UPDATE: Video from today’s speech is now available at Huffington Post.
(crossposted on Daily Kos)
I am on my way to the National Press Club in Washington in a few
minutes to speak about a new bill. If passed, it will prohibit
escalation in Iraq without express Congressional approval of a plan
President Bush owes the American people a clear explanation about
what he’s trying to accomplish in Iraq, and that’s why I’m introducing
legislation that will force him to explain himself.
In October 2002, Members of Congress authorized a war against the
regime of Saddam Hussein, not to send our troops into a civil war. I
voted against that resolution and feel an escalation of this war only
compounds the original mistake of going in the first place.
The American people know, and our generals agree, that a military
escalation in Iraq would not strengthen our national security –
instead it would further weaken it by enabling the Iraqis to avoid
taking responsibility for their own future. More than 3,000 American
soldiers have died in Iraq and more than 22,000 have been wounded.
It’s time to get this right.
Here’s the text of the legislation:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress assembled,
Section 1. Prohibition on use of funds for escalation of United
States forces in Iraq.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may
be obligated or expended by the United States Government to increase
the number of United States forces in Iraq above the level for such
forces which existed as of January 1, 2007, without a specific
authorization of Congress by law for such an increase.
Some have claimed that the president has the authority to escalate
this war without the consent of House and Senate. They dismiss the
possibility that Congress has a role to play stopping this president
from leading us further into the quicksand in Iraq.
That may have been true when Republicans were in charge, but people
elected Democrats to show some backbone. Congress is the voice of the
American people, and it’s time those voices are heard in this
I had planned to discuss the minimum wage, health care and college
affordability at this speech today, but those issues will have to wait
for another day. We are at a grave crossroads and the moment demands
My staff will update this post with video of the speech when it is
available. Below you will also find a longer message I sent to
supporters earlier this morning.
I cannot stay to talk now, but please leave your comments and
questions. After the speech I will spend some time with them. I am
interested in your reaction to the bill.
If you care about changing direction in Iraq, now is the moment
George Bush will speak to the nation tomorrow, and every
indication is that he will announce an escalation of the war in Iraq.
Such a military escalation would not strengthen our national security
– instead it would further weaken it by enabling the Iraqis to avoid
taking responsibility for their own future.
Thankfully, escalation is not President Bush’s decision to make.
He must have the people’s consent.
For too long Congress refused to hold the White House
accountable for its failed policies in Iraq. It endangered the lives
of our brave young men and women in uniform for a civil war that has
no military solution.
No more. Democrats swept the November elections because
Americans wanted George Bush’s policies challenged by the branch of
government constitutionally charged with representing the people.
I’m headed to the National Press Club right now, where I will
announce legislation that will prevent any further escalation in Iraq
until two important things happen: the president presents a plan for
success and Congress approves it.
One misguided politician cannot simply decide to drop tens of
thousands more troops into the middle of a civil war. As Speaker
Pelosi said on Sunday, "If the president wants to add to this
mission, he is going to have to justify it."
Tell the president that we will not allow an escalation in Iraq
without the people’s consent — support this legislation now:
One key fact even George Bush cannot ignore: Congress never
authorized what’s happening in Iraq now.
In 2002, the Bush Administration’s case for war focused on
Saddam’s supposed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and
alleged ties to al Qaeda. In October of the same year Congress
authorized a war against the regime of Saddam Hussein, not to send our
troops into a civil war. I voted against the resolution and feel an
escalation of this war only compounds the original mistake of going in
the first place.
In 2007, Saddam Hussein is dead. Weapons of mass destruction
were never found — nor was any evidence that Saddam and al Qaeda were
The 2002 authorization for the use of force has nothing to do
with today’s reality. Back then it was simply bad policy. Today, when
it comes to escalation, it is obsolete.
A serious escalation of the war requires the people’s consent.
Our Commander in Chief has shown that he is seriously out of touch.
He has ignored the reality that Iraq is embroiled in a civil war.
When military generals spoke out against escalation, he replaced them.
When voters clearly demanded an end to the war, he decided to
Never has America’s system of checks and balances been so
threatened, and never has the courage to act been more important.
Escalating the war in Iraq is not President Bush’s decision
alone. He must ask for the people’s consent — and Congressional
approval is the only way he can get it.
Please add your name to the list of Americans who demand a voice
in the debate over escalation:
My legislation is simple: it states that any substantial new
commitment in Iraq requires a plan from the administration and
explicit authorization from Congress.
Whether you believe that escalation would be a grave mistake, or
whether you’re part of the dwindling minority willing to increase the
scale of this misguided adventure, it would be irresponsible to
continue to issue the president a blank check.
We must have a full debate about the course ahead. Senators and
Representatives should have a vote on whether the president may spend
more money and risk more lives for an expanded operation in Iraq.
If George Bush wants to ignore the advice of the military and
the findings of the Iraq Study Group, he’s going to have to make his
case and get the consent of the people through their elected
Iraq has become George Bush’s Vietnam, and it’s up to you and me
to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself any longer. Please sign
our petition supporting this important legislation:
The Iraqi people need to take responsibility for their own future.
But our only hope for change over there is if we, the American
people, take control of our own destiny here at home.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy