Mitch McConnell on War & Peace
Republican Sr Senator (KY)
2006: Bring some troops home from Iraq or GOP loses seats
In Sept. 2006, with the midterm elections approaching, my friend Mitch McConnell (R-KY) came to the Oval Office. Mitch has a sharp political nose, and he smelled trouble. I asked, "What do you want me to do about it?"
He said, "bring some troops home
from Iraq." He was not alone. As violence in Iraq escalated, members of both parties had called for a pullout.
I said, "I believe our presence in Iraq is necessary to protect American, and I will not withdraw troops unless military conditions warrant."
I made clear I would set troop levels to achieve victory in Iraq, not victory at the polls.
What I did not tell him was that I was seriously considering the opposite of his recommendations. Rather than pull troops out, I was on the verge of making the
toughest and most unpopular decision of my presidency: deploying more troops into Iraq with a new strategy, a new commander, and a mission to protect the Iraqi people and help enable the rise of a democracy in the heart of the Middle East.
Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.355
, Nov 9, 2010
2005 Iraq: Democracy is the ultimate antidote to terrorism
Victory in Iraq was becoming increasingly difficult to define, much less achieve, and public restlessness was growing. "Iraq is now the central battlefield in the War on Terror," McConnell declared in an Independence Day newspaper column. "If we leave
before the fight is through, Iraq could fall prey to men like Osama bin Laden, and become a factory of hatred. But if we stay and help the Iraqis as they train their own security forces, write a constitution that guarantees a voice for all, and form a
new government, Iraq has the potential to help lead the entire Middle East towards democracy and peace."
After Iraq's successful legislative elections, McConnell elaborated his argument in a floor speech, asserting "that it is squarely in our
national security interest to help the Iraqis build a thriving and healthy democracy. Democracy is the ultimate antidote to terrorism." The US must defeat the terrorists in Iraq "so that country can become a hinge of freedom in the greater Middle East."
Source: Republican Leader, by John Dyche, p.190
, Sep 15, 2010
Kuwait war was worth fighting, including avoiding Baghdad
In January 1991, a resolution authorizing military Action to oust Iraq from Kuwait, which it had invaded and occupied the previous August, passed the House, 250-83. Few in the Senate foresaw what would turn out to be a relatively easy military victory
and the resolution barely passed, 52-47, with McConnell voting for what he considered "a war worth fighting."
After accomplishing the declared objective of expelling the Iraqi invasion forces, Bush decided to stop at the border instead of going on to
Baghdad to depose the dictator Saddam Hussein. McConnell again backed Bush. "My inclination was that his decision was correct," McConnell explained in a 1999 interview. "I'm not sure that occupying a country as large as Iraq would have been in any
way a pleasant experience for us. We would have been subject to all sorts of terrorist activities." McConnell's words would prove prescient, but his position on invading and occupying Iraq would later change with the circumstances.
Source: Republican Leader, by John Dyche, p. 88
, Sep 15, 2010
1967: Against Vietnam war, but enlisted in Army reserves
When McConnell finished law school in 1967, Vietnam was America's dominant political issue. He was against the war and knew very few people his age, Republican or Democrat, who supported it.
He admits, however, that he does not know how much of his opposition flowed from his early conclusion that the war was an exercise in geopolitical futility and how much came from his concern over the impact the conflict could have on his own life.
Facing a service obligation of some sort, McConnell decided to enlist in the Army reserves, which he later described as "a kind of honorable alternative" that wouldn't ruin my career or taint my advancement."
Two days after finishing the bar exam, he began his basic training.
Source: Republican Leader, by John Dyche, p. 19
, Sep 15, 2010
Honorable discharge as medically unfit in Vietnam War
No holds were barred. For example, Greg Stumbo raised McConnell's military record: "I'll tell you how sorry he is. He's sending young men and women to die in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he will not share with the people of KY how he got out of military
service--how in the height of the Vietnam War he was able to dodge military service." To counter these attacks McConnell produced his military discharge form, which declared him medically unfit, and his honorable discharge certificate.
Source: Republican Leader, by John Dyche, p.229
, Sep 15, 2010
Voted NO on redeploying non-essential US troops out of Iraq in 9 months.
Vote to transition the missions of US Forces in Iraq to a more limited set of missions as specified by the President on September 13, 2007: S.AMDT.3875 amends S.AMDT.3874 and underlying bill H.R.2764:
- The President shall commence the safe, phased redeployment of members of the US Armed Forces from Iraq who are not essential to the [new limited mission].
- Such redeployment shall begin not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.
