Brownback: Iraq withdrawal timeline "like March Madness for terrorists"

Sen. Sam Brownback, who opposed President Bush’s troop surge in Iraq, says “now is hardly the time to set a date for retreat.”

That comes just a day after he was campaigning in Iowa and told The Des Moines Register that his opposition to the surge is a problem for some conservative voters.

Brownback’s answer is to split Iraq three ways and lead the country into federalism. “If the surge works, federalism can provide the framework necessary to stabilize Iraq over the long term,” he said in a press release. “If the surge fails, and Iraq’s sectarian violence deepens, a federal Iraq will be the only choice available to separate the warring factions while keeping Iraq from breaking apart – something that we cannot allow to occur in such a vital region.”

See his full statement:

“U.S. Senator Sam Brownback today released a statement regarding the upcoming Senate vote on whether Congress should impose a deadline for withdrawal of troops from Iraq:

“We have arrived at a key moment for U.S. policy in Iraq. History recalls Operations Desert Shield and Storm in 1990 and 1991. It recalls the no-fly zones we maintained in the 1990s. It recalls the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. It recalls our sanctions against Saddam Hussein. And when history records Operation Iraqi Freedom, it will remember whether Congress provided the direction necessary to complete the mission or chose to cut it off prematurely. History will judge today s vote.

“The American people await this vote. The Iraqi people await this vote. Al Qaeda awaits this vote. A timetable for withdrawal is like March Madness for terrorists. The terrorists envision a timetable for withdrawal advancing through the House and through the Senate. They even have a timetable for withdrawal beating a presidential veto and becoming law. We need to break that bracket this afternoon.

“The surge is now underway. I did not support the surge, but I hope it works. The first reports have been encouraging, but the fog of war remains thick. Over the next few months, we will be able to assess whether the surge is working or not. Now is hardly the time to set a date for retreat.

“I am not saying we should have an open ended commitment, but I am saying that our mission over there – and not politics over here – should drive our policy. I know many of my colleagues believe we have nothing to gain by staying. But I believe there is a way forward.

“Everyone agrees that a political solution is crucial to success. And it turns out that the political solution Iraqis ought to pursue is the most American of all: Federalism.

“Thankfully, in the early days in America, we did not have the kind of factional violence and terrorism we’ve seen in Iraq. But it certainly included rivalries between the colonies and different visions of the future.

“The great solution chosen by the founding fathers was federalism – something embodied by the Senate itself. An Iraq with several federal regions, with Baghdad as a federal capital represents the best chance for Iraq to achieve stability.

“If the surge works, federalism can provide the framework necessary to stabilize Iraq over the long term. If the surge fails, and Iraq s sectarian violence deepens, a federal Iraq will be the only choice available to separate the warring factions while keeping Iraq from breaking apart something that we cannot allow to occur in such a vital region.

“I believe that instead of giving the terrorists a reason to be hopeful and sending mixed signals to our forces in the field, we should be talking about the possibility of a federal Iraq. The Iraqi Constitution calls for it. The Iraqi Parliament passed a law supporting it. The Kurdish region proves that it can be successful. Yes, a federal Iraq may require the presence of U.S. forces for some period of time. But as we have seen in Bosnia, our deployments in support of a political solution endorsed by all sides can bring lasting peace and a chance for a brighter future.

“For this reason, I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of the Cochran amendment. We need to stop talking about how to retreat and start talking about winning in Iraq. A conversation about a federal Iraq is the best way for the Senate to contribute to success in Iraq.”