Good morning. This is Jim Webb from Virginia.
More than four years ago - long before this Administration ordered the invasion of Iraq - I warned publicly that an invasion and occupation of that country would be a strategic blunder, that our troops would become terrorist targets, and that there was no exit strategy because the people who were doing this did not intend to leave.
It gives me no great pleasure today to be saying "I told you so." It pains me as an American that our casualties are again escalating while this President and his followers are still incapable of bringing forward an intelligent, common-sense approach to ending our involvement there. And to be blunt, the very people who are responsible for having brought us to this situation, such as my opponent here in Virginia, are avoiding even discussing it in detail on the campaign trail.
With the right leadership, the situation in Iraq is solvable, in a way that will increase stability in the Middle East and reduce the threat of international terrorism. But the key word is leadership, which has been a scarce commodity among this Administration and its followers.
Over the past several weeks a few realists in the Republican Party, such as Senator John Warner and former Secretary of State Jim Baker, have begun to make their voices heard. They are moving away from the fantasy world of this administration, toward real solutions. And it is gratifying to me that many of their comments are similar to the proposals that I began making nearly two and a half years ago.
Since early 2004 I have advocated the same basic approach.
First, the Administration should make it clear that we have no intention to build permanent bases in Iraq. A long-term United States military presence in Iraq would further destabilize the entire region. Declaring our intention to withdraw our combat forces will take the moral high ground away from the insurgency in the eyes of the Muslim world, and would defuse the concern of other Iraqis that we plan to stay for good.
In addition, removing our combat forces would be healthy for our military. Our Army and Marine Corps have become dangerously over-extended by three years of occupation. A re-positioning of forces will allow them to more aggressively pursue the War on Terrorism.
As recently as Wednesday, the President has said exactly the opposite, promising to keep US bases in Iraq as long as the Iraqis want them.
Second, we should bring together those countries in the region that are culturally and historically invested in Iraq, so that they can become involved in a diplomatic solution, taking responsibility at some level for future stability among Iraq's competing factions. This is do-able-in fact we did it in Afghanistan in 2001.
As Secretary Baker pointed out recently, we should have the common sense to begin dialogue not only with our friends, but also our enemies. By beginning such a dialogue- something this Administration, with the strong support of George Allen, has refused to do - we could loosen up the unnatural alliance between Syria and Iran. We could also encourage accountability among other nations in that region, who are now threatened by Iraq's instability and will benefit by a proper solution.
In contrast to such a logical approach, this administration for years has dealt with this crisis through focus-group tested sound bites such as "cut and run," and "stay the course."
Since 2003, President Bush has laid out nine different plans for victory in Iraq, none of them serious and none of them workable. And most seriously, this incompetence has hindered our ability to fight international terror.
If we want a new direction in Iraq, we need a new team in Congress. A democratic Congress will demand from day one that the President find a real way forward in Iraq. We'll work with the Administration and other Republicans to develop a concrete plan, but none of us are ready to settle for empty rhetoric, or the same old unacceptable results.
This is not simply an election year talking point, or a position arrived at a week before voters go to the polls. I have held these views deeply for years. The stakes are too high in Iraq for Americans to be led by propagandistic phrases such "stay the course." Our troops are counting on us. And our national security demands a change.
I'm Jim Webb. Thanks for listening.