News Column

Reid Lambastes Obama's Critics on Iraq: Text of Remarks

June 18, 2014

Congressional Documents & Publications

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (file photo)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (file photo)

Washington, DC - Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today on the violence in Iraq. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Over the past several days, the world has watched in horror as the terrorist organization ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has swept across Iraq, murdering and pillaging. The group is now positioned outside of Baghdad, and threatens to unleash its violent extremism on the Iraqi capital. There is no question that ISIS poses a real threat to Iraq and the surrounding region.

As the President and his advisors consider options to combat this threat, conservative Members of Congress and their pundit cheerleaders are more interested in playing their favorite game - "Blame Obama". Yesterday, I listened with dismay as the Republican Leader claimed that President Obama prematurely withdrew American troops from Iraq. I ask my friend, would he have preferred that U.S. troops stay in Iraq - in harm's way - for five additional years" Was he willing to risk more American lives?

The Republican Leader seems to have forgotten why President Obama initiated the troop drawdown in June 2009. Let me remind him - the Iraqi government did not want American forces to stay. Is he suggesting that American service members should have risked their lives, even as the Iraqi people were asking our military to leave" What has been taking place in Iraq is nothing less than a civil war. Does the Republican Leader believe that service men and women from Kentucky should be inserted into the middle of an Iraqi civil war" Fighting between sectarian factions in Iraq cost thousands of Iraqi and American lives and billions of dollars over the last decade and spawned a new breed of terrorist in Iraq. Yet the original architects of the Iraq War would have us believe that this is all President Obama's fault. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is an Iraqi civil war and it is time for Iraqis to resolve it themselves.

Those who attack the President for bringing our troops home from Iraq are just flat wrong, and they are out of step with the American people. After a decade of war, I believe the American people have had enough. Families have had enough. I do not support putting our men and women in the midst of an Iraqi civil war. It is not in the national security interest of the United States. It is not worth the blood of American service members. It is not even worth the monetary cost to the American taxpayer. Rather than spending trillions more re-fighting President George W. Bush's war, how about we use that money to build and rebuild our nation's roads and bridges" Or educate our children" Maybe we could raise the minimum wage" Or help the long-term unemployed" We could even fully fund the Veterans Administration and ensure that our vets - many of whom fought in the Iraq War - are getting the care they need and deserve?

But instead of addressing issues at home, we're stuck listening to the very same neocons who pushed us into the Iraq War in the first place, as they try to plunge our military into another foreign misadventure. And what is truly absurd is the fact that after all these years, their suggestions haven't changed one bit. And who are these so-called experts, so eager to commit American service members to another war" Why is their advice so valuable?

How about former Bush Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who has accused President Obama of not taking a 'strong position' in Iraq" In 2003, Wolfowitz took a strong position on Iraqi sectarian violence, when he absurdly stated: "There's been none of the record in Iraq of ethnic militias fighting one another."

There's also conservative pundit Bill Kristol, who infamously predicted that American soldiers would be welcomed as liberators, and that the Iraq war would last two months. He also claimed that there's no evidence of discord among Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq. Yet, even in light of his incorrect assertions about Iraq, Kristol is beating the war drum alongside all of his neo-conservative friends.

This morning, an op-ed by former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared in the Wall Street Journal. If there is one thing we can all agree on here, it's that we should not be taking advice on Iraq from Dick Cheney. To be on the wrong side of Dick Cheney is to be on the right side of history.

To the architects of the Iraq War who are now so eager to offer their expert analysis, I say: "Thanks, but no thanks." Unfortunately, we already tried it your way and it was the biggest foreign policy blunder in United States history. President Obama and his military advisors are considering their options to address ISIS - but putting combat troops back into Iraq is not and should not be one of them.

I have no doubt that the President will meet this threat head on, without unnecessarily risking American lives. President Obama will meet this threat with the same smart foreign policy that has been the hallmark of his Administration. The President will continue to identify and protect what is truly in our national security interest, using our full array of national security tools to stand up to terrorism wherever it threatens international stability.

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Original headline: Reid Remarks On Violence In Iraq


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