updated 1/27/2005 3:12:01 PM ET 2005-01-27T20:12:01

Below are excerpts from the January 27, 2005 speech by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-MA, to the .Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

-----

President Bush has left us with few good choices. There are costs to staying, and costs to leaving. There may well be violence as we disengage militarily from Iraq and Iraq disengages politically from us, but there will be much more violence if we continue our present dangerous and destabilizing course. It will not be easy to extricate ourselves from Iraq, but we must begin.

-----

We thought in those early days in Vietnam that we were winning. We thought the skill and courage of our troops was enough. We thought that victory on the battlefield would lead to victory in war, and peace and democracy for the people of Vietnam.

-----

We lost our national purpose in Vietnam. We abandoned the truth. We failed our ideals. The words of our leaders could no longer be trusted.

-----

In the name of a misguided cause, we continued in a war too long. We failed to comprehend the events around us. We did not understand that our very presence was creating new enemies and defeating the very goals we set out to achieve.

-----

We cannot allow history to repeat itself in Iraq. We must learn from our mistakes in Vietnam and in Iraq. We must recognize what a large and growing number of Iraqis now believe the war in Iraq has become a war against the American occupation.

-----

We have reached the point that a prolonged American military presence in Iraq is no longer productive for either Iraq or the United States. The U.S. military presence has become part of the problem, not part of the solution.

-----

The elections in Iraq this weekend provide an opportunity for a fresh and honest approach. We need a new plan that sets fair and realistic goals for self-government in Iraq, and works with the Iraqi government on a specific timetable for the honorable homecoming of our forces.

-----

We all hope for the best from Sunday's election. The Iraqis have a right to determine their own future. But Sunday's elections are not a cure for the violence and instability. Unless the Sunni and all the communities in Iraq believe they have a stake in the outcome and a genuine role in drafting the new Iraqi constitution, the election could lead to greater alienation, greater escalation, greater death - for us and for the Iraqis.

-----

President Bush's Iraq policy is not, as he said during last fall's campaign, a "catastrophic success." It is a catastrophic failure. The men and women of our armed forces are serving honorably and with great courage under extreme conditions, but their indefinite presence is fanning the flames of conflict.

-----

A new Iraq policy must begin with acceptance of hard truths. Most of the violence in Iraq is not being perpetrated - as President Bush has claimed - by "a handful of folks that fear freedom" and people who want to try to impose their will on people…just like Osama bin Laden."

-----

The insurgency is largely home-grown. By our own government's count, the ranks of the guerillas are large and growing larger.

-----

We cannot defeat the insurgents militarily if we fail to effectively address the political context in which the insurgency flourishes. Our military and the insurgents are fighting for the same thing-the hearts and minds of the people - and that is a battle we are not winning.

-----

In the end, there is only one choice. America must give Iraq back to the Iraqi people. We need to let them make their own decisions, reach their own consensus, and govern their own country.

-----

We need to rethink the Pottery Barn rule. America cannot forever be the potter that sculpts Iraq's future. President Bush broke Iraq, but if we want Iraq to be fixed, the Iraqis must feel that they own it.

-----

The stakes are enormously high. The Iraqi people are facing historic issues -- the establishment of a government, the role of Islam, and the protection of minority rights.

-----

The United States and the international community have a clear interest in a strong, tolerant and pluralistic Iraq, free from chaos and civil war.

-----

The first point in a new plan would be for the United Nations, not the United States, to provide assistance and advice on establishing a system of government and drafting a Constitution. An international meeting - led by the United Nations and the new Iraqi Government -- should be convened immediately in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East to begin that process.

-----

Error is no excuse for its own perpetuation. Mindless determination doesn't make a better outcome more likely. Setting a firm strategy for ending the mission may not guarantee success, but failure to do so will almost certainly guarantee failure. Casualties are increasing. America is tied down. Our military is stretched to the breaking point. Our capacity to respond to crises and threats elsewhere in the world has been compromised.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments