Providing a Leading Voice for Human Rights and Democracy around the Globe

During his career in the United States Senate, Senator Kennedy was a leading voice for human rights, social justice and democracy throughout the world.

For nearly half a century, Senator Kennedy was a leading voice for human rights, social justice and democracy throughout the world. In numerous ways, Kennedy has demonstrated an ability to substantially shape U.S. foreign policy over the course of his career.

Northern Ireland

Inspired by the U.S. civil rights movement, civil rights demonstrations began in Northern Ireland in 1969, and the large Irish American community was galvanized. Concern grew as British policy became more repressive. Senator Kennedy expressed his strong support for the goals of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association.

In 1970, Senator Kennedy delivered the bicentennial address at Trinity College in Dublin, condemning oppression in Northern Ireland. As the violence escalated, Senator Kennedy condemned the British policy of internment without trial in Northern Ireland. He called Northern Ireland "Britain's Vietnam."

Senator Kennedy, Senator Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut, and Representative Hugh Carey of New York introduced Senate and House resolutions calling for the immediate withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland. The January 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre of Catholic protesters by British troops in Derry, Northern Ireland generated strong reaction by Irish Americans against British policy in Northern Ireland.

Senator Kennedy called John Hume to find out what was going on. He told him he would like to talk to him about Northern Ireland and said he would be in Bonn in November for the NATO Assembly meeting. Hume flew to Bonn to meet him. They met for dinner on November 21st at the Irish Ambassador's residence in Bonn.

In 1977, influenced by John Hume's view that Americans should not send money for IRA guns, Senator Kennedy, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Speaker Tip O'Neill, and Hugh Carey, who had become Governor of New York, joined in a strong St Patrick's Day message urging Irish Americans to support moderation, dialogue and an end to the violence. The four were dubbed the Four Horsemen. (A photo montage of the four was created in 1981, using the legendary backfield of the 1924 Notre Dame football team.) The St. Patrick's Day statement became a way for Irish American leaders in Congress to annually urge action on Irish issues.

In August, acting on the initiative of Senator Kennedy and Speaker Tip O'Neill, President Carter issued a strong statement on Northern Ireland. Kennedy called it the "most important and constructive initiative ever taken by an American President on the Irish issue." The U.S. statement appealed to all sides, including Irish Americans, not to support violence. It also promised additional U.S. investment in Northern Ireland when a political solution is found.

In 1981, Kennedy, Moynihan and Speaker O'Neill founded the "Friends of Ireland" in Congress to support initiatives for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

Responding to the Anglo Irish Agreement of 1985, the Reagan Administration and Congress (led by Senator Kennedy and the Friends of Ireland) created the International Fund for Ireland, in fulfillment of President Carter's 1977 pledge. The Fund continues to be used for job-creation and encouraging peace and reconciliation.

Working closely with Senator Alan Simpson, Senator Kennedy secured passage of the Immigration Act of 1990, a comprehensive overhaul of the law relating to legal immigrants. This Act, among other things, created the diversity visa program, which leveled the playing field by permitting the admission of immigrants from countries, such as Ireland, that had been short-changed by existing laws

In 1993, Senator Kennedy was contacted by Irish Americans led by Niall O'Dowd, the publisher of the Irish Voice newspaper. Mr. O'Dowd believed an end could be brought to IRA violence with the direct involvement of the United States.

Senator Kennedy visited his sister Jean Kennedy Smith, American Ambassador, in Dublin over New Year's Eve 1993/94. During that trip, he met with many individuals critical to a potential peace process, including Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, who told him of his support for a visa for Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, to visit the US.

When he returned to the States, Senator Kennedy saw John Hume at the funeral of Speaker Tip O'Neill in January. They arranged to meet for dinner that evening. Over dinner, Hume told Kennedy of his belief that Adams was committed to non-violence, and persuasively expressed his support for a visa for Mr. Adams.

Senator Kennedy decided that a visa for Adams could help bring about an IRA cease-fire and jump-start the peace process. Shortly after he returned to the United States, he urged President Clinton to approve the visa. The U.S. State Department, Justice Department, and the British government all opposed a visa for Mr. Adams.

