Senator Bernie Sanders Votes "Yes" on Resolution to Disapprove of Iraq War Escalation

Senator Bernie Sanders said; "After the loss of over 3,100 Americans, the wounding of 23,000 and the expenditure of over $500 billion the time is long overdue for the Senate to have a serious debate on Iraq. It is unfortunate that the Republicans today have used a parliamentary maneuver to prevent even a non-binding resolution to come to a vote."

Senator Bernie Sanders said; "After the loss of over 3,100 Americans, the wounding of 23,000 and the expenditure of over $500 billion the time is long overdue for the Senate to have a serious debate on Iraq. It is unfortunate that the Republicans today have used a parliamentary maneuver to prevent even a non-binding resolution to come to a vote. In my view, if we are serious about ending this war and bringing our troops home safely and as soon as possible, Congress must begin using its constitutional and budgetary authority." Here's a speech Senator Bernie Sanders gave on the Senate floor on Friday, February 16th, 2007, entitiled "It is Time to End the War in Iraq." Mr. President: Before I discuss the issue of the Iraq war, I want to say a few words about another issue that is perhaps even more important. And that is, the constitutional question at the very heart of this entire debate. Let me be very frank. I am not a great fan of the Bush administration. And of the many great concerns that I have about President Bush and his actions, at the top of the list is that the President seems not to understand the Constitution of the United States very well. Whether it is the consistent attack on constitutional rights which his administration has pursued for a number of years, or his "signing statements" which attempt to circumvent legislation passed by Congress, the President appears to believe that he can do whatever he wants whenever he wants to. And that, in my view, is not what the United States of America is about or what our constitution provides for.In that regard I want to inform my colleagues that I have just introduced a resolution, similar to the one Congressman Peter DeFazio introduced in the House, that makes it very clear that the President does not have the Constitutional authority to start a war against Iran without the express authority of the U.S. Congress. There are many people in my state of Vermont who are very worried that the President may take us into a war in Iran, and that he is currently laying the groundwork for that war in the same way that he led us into the war in Iraq. So let me be very clear. If President Bush were to start a war in Iran without receiving the authority to do so from Congress he would not only be creating, in my view, an international disaster - but he would also be creating a major constitutional crisis.President Bush fails to understand, I believe, that the power to declare war under the Constitution is given to the Congress, not the President. My resolution, S. Con. Res. 13, is very simple and states clearly that it is "the sense of Congress that the President should not initiate military action against Iran without first obtaining authorization from Congress." I hope my colleagues will give strong support to this resolution. Mr. President: In my home state of Vermont and all across this country the American people are deeply concerned about the war in Iraq. A others have stated very eloquently, they want real debate here in Washington on this issue. More importantly, in my view, they want action. Frankly, I have a hard time understanding why some of my colleagues would try to prevent a vote on what is, at best, a modest proposal. If you support President Bush's escalation of the war in Iraq, vote against the resolution. On the other hand, if you don't believe that escalation is a sensible idea, and I certainly don't, then vote for the Reid resolution. But at the very least, let there be a vote. Let the American people know how we stand. Let me be very clear in giving you my perspective on this war. In my view, President Bush's war in Iraq has been a disaster. It's a war that we were misled into and a war that many of us believed we never should have gotten into in the first place - and a war that I voted against as a member of the House.This is a war that the Administration was unprepared to fight. The Administration has shown little understanding of the enemy or the historical context in which we found ourselves. Who will forget President Bush declaring "mission accomplished" aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, when, in fact, the mission had barely begun? Who will forget Vice-President Cheney telling us that the insurgency was in its "last throes," just before some of the bloodiest months of the war? Who will forget those Bush advisors who predicted that the war would be a "cake-walk" - nothing to worry about and that we would be greeted as "liberators?"Mr. President, this War in Iraq has come at a very, very high price in so many ways. This is a war that has cost us terribly in American blood. As of today, we have lost some 3,100 brave American soldiers, 23,000 more have been wounded, and tens of thousands will come home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is a war which, with the President's proposed increase, will cost us some $500 billion, with the price tag going up by $8 billion a month. This cost is going to add to the huge national debt that we are leaving to our children and our grand-children and is going to make it more difficult for us to fund health care, education, environmental protection, affordable housing, childcare and the pressing needs of the middle class and working families of our country - not to mention the needs of our veterans whose numbers are rapidly increasing as a result of this war. This is a war which has caused unimaginable horror for the people of Iraq. People who had suffered so long under the brutality of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship are suffering even more today. There are estimates that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed or wounded, and almost 2 million have been forced to flee their country - some 8 percent of their population. While civil war tears neighborhoods apart, children are without schools, and people lack electricity, health care and other basic necessities of life. The doctors and nurses, teachers and administrators who have