Editor’s note: In honor of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s passing, we’re re-posting one of his classic moral stands. This 2007 speech against the escalation of the Iraq war was so good we had to give him the Truthdigger of the Week award back then.
This week Truthdig salutes Ted Kennedy for calling on Congress to honor the will of the people and block the escalation of the Iraq war. While many in Washington have stated their opposition to Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq, the senior senator from Massachusetts has actually acted on those convictions—authoring a bill that would require congressional approval before any more troops could be sent.
Kennedy has positioned himself as one of the most vocal opponents of escalation, demanding that Congress exercise its constitutionally mandated “power of the purse” to prevent this madness from going any further. Where some have busied themselves searching for the right words, Kennedy has been shouting from the rooftops.
We tip our hat to the senator for realizing this issue is about more than triangulation and political gain—it’s about human life and the balance of power in our democracy.
Kennedy’s speech to the National Press Club on escalation:
Text of Kennedy’s Senate floor speech on escalation:
Iraq is the overarching issue of our time. American lives, American values, and America’s role in the world is at stake.
As the November election made clear, the American people oppose this war, and an even greater number oppose sending more troops to Iraq.
The American people are demanding a change in course in Iraq. Instead, the president is accelerating the same failed course he has pursued for nearly four years. He must understand that Congress will not endorse this course.
The president’s decision to send more American troops into the cauldron of civil war is not an acceptable strategy. It is against the advice of his own generals, the Iraq Study Group, and the wishes of the American people, and will only compound our original mistake in going to war in Iraq.
Just this morning, the secretary of state testified that the Iraqi government “is ... on borrowed time.” In fact, time is already up. The Iraqi government needs to make the political compromises necessary to end this civil war. The answer is not more troops, it’s a political settlement.
The president talked about strengthening relations with Congress. He should begin by seeking authority from Congress for any escalation of the war.
The mission of our armed forces today in Iraq no longer bears any resemblance to the mission authorized by Congress in 2002. The Iraq War Resolution authorized a war against the regime of Saddam Hussein because he was believed to have weapons of mass destruction, an operational relationship with Al Qaeda, and was in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Not one member of Congress would have voted in favor of the resolution if they thought they were sending American troops into a civil war.
The president owes it to the American people to seek approval for this new mission from Congress. Congress should no longer be a rubber stamp for the president’s failed strategy. We should insist on a policy that is worthy of the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.
President Bush has been making up his mind on Iraq ever since the election. Before he escalates the war, the American people deserve a voice in his decision.
He’s the commander in chief, but he’s still accountable to the people. Our system of checks and balances gives Congress a key role in decisions of war and peace.
We know an escalation of troops into this civil war won’t work. We’ve increased our military presence in the past, and each time, the violence has increased and the political problems have persisted.
Despite what the president says, his own generals are on the record opposing a surge in troops.
Last Nov. 15, 2006, General Abizaid was unequivocal that increasing our troop commitment is not the answer. He said, “I’ve met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the corps commander, General Dempsey—we all talked together. And I said, ‘In your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq?’ And they all said no.”
On Dec. 29, General Casey said, “The longer we in the U.S. forces continue to bear the main burden of Iraq’s security, it lengthens the time that the government of Iraq has to take the hard decisions about reconciliation and dealing with the militias. ... They can continue to blame us for all of Iraq’s problems, which are at base their problems.”
Time and again, our leaders in Vietnam escalated our military presence, and each new escalation of force led to the next. We escalated the war instead of ending it. Like Vietnam, there is no military solution to Iraq. The president is the last person in America to understand that.
We must not only speak against the surge in troops, we must act to prevent it.