- No funds under any provision of law may be expended to continue the deployment in Iraq of members of the US Armed Forces after 9 months.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Sen. LEVIN: "The amendment requires redeployment be completed within 9 months. At that point, funding for the war would be ended, with four narrow exceptions:"
Targeted operations against members of al-Qaida.
- Security for US Government personnel and infrastructure
- Training Iraqi security forces
- Equipment to US service men and women to ensure their safety
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Sen. McCAIN: "This year, after nearly 4 years of mismanaged war, our military has made significant gains under the so-called surge. Overall violence in Iraq has fallen to its lowest level since . Improvised explosive device blasts now occur at a rate lower than at any point since September 2004.
"Al-Qaida's leadership knows which side is winning in Iraq. It may not be known in some parts of America and in this body, but al-Qaida knows. We are succeeding under the new strategy.
"Given these realities, some proponents of precipitous withdrawal from Iraq have shifted their focus. While conceding, finally, that there have been dramatic security gains, they have begun seizing on the lackluster performance of the Iraqi Government to insist that we should abandon the successful strategy and withdraw U.S. forces. This would be a terrible mistake."
Reference: Safe Redeployment Of US Troops From Iraq Amendment;
Bill S.AMDT.3875 to H.R.2764
; vote number 2007-437
on Dec 18, 2007
Voted YES on designating Iran's Revolutionary Guards as terrorists.
Vote on a "Sense of the Senate" amendment, S.Amdt. 3017, to H.R. 1585 (National Defense Authorization Act), that finds:
- that it is a vital US national interest to prevent the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from turning Shi'a militia extremists in Iraq into a Hezbollah-like force;
- that it should be US policy to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of Iran;
- to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy;
- that the US should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Sen. LIEBERMAN: Some of our colleagues thought the Sense of the Senate may have opened the door to some kind of military action against Iran [so we removed some text].
That is not our intention. In fact, our intention is to increase the economic pressure on Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps so that we will never have to consider the use of the military to stop them from what they are doing to kill our soldiers.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Sen. BIDEN. I will oppose the Kyl-Lieberman amendment for one simple reason: this administration cannot be trusted. I am very concerned about the evidence that suggests that Iran is engaged in destabilizing activities inside Iraq. Arguably, if we had a different President who abided by the meaning and intent of laws we pass, I might support this amendment. I fear, however, that this President might use the designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity as a pretext to use force against Iran as he sees fit. [The same was done with the Senate resolution on Iraq in 2002]. Given this President's actions and misuse of authority, I cannot support the amendment.
Reference: Sense of the Senate on Iran;
Bill S.Amdt. 3017 to H.R. 1585
; vote number 2007-349
on Sep 26, 2007
Voted NO on redeploying US troops out of Iraq by March 2008.
Begins the phased redeployment of US forces from Iraq within 120 days of enactment of this joint resolution with the goal of redeploying by March 31, 2008, all US combat forces from Iraq, except for a limited number essential for protecting US and coalition personnel and infrastructure, training and equipping Iraqi forces, and conducting targeted counter-terrorism operations. Such redeployment shall be implemented as part of a diplomatic, political, and economic strategy that includes sustained engagement with Iraq's neighbors and the international community in order to bring stability to Iraq.
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
Our troops are caught in the midst of a civil war. The administration has begun to escalate this war with 21,000 more troops. This idea is not a new one. During this war, four previous surges have all failed. It is time for a different direction. It is time for a drawdown of our troops.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
This resolution calls for imposing an artificial timeline to withdraw our troops from Iraq, regardless of the conditions on the ground or the consequences of defeat; a defeat that will surely be added to what is unfortunately a growing list of American humiliations. This legislation would hobble American commanders in the field and substantially endanger America's strategic objective of a unified federal democratic Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself and be an ally in the war against Islamic fascism. The unintended consequence of this resolution is to bring to reality Osama bin Laden's vision for Iraq; that after 4 years of fighting in Iraq the US Congress loses its will to fight. If we leave Iraq before the job is done, as surely as night follows day, the terrorists will follow us home. Osama bin Laden has openly said: America does not have the stomach to stay in the fight. He is a fanatic. He is an Islamic fascist. He is determined to destroy us and our way of life.
Reference: US Policy in Iraq Resolution;
; vote number 2007-075
on Mar 15, 2007
Voted NO on redeploying troops out of Iraq by July 2007.
Voting YEA on this amendment would establish a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Voting NAY would keep the current situation without a timetable. The amendment states:
- The President shall redeploy, commencing in 2006, US forces from Iraq by July 1, 2007, leaving only the minimal number of forces that are critical to completing the mission of standing up Iraqi security forces and conducting specialized counterterrorism operations.
