Administration told us the financial costs would be paid with Iraqi oil
dollars, but it is being paid with billions of American tax dollars.
Another $80 billion bill for the black hole that Iraq has become has just
been handed to the American people.
The cost is also being paid in shame and stain on America's good name as a
beacon of human rights. Nothing is more at odds with our values as Americans
than the torture of another human being. Do you think that any Americans
tell their children with pride that America tortures prisoners? Yet, high
officials in the Administration in their arrogance strayed so far from our
heritage and our belief in fundamental human decency that they approved the
use of torture
The Administration's willful disregard of the Geneva Conventions led to the
torture and flagrant abuse of the prisoners at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and
that degradation has diminished America in the eyes of the whole world. It
has diminished our moral voice on the planet.
Never in our history has there been a more powerful, more painful example of
the saying that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat
The tide of history rises squarely against military occupation. We ignore
this truth at our peril in Iraq.
The nations in the Middle East are independent, except for Iraq, which began
the 20th century under Ottoman occupation and is now beginning the 21st
century under American occupation.
Iraq could very well be another Algeria, where the French won the military
battle for Algiers, but ultimately lost the political battle for Algeria.
Despite the clear lesson of history, the President stubbornly clings to the
false hope that the turning point is just around the corner.
The ending of the rule of Saddam Hussein was supposed to lessen violence and
bring an irresistible wave of democracy to the Middle East. It hasn't.
Saddam Hussein's capture was supposed to quell the violence. It didn't. The
transfer of sovereignty was supposed to be the breakthrough. It wasn't.
The military operation in Fallujah was supposed to break the back of the
insurgency. It didn't.
The 1400 Americans killed in Iraq and the 10,000 American casualties are the
equivalent of a full division of our Army - and we only have ten active
The tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed last year included nearly a
thousand members of the new Iraqi security forces, and a hundred more have
been lost this year. The recent killing of a senior Iraqi judge was the
170th assassination of an Iraqi official since June of 2003.
We all hope for the best from Sunday's election. The Iraqis have a right to
determine their own future. But Sunday's election is not a cure for the
violence and instability. Unless the Sunni and all the other communities
in Iraq believe they have a stake in the outcome and a genuine role in
drafting the new Iraqi constitution, the election could lead to greater
alienation, greater escalation, and greater death - for us and for the
In fact, the Central Intelligence Agency's top official in Baghdad warned
recently that the security situation is deteriorating and is likely to
worsen, with escalating violence and more sectarian clashes. How could any
President have let this happen?
General Brent Scowcroft, who until recently served as Chairman of President
Bush's National Intelligence Advisory Board and who also served as the first
President Bush's National Security Adviser, recently warned of an "incipient
civil war" in Iraq. He said, "the [Iraqi] elections are turning out to be
less about a promising transformation, and it has great potential for
deepening the conflict."
President Bush's Iraq policy is not, as he said during last fall's campaign,
a "catastrophic success." It is a catastrophic failure. The men and women
of our armed forces are serving honorably and with great courage under
extreme conditions, but their indefinite presence is fanning the flames of
The American people are concerned. They recognize that the war with Iraq is
not worth the cost in American lives, prestige, and credibility. They
understand that this misbegotten war has made America more hated in the
world, created new breeding grounds and support for terrorists, and made it
harder to win the real war against terrorism - the war against Al Qaeda and
radical jihadist terrorists.
Conservative voices are alarmed as well. As Paul Weyrich, founder of the
Heritage Foundation, said last November, we are "stuck in a guerrilla war
with no end in sight."
As former Coalition Provisional Authority adviser Larry Diamond recently
said, "There is a fine line between Churchillian resolve and self-defeating
obstinacy." We must recognize that line and end the obstinate policy of the
A new Iraq policy must begin with acceptance of hard truths. Most of the
violence in Iraq is not being perpetrated - as President Bush has claimed -
by "a handful of folks that fear freedom" and "people who want to try to
impose their will on people©just like Osama bin Laden."
The war has made Iraq a magnet for terrorism that wasn't there before.
President Bush has opened an unnecessary new front in the war on terror, and
we are losing ground because of it. The CIA's own National Intelligence
Council confirmed this assessment in its report two weeks ago.
The insurgency is not primarily driven by foreign terrorists. General
Abizaid, head of our Central Command, said last September, "I think the
number of foreign fighters in Iraq is probably below 1,000©". According to
the Department of Defense, less than two percent of all the detainees in
Iraq are foreign nationals.
The insurgency is largely home-grown. By our own government's own count,
its ranks are large and growing larger. Its strength has quadrupled since
the transfer of sovereignty six months ago -from 5,000 in mid-2004, to
16,000 last October, to more than 20,000 now. The Iraqi intelligence service
estimates that the insurgency may have 30,000 fighters and up to 200,000
supporters. It's clear that we don't know how large the insurgency is. All
we can say with certainty is that the insurgency is growing.
It is also becoming more intense and adaptable. The bombs are bigger and
more powerful. The attacks have greater sophistication.
Anthony Cordesman, the national security analyst for the Center for
Strategic and International Studies, recently wrote: "There is no evidence
that the number of insurgents is declining as a result of Coalition and
Iraqi attacks to date."
An Army Reservist wrote the stark truth: "The guerillas are filling their
losses faster than we can create them©. For every guerilla we kill with a
smart bomb, we kill many more innocent civilians and create rage and anger
in the Iraqi community. This rage and anger translates into more recruits
for the terrorists and less support for us." Our troops understand that.
The American people understand it. And it's time the Administration
Beyond the insurgency's numbers, it has popular and tacit support from
thousands of ordinary Iraqis who are aiding and abetting the attacks as a
rejection of the American occupation. It is fueled by the anger of
ever-larger numbers of Iraqis - not just Saddam loyalists - who have
concluded that the United States is either unable or unwilling to provide
basic security, jobs, water, electricity and other services.
Anti-American sentiment is steadily rising. CDs that picture the
insurrection have spread across the country. Songs glorify combatants.
Poems written decades ago during the British occupation after World War I
are popular again.
The International Crisis Group, a widely respected conflict prevention
organization, recently reported, "These post-war failings gradually were
perceived by many Iraqis as purposeful,© designed to serve Washington's
interests to remain for a prolonged period in a debilitated Iraq."
We have the finest military in the world. But we cannot rely primarily on
military action to end politically inspired violence. We can't defeat the
insurgents militarily if we don't effectively address the political context
in which the insurgency flourishes. Our military and the insurgents are
fighting for the same thing - the hearts and minds of the people - and that
is a battle we are not winning.
The beginning of wisdom in this crisis is to define honest and realistic
First, the goal of our military presence should be to allow the creation of
a legitimate, functioning Iraqi government, not to dictate it.
Creating a full-fledged democracy won't happen overnight. We can and must
make progress, but it may take many years for the Iraqis to finish the job.
We have to adjust our time horizon. The process cannot begin in earnest
until Iraqis have full ownership of that transition. Our continued,
overwhelming presence only delays that process.
If we want Iraq to develop a stable, democratic government, America must
assist -- not control -- the newly established government.
Unless Iraqis have a genuine sense that their leaders are not our puppets,
the election cannot be the turning point the Administration hopes.
To enhance its legitimacy in the eyes of the Iraqi people, the new Iraqi
Government should begin to disengage politically from America, and we from
The reality is that the Bush Administration is continuing to pull the
strings in Iraq, and the Iraqi people know it. We picked the date for the
transfer of sovereignty. We supported former CIA operative Iyad Allawi to
lead the Interim Government. We wrote the administrative law and the
interim constitution that now governs Iraq. We set the date for the
election, and President Bush insisted that it take place, even when many
Iraqis sought delay.
It is time to recognize that there is only one choice. America must give
Iraq back to the Iraqi people.
We need to let the Iraqi people make their own decisions, reach their own
consensus, and govern their own country.
We need to rethink the Pottery Barn rule. America cannot forever be the
potter that sculpts Iraq's future. President Bush broke Iraq, but if we want
Iraq to be fixed, the Iraqis must feel that they, not we, own it.
The Iraqi people are facing historic issues
The United States and the international community have a clear interest in a
strong, tolerant and pluralistic Iraq, free from chaos and civil war.
The United Nations, not the United States, should provide assistance and
advice on establishing a system of government and drafting a constitution.
An international meeting - led by the United Nations and the new Iraqi
Government -- should be convened immediately in Iraq or elsewhere in the
Middle East to begin that process.
For our part, America must accept that the Shiites will be the majority in
whatever government emerges. Sixty percent of the population in Iraq is
Shiite, and a Shiite majority is the logical outcome of a democratic process
But the Shiites must understand that Iraq's stability and security will be
achieved only by safeguarding minority rights. The door to drafting the
Constitution and to serving in government must be left open -- even to those
who were unwilling or unable or too terrified to participate in the
The Shiites must also understand that America's support is not open-ended
and that America's role is not to defend an Iraqi government that excludes
or marginalizes important sectors of Iraqi society. It is far too dangerous
for the American military to take sides in a civil war.
America must adjust to the reality that not all former Baathists will be
excluded from Iraqi political life in the new Iraq. After the Iron Curtain
fell in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, many former communists went on
to participate in the political process. The current Polish President - a
strong ally of President Bush in Iraq - is a former active member of the
Communist Party who served under Poland's martial law government during the
1980's. If communists can change in this way, there is no reason why some
former members of the Baath party cannot do so.
