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Escalation: It's Not His Decision

By Senator Ted Kennedy

If you care about changing direction in Iraq, now is the moment to act.

George Bush will speak to the nation tomorrow, and every indication is that he will announce an escalation of the war in Iraq. Such a military escalation would not strengthen our national security -- instead it would further weaken it by enabling the Iraqis to avoid taking responsibility for their own future.

Thankfully, escalation is not President Bush's decision to make. He must have the people's consent.

For too long Congress refused to hold the White House accountable for its failed policies in Iraq. It endangered the lives of our brave young men and women in uniform for a civil war that has no military solution.

No more. Democrats swept the November elections because Americans wanted George Bush's policies challenged by the branch of government constitutionally charged with representing the people.

I'm headed to the National Press Club right now, where I will announce legislation that will prevent any further escalation in Iraq until two important things happen: the president presents a plan for success and Congress approves it.

One misguided politician cannot simply decide to drop tens of thousands more troops into the middle of a civil war. As Speaker Pelosi said on Sunday, "If the president wants to add to this mission, he is going to have to justify it."

Tell the president that we will not allow an escalation in Iraq without the people's consent -- support this legislation now:

One key fact even George Bush cannot ignore: Congress never authorized what's happening in Iraq now.

In 2002, the Bush Administration's case for war focused on Saddam's supposed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to al Qaeda. In October of the same year Congress authorized a war against the regime of Saddam Hussein, not to send our troops into a civil war. I voted against the resolution and feel an escalation of this war only compounds the original mistake of going in the first place.

In 2007, Saddam Hussein is dead. Weapons of mass destruction were never found -- nor was any evidence that Saddam and al Qaeda were working together.

The 2002 authorization for the use of force has nothing to do with today's reality. Back then it was simply bad policy. Today, when it comes to escalation, it is obsolete.

A serious escalation of the war requires the people's consent. Our Commander in Chief has shown that he is seriously out of touch. He has ignored the reality that Iraq is embroiled in a civil war. When military generals spoke out against escalation, he replaced them. When voters clearly demanded an end to the war, he decided to escalate instead.

Never has America's system of checks and balances been so threatened, and never has the courage to act been more important.

Escalating the war in Iraq is not President Bush's decision alone. He must ask for the people's consent -- and Congressional approval is the only way he can get it.

Please add your name to the list of Americans who demand a voice in the debate over escalation:

My legislation is simple: it states that any substantial new commitment in Iraq requires a plan from the administration and explicit authorization from Congress.

Whether you believe that escalation would be a grave mistake, or whether you're part of the dwindling minority willing to increase the scale of this misguided adventure, it would be irresponsible to continue to issue the president a blank check.

We must have a full debate about the course ahead. Senators and Representatives should have a vote on whether the president may spend more money and risk more lives for an expanded operation in Iraq.

If George Bush wants to ignore the advice of the military and the findings of the Iraq Study Group, he's going to have to make his case and get the consent of the people through their elected representatives.

Iraq has become George Bush's Vietnam, and it's up to you and me to ensure that history doesn't repeat itself any longer. Please sign our petition supporting this important legislation:

The Iraqi people need to take responsibility for their own future.

But our only hope for change over there is if we, the American people, take control of our own destiny here at home.

Thank you.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy

P. S. Here's an excerpt from the latest draft of my speech:

The American people sent a clear message in November that we must change course in Iraq and begin to withdraw our troops, not escalate their presence. The way to start is by acting on the President's new plan. An escalation, whether it is called a surge or any other name, is still an escalation, and I believe it would be an immense new mistake. It would compound the original misguided decision to invade Iraq. We cannot simply speak out against an escalation of troops in Iraq. We must act to prevent it.

Today I am introducing legislation to reclaim the rightful role of Congress and the people's right to a full voice in the President's plan to send more troops to Iraq. My bill will say that no additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation, unless and until Congress approves the President's plan.

My proposal will not diminish our support for the forces we already have in Iraq. We will continue to do everything we can to make sure they have all the support they truly need. Even more important, we will continue to do all we can to bring them safely home. The best immediate way to support our troops is by refusing to inject more and more of them into the cauldron of a civil war that can be resolved only by the people and government of Iraq.