On January 15 1994, Senator Kennedy initiated a bipartisan letter to President Clinton -- signed by 42 members of Congress -- urging the granting of a visa for Gerry Adams, calling it a "rare opportunity for our country to contribute to peace in Northern Ireland." Before the visa was granted about two weeks later, more than 50 Members had signed on to express their support for the letter.

Senator Kennedy continued to work with the White House and the President's National Security Council on the issue. President Clinton granted Mr. Adams the visa and, in August 1994, the IRA called an historic cease-fire, an event that Mr. Adams has said would not have transpired had he not been granted the visa. Six weeks later, Protestant paramilitaries announced their own cease-fire.

When the IRA cease-fire was broken early in 1996, Senator Kennedy worked to re-instate it. He made efforts to reach out to the leaders of both the Unionist and Nationalist communities and maintain the hope for peace.

Decisive changes of leadership occurred in May 1997, when Tony Blair led his Labour Party to victory in the United Kingdom, and in June 1997, when Bertie Ahern returned Fianna Fail to power in Ireland. Both leaders were committed to moving the peace process forward, and peace talks resumed in June. In July, the IRA restored its cease-fire, and Sinn Fein was invited to the talks in August.

Senator Kennedy visited Northern Ireland for the first time in January 1998, meeting with both Unionists and Nationalists in Belfast and Derry. The inclusive peace talks, chaired by former Senator George Mitchell, led to the Good Friday Peace Agreement in April, the most promising opportunity for lasting peace in the three-decade old conflict in Northern Ireland.

Senator Kennedy has encouraged the decommissioning of all paramilitary weapons, demilitarization in Northern Ireland, and advances in the equality agenda guaranteed by the Good Friday Agreement. When the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended, Senator Kennedy worked with the leaders in Northern Ireland for it to be reinstated.

In response to legislation passed by the House of Commons on the implementation of the Patten Commission recommendations, Senator Kennedy introduced a resolution in the Senate on police reform, calling for the full and speedy implementation of the recommendations of the Patten Commission. In an October 2000 editorial for the Washington Post, Senator Kennedy expressed his concerns that the most significant reforms recommended by Patten were not adequately included in the implementing legislation.

Senator Kennedy continues to meet with the leaders of the Northern Ireland Peace Process during to discuss ways in which all of the parties can continue to move the Peace Process forward.

Senator Kennedy has been a steady voice calling for all paramilitaries in Northern Ireland to get rid of their weapons and to abandon crime.

On St. Patrick's Day 2005, Senator Kennedy met with the sisters of Robert McCartney, who was murdered in Belfast by members of the IRA. Kennedy has urged cooperation with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and has continued to call for justice for Roberts McCartney's murder.

As the only significant elected party with a paramilitary wing in Northern Ireland, Kennedy consistently argued that Sinn Fein had a unique responsibility to take the gun and criminality out of politics once and for all. His consistently tough message, coupled with a decision not to see Gerry Adams on St. Patrick's Day in 2005, contributed to the decision of the IRA to disarm in September of 2005.

In 2007, Senator Kennedy heralded the dawn of the new government. In May 2007, he traveled to Northern Ireland as a part of a White House delegation to witness the historic start of the new government.

In December 2007, Senator Kennedy hosted the historic meeting in the Senate for First Minister Paisley and Deputy First Minister McGuinnes, on the occasion of their first joint trip to the United States.

Senator Kennedy annually leads support in the Senate for an appropriation for the George J. Mitchell Scholarship program, which annually sends future American leaders to study in Ireland and Northern Ireland for a year of post-graduate study.

Said Irish Voice publisher, Niall O'Dowd in1997, "[Kennedy] has led the cause of Ireland on Capitol Hill for over a generation now and has often received little recognition in return. I am convinced that when the history of this era is written, however, that he will loom largest of all. He deserves the gratitude and respect of every Irish American for what he has done."

South Africa

Violence in South Africa had escalated in 1984 and 1985. Senator Kennedy visited in January 1985 as a guest of Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Rev. Allan Boesak to observe the situation.

He met with Winnie Mandela, the South African cabinet, and debated constructive engagement with U.S. Ambassador Herman Nickel.

