Why We Can’t Set a Timetable

In a post titled “Mitchslapped,” Hugh Hewitt posted the following statement from Senator Mitch McConnell’s office in full and I decided to share it with you all here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

“Setting a date certain for withdrawal will send a chill up the spine of every Iraqi who has dared to stand with America.”

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday regarding S. J. Res. 9, the latest Democrat proposal to set a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq. The following are his remarks from the floor.

“Today, Senate Republicans will agree to move to a debate on an important question, and that question is this: Should a majority of Senators direct the activity of the War in Iraq?

“Republicans are eager to engage in this debate on the Reid Resolution because it’s different in kind from any previous Democratic proposal.

“It is unprecedented in the powers it would arrogate to the Congress in a time of war; it is a clear statement of retreat from the support that the Senate only recently gave to General David Petraeus; and its passage would be absolutely fatal to our mission in Iraq. “Previous resolutions proposed by the Democrats were a mere statement of opinion, or sentiment. This one has a binding quality. It would interfere with the President and General Petraeus’ operational authority to conduct the war in Iraq as he and his commanders see fit. It would substitute for their judgment the judgment of 535 members of Congress.

“And the judgment they’ve made is this: That Iraq is a distraction in the Global War on terror, and that U.S. troops should begin to withdraw in four months, with all combat forces leaving within a year. That’s the judgment that the Reid proposal makes.

“This is the memo our enemies have been waiting for.

“Osama Bin Laden and his followers have repeatedly said that the U.S. does not have the stomach for a long fight with the terrorists. Passage of the Reid Joint Resolution will be the first concrete sign since Sept. 11, 2001, that he was right on target.

“Timetables are bad. But don’t just take my word for it.

“Speaking at the National Press Club in 2005, my good friend the Majority Leader himself said this: ‘As for setting a timeline, as we learned in the Balkans, that’s not a wise decision, because it only empowers those who don’t want us there, and it doesn’t work well to do that.’

“Six months after that, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Biden, said this: ‘A deadline for pulling out … will only encourage our enemies to wait us out’ … it would be ‘a Lebanon in 1985. And God knows where it goes from there.’ That was our friend, Joe Biden, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“And three months later, Senator Clinton made the same point when she said, ‘I don’t believe it’s smart to set a date for withdrawal,’ said Senator Clinton. ‘I don’t think you should ever telegraph your intentions to the enemy so they can await you.’ “That’s the Majority Leader, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and a prominent Democrat presidential candidate.

“Surely Senators Reid, Biden, and Clinton have not changed their minds about who would benefit the most if we set a date certain for withdrawal. They know just as well as I do that this is what the terrorists have been waiting for — and just what our allies in Iraq, and the entire region of the world have feared.

“Setting a date certain for withdrawal will send a chill up the spine of every Iraqi who has dared to stand with America. Millions of good men and women have helped us in this fight. Since we arrived in Iraq, nearly 120,000 Iraqis have volunteered to serve in their army. More than 8,000 Iraqis have died in uniform to defend the fledgling Democracy over there. And recently, in Anbar province, we’re told that roughly 1,000 Sunnis volunteered for the police force over a period of a couple weeks.

“These brave men and women, Mr. President, are watching what we do here: They know, as we do, that chaos will engulf Iraq and the rest of the region on that day. They know they and their families will likely face a firing squad soon after we leave. And the message we send them with this resolution is this: good luck.

“General Petraeus understands the importance of the mission in Iraq, and his new Mission to Secure Baghdad. In a recent letter to the soldiers under his command, he wrote:

The enemies of Iraq will shrink at no act, however barbaric. They will do all they can to shake the confidence of the people and to convince the world that this effort is doomed. We must not underestimate them. Together with our Iraqi partners, we must defeat those who oppose the new Iraq. We cannot allow mass murders to hold the initiative. We must strike them relentlessly. We and our Iraqi partners must set the terms of the struggle, not our enemies. And together, we must prevail.

“These are the words of the man this body recently sent to Iraq. They are the words of a military commander: confident yet realistic, and committed above all to victory. This is the voice of courage and resolve in the face of danger. We do best to listen to voices like this, which speak of victory rather than defeat and withdrawal. We owe it to him, his soldiers, our allies, and the world.

“Republicans are ready for this debate.”

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