Remarks by U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd
January 09, 2007
Senator Byrd Says "Surge" Is Headed for Failure
WASHINGTON, D.C.... U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., on Tuesday said that the President's plan to escalate the U.S. troop levels likely will only expand the violence in that country.
The text of the Senator's speech, delivered in the Senate on Tuesday, is
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word surge as, "a sudden large temporary
increase." Note in particular the word temporary. President Bush's rumored new strategy
on Iraq -- a surge of U.S. troops intended to quell the violence in Baghdad is
wrongheaded and headed for failure. As outlined, the surge envisions clearing all violent
factions out of Baghdad in an effort which is to be led by Iraqi security forces.
Apparently U.S. forces will provide indiscriminate firepower in another attempt to
establish democracy by brute force. This does not seem to me to be the way to win hearts
and minds in Iraq.
I oppose any "surge" in Iraq. Only days ago we passed the grim milestone of 3,000
American dead in Iraq. There are few firm numbers on Iraqi lives lost, but estimates are
in the tens of thousands. I am reminded of one definition of insanity - - making the same
mistake over and over while continuing to expect a different result. We have surged
before. Still the violence in Iraq worsens!
We are close to the beginning of the 5th year of a war which should never have been
started by an Administration that fed the Congress and the public false information. This
is an Administration that has learned nothing more about the country of Iraq than it knew
before it launched an unprovoked U.S. attack.
Our stated purpose for continuing to occupy Iraq is to help the Iraqi people build a stable
democracy. But the difficulty of that task should have been clear before we invaded. Iraq
is a country that was only held together by a brutal strongman, Saddam Hussein. Without
the strongman to force cohesion, it is a country with deep ethnic and religious divisions, and no central loyalties. There is no tradition of Constitutions or equal rights, no unifying
common beliefs about individual freedoms or governing with the consent of the governed
-- none of that commonality of thought that reinforces governing principles in the society
at large. The al Maliki government would never survive on its own outside the "Green
Zone" in Baghdad, and indeed the point of a surge is to secure only the capital. But what
then? After accelerating the violence, even if we are able to lock down Baghdad, what
will transpire to keep the insurgency from regrouping elsewhere, possibly fed by Iran or
Syria? How will we then establish the legitimacy of a shaky Iraqi government?
In my view, we may be about to make a critical mistake by moving in exactly the wrong
direction in Iraq. Instead of a surge we should be looking at a way to begin orderly troop
reduction. The folly of the "surge" idea is apparent. The insurrection in Iraq is a civil
war. The conflict is among waring factions battling for some measure of control over the
others. U.S. involvement on one side simply further energizes all the other sides. And
this "surge" will only energize them, further provoking a likely counter-surge of violence.
If it is a true "surge", i.e., temporary, the insurrection factions will only work harder to
maim and kill our troops, and claim victory if we reduce forces. So, in fact, there will
probably not be a "surge," but rather a permanent escalation of the U.S. presence which is
simply being sold to the public as a "surge." Once again we get obfuscation and spin
from a White House that seems incapable of careful thought and analysis.
Any plan to increase troops in President Bush's new strategy is simply a plan to intensify
violence, put more American troops in harm's way, risk the lives of more innocent Iraqis,
engender more hatred of U.S. forces, and embroil us deeper in a civil war. I would like to
see a clear defining of our immediate challenges in Iraq; a realistic discussion about shortterm
achievable goals; an admission that we cannot remain in Iraq for much longer
because the American public will not tolerate it; and benchmarks for beginning an orderly
withdrawal conditioned on actions by the Iraqi government. The al-Maliki government
has been duly elected by the people of Iraq. It is time we let them take charge. As long
as we prop them up and inflame hatred they will never have the legitimacy they need to
make the political decisions that may ultimately save Iraq. In short, it is time to take the
training wheels off the bike.
Our blundering has inflamed and destabilized a critical region of the world, and yet we
continue to single mindedly pursue the half-baked goal of forcing democracy on a country
which is now embroiled in a civil war. Our blinders keep us from seeing the regional
problems which are bubbling and soon may boil. The real damage to the United States is
not only the loss of life and the billions expended, it is also the diminution of our
credibility around the world as a country with the will and the vision to lead effectively.
Serious diplomacy is clearly in order on the matters of Lebanon, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and on Iran. Multinational talks were part of the Iraq study group's
recommendations, but diplomacy usually ends up at the bottom of the Administration's
option list, and that is where it has landed again. If the "shoot first" crowd in the White
House continues to stick its chin out and believe that bullets and bombast will carry the
day, soon our ability to mediate the morass of difficulties in the Mid East and elsewhere
may be permanently damaged. Pariahs don't usually carry much weight at negotiating
tables. If the lesson in Iraq teaches anything it is that military might has very great
limitations. But then that is a lesson we should have learned many years ago -- from
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