In July, 1985, South African President P.W. Botha declared a state of national emergency to deal with the mounting crisis. In the U.S. the fight against apartheid had gained a new sense of urgency. Local governments were enacting sanctions, and prominent individuals and ordinary citizens were being arrested daily in protests in front of the South African Embassy in Washington.

In response to this mounting crisis, Senator Kennedy introduced the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1985 in March. Cong. Bill Gray simultaneously introduced it in the House. In response, Sen. Lugar introduced a milder version of sanctions, which was combined with Gray's House version of Kennedy's bill, and attracted broad, even veto-proof, support.

To head off the legislation, President Reagan imposed sanctions on South Africa on September 9, 1985. Reagan's Executive Order included most of the elements of the bill under consideration:

  • A ban on most loans;
  • Halt to import of Kruggerrands
  • Ban on computer exports to security forces;
  • Ban on exports of nuclear technologies.

At the time, Reagan's action was viewed as a major change of direction for him, although the sanctions would have only limited effect. (Most banks had already ceased lending to South Africa; gold could still be sold in bullion form; computers could be had from European vendors; and nuclear exports were already banned by President Carter).

Because of the Executive Order, Senator Lugar withdrew his bill from consideration, much to the dismay of Senator Kennedy and others, and no further action was taken in 1985.

The drumbeat for action only intensified in 1986 and legislation was again introduced in both Houses. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, under chairman Lugar, sought to pass a law that would emphasize carrots -- in the form of support for positive programs like the Sullivan Principles -- and minimize the stick of economic sanctions.

The pressure for sanctions, however, was broad-based. The mood in the nation was strong for sanctions, and players were acting individually in a common cause.

Lugar's committee eventually had to include the sticks of sanctions to address the concerns of committee Democrats and, particularly Senator Kennedy, who insisted that the U.S. take a moral stand. The final bill in 1986, therefore, became a mixture of punishments and incentives. To obtain passage, Lugar promised Democrats in the Senate and House that he would personally seek Reagan's signature, and failing that, lead the veto override effort.

The battle in the Senate involved many players. Lowell Weicker, a principal leader of the sanctions movement, noted that he had been in the Senate for 16 years and "for 16 years nothing was done, as much by this Senator as anyone else." Now, he said, Congress was speaking out against the "greatest moral wrong of our time." Meanwhile, Senator Helms, hoping to perhaps derail the bill, introduced an amendment calling on both the South African government and the ANC to renounce violence. To avoid delay, the Senate approved Helms amendment, and he and other conservatives agreed to offer no others. Senator Dole and Senator Lugar supported the Helms amendment, Kennedy and Weicker led the opposition to it. The version finally adopted was the product of a Weicker-Helms compromise.

The Senate first rejected, and then accepted an amendment by Kennedy adding sanctions imposed by the British Commonwealth, involving steel and bank loans. Lugar attacked the Kennedy amendment, but Paul Simon supported it. Cranston's amendment banning textile imports was adopted. Weicker and Kennedy won approval of another amendment ending a double taxation treaty, U.S. government purchases of South African services, and tourism and trade promotion by South Africa. Sarbanes's amendment banning U.S. airline service was also adopted by voice vote.

In the end, Reagan did veto the bill and Congress overrode the veto, 313-83 in the House and 78-21 in the Senate.

Latin America

Since the early 1970s, Senator Kennedy has been an advocate for democracy and human rights in Latin America. He opposed military dictatorships in Chile and Argentina in the 1970s, and he remains a strong voice for human rights today.

In the early 1970's, in reaction to President Nixon's rebuff and isolation of the democratically elected government of Allende, Senator Kennedy said that the decision of Chileans in electing Allende should be accepted. Kennedy condemned the coup and urged the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to request that Henry Kissinger testify in a public session on the suspected U.S. role in the coup.

In October, 1973 Senator Kennedy began his effort to condition U.S. assistance on the restoration of democracy and respect for human rights. During consideration of HJ Res 1131, the Senate, in a record vote of 47-41, adopted Senator Kennedy's amendment to stop military aid to Chile. The provision ultimately became law as part of the foreign aid bill of 1974 and marked the first time that Congress directed an end to military aid to another nation, without waivers, without conditions, and without delays. In subsequent years, Kennedy authored additional laws to ensure that the Administration would not have a wide-open flow of funding to the military regime.