- The President should maintain an over-the-horizon troop presence to prosecute the war on terror and protect regional security interests.
- Within 30 days, the administration shall submit to Congress a report that sets forth the strategy for the redeployment of US forces from Iraq by July 1, 2007.
Opponents of the Resolution say:
- This amendment would withdraw American forces from Iraq without regard to the real conditions on the ground.
- The consequences of an American retreat would be terrible for the security of the
American people at home.
- Our commitment is not open-ended. It is conditional on the Iraqis moving toward self-government and self-defense.
Supporters of the Resolution say:
Reference: Kerry Amendment to National Defense Authorization Act;
Bill S.Amdt. 4442 to S. 2766
; vote number 2006-181
on Jun 22, 2006
- Congress talks almost incessantly about the situation in Iraq as if on 9/11 the situation involved Iraq. Of course, it didn't. We were attacked by al-Qaida operating out of Afghanistan on 9/11.
- One of the theories we hear is that somehow staying in Iraq is necessary because all the terrorists will come into Iraq, and then they wouldn't be able to attack us anywhere else. Some call this the roach-motel theory. The fact is, al-Qaida is operating in 60 to 80 countries. Yet our resources are only heavily focused on this Iraq situation.
- In terms of differences from other Iraq amendments: This is binding, not just a sense of the Senate.
- Secondly, we have a date; other amendments are open-ended.
- Thirdly, this has an over-the-horizon force specifically to protect our security interests.
Voted NO on investigating contract awards in Iraq & Afghanistan.
To establish a special committee of the Senate to investigate the awarding and carrying out of contracts to conduct activities in Afghanistan and Iraq and to fight the war on terrorism. Voting YES would: create Senate special committee to investigate war contracts, taking into consideration: bidding, methods of contracting, subcontracting, oversight procedures, allegations of wasteful practices, accountability and lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Reference: Committee to Investigate War Contracts;
Bill S Amdt 2476 to S 1042
; vote number 2005-316
on Nov 10, 2005
Voted YES on $86 billion for military operations in Iraq & Afghanistan.
Vote to pass a bill that would appropriate $86.5 billion in supplemental spending for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Fiscal 2004. The bill would provide $10.3 billion as a grant to rebuild Iraq. This includes:
Reference: FY04 Emergency Supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan;
; vote number 2003-400
on Oct 17, 2003
- $5.1 billion for security
- $5.2 billion for reconstruction costs
- $65.6 billion for military operations and maintenance
- $1.3 billion for veterans medical care
- $10 billion as a loan that would be converted to a grant if 90% of all bilateral debt incurred by the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, would have to be forgiven by other countries.
Voted YES on authorizing use of military force against Iraq.
H.J.Res. 114; Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. The administration would be required to report to Congress that diplomatic options have been exhausted before, or within 48 hours after military action has started. Every 60 days the president would also be required to submit a progress report to Congress.
; vote number 2002-237
on Oct 11, 2002
Voted NO on allowing all necessary force in Kosovo.
Majority Leader Trent Lott motioned to kill the resolution that would have authorized the president to "use all necessary forces and other means," in cooperation with U.S. allies to accomplish objectives in Yugoslavia.
Status: Motion to Table Agreed to Y)78; N)22
Reference: Motion to table S. J. Res. 20;
Bill S. J. Res. 20
; vote number 1999-98
on May 4, 1999
Voted YES on authorizing air strikes in Kosovo.
Vote to adopt a resolution to authorize the President to conduct military air operations and missile strikes in cooperation with NATO against Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro).
Bill S.Con.Res 21
; vote number 1999-57
on Mar 23, 1999
Voted YES on ending the Bosnian arms embargo.
Ending the Bosnian arms embargo.
Status: Bill Passed Y)69; N)29; NV)2
Reference: Bosnia Herzegovina Self-Defense Act of '95;
Bill S. 21
; vote number 1995-331
on Jul 26, 1995
Iranian nuclear weapons: prevention instead of containment.
