Capitol Hill reacts to the Iraq withdrawal
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s announcement Friday that the Iraq War will come to a complete end this year drew immediate reaction from lawmakers both in favor of the plan and concerned that the move will jeopardize both Iraq and the United States.
Here’s a sampling of the reaction from Capitol Hill:
- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.:
“Today marks a harmful and sad setback for the United States in the world. I respectfully disagree with the President: this decision will be viewed as a strategic victory for our enemies in the Middle East, especially the Iranian regime, which has worked relentlessly to ensure a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. It is a consequential failure of both the Obama Administration -- which has been more focused on withdrawing from Iraq than succeeding in Iraq since it came into office -- as well as the Iraqi government.
“I share the desire for all of our troops to come home as quickly as possible. But all of our military commanders with whom I have spoken on my repeated visits to Iraq have told me that U.S. national security interests and the enduring needs of Iraq’s military required a continued presence of U.S. troops in Iraq beyond 2011 to safeguard the gains that we and our Iraqi partners have made. I am confident that no U.S. commander of any stature who has served in Iraq recommended the course of action that has now been taken.
“Nearly 4,500 Americans have given their lives for our mission in Iraq. Countless more have been wounded. Through their service and sacrifice, the possibility of a democratic state in the heart of the Middle East has been opened to millions of Iraqis. I fear that all of the gains made possible by these brave Americans in Iraq, at such grave cost, are now at risk.”
- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.:
“I commend the President for his announcement today and I fully support his decision to remove all American troops from Iraq by the end of this year. This is the right decision at the right time. The Iraqi people have demonstrated the capability to secure their own country, and it is time for us to leave. Since coming to office, the President has followed through on his commitment to wind down the war in Iraq, while continuing to achieve major gains in his strategy to decimate terrorist organizations and keep America safe.
“As we continue to focus on pressing threats like finishing off al Qaeda and the others who would do America harm, it is critical that we remember the 4,400 Americans who lost their lives, the tens of thousands more who were wounded, and all those who served in Iraq. As a nation, we have no more important duty than keeping our commitment to recognize their service, honor their memories, and support their families.”
- Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.:
“I respectfully disagree with President Obama. I feel all we have worked for, fought for, and sacrificed for is very much in jeopardy by today’s announcement. I hope I am wrong and the President is right, but I fear this decision has set in motion events that will come back to haunt our country.”
- Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.:
“Today’s announcement effectively implements U.S. policy to end our troop presence in Iraq by the end of this year, policy established under President Bush in consultation with Iraq’s government. While the United States will continue to have an important relationship with Iraq, that nation’s fate rests with its own people and its government, as it should.”
“I was prepared to support a continued presence of U.S. trainers in Iraq beyond the end of this year. But in light of Iraq’s refusal to eliminate the possibility that U.S. troops would face prosecutions in Iraqi courts, President Obama has made the right decision. While the military and diplomatic aspects of this news are important, our thoughts should focus above all on the bravery, sacrifice, and determination of our service members, the sacrifices of their families, and on the nearly 4,500 troops who have lost their lives serving our country in Iraq. Our nation is united in gratitude for their service.”
- House Armed Services Committee Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif.:
"Today the President announced the withdrawal of all combat forces from Iraq by the end of the year. Over a million Americans and their Iraqi partners can be proud of what we have achieved since 2003. Together we toppled one of the world’s most heinous dictators and established a democracy in the heart of the Middle East. Together we fought and defeated extremists and terrorists who would have torn the fabric of Iraqi society apart. Much remains to be done and America’s commitment to Iraqi stability, security, and freedom endures. I hope that Iraq will always look to the United States as a partner in that freedom as they travel the challenging road ahead.
"I remain concerned that this full withdrawal of US forces will make that road tougher than it needs to be. Multiple experts have testified before my committee that the Iraqis still lack important capacities in their ability to maintain their internal stability and territorial integrity. These shortcomings could reverse the decade of hard work and sacrifice both countries have endured to build a free Iraq.”
- HASC Ranking Member Adam Smith, D-Wash.:
“I am pleased to hear that President Obama is following through on his pledge to responsibly redeploy United States combat forces from Iraq by the end of the year. Over the last 8 years, our troops have done a tremendous job protecting U.S. national security and supporting the Iraqi people as they seek to establish a stable, prosperous nation. I want to applaud our troops for their hard work and thank them for their sacrifice.
“The United States is concluding a long, difficult conflict in Iraq and this announcement initiates a new chapter in U.S-Iraqi relations. Iraq is a newly emerging democracy, and there will be tough times ahead, but we will continue to work with our partners in the region and through our diplomatic resources to support the Iraqi people as they transition from a period of conflict, to a period of peace.
“Over the last few years, we have witnessed the removal of multiple terrorist leaders, including Osama Bin Laden and the disposal of a tyrant in Libya. Today’s announcement builds on recent successes and I look forward to continuing to work with the Administration as we work to ensure U.S. national security. ”
- Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo:
"I voted against the Iraq war, and I still believe that it ultimately harmed what should have been our military's top priority - our mission in Afghanistan. However, once our forces were committed in Iraq, abandoning that country would have risked the security of the entire region.
"I remain concerned about the security situation in Iraq and believe that keeping a limited number of U.S. troops in place to continue training and assistance would have helped sustain U.S. and Iraqi progress in stemming violence. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will continue to monitor the situation closely. It is ultimately unacceptable to expect our troops to provide that assistance without immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, which has become a sticking point between U.S. and Iraqi negotiators. Our troops have fought and died to establish a functioning democratic government in Iraq, and now we must respect the wishes of Iraq's leaders."
- Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.:
“It is welcome news that America’s military role in Iraq will come to an end this year. Our troops have fought valiantly for nearly nine years and should be honored for their service, but the time for them to come home is long overdue. The war in Iraq was a costly mission that claimed too many precious lives and wounded thousands of our nation’s brave men and women in uniform. I am pleased that President Obama has decided to bring this war to an end and I will continue working to ensure our service members and veterans have the resources and support they need while they are deployed and when they return home.”
- Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio:
“As one of the first Members of Congress to oppose the war in Iraq, I welcome the President’s announcement that he will withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq at the end of the year. The U.S. has spent over $806 billion on a war that was based on lies. The war in Iraq has cost the lives of over 4,421 U.S. troops and an estimated 1 million innocent Iraqis.
“Yet today’s announcement fails to acknowledge that we will simply be replacing one U.S. occupation with another. Under the State Department’s current plans to take the place of the Department of Defense as the main U.S. force in Iraq post-military withdrawal, we are still maintaining a massive presence there, now with the State Department and its heavily armed private security contractors. And it is the presence of armed U.S. contractors that is the problem. It will continue to foment instability and violence in Iraq and the region. We need to get out now, not just trade uniforms and personnel. It is reasonable to ask whether the people of Iraq will notice any change.
- Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass.:
“The United States is fulfilling our agreement with an Iraqi government that wants to shape its own future. The President is also following through on his commitment to end both the conflict in Iraq and our military presence. We are creating a new partnership that shifts from a clear military focus to a new relationship that is more expansive, hinging on increased diplomatic, economic and cultural relations. At the same time, we are committed to our security relationship with Iraq. These moves appropriately reflect the changes on the ground. American troops in Iraq will be coming home, having served with honor and enormous skill.”