On September 21, 1976, Orlando Letelier, the former Chilean ambassador to the U.S., and Ronni Moffitt, his American assistant, were assassinated on their way to the Senate for meetings. Senator Kennedy immediately pressed for resolution and justice. Letelier had served as Chile's Foreign Minister and ambassador to the U.S. under the Allende administration, and he had challenged the Pinochet regime. At the time of his death, he was working with Kennedy and others in Congress to promote democracy and respect for human rights in Chile.

Evidence from the crime in Washington clearly linked Chile's secret police with the assassination. In November 1993, Contreras and Espinoza were sentenced to prison for ordering the Letelier-Moffitt murders. Contreras received seven years and Espinoza six years.

In 1978, in addition to his efforts to halt assistance to the military regime, Senator Kennedy convened a major legislative conference on the future of U.S.-Chile relations. More than 30 national, labor, religious, peace, human rights, and professional organizations participated in a conference that brought together the broadest range of individuals and organizations ever in the hope of improving the conditions of human rights and democracy in Latin America.

In January of 1986, Kennedy traveled to Chile, announcing upon his arrival that the purpose of his visit was "to learn whether there has been any progress in the effort to achieve peaceful transition to democracy. I also came to state my support for nonviolence and for negotiations between the government and those committed to peaceful change." This visit, and Kennedy's meetings with members of the democratic opposition, was strongly opposed by the Chilean government.

In 1988, Kennedy and Senator Lugar announced the formation of the U.S. Committee to Support Free Elections in Chile in anticipation of the plebiscite in Chile. When the results of the plebiscite were announced Kennedy said, "The people of Chile have spoken eloquently, convincingly, and courageously. After fifteen years of military rule, Chile has said "No" to dictatorship and "Yes" to democracy. It is still a long road back. Every friend of Chile hopes that the long-awaited transition will take place peacefully, and that the military dictatorship will abide by its commitment to accept the return to democracy, now that the people have spoken."

Kennedy traveled to Chile for the inauguration of President Aylwin. After President Aylwin was elected, Kennedy introduced legislation, S. 2303, authorizing $50 million in assistance to Chile, and he advocated the restoration of trade and investment benefits and called for technical assistance to help Chile combat its environmental problems. Kennedy supported the U.S. decision to lift sanctions against Chile.

When the Clinton Administration announced its intention to review for release documents, previously classified, that shed light on human rights abuses, terrorism, and other acts of political violence during and prior to the Pinochet era in Chile, Senator Kennedy argued strongly for the fullest possible release. It was, he argued, long past time for the actual documents to be made public so that the American people can know what role their government played in Chile's internal affairs from the 1960's through the mid-1970s.

Senator Kennedy's efforts on behalf of human rights in Latin America continue today. Concerned about human rights abuses in Colombia, Senator Kennedy authored a law to ensure that America's counter-narcotics assistance does not contribute to human rights violations. The law requires the Administration to certify that human rights cases against the military are prosecuted in civilian courts and that the Armed Forces are severing links with paramilitary groups.

Soviet Union

Senator Kennedy was a frequent and strong advocate of free emigration from the Soviet Union. In April of 1974, he traveled to Moscow to discuss arms control with Brezhnev. In addition, the Senator carried a list of mostly Jewish dissidents he wanted to help obtain exit visas so they could leave the Soviet Union. The list included the great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. Another, Polina Epelman, who wanted the Senator's help in joining her husband in Israel, was prevented from meeting Kennedy in Leningrad. In Moscow, Senator Kennedy, over objections from the Kremlin, met with dissidents at the apartment of mathematician, Alexander Lerner.

On a trip to Israel in November of the same year, a woman in Beersheba approached Kennedy and explained that she was Polina Epelman. Pressure from the Senator and Marc Ginsberg of the U.S. embassy in Moscow had induced the Soviets to grant her an exit visa and she and her family wanted to thank him personally. Then, in February of 1975, Rostropovich, whose exit visa was granted while Kennedy was still in Moscow, performed at the Kennedy Center to rave reviews.

