Senator Chuck Hagel , a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees, released the following statement January 11th regarding President Bush’s address to the nation on a new way forward in Iraq:
“I am opposed to the escalation of American involvement in Iraq, including more U.S. troops. This is a dangerously wrong-headed strategy that will drive America deeper into an unwinnable swamp at a great cost. It is wrong to place American troops into the middle of Iraq’s civil war. It is not in America’s national interest to increase our troop presence in Iraq. The President’s strategy will cost more American lives; sink us deeper into the bog of Iraq making it more difficult to get out; cost billions of dollars more; further strain an American military that has already reached its breaking point; further diminish America’s standing in the Middle East; and continue to allow the Iraqis to walk away from their responsibilities. The fate of Iraq will be determined by the Iraqis—not the Americans. We have already given four years, thousands of lives, and hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to Iraq.
“We cannot escape the reality that there will be no military solution in Iraq. The Iraqis are the only ones who can stop the sectarian and inter-sectarian violence that is now consuming their country. Iraqi leaders must understand the stark choice that they face between widening anarchy and violence and a concerted Iraqi effort toward political reconciliation. We cannot want success for Iraq more than they want it for themselves. More American troops, treasure and casualties will not change this reality. It will make it worse. General Abizaid testified to this point in November before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“Instead of increasing our troop presence in Iraq, we should be focused on helping the Iraqis find a political solution and creating a policy that allows us to leave Iraq honorably, has the sustained support of the American people and does not further destabilize the Middle East. This will require redefining our mission and our involvement in Iraq. A new American strategy for Iraq should include:
• moving our troops out of the cities to Iraq’s border areas, allowing us to help secure the territorial integrity of Iraq which will be seriously threatened and is critical for the future of Iraq;
• begin turning over internal security of Iraq to the Iraqis;
• engaging all nations in the Middle East to develop a regional internationally sponsored peace process;
• accelerating training of Iraqi troops.
“We are all trying to find a workable strategy and policy to address the disaster in Iraq. This should not be a partisan political issue. Congress will now begin the serious work of examining the President’s plan through oversight hearings and debate. Ultimately, the Congress will have to make tough decisions about the President’s plan. However, it is the Iraqis who must reach a political accommodation and find a political resolution. It may take years, but it is not the responsibility of the U.S.”