U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today made the following remarks in the U.S. House of Representatives in reference to H.R. 2956, the Responsible Redeployment from Iraq Act.  The bill would require a responsible redeployment of U.S. troops beginning within 120 days of enactment and ending by April 1, 2008.  The legislation also requires the President to publicly justify the post-redeployment missions for the U.S. military in Iraq and the minimum number of troops necessary to carry out those missions.

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  Listening to this debate, I think the biggest problem is that the proponents of the stay-the-course plan in Iraq continually, completely equate the battle in Iraq with the battle against al-Qaeda, with the terrorists that struck us, and the two are not the same.

“In fact we heard from Ms. Ros-Lehtinen that Iraq is but one of the battlefields where we are fighting against al-Qaeda and that is absolutely true.  And yet we have 80 percent of our assets in Iraq.  Meanwhile report after report comes out that al-Qaeda is strengthening themselves in Afghanistan and Pakistan where we don’t have enough resources. 

“Our argument is not for retreat.  Our argument is that there is a better way to fight al-Qaeda and those who threaten us than to put all of our assets in Iraq while not paying enough of attention to where al-Qaeda is really strengthening itself. 

“In Iraq, it is primarily a power struggle in which al-Qaeda is a player.   It is not primarily about al-Qaeda’s threat against the U.S.  In Afghanistan with the Taliban and al-Qaeda [it is] a very different story.  Our troops, our assets, the lives and talents of the people of this country are tied down in Iraq fighting what is primarily a civil war instead of better fighting al-Qaeda. 

“In fact our presence in many ways has strengthened al-Qaeda.  Syria would never be an ally of al-Qaeda but for our presence in Iraq.  Al-Qaeda wants to topple their regime, and yet to defeat us in Iraq they have come up with an alliance of convenience.  There is a better way to fight al-Qaeda. 

“We are here today to change course in Iraq because it is a better way to protect this country, and timing isn’t the issue. 

“Six months ago, when the President began the escalation in Iraq, these facts were basically the same as they are today.

“In September these facts will be basically the same as they are today.

“We cannot wait if we are going to have the best possible strategy to defeat al-Qaeda, the group that threatens us most, instead of getting bogged down in this civil war, in the tribal differences that are present in Iraq.

“We want to win, not to quit.  This is a better way to do it.”