From NBC's Ken Strickland
Republican Sen. Gordon Smith says he's tried to be a "good soldier" for his party and his president, but has reached "the end of his rope" supporting the Bush Iraq policy and wants to bring the troops home whether it's "cut and run or cut and walk." Smith made his remarks in an emotional speech on the Senate floor last night to an almost empty chamber, feeling the need to "speak from my heart."
His speech covered his problems with the Iraq strategy from the initial invasion to the Iraq Study Group Report. Smith said he would not have voted for the war if he'd known the intelligence was bad, adding that he's tired of seeing 10 or more troops die per day in Iraq. He even echoed the sentiments of Winston Churchill from when the British held Iraq, quoting, "at present we are paying eight millions a year for the privilege of living on an ungrateful volcano."
Among some of his most memorable lines from the speech:
"And I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that any more. I believe we need to figure out not just how to leave Iraq but how to fight the war on terror and to do it right. So either we clear and hold and build or let's go home..."
"I believe the president is guilty of trying to win a short war and not understanding fully the nature of the ancient hatreds of the Middle East..."
"And I'm afraid rather than leveling with the American people saying this was going to be a decade-long conflict because of the ancient hatreds that exist in that part of the world, that we tried to win it with too few troops in too fast a time..."
"I welcome the Iraq Study Group but I'd rather do it quicker rather than later. Whatever it is, it will not be pretty. I am looking for answers but the current course is unacceptable to this U.S. senator... but I, for one, am tired of paying the price of 10 or more of our troops dying a day. So, let's cut and run or cut and walk, but let us fight the war on terror more intelligently than we have, because we have fought this war in a very lamentable way. Those are my feelings, Mr. President. I regret them. I would have never voted for this conflict had I reason to believe that the intelligence we had was not accurate. It was not accurate, but that is history..."
"We have paid a price in blood and treasure that is beyond calculation by my estimation. And now as I witness the slow undoing of our efforts there, I feel to speak, to speak from my heart. I was greatly disturbed recently to read a comment by a man I admire in history, one Winston Churchill, who after the British mandate extended to the peoples of Iraq for five years, the British withdrew. He wrote to David Lloyd George, the prime minister of England: "At present we are paying eight millions a year for the privilege of living on an ungrateful volcano." When I read that, I thought, not much has changed."
"... I remember the thrill I felt when three times Iraqis risked their own lives to vote democratically in a way that was internationally verifiable as legitimate and important. But now all of those memories seem much like ashes to me...."