Edward Kennedy: The US military can still help the Iraqis - by leaving

From a speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, by the US Senator from Massachusetts

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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 destabilising course. It will not be easy to extricate ourselves from Iraq, but we must begin.

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 destabilising course. It will not be easy to extricate ourselves from Iraq, but we must begin.

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 US military presence has become part of the problem, not part of the solution. 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 honourable homecoming of our forces.

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 UN 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.

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