Give Us Candor and Clarity if You Want Resolve

After the shifting justifications for war in Iraq, the rosy scenarios detached from reality, and the unreliable declarations of “mission accomplished,” it is clear that the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq is not working. The President missed another opportunity last night to come clean with the American people.

With the country listening, the President had the chance to finally give our troops and the American public some sense of when he believes this conflict in Iraq will be over and when our brave men and women in uniform will come home. Instead, the President urged us to remember the lessons of 9/11. But it is with those lessons in mind that I oppose the Administration's current approach to Iraq. The President keeps talking about staying the course, but what the American people really want is candor and clarity about where this course is taking us.

I have introduced a resolution calling for the President to provide a public report clarifying the mission that the U.S. military is being asked to accomplish in Iraq and laying out a plan and timeframe for accomplishing that mission. This doesn’t seem like much to ask for – after all, if we don’t have a clear plan and timeframe, how can we hold ourselves accountable for giving the military the tools they need to succeed in achieving those goals? The resolution also calls on the President to submit a plan for the subsequent return home of U.S. troops that is also linked to a timeframe, in order to restore confidence at home and abroad that U.S. troops will not be in Iraq indefinitely.

We must not accept a false choice between the current course in Iraq and “cutting and running.” Some have suggested that questioning the Administration’s “stay the course” rhetoric is a sign of weakness. Unfortunately, the course we are on right now is not working – it is making America weaker and our enemies stronger. Some have suggested that to question the path that we are on is to undermine our united commitment to support the courageous men and women who have been deployed in harm’s way. And some believe that any discussion of timeframes, flexible or otherwise, is basically code for a “withdraw now” agenda.

None of these charges is credible.

My support for our troops has not wavered one inch and it will not. I did not support the Administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq, but I have consistently voted to provide our servicemen and women with the resources they need as they fight to get the job done in Iraq.

I don’t buy into the President’s contention last evening that setting a timetable would “send the wrong signal to our troops.” The brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces deserve our admiration, our respect, and our unflagging support. But that’s not all that they deserve. They deserve sound policy and straight talk from elected officials. They don’t have that right now. The Administration must not leave them in the lurch any longer.

When I was in Baghdad in February, a senior coalition officer told me that he believes the U.S. could “take the wind out of the sails of the insurgents” by providing a clear, public plan and timeframe for the remaining U.S. mission. He thought this could rob them of their recruiting momentum. I also think it could rob them of some unity. All reports indicate that the forces fighting U.S. troops and attacking Iraqi police, soldiers, and civilians are a disparate bunch with different agendas, from embittered former regime elements to foreign fighters. The one thing that unites them is opposition to America’s presence in Iraq. Remove that factor, and we may see a more divided, less effective, more easily defeated insurgency.

I certainly don’t have all the answers to the complex problem we confront in Iraq. But I know that it’s time to restore confidence in the American people that this President and this Administration know where we are going and how we plan to get there. It’s time to put Iraq in the context of a broader vision for our security. It’s time to regain a position of strength. The first step is candor.