"Our troops should not be refereeing a civil war and so this Congress and the President must come together to forge a new path," said Casey. "The Iraq Study Group's final report is the only comprehensive plan on the table."
Senator Casey continued: "I approach this bill from a slightly different perspective than some of my fellow co-sponsors. In fact, I co-sponsored the Reid resolution to change our mission in Iraq and commence the redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq, with a goal of completing that redeployment no later than March 2008."
The Iraq Study Group recommendations were the basis for the March 2008 target date set forth in the Reid legislation cosponsored by Senator Casey and included in the Supplemental spending bill vetoed by President Bush.
Draft text of the legislation can be viewed here.
The ISG was created in March of 2006 at the request of a bipartisan group of members of Congress and was co-chaired by former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III and former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Lee H. Hamilton. The ISG released their recommendations in December of 2006 that built a bipartisan approach to bring a responsible conclusion to the Iraq war. Specifically the bill sets a 'new way forward' by establishing as United States policy:
· A new diplomatic offensive in the region that includes the creation of the Iraq International Support Group;
· Giving the highest priority to training, equipping and advising the Iraqi military and security forces;
· Assessing the full budgetary and personnel impact of the war in Iraq on the United States Military;
· Accelerating and increasing oil production and accountability including equitable distribution of oil revenues in Iraq;
· Implementing oversight of economic reconstruction programs in Iraq with the creation of a new Senior Advisor for Economic Reconstruction;
· Ensuring that the President includes the cost of the war in his annual budget request; and
· Setting conditions that could lead to redeployment of United States combat brigades not needed for force protection as early as the first quarter of 2008 if diplomatic, infrastructure and security benchmarks are met.
U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.
May 24, 2007
Remarks as Prepared
Mr. President, I am honored today to join in a bipartisan initiative to introduce legislation based upon the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. I proudly stand with my distinguished colleagues, Senators Salazar, Alexander, Bennett, Pryor, and Gregg, in affirming that this bill will offer a new way forward for the United States in Iraq. The detailed recommendations contained in this bill offer a comprehensive blueprint for renewed diplomacy, restructured economic assistance, and a redeployment of U.S. military forces in Iraq to emphasize training and equipping of Iraqi security forces, conducting limited counter-terrorism missions, and protecting our own forces. These recommendations were issued in December 2006, over five months ago, but, if anything, their utility is even more apparent. Our troops should not be refereeing a civil war and so this Congress and the President must come together to forge a new path. The Iraq Study Group's final report is the only comprehensive plan on the table.
Mr. President, I approach this bill from a slightly different perspective than some of my fellow co-sponsors. In fact, I co-sponsored the Reid resolution to change our mission in Iraq and commence the redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq, with a goal of completing that redeployment no later than March 2008. That position has been reflected in the votes that I have cast, the questions I have asked at Foreign Relations Committee hearings, and the statements I have delivered on the Senate floor. I strongly opposed the President's decision to escalate the number of U.S. combat troops in Iraq. For that reason, I voted for the first supplemental bill sent to the President's desk, which called for a more restricted U.S. military mission and a phased redeployment of our combat forces from Iraq.
Mr. President, despite the message the Congress delivered to the President, he has chosen to turn aside our counsel and continue on our current course in Iraq. Later today, we will vote on a final supplemental bill, the result of an agreement reached between the Congressional leadership and the President. This bill was a result of a difficult compromise, but I have concluded that continuing impasse and inaction will only jeopardize the safety of our troops in Iraq. Our men and women in combat cannot be penalized for the errors in judgment and intransigence of their civilian superiors. And we do stand at an impasse today when it comes to America's policy in Iraq.
A majority of the Congress have made clear their desire to change course. Yet, unless we achieve more bipartisan consensus in the Congress that a change is necessary, an impasse will continue and our troops will continue to pay the price. It is for that reason that I believe the Iraq Study Group's prescribed course of action represents our best hope for a bipartisan, consensus approach to winding down our combat role in Iraq and successfully transitioning our mission there.
The members of the Iraq Study Group included foreign policy and military experts, as well as other distinguished Americans with impressive experience in public service. Throughout their careers, they have grappled with some of the most pressing challenges facing our nation and they have done so with diligence, wisdom, and an abiding sense that the interests of our nation must always take precedence over partisan gains.
Mr. President, there is no challenge greater than determining how the United States can salvage our effort in Iraq in a manner that protects our core national interests, does right by the Iraqi people, and enables our troops, who have accomplished every mission they have been given over the past four years, to come home. After months of study and focused deliberations with almost 200 experts, including both leading U.S. and Iraqi government officials and regional scholars, the Iraq Study Group released a detailed report with 79 recommendations in December 2006. This report prescribed a comprehensive diplomatic, political, and economic strategy that includes sustained engagement with regional neighbors and the international community in a collective effort to bring stability to Iraq. There are a few recommendations of the Iraq Study Group that I do disagree with personally, but the comprehensive plan put forth by the Group, and particularly the elements emphasized in our bill, represent the best thinking we have on how to resolve the Iraq dilemma in the long run.
I have supported transitioning the mission of our military forces in Iraq and commence a phased redeployment. But I have been disappointed that too much of our Congressional debate has been focused exclusively on the military component of our mission. As the Iraq Study Group so ably highlighted, our diplomatic, political, and economic efforts in Iraq are just as critical to achieving stability in Iraq and securing our basic interests. This bill, based upon the Iraq Study Group's final report, would implement a series of recommendations regarding the manner in which we initiate a New Diplomatic Offensive to help stabilize Iraq with the assistance of its neighbors and international organizations; restructure the Iraqi national police to weed out sectarianism; and establish a series of accountable benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet on military, economic, and political progress. It is these types of thoughtful recommendations that our nation should be carrying out today to change course in Iraq; simply pouring more American troops into combat to police a civil war is not a plan.
Time is running out for us to change course in Iraq. 166 men and women from my state of Pennsylvania have died. Just yesterday, we learned that nine American soldiers were killed in a series of attacks across Iraq. Meanwhile, we continue to search for two American soldiers taken hostage, with the grim news that the body of the third missing U.S. soldier was identified yesterday. .
It is time for a change. I know of no more detailed proposal, no more exhaustively researched set of findings, and no more comprehensive solution than that offered by the Iraq Study Group. This bill, brought forward by a bipartisan group of Senators with a diverse set of perspectives, transforms the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group into the declared policy of the U.S. government. This bill offers our best chance to forge a change of direction in Iraq and to do so in a fashion that brings together our nation.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.