Senator Kennedy returned to the Soviet Union in 1978 and again in February of 1986. One of the conditions he set for the latter visit was the release of Anatoly Sharansky or Andrei Sakharov. Sharansky, who had been imprisoned for his Jewish activism since 1977, was released on February 11, 1986 along with 25 other "refuseniks."

The major political breakthrough of the 1986 trip was the decision by Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev that the Soviet Union was willing to negotiate a separate treaty on nuclear weapons in Europe (Intermediate Range Ballistic missiles). Senator Kennedy passed this information on to the Reagan Administration, and a landmark treaty was signed in 1987.

Senator Kennedy visited the Soviet Union again in 1990. His visit was geared largely toward preventing Soviet repression of the Lithuanian nationalist movement. It also dealt with arms control issues, particularly the remaining obstacles to the completion of the START agreement. His main contribution was to underscore to Gorbachev the U.S. opposition to the Soviet use of force in Lithuania.


Senator Kennedy was a leader of the national effort to seek justice for the 270 innocent victims of Pan Am Flight 103 murdered by a terrorist bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. Of the 189 Americans killed in the attack, 13 had families in Massachusetts. Senator Kennedy was an early proponent of bilateral and multilateral sanctions against Libya.

In 1991, the United States and United Kingdom indicted two Libyan intelligence agents for the atrocity, and the United Nations imposed sanctions on the Libyan Government. Before sanctions could be permanently lifted, the United Nations required the Libyans to transfer the two indicted suspects for prosecution, accept complete responsibility for the actions of its intelligence officer, tell the international community all that it knows about the bombing, provide appropriate compensation, and fully renounce terrorism. Senator Kennedy has consistently argued for full compliance with the U.N. conditions before lifting sanctions.

In November 1993, the Senator introduced, and the Senate unanimously passed, a resolution (S.Res. 165) asking the President to take all appropriate steps to see that the Government of Libya complies with UN resolutions requiring it to turn over the suspects indicted in the bombing. That same year, Senator Kennedy introduced a resolution in the Senate, which authorized placement of a memorial cairn in Arlington National Cemetery to honor the victims of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. It passed and the President signed it into law. The memorial stands as a lasting reminder of the terrorist attack against America.

Senator Kennedy consistently called for an oil embargo against Libya, pressing the Administration as well as the UN; in order to force the Libyan Government to transfer the two indicted Libyans indicted to the U.S. or U.K. for trial. He successfully appealed personally to members of the UN Security Council to support sanctions against Libya.

In 1996, the Senator authored the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), which imposed sanctions on any companies that invest more than $40 million in Libyan and Iranian oil. The objective of the law is to create a disincentive for foreign companies to invest in Libya and help ensure that those American firms are not disadvantaged by the U.S. sanctions.

As a result of UN sanctions, U.S. sanctions and diplomatic pressure, the Libyan Government finally agreed in 1999 to a trial by a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands of the two Libyans indicted for the bombing. In January, 2001, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, was convicted of murder for the atrocity. His case has been appealed.

Senator Kennedy worked successfully in 2001 to extend ILSA for an additional five years, or until the Libyan government satisfies all of the conditions required by UN Security Council Resolutions. When the law was extended in 2001, Senator Kennedy lowered the threshold for a violation to $20 million. He also closed a loophole that allowed oil companies to expand upon contracts that were signed before the current law was enacted.

Senator Kennedy has been the leader in Congress in opposing the war with Iraq. Time and again, he was the first to challenge the administration's course for Iraq, and events have proved him right all too often.

In September 2002 the Bush Administration was preparing to go to war without the support of the international community. Senator Kennedy was the first to argue that Iraq did not pose the type of threat that justified immediate, pre-emptive war. There was no clear and convincing pattern of Iraqi relations with either Al Qaeda or the Taliban, and war would be a distraction from the immediate threat Al Qaeda posed. In a speech at Johns Hopkins University, Senator Kennedy argued that America should not rush to war and that we should get UN inspectors back into Iraq without conditions.

