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Obama Addresses Foreign Relations Committee Hearing with General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

CONTACT: Amy Brundage, 202-228-5511

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) addressed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing with General David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker.

Below is Senator Obama’s statement as prepared for delivery:

“Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing and for giving us an opportunity to gather more information about the situation in Iraq. I also appreciate the willingness of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker to provide an update on the situation from their perspectives. I look forward to their assessment of the situation on the ground in Iraq, a situation that can only be described as grave.

“We've heard from the Administration and from many of our Senate colleagues this summer that we need to give the President's surge strategy more time before we can make a decision to redeploy our troops. However, two reports issued over the past week paint a bleak picture of the prospects of the current strategy. These reports reinforce the conclusion that there is no military solution in Iraq, that we need to get our troops out of the middle of Iraq's civil war, and that this war must be brought to a responsible conclusion.

“The U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded that the Iraqi government has failed to meet 11 of its 18 benchmarks. Another 4 benchmarks have been only partially met. In particular, GAO cited the failure of the Iraqi government to enact legislation on de-Baathification, oil revenue sharing, provincial elections, amnesty, and militia disarmament. Moreover, according to GAO, the Iraqi government has not eliminated militia control of local security, it has not eliminated political intervention in military operations, it has not ensured even-handed enforcement of the law, and it has not increased the number of army units capable of independent operations. The effect of this failure to act has been a high level of sectarian violence that can only be seen as having abated when it is measured against the explosion of violence late last year and early this year.

“And last week, an independent commission chaired by General James Jones offered a similarly bleak assessment. The Jones Commission found that the Iraqi Security Forces will not be able to carry out their essential security responsibilities without assistance for at least 12 to 18 months. The Commission also found that the Iraqi Police Service is incapable of providing adequate security to protect Iraqis from insurgents and sectarian violence and that the National Police is so infiltrated by sectarian militias that it should be disbanded and reorganized.

“These independent assessments – and the stunningly bleak NIE released at the end of last month – make clear that there has been zero national political progress. The consensus from the NIE, GAO, and General Jones is that the Iraqi Security Forces have made little progress.
“Rather than identify the very limited tactical gains that have been made at great cost and using them to justify the maintenance of a failing strategy, I believe it is time to change course. Over 3,700 American servicemen and women have died in this war and over 27,000 have been seriously wounded. Each month, this misguided war costs us a staggering $10 billion, and when all is said and done, this will have cost us $1 trillion.

“Changing the definition of success to stay the course with the wrong policy is the wrong course for our troops and our national security. The time to end the surge and to start bringing our troops home is now – not six months from now. The Iraqi government is not achieving the political progress that was the stated purpose of the surge, and in key areas has gone backwards.

“Our military cannot sustain its current deployments without crippling our ability to respond to contingencies around the world. It's time for a change of direction that brings our troops home, applies real pressure on the Iraqis to act, surges our diplomacy, and addresses Iraq's urgent humanitarian crisis. I can only support a policy that begins an immediate removal of our troops from Iraq's civil war, and initiates a sustained drawdown of our military presence.

“It is long past time to turn the page in Iraq, where each day we see the consequences of fighting a war that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged. We in Congress must take action to change the President's failed policy.”

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