Friday, January 12, 2007

Senator Cardin on Iraq: "Time for a Change"

Yesterday freshman Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) gave his first speech on the Senate floor, and it was about Iraq. Cardin voted against the Iraq war as a representative, and advocated a pullout from Iraq by the end of 2007 in his 2006 Senate campaign.

In yesterday's speech -- titled "Time for a Change" -- Cardin was vocally against escalation (a word he used to describe the plan Bush announced on Wednesday evening). He sees the November 7 election as being in large part a referendum on Iraq, and said the Iraq Study Group recommendations of last month were similar to his own.

While Cardin didn't use the speech to describe specific legislative steps he's prepared to support to oppose escalation or continued American occupation of/presence in Iraq, he does seem to want vigorous action by Congress; it seems to me his remarks that he would not be satisfied with nonbinding resolutions against escalation or for some kind of phased pullout. From excerpts at his Senate web site:
  • Iraq is a country today torn by civil war. Victory in Iraq will not be achieved with our military might. It will come only from successfully aiding Iraq in establishing a government that protects the rights and enjoys the confidence of all its people. It must be a government that respects both human rights and democratic rights. The efforts of U.S. soldiers, no matter how heroic, cannot accomplish these objectives for the Iraqis. [...]

  • So when President Bush said several weeks ago that he was reevaluating the situation in Iraq and would announce a new policy shortly after the new year, there was great hope – that the President, Congress and the American people could come together with an effective new policy to help the people in Iraq and advance U.S. interests. . . Unfortunately, that was not the case. President Bush has decided to ignore the advice of the Iraq Study Group, many of his own military officials and the American people in making his decision to send 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq.
The full text of his remarks can be found on pages S412-413 of the January 11, 2007 Congressional Record. His recognition of the nature of the November 7 elections is clearer there. After noting that voters defeated six incumbent Senators to get change, for reasons including ethics reform, "quality health care,"and better educational opportunities, he continued:
But the loudest cry in November was the call for a change in our policies in Iraq. Americans overwhelmingly want to see our troops begin to come home and they don’t want to see thousands of additional troops go to Iraq.
Cardin's recommendations:
We must begin by starting to bring our troops home, not by escalating troop levels. We need to engage and energize the international community, including our traditional allies as well as other countries in the Middle East. Our primary focus must be extensive political and diplomatic negotiations directed toward the twin goals of a cease-fire and a lasting and stable Iraqi Government.
Referring to hearings before the Foreign Relations Committee (on which he serves) and elsewhere, Cardin said:
The hearings taking place in the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees are vital. But our responsibility goes well beyond the hearings. Individually and collectively, we must act with our voices and our votes, speaking out vigorously and taking action against the continued mismanagement of this war.
I'd have preferred "prosecution" to "mismanagement," and I'd have preferred some specifics about the kinds of actions Cardin will support. But Cardin's speech shows that he knows that Iraq is issue number one, that reining Bush in is essential, that pulling out troops is a prerequisite for whatever "success" still means in Iraq -- and that just talking about that won't do.


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Watching Those We Chose

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