This bill will give all Americans -- from Maine to Florida to California to Alaska and Hawaii -- an opportunity to hold the President accountable for his actions. The President's speech must be the beginning -- not the end -- of a new national discussion of our policy in Iraq. Congress must have a genuine debate over the wisdom of the President's plan. Let us hear the arguments for it and against it. Then let us vote on it in the light of day. Let the American people hear -- yes or no -- where their elected representatives stand on one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Until now, a rubber stamp Republican Congress has refused to hold the White House accountable on Iraq. But the November election has dramatically changed all that. Over the past two years, Democrats reached for their roots as true members of our Party. We listened to the hopes and dreams of everyday Americans. We rejected the politics of fear and division. We embraced a vision of hope and shared purpose. And the American people voted for change.

Many of us felt the authorization to go to war was a grave mistake at the time. I've said that my vote against the war in Iraq is the best vote I've cast in my 44 years in the United States Senate.

But no matter what any of us thought then, the Iraq War resolution is obviously obsolete today. It authorized a war to destroy weapons of mass destruction. But there were no WMDs to destroy. It authorized a war with Saddam Hussein. But today, Saddam is no more. It authorized a war because Saddam was allied with al Qaeda. But there was no alliance.

The mission of our armed forces today in Iraq bears no resemblance whatever to the mission authorized by Congress. President Bush should not be permitted to escalate the war further, and send an even larger number of our troops into harm's way, without a clear and specific new authorization from Congress.

Our history makes clear that a new escalation in our forces will not advance our national security. It will not move Iraq toward self-government, and it will needlessly endanger our troops by injecting more of them into the middle of a civil war.

... Comparisons from history resonate painfully in today's debate on Iraq. In Vietnam, the White House grew increasingly obsessed with victory, and increasingly divorced from the will of the people and any rational policy. The Department of Defense kept assuring us that each new escalation in Vietnam would be the last. Instead, each one led only to the next.

There was no military solution to that war. But we kept trying to find one anyway. In the end, 58,000 Americans died in the search for it.

Echoes of that disaster are all around us today. Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam.

As with Vietnam, the only rational solution to the crisis is political, not military. Injecting more troops into a civil war is not the answer. Our men and women in uniform cannot force the Iraqi people to reconcile their differences.

The President may deny the plain truth. But the truth speaks loudly and tragically. Congress must no longer follow him deeper into the quagmire in Iraq.


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The legislation requires the Congress to vote before the President escalates troop levels in Iraq.

The legislation claims the people’s right to a full voice in the President’s plan to send more troops into the Iraq civil war. It says that no funds can be spent to send additional troops to Iraq unless Congress approves the President’s proposed escalation of American forces.

The Iraq War Resolution of 2002 authorized a war against the regime of Saddam Hussein because he was believed to have weapons of mass destruction and an operational relationship with Al Qaeda, and was in defiance of U.N. Security Council Resolutions.

The mission of our armed forces today in Iraq no longer bears any resemblance to the mission authorized by Congress.

Iraq has descended into civil war and sectarian violence continues to escalate.

On March 5, 2006, General Nash said, “We're in a civil war now; it's just that not everybody's joined in.”

On December 3, 2006, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said, “When we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war -- this is much worse.”

On December 17, 2006, Secretary Colin Powell said, “I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work.”

Iraq needs a political solution, not a military solution. The open-ended commitment of our military forces continues to enable the Iraqis to avoid taking responsibility for their own future. Tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops will only make the Iraqis more dependent on America, not less.

On November 15, 2006, General Abizaid was unequivocal that increasing our troop commitment is not the answer and said, “I’ve met with every divisional commander. General Casey, the corps commander, General Dempsey – we all talked together. And I said, “in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no.”

On December 29, 2006, General Casey said, “The longer we in the U.S. forces continue to bear the main burden of Iraq’s security, it lengthens the time that the government of Iraq has to take the hard decisions about reconciliation and dealing with the militias…They can continue to blame us for all of Iraq’s problems, which are at base their problems.”

More than 3,000 American soldiers have died in Iraq and more than 22,000 have been wounded. America cannot wait for the next president to resolve the problems in Iraq. A military escalation in Iraq would not strengthen our national security.

President Bush should not be permitted to increase the number of United States troops in harm’s way in the civil war without a specific new authorization from Congress.

The legislation requires a vote before funds are spent to deploy more troops and escalate our military presence. It does not cut off funding for our troops already in Iraq.

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