provided the professional infrastructure for the people of Iraq are now long gone. It's a war which has lowered our standing in the international community to an all-time low in our lifetimes, with leaders in democratic countries hesitant to work with us because of the lack of respect their citizens have for our President. Long time friends and allies are simply wondering - "What is going on in the United States?"It's a war which has stretched both our active duty military to the breaking point, as well as our National Guard and Reserve forces. Morale in the military is low, and this war will have lasting impact on the future recruitment, retention and readiness of our nation's armed forces. It's a war which has, in many respects, lowered our capability to effectively fight the very serious threats of international terrorism and Islamic extremism. Five years after the horrific attacks of 9/11, Osama Bin Laden remains free. Using the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq as their rallying call, Al Qaeda's strength around the world continues to grow, and currently the situation in Afghanistan is becoming more and more difficult.Mr. President: Tragically, this Administration has refused to listen to the American people who, in this last election, made it very clear that they want a new direction in Iraq, and they want this war wound down. This Administration has refused to listen to the thoughtful suggestions of the bi-partisan Iraq Study Group - which included two former secretaries of state (including President Bush's own father's Secretary of State), as well as a former Presidential chief of staff and a former Secretary of Defense -- that it was time for a change of direction. This Administration has refused to listen to the advice of our military leaders in Iraq who told us that increasing troops from the United States would make it easier for the Iraqi government and military to avoid their political and military responsibilities. This Administration has refused to listen to the Iraqi people who, according to a number of polls, tell us very strongly that they believe that they would be safer and more secure if our troops left their country. In fact, this Administration has, tragically, refused to listen to anybody except that same shrinking inner-circle, led by Vice President Cheney, who have been consistently wrong from Day One. Mr. President: As most everybody understands and as the recent National Intelligence Estimate has recently confirmed, the situation in Iraq today is very dire. The sad truth is that there are now no "good options" before us, there are simply "less bad" options. In Iraq today, according to Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, there are now at least four separate wars being fought - wars that our soldiers, who have fought with incredible bravery and skill, find themselves in the middle of. Let me quote Secretary Gates who has recently stated; "I believe there are essentially four wars going on in Iraq. One is Shia on Shia, principally in the south; the second is sectarian conflict, principally in Bagdad but not solely. Third is the insurgency, and fourth is Al Queda."Mr. President: The reality today, as described by the Secretary of Defense, has nothing to do with why President Bush got us into this war in the first place. In March of 2002 he told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and they were poised to use them against us. That was not true and certainly has no relevance to the war today. In 2002 he told us that Iraq was somehow linked to Al Queda and bore some responsibility for the horrific 9-11 attack against our country. That also turned out not to be true and has no relevance to the situation we find ourselves in today.Mr. President: In the 2006 elections the American people, in a loud and unmistakable voice, told us that they no longer had confidence in the Bush Administration's handling of the war in Iraq. In my view they told us that they wanted Congress to begin asserting its constitutional authority over this war, and that they wanted us to rein this Administration in. Most importantly, they told us that they wanted us to begin the process of bringing our troops home as soon as possible. And, as Vermont's Senator, that is exactly the effort I intend to make.In my view, the Reid resolution before us is but a first step, and not a very large step, forward. If it is passed, it must be followed with much stronger legislation - legislation that has real teeth.I have cosponsored legislation introduced by Senator Kennedy that would prohibit the use of funds for an escalation of United States military forces without a specific new authorization from the Congress, a prohibition also included in legislation introduced by Senator Obama, whose bill I will talk about in a moment. Instead of just voicing our disapproval of President Bush's escalation of the war with a non-binding manner, we should now be considering legislation that provides for the safe and orderly redeployment of virtually all of our troops out of Iraq within the next year, even as we continue to give support to the Iraq government and their military for the purpose of helping them accept their political and military responsibilities. That is the legislation that we should be passing. Senator Feingold has introduced legislation requiring our troops be redeployed from Iraq within six months of passage of the bill. Senator Obama has introduced similar legislation, requiring that our troops be redeployed starting this May and that complete redeployment be achieved by the end of March, 2008. I support both pieces of legislation, and have cosponsored both the Feingold and the Obama bills. Finally, we must vote against any additional funding to increase troop levels, or we must set conditions in any future funding bill so that the President is obliged to begin winding down the war.Mr. President,We are mired in a war that has now gone on longer than American involvement in either the First World War or the Second World War. We will spend more money on this war, in real dollars, than we spent on either the Korean War or the Vietnam War.Our standing in the international community has declined and our ability to combat international terrorism has been seriously compromised. It is time to say no to this ill-conceived escalation, it is time to deploy our troops out of harm's way, and it is time to end this war.