Casey Cautiously Optimistic on Bush Administration’s Backtracking on Long-Term Security Commitments in Iraq

WASHINGTON, DC-U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today released the following statement in response to press reports this week that the Bush Administration appears to be backing away from extending permanent security assurances to the Iraqi government. Senator Casey has been an outspoken critic of the Bush Administration’s attempt to tie the hands of the next President and ignore legislation passed by the Congress.

“Press reports in recent days indicate the Administration is backing away from the President’s initial intentions to lock the United States into a long term security commitment to the Iraqi government without consultation with or approval by the U.S. Congress. Those reports are encouraging, but the President and senior Administration officials should categorically disavow such objectives on the record. When Secretary Rice appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next week, I look forward to a clear and unambiguous statement from her that no security guarantees of any kind will be provided by the United States to Iraq and that the United States has no desire to construct permanent military bases in Iraq period.

“I am glad so many other Members of Congress have shared my alarm over the President’s cavalier approach to extending security assurances to an unstable and troubled Iraqi government. Whenever the United States commits the blood and treasure of the American people to the defense of foreign nations, such assurances must be undertaken in a careful manner and with the full participation of the United States Congress. To do otherwise is to violate the spirit and the letter of the Constitution.”

In response to President Bush’s signing statement last month accompanying the Defense Authorization bill in which the President made clear his intent to ignore significant sections of the bill dealing with the war in Iraq, Senator Casey stated his concerns on the Senate floor about constructing permanent military bases in Iraq.

“Every time a senior Administration official is asked about permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, they contend that it is not their intention to construct such facilities. Yet this signing statement issued by the President is the clearest signal yet that the Administration wants to hold this option in reserve. That is exactly the wrong signal to send, both to the Iraqi government and its neighbors in the region,” said Casey.

In December, Senator Casey spearheaded a letter, signed by Senators Robert Byrd (D-WV), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Jim Webb (D-VA) to President Bush warning him against rushing the United States into long-term security commitments to Iraq without the full participation and consent of Congress. The letter was in response to a preliminary agreement reached in early December between the U.S. and Iraqi governments on long-term bilateral cooperation on political, security and economic matters, with a final agreement to be concluded by next summer.

On Wednesday, February 13th, Secretary Condoleezza Rice will testify in front of the Foreign Relations Committee on President Bush’s foreign affairs budget at which time Senator Casey will ask the Secretary about the Administration’s intentions for negotiating an agreement later this year on the future of U.S. military forces in Iraq.


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