If Iraqis wish to negotiate with insurgents who are willing to renounce
their violence and join the political process, we should let them do so.
Persuading Sunni insurgents to use the ballot, not the bullet, serves the
interests of the Shiites too.
Second, for democracy to take root, the Iraqis need a clear signal that
America has a genuine exit strategy.
The Iraqi people do not believe that America intends no long-term military
presence in their country. Our reluctance to make that clear has fueled
suspicions among Iraqis that our motives are not pure, that we want their
oil, and that we will never leave. As long as our presence seems ongoing,
America's commitment to their democracy sounds unconvincing.
The President should do more to make it clear that America intends no
long-term presence. He should disavow the permanence of our so-called
"enduring" military bases in Iraq. He should announce that America will
dramatically reduce the size of the American Embassy -- the largest in the
Once the elections are behind us and the democratic transition is under way,
President Bush should immediately announce his intention to negotiate a
timetable for a drawdown of American combat forces with the new Iraqi
At least 12,000 American troops and probably more should leave at once, to
send a stronger signal about our intentions and to ease the pervasive sense
As Major General William Nash, who commanded the multinational force in
Bosnia, said in November, a substantial reduction in our forces following
the Iraqi election "would be a wise and judicious move" to demonstrate that
we are leaving and "the absence of targets will go a long way in decreasing
America's goal should be to complete our military withdrawal as early as
possible in 2006.
President Bush cannot avoid this issue. The Security Council Resolution
authorizing our military presence in Iraq can be reviewed at any time at the
request of the Iraqi Government, and it calls for a review in June. The
U.N. authorization for our military presence ends with the election of a
permanent Iraqi government at the end of this year. The world will be our
judge. We must have an exit plan in force by then. //
While American troops are drawing down, we must clearly be prepared to
oppose any external intervention in Iraq or the large-scale revenge killing
of any group. We should begin now to conduct serious regional diplomacy with
the Arab League and Iraq's neighbors to underscore this point, and we will
need to maintain troops on bases outside Iraq but in the region.
The United Nations could send a stabilization force to Iraq if it is
necessary and requested by the Iraqi government. But any stabilization
force must be sought by the Iraqis and approved by the United Nations, with
a clear and achievable mission and clear rules of engagement. Unlike the
current force, it should not consist mostly of Americans or be led by
Americans. All nations of the world have an interest in Iraq's stability
and territorial integrity.
Finally, we need to train and equip an effective Iraqi security force. We
have a year to do so before the election of the permanent Iraqi government.
The current training program is in deep trouble, and Iraqi forces are far
from being capable, committed, and effective. In too many cases, they
cannot even defend themselves, and have fled at the first sign of battle.
It is not enough to tell us
question is how many are prepared to give their lives if necessary, for a
future of freedom for their country.
The insurgents have been skilled at recruiting Iraqis to participate in
suicide attacks. But too often, the trained Iraqi forces do not have a
comparable commitment to the Iraqi government. Recruits are ambivalent
about America, unsure of the political transition, and skeptical about the
credibility of their military and political institutions. The way to
strengthen their allegiance is to give them a worthy cause to defend as soon
as possible- a truly free, independent and sovereign Iraq.
We now have no choice but to make the best we can of the disaster we have
created in Iraq. The current course is only making the crisis worse. We
need to define our objective realistically and redefine both our political
and our military presence.
President Bush has left us with few good choices. There are costs to
staying, and costs to leaving. There may well be violence as we disengage
militarily from Iraq and Iraq disengages politically from us. But there will
be much more serious violence if we continue our present dangerous and
reckless course. It will not be easy to extricate ourselves from Iraq, but
we must begin.
Error is no excuse for its own perpetuation. Mindless determination
doesn't make a better outcome likely. Setting a firm strategy for
withdrawal may not guarantee success, but not doing so will almost certainly
guarantee failure. Casualties are increasing. America is tied down. Our
military is stretched to the breaking point. Our capacity to respond to
crises and threats elsewhere in the world has been compromised.
The book of Proverbs in the Bible teaches us that, "Pride goes before
destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." It's time for President
Bush to swallow his pride and end our country's continuing failures in Iraq
and in the eyes of the world. When the President delivers the State of the
Union Address next week, I hope he will demonstrate his intention to do
that. The danger is very real that if he does not, our leadership in the
world will be permanently lost. We cannot let that happen.
There is a wiser course we can take in keeping with the best in our heritage
and history -a course that will help America, at long last, to regain our
rightful place of respect in the world and bring our troops home with honor.
Let's take that course, and take it now.
Thank you very much.
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