In October 2002, President Bush sought approval of a Congressional resolution authorizing force against Iraq. Senator Kennedy was a leader in the congressional debate against the resolution. He was the first to question whether the war was justified under international law. He also highlighted the risks of war: that an occupation would be difficult, that our troops weren't ready, and that it would pose a strain on our reservists. Senator Kennedy and 22 other senators voted against the resolution to authorize the use of military force against Iraq.

After pressure from Senator Kennedy and others, the Bush Administration finally acquiesced in allowing UN weapons inspectors to search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Yet, throughout the fall and winter, the Administration was criticized for failing to share information about suspected weapons sites and continued to beat the drum for war, unwilling to give inspectors a reasonable chance to do their job.

In a January 2003 Senate speech, Senator Kennedy again was the first to speak out, asking the critical questions that needed to be answered before the war on the cost, duration, and plans for the occupation. He introduced a resolution calling on the President to obtain additional approval from Congress before committing troops to Iraq. He questioned the administration's case for war, and its lack of evidence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. He argued that a rush to war would turn America into a symbol of brute force and aggression.

The Bush administration tried to answer Senator Kennedy's questions about the adequacy of their evidence, and in February 2003, Secretary Powell went to the United Nations with claims that the Iraqis were seeking enriched uranium, centrifuge tubes, and had mobile biological labs--evidence that would prove politicized, exaggerated, and false.

For this administration, however, war was a foregone conclusion. With promises that U.S. troops would be greeted as "liberators," and that the war would be a "cakewalk," the U.S. went to war with Iraq on March 19, 2003. On May 2, 2003, President Bush flew out to the USS Lincoln, and declared "mission accomplished." This turned out be one of the many embarrassing blunders that the Bush Administration committed on Iraq.

Senator Kennedy continued to keep the pressure on the Bush Administration and highlighted the many problems with our occupation in Iraq. In July 2003, in a speech at Johns Hopkins University, Senator Kennedy criticized the administration, saying the post-war plan was based on "a quicksand of false assumptions." He was the first to propose that the US needed to diversify the face of the security force by bringing in regional forces, and seeking an international mission sanctioned by the United Nations and organized by NATO. In conjunction with these proposals, Kennedy sponsored an amendment to the defense appropriations act that required a report on the United States strategy for reconstruction in Iraq. After this speech, the Administration finally approached the UN to craft an interim political government.

In September 2003, the Administration sought an additional $87 billion to pay for the war in Iraq, despite promises that the war would be paid for by Iraqi funds. As Senator Kennedy had predicted, the costs of the war far exceeded the Administration's estimates. Senator Kennedy argued that the $87 billion should not be a blank check and sought to require the administration to produce a plan for managing the post-war conflict. That October, when the legislation did not include effective conditions for genuine international participation or a policy change, Senator Kennedy voted against the funding.
In January 2004, in a speech to the Center for American Progress, Senator Kennedy accused the administration of pursuing a "single-minded ideology" in its foreign policy, and made the FIRST argument that the case for war had been politicized the previous August as Karl Rove made it "a product they were methodically rolling out." He also showed how the Administration's case for war was systematically false, breaking "the basic bond of trust between the government and the people."

The Administration desperately tried to find Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Yet over and over again, the Iraq Survey Group, the unit assigned to the task, came up empty. In a March 2004 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Senator Kennedy showed, using their own words, how the Administration had twisted the intelligence and their rhetoric to make a false case for war. He challenged CIA Director George Tenet to say plainly whether the administration had misused the intelligence.

Senator Kennedy questioned Administration witnesses on the worsening situation in Iraq, and took a lead role in confronting the Administration over its failures at Abu Ghraib. In September 2004, in a blistering floor speech, Senator Kennedy tied the failures at Abu Ghraib to the administration's own leadership failures.

Later that month, in a speech at George Washington University, Senator Kennedy painted a picture of the deteriorating situation in Iraq, and highlighted the numerous reasons why the war in Iraq had damaged our national security, including distracting us from the real war on terror; alienating long-time friends and leaders in other nations; breaking the back of our military forces; distracting us from rising nuclear threats like Iran and North Korea; and neglecting our homeland security.
Senator Kennedy continued to frame the debate