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Sen. Joe Lieberman's speech to the Senate


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March 5, 2004 -- DURING this campaign, our presidential candidates must find ways to differ without being destructive, to debate without demonizing, to rise above partisan politics and put America first.

But there is one area in particular where we simply cannot afford to allow campaign politics to take over - and that is the current crisis in Iraq.

We are at war. The lives of more than 100,000 American troops are on the line in Iraq. So, too, is the fulcrum of our present and future national security.

The stakes in Iraq for our future security and our victory in the wider war against terrorism are of the highest magnitude - and our politics must catch up with that reality.

I recognize that differences of opinion about why and how we went to war in Iraq run deep and run wide. But I believe deeply that we cannot allow arguments about past policies to stop us from finding common ground to face the present and future threats in Iraq.

We cannot re-fight the last war against Saddam with such focus and ferocity that we falter in fighting the terrorist insurgents that threaten Iraq and us right now.

The days from now to Election Day will be critical for Iraq, as sovereignty is returned to the Iraqi people and they prepare for what we hope will be their own historic election day in December.

We need to make critical decisions and take strong actions in the upcoming weeks and months. To do so, we must transcend the partisan reflex rancor that has become the norm in our politics.

The consequences of failure are staggering.

Iraq has become a major battleground in our larger war against terrorism. Members of the same Jihadist movements that killed nearly 3,000 Americans and Iraqis on 9/11 are now fighting alongside Saddam loyalists, systematically targeting and murdering Americans and Iraqis who are working hard to build a new civil society in that country.

If we fail to stop these insurgents and lose the peace in Iraq, we will condemn the Iraqi people to relentless violence, the Middle East will be destabilized and we will give the forces of worldwide terrorism new confidence, new energy and new resources to attack us.

Establishing a stable, democratizing, modernizing Iraq would be a major victory in our battle with the terrorists and in our struggle to bring hope to the majority of Muslims in the world. It will also bring about much greater stability and modernization throughout the Middle East.

I want to separate the challenges in Iraq and the presidential campaign. We cannot allow the politics of this campaign to obscure or block the commitment to finish the mission. We must recapture the spirit of bipartisanship and national purpose we achieved following the 9/11 attacks. It is that important.

For Democrats, that means we must focus on how best to win the war against the terrorist insurgents. Questioning how we got into the last war against Saddam is simply not enough. Doing only that is not acceptable anymore.

For President Bush and his party, it means not politicizing the conduct of the war. As commander-in-chief, he has a special responsibility to focus first on winning the war, even in this election year, and particularly in these times.

The fact is that both parties and their leaders must reach out to each other in the election year, as difficult as it may seem, to find common ground in fighting our common struggle.

We Democrats and Republicans must see beyond the red states and the blue states to a larger cause that is as critical to the red, white and blue as any America has ever fought for.

It is the cause of defeating Jihadist terrorists who hate us, and our free and tolerant ways of life, more than they love life itself - and who would, if we allow them, plunge the modern world into a primitive global religious war.

For the sake of our children's futures, for the sake of America's core values, and for the sake of world peace, we cannot allow that to happen.

During this time of war, we each must make certain that our party loyalties do not prevail over our national responsibilities.

We cannot allow a singular quest for electoral victory to impede the more important quest for victory over terrorism, a victory that will enable the American people to feel fully secure again here at home, our soldiers to return from Iraq and the Iraqi people to enjoy the blessings of liberty which it is America's historic mission to advance and defend.

As important as our party's victory is for each of us, it is not more important than a victory against terrorism for all of us.

Excerpted from Sen. Joe Lieberman's speech to the Senate yesterday, his first major address since ending his presidential campaign.

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