Opinions and Speeches

December 9, 2005

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Speech on the War in Iraq and Renewal of the Patriot Act
Executive Forum of Mercer University

I want to dedicate my remarks today to Second Lieutenant Jack Cox who was killed in South Vietnam on the 25 th day of March 1967. I want to recall a warm April afternoon when Pierre Howard and Alex Crumbley and I stood on a hillside in Burke County, Georgia in Waynesboro, side by side with his family when he was buried at a military funeral with honors.

And I want to fulfill a promise I made to myself that particular week. For those of you who can remember back to 1967, and I can quite vividly - that was a time that many people had begun to take political advantage of the war in Vietnam. Where leaders and politicians began to quibble about time tables and withdrawals and what we should do while we had hundreds of thousands of men and women, the sons and daughters of Georgians and Americans fighting in harm's way in Southeast Asia and I can remember thinking to myself during that week that we spent with Jack's family, 'you know if this ever were to happen again and if I ever had a chance I would do whatever I could to make people aware of the terrible damage we do to our country and to those brave young men and women by going beyond the limits in criticism of a Commander in Chief while we are deployed in harm's way around the world.'

And this week, when Howard Dean made the wrong statement that we can't win the war in Iraq, I decided this would be the forum and this would be the day that I'd keep the promise that I made to myself. I never knew that I would be in the United States Senate - but if there was ever a reason for me to be happy that I had this forum and that platform today, it's because of that promise that I made 38 years ago to my best friend when we buried him in Burke County.

We are fighting the right war for the right reasons in the right place at the right time. And we are winning the war today by any measurement of any standard which led up to where we are today. And I want to recite that. For someone to say that to think we could win is wrong portends everything that is bad and leaves out everything that is good and victorious about what America has already done.

We went into Iraq to enforce a resolution of the United Nations, 1441. We became a surrogate when the United Nations Security Council blinked on using necessary force to go in and remove Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. When you listen to critics who tell you, 'well that was all a hoax, there weren't any weapons of mass destruction,' well if it was a hoax, Kofi Annan fell for it, Vladimir Putin fell for it, the Security Council fell for it, the world fell for it. The world through the United Nations had inspectors in Iraq looking for them.

It was only when Saddam Hussein kicked them out, and President Bush and Colin Powell went to the UN and said, 'enforce 1441' and when they blinked and wouldn't, the President went back and said, 'please enforce 1441, but if you won't, we will' that we went into Iraq.

People have short, selective memories. They've forgotten all about that. And so we went into Iraq, and when we went into Iraq, the President stated, 'We have three goals: one - to depose Saddam Hussein; two - to secure the nation of Iraq so they can hold free elections and write a constitution; and three - to train the Iraqi army so they can defend themselves.'

Now, for a man this week to say the idea of winning the war is wrong and to recognize we've already secured two-thirds of the goals we publicly stated when we went into Iraq, is troubling to me when our sons and daughters are deployed there in harm's way. We have deposed Saddam Hussein, Iraq has had two elections and in six days will have a third and final election, they have written and ratified a constitution, they fight side by side with us. We have trained two hundred thousand and are on the way to training the sufficient force necessary for Iraq to defend itself.

The idea that somebody would say that we can't win a war that we are in fact winning by the measurement we established three years ago, is disappointing, it's disconcerting and it's just morally wrong for a leader to say that.

In the days ahead, I guess we'll hear a continuing drumbeat of people saying, 'give us a timetable or let's set a date to leave.' Well this United States Senator will continue to do what I've done so far - and that is support the Commander in Chief in his position that we should never give a timetable, and never give a date certain, because when we do, we are giving our enemy precisely what they want to know.

You see, our enemy doesn't beat us in the normal sense. They know when we undermine ourselves and go home, they have won.

We fight an army without uniforms, without a capital, without a heart, without compassion. We fight an army that had hijacked a religion for the purpose of its goals and has no respect for human life and human rights. We fight an army whose intelligence network is CNN and Fox News and the American news media. We fight an army that is motivated by the negative statements by American public officials about the war. They don't need cheerleaders as long as we have people who are willing to say in public, things that would undermine our troops.

Now don't anybody misunderstand what I'm saying. I respect the right of every elected official to say what they believe and what they think. But I have no respect for an elected official who would take opinions, and inject them politically into statements, that should knowingly realize they are undermining our men and women in harm's way.

And to that end, I want to pay my greatest respect and appreciation to Senator Joe Lieberman, who has done a remarkable job of stating the case better than I am capable here of why the United States of America is fighting the right war, in the right place, at the right time, and for the right reasons.

And it is with that lead-in that I go to the second point I want to make. You think back to September 11, 2001, and just think by to what your mindset was on that afternoon. I remember being grabbed by a Capitol Policeman, being thrown in a car and driven to Virginia. I remember when we were called and asked by the speaker if we were willing to walk to the steps of the Capitol at 6:30 p.m. in time to do a press conference for the national media to restore the American people's confidence. I remember walking from my apartment, where I'd finally made it to, to the Capitol steps to join about two-thirds of the House and Senate, and standing there and singing, 'God Bless America.' I wondered will America, will the world ever be the same again? The horror we all saw on that day was unbelievable.

If somebody had told you on that day, that four years later the Palestinians and the Israelis would be negotiating in good conscience for peace, and that the Palestinians would actually be talking about enforcing against terrorism in their own territory and Israel would be talking about empowering Palestinians. If I had told you, or if anyone told you that Moammar Qaddafi would have voluntarily surrendered his weapons of mass destruction; if I had told you that Afghanistan would have had elections for the first time in the history of the world and would be a free democratic republic; and if somebody had told you Iraq would have had two successful elections, written a constitution and be on the third phase of a permanent election, you would never have believed it. I would not have either on that particular afternoon.

For someone to declare that the idea of us winning in Iraq was just plain wrong, which is the exact statement Howard Dean made, in the face of that information is disappointing, disconcerting and dishonest. I am here to tell you today that I am proud of the victories we have won and the ones that are yet to be one, and I am proud of the men and women deployed in harm's way in Iraq today.

Secondly, now that I have fulfilled my promise that I made 38 years ago in Burke County, Georgia, I want to talk to you about an imminent issue that's coming before the Congress next week. I want to do my job as a Senator representing you and talk about the Patriot Act for a moment. And I want to talk about it as passionately and as sincerely as I just talked about the war in Iraq and our effort on behalf of peace and against terrorism.

We must extend the Patriot Act. I have great respect for those who are speaking against it and express concern about civil liberties and we should always be concerned about civil liberties. But I want to tell you that had we not had the Patriot Act and passed it when we did, and allowed our intelligence networks to have the capabilities to do what they can do today. I do not believe that America would have survived without another terrorist attack in the last four years, and we have.

I recommend to each of you Thomas Friedman's book, The Earth is Flat. That published author and great writer with the New York Times, wrote a book that every American ought to read, because after about the first 50 pages, the light bulb turns on. When the United States Military developed the internet and when the United States of America perfected the internet, and when wireless broadband communication because basically seamless worldwide, there were no more mountains and no more oceans to divide the most impoverished nations in the world and the richest nations in the world. It's because of the internet, a terrorist in a cave in Tora Bora has the ability to in coordinated time, know everything we are saying and doing and have access to every bit of information that is on the internet and be able to communicate circuitously around the world.

If we didn't have the Patriot Act, American law would not have allowed our intelligence agencies to monitor, as they have for years in telecommunications, the activities of suspected terrorists over the internet. There are those that will tell you we ought to exempt libraries. Let me tell you something, if you are a terrorist and you are in the United States of America, and you want to communicate, you do it by internet. Where do you have free, unfettered access to the internet? Libraries.

Any member of the United States Senate, who has taken advantage of the same things I have, the classified briefings where we are brought up to date on current intelligence, where and how it was obtained, cannot in any measure that I understand, oppose the extension of the Patriot Act and its applications to terrorism.

We are fighting the ultimate war between good and evil, this is not one that we need to talk about whether or not we win - we can't afford not to win it. And we're going to win it in many ways. Some of those ways may be in the battlefields of Iraq and there may be other places before it's over. But equally, those battles are going to be fought in high technology, surveillance and intelligence.

It is a great credit to this nation and the leadership of this country - Republican and Democrat - that in the days following 9/11, they put together in a rapid period of time, legislation that would empower the American intelligence network and the world's intelligence network to be able to do what it is now doing.

Think about it: we haven't had an attack in four years, but we've stopped countless attacks. We didn't have a protocol for a man on an airplane saying he had a bomb and acting like he was going to blow it up, but we do today, and we know the unfortunate results of that as it took place in Miami. But there was no question that we needed a protocol so we knew what to do if the individual reacted in a certain way - all those things that have been developed since 9/11.

Even Hollywood never thought what happened on 9/11 would have happened, because they never made a movie about it.

But now we know the unthinkable can happen, and America is prepared.

On that same subject, the best way to keep our men and women out of harm's way and losing a single innocent life, and the best way to win the war on terror in the macro sense and over a long period of time, is to continue to empower the intelligence network of the world with the tools that the terrorists already have.

See, the terrorists have no constitution and don't believe in anybody's civil liberties. They don't want us to have a free society or for me to do what I'm doing or say what I think, for you to buy a weapon and have that weapon freely, worship the faith of your choice on the day of your choosing, or any of the guaranteed inalienable rights that we have in America. They want us to cower to the fear of the unknown and the fear of terror.

In conclusion, I have looked into those eyes when I went to Guantanamo Bay, shortly after the accusations that America had a gulag in Cuba. I went at the request of the Majority Leader, with two democrats and two republicans to see how the enemy combatants we were holding in Cuba were being treated and what we were doing. I went and watched interrogations not by big, burly abusive men, but mainly by women. 65 percent of our interrogators there are women, because we use the nurturing technique - win confidence, bake them cookies, get them to start talking and verify the information.

Had we not established the enemy combatant role, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and had we not found a way to incarcerate enemy combatants that we could verify were a part of the terrorist network, I'm not sure we could have fought as effectively as we have in Iraq and I'm confident we wouldn't have stopped all the terrorist attacks we've stopped in America.

The information we gain on a daily basis in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is unbelievable and it assists us not only in the United States, but also on the ground in Iraq.

So the conclusion of my remarks today is simply this: when Howard Dean said what he did earlier this week, it triggered my memory of 38 years ago and my good friend Jack Cox. It also triggered in me what I realized what was going on in America about the Vietnam War when leaders started to politicize the war, question whether or not we could win and in fact, by result, undermine the men and women fighting in harm's way. And I remember when we buried Jack, thinking to myself, 'if there's ever a way that that starts and I can help, I'm going to take advantage of it.

I want to thank Mercer University and Dr. Kirbey Godsey for giving me a chance to do that. I want to thank God for giving me a chance to live in the United States of America. And I promise you that as long as I'm your United States Senator, I'll speak out on behalf of and in support of the men and women in harm's way and their Commander in Chief, regardless of his party, but always in constant due faith with the United States of America.