Floor and Committee Statements

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 -

Floor Statement on Iraq Supplemental

February 15, 2005

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Floor Statement on Iraq Supplemental
Remarks as Delivered on Senate Floor

Mr. President, the President has sent to us an $81.9 billion supplemental for our war against terror and the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan . This morning, in Congress Daily, I read a quote about that supplemental from the distinguished ranking member of the Appropriations Committee:

This supplemental request provides support for our men and women in uniform, but it provides little basis for optimism for a stable and secure Iraq .

The comment of the respected distinguished Senator from West Virginia deserves amplification in terms of stability and security in Iraq .

I am pleased to have just returned from Iraq with Senator Thune, who just spoke, and to have had the chance to see firsthand the results of what our men and women in our Armed Forces have been doing in Iraq since we deposed Saddam Hussein and began providing peace and a foundation for future security. In fact, it is that foundation I would like to address.

There are three key pillars to security and stability in Iraq . The first pillar is for us to continue this year, and for a time uncertain, to provide the Iraqi people with security so they can complete the writing of their constitution, hold their permanent elections, and allow their democracy to flourish. The second pillar is that government itself. It is essential that we pass this supplemental to continue the security and allow those who were recently elected to form their constitution and do their work.

When you talk about optimism, I have to share a story about the recent visit. Senator Thune, Senator Inhofe, and I met with deputy Ambassador Salih, a Kurd. We met alone, with no staff, no press, no encouragement, total candor. We asked Mr. Salih, a Kurd in the minority—and even though the results of the election were not complete at the time we were there, we knew they would be in a minority. We asked:

Don't you fear that the Shiites, who will inevitably be in the majority, will overrun you?

He said:

Oh, no, we have a secret weapon.

This is a Kurdish leader in the middle of Iraq in the 21st century who said he had a secret weapon. He said that secret weapon is one word: "Filibuster." Then he proceeded to describe their study of American democracy and our Republic. If there were ever a reason for optimism about what this supplemental provides for the people of Iraq and their stability and security, it is one of their minority leaders proudly stating one of the pillars and principles of our Government as the way they would ensure that the majority never overran the minority.

Following that meeting, we went and met with Dr. Al-Rubiae, a Shiite, obviously to be in the majority. We worried that since, for so many years, they had been the victims of the Sunnis—since they now would be in a majority, would there be a propensity to overrun the minority? So we asked:

Dr. al-Rubiae, what will you do? Will the minority have a voice?

He said:

The American Constitution requires two-thirds vote to amend the Constitution. We will require two-thirds vote to adopt ours.

The point is very clear. He, too, had studied Adams and Jefferson and our Founding Fathers. Knowing he would be in the majority, he recognized that the peace, strength, and stability in Iraq was predicated upon the majority not overrunning the minority.

So when we question whether this supplemental provides any optimism for stability and security in Iraq , I submit those two absolutely accurate quotes of two gentlemen—one in the majority and one in the majority—those who will take part in writing the constitution. Who would have thought they would quote Jefferson or Adams or our Constitution 6 months ago, or a year ago, or 2 years ago? It is because of the men and women we have sent into harm's way, the coalition forces, our commitment to freedom, and our present commitment to spreading democracy around the globe that today provides great optimism in Iraq .

But there is a third pillar we must consider as well, which is the future ability of the Iraqis—once their constitution is written, their government is established, and our troops lessen—to be able to secure themselves. There have been a lot of comments about whether they can do that. I give you comments that Lieutenant General Petraeus shared with us on our visit.

First, the coalition forces have trained 136,065 Iraqis. Our goal by the end of this year is 200,000. Recruiting has mushroomed since the election. In fact, on television, some of you have seen the lines the day after the election that showed up at recruiting centers that were previously vacant. So we know the resources are coming. Our coalition forces are helping us with their training, and already the Iraqis who are trained are demonstrating heroism just like the heroism of our American soldiers. There is no better example than this: On election day, when at a polling place an Iraqi-trained soldier by our coalition forces was in the first line of defense, as were Iraqis at every polling place, all 5,200. He spotted a suspicious character. He approached him. He noticed the bulging waistline, symmetrically indicating a bomb. He threw himself on the bomber and the bomber detonated the bomb. The Iraqi soldier, trained by coalition forces, gave his life. Those in line to vote, identifying with their index finger their commitment to liberty, were not injured and did not leave. They voted and democracy was born in that precinct, in that district in Iraq , in large measure, because of the bravery and heroism of that Iraqi soldier, trained by United States and coalition forces.

So as we consider the $81.9 billion for the continuation of our effort in Iraq and Afghanistan , and to a certain extent in the Middle East , if we look for optimism, it surrounds us everywhere. Only after our engagement in Afghanistan were the Taliban deposed. Only after our engagement in Iraq was Hussein captured. Only after our commitment against terrorism and countries that harbor terrorists did Libya give up its weapons of mass destruction.

Recently, the Palestinians elected a new leader, Abbas, and already the prospect for hope and peace in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine is brighter. To me, that is great optimism for the future of security and stability, not only in Iraq , not only in the Middle East , but throughout the world.

We also must ask ourselves this: If we don't have optimism in the investment we make in the war on terror and the spreading of democracy, then what dividend would we receive by making no investment at all?

My submission to you is that we would be fighting the war on terror not only overseas but on our own streets. We would be spending more than we invested in this war to try to be a defensive country, rather than an offensive country helping to spread democracy wherever people yearn for it.

I have great respect for those who will question any spending we might entertain. I understand the concerns about the investment that we may make in the coming weeks in the supplemental for Iraq . But I will tell you that with the comments of Deputy Ambassador Salih, the comments of Dr. al-Rubiae, and the evidence of the heroism of the Iraqi soldier at the polling place Sunday, a week ago, it is clear to me this supplemental will continue that major pillar of support for democracy in the Middle East; that is, the presence of U.S. men and women in our Armed Forces to continue to secure that nation so it can finalize a constitution and have permanent elections for its peace and its security.

Our President has sent us a document to make an expanded investment in peace and democracy. I submit to you that the evidence for optimism abounds in Iraq and I, for one, will stand by this President and stand by our men and women in harm's way, so that their democracy, which has now bloomed, will flourish in a part of the world that has never seen it.

I yield back the remainder of my time.