McConnell co-sponsored Resolution on Iran's nuclear program
Expressing the sense of Congress regarding the nuclear program of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives, that Congress--
- Whereas, since at least the late 1980s, Iran has engaged in a sustained pattern of illicit and deceptive activities to acquire nuclear capability;
- Whereas the UN Security Council has adopted multiple resolutions since 2006 demanding the full suspension of all uranium enrichment-related activities by Iran, particularly possible military dimensions;
- Whereas, in Nov. 2011, the IAEA issued an extensive report that documents "serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme";
- Whereas top leaders of Iran have repeatedly threatened the existence of the State of Israel;
- Whereas the Department of State has designated Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984;
- Whereas Iran has provided weapons, training, & funding to terrorist groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and Shiite militias in Iraq;
Whereas Iran had forged a "secret deal" with al Qaeda to facilitate the movement of al Qaeda fighters and funding through Iranian territory;
Source: HRes568/SR41 12-SJR41 on May 24, 2012
- Reaffirms that the US Government has a vital interest in working together to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability;
- warns that time is limited to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability;
- urges continued and increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran until a full and sustained suspension of all uranium enrichment-related activities;
- expresses that the window for diplomacy is closing;
- expresses support for the universal rights and democratic aspirations of the people of Iran;
- strongly supports US policy to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability;
- rejects any US policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.
Iran must accept long-term intrusive nuke inspection.
McConnell signed demanding that Iran accept intrusive nuclear inspection
Excerpts from Letter from 85 Senators to President Obama We all hope that nuclear negotiations succeed in preventing Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapons capability. For diplomacy to succeed, however, we must couple our willingness to negotiate with a united and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime. We urge you to insist on the realization of these core principles with Iran:
Iran must clearly understand the consequences of failing to reach an acceptable final agreement. We must signal unequivocally to Iran that rejecting negotiations and continuing its nuclear weapon program will lead to much more dramatic sanctions, including further limitations on Iran's oil exports.
- Iran has no inherent right to enrichment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
- Any agreement must dismantle Iran's nuclear weapons program and prevent it from ever having a path to a nuclear bomb.
- Iran has no reason to have an enrichment facility like Fordow, and that the regime must give up its heavy water reactor at Arak.
- Iran must submit to a long-term and intrusive inspection and verification regime.
- Iran must not be allowed during these negotiations to circumvent sanctions.
Opposing argument: (Cato Institute, "Enforcing Iran Nuke Deal," Jan. 25, 2017): More than anything else, the Iran nuclear deal must be kept because the alternative is a return to ever-heightening tensions and clamoring by hawks in both countries. From 2003 to 2014, years of unrelenting U.S. sanctions and confrontation, Iran went from 164 centrifuges to 19,000. The hostile approach generates a more expansive, less transparent Iranian nuclear program and increases the chances for another disastrous U.S. war in the Middle East. Let's hope the Trump administration chooses not to go that route.
Source: Iran Nukes Letter 14LTR-NUKE on Mar 18, 2014
Sanctions on Iran to end nuclear program.
McConnell signed Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act
Expresses the sense of Congress that:
- diplomatic efforts to address Iran's illicit nuclear efforts, unconventional and ballistic missile development programs, and support for international terrorism are more likely to be effective if the President is empowered with explicit authority to impose additional sanctions on the government of Iran;
- US concerns regarding Iran are strictly the result of that government's actions; and
- the people of the United States have feelings of friendship for the people of Iran and regret that developments in recent decades have created impediments to that friendship.
States that it should be US policy to:
- support international diplomatic efforts to end Iran's uranium enrichment program and its nuclear weapons program;
- encourage foreign governments to direct state-owned and private entities to cease all investment in, and support of, Iran's energy sector and all exports of refined petroleum products to Iran;
- impose sanctions
on the Central Bank of Iran and any other Iranian financial institution engaged in proliferation activities or support of terrorist groups; and
- work with allies to protect the international financial system from deceptive and illicit practices by Iranian financial institutions involved in proliferation activities or support of terrorist groups.
Source: S.908&HR.2194 2009-S908 on Apr 30, 2009
- Amends the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 to direct the President to impose sanctions if a person has made an investment of $20 million or more (or any combination of investments of at least $5 million which in the aggregate equals or exceeds $20 million in any 12-month period) that directly and significantly contributed to Iran's ability to develop its petroleum resources. (Under current law the sanction thresholds are $40 million, $10 million, and $40 million, respectively.)
- Establishes additional sanctions prohibiting specified foreign exchange, banking, and property transactions.
- Includes refined petroleum resources.
Move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
McConnell co-sponsored the Jerusalem Embassy Act
Declares it to be U.S. policy that: Corresponding House bill is H.R.1595. Became Public Law No: 104-45.
Source: Bill sponsored by 77 Senators and 78 Reps 95-S1322 on Oct 13, 1995
- Jerusalem remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic religious group are protected;
- Jerusalem be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel;
- the U.S. Embassy in Israel be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.
- Makes specified amounts of such funds available until expended in FY 1996 and 1997 only for construction and other costs associated with relocating the U.S. Embassy Jerusalem.
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