Good morning, this is Senator Carl Levin of Michigan.
This week, the Senate had the opportunity to do what most Americans want us to do: change course in Iraq. Although a bipartisan majority of the Senators supported an amendment to do just that, we were blocked by the Republican leadership from voting on it.
Now in its fifth year, the Iraq war has cost more than 3,600 American lives, seven times that many wounded and over a half a trillion dollars.
President Bush claims that we must keep paying this terrible price to protect America from terrorism. But even the Administration's own intelligence experts are saying that during the war in Iraq there has been an increase in the threat of terrorism and that Al Qaeda has regained its strength.
Last week, Senator Jack Reed and I offered an amendment to begin reducing U.S. troops in Iraq and to change their mission to get us out from the middle of a civil war.
The Republican leadership chose to filibuster our amendment to deny the majority the opportunity to vote on it.
Here's what the Levin-Reed amendment would do.
+ It would require the President to begin reducing U.S. forces in Iraq within 120 days;
+ It would limit the mission of our remaining troops to protecting our servicemembers and diplomats; training Iraqi security forces; and conducting operations against Al Qaeda; with the transition to those missions to be completed by next April;
+ And it would require a comprehensive diplomatic, political and economic effort to help create and sustain stability in the region.
By now, nearly everybody agrees that there is no military solution to the violence in Iraq and that only a political settlement by the Iraqi leaders themselves can stabilize that country. Even the Iraqi Prime Minister has acknowledged that. "The crisis is political," he said, "and the ones who can stop the cycle of bloodletting of innocents are the Iraqi politicians."
But although the Iraqi leaders set a timeline for themselves to settle their political differences, they failed to meet it. As long as the Iraqi leaders believe that their future is in our hands instead of theirs, they will continue to dawdle while their country is torn by bloodshed.
The Levin-Reed amendment would end the President's open-ended commitment and force the Iraqi leaders to take responsibility for their own country.
When the Republican leadership chose this week to block a vote on our legislation to change course in Iraq, the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, decided to call them on it. He kept the Senate in session all-night long, making it clear to our citizens that the Republican leadership was placing a procedural roadblock against the Senate voting on one of the most significant issues facing our nation.
In the end, 53 Senators — a clear majority — wanted to vote, but it would have taken 60 to remove the roadblock.
We're not going to give up. We are going to keep fighting until we have enough votes to overcome a filibuster.
To do that, the spotlight needs to shine on those Republicans who talk one way about Iraq back home but vote the opposite way in Congress. We will bring the Levin-Reed amendment back to the Senate floor in the coming weeks, and I hope you will make your voice heard.
If those Republicans who say they want a change in course in Iraq will vote for one, we can start bringing our troops home and force the Iraqi political leaders to take responsibility for their own country. That is the only hope of success in Iraq.
I'm Senator Carl Levin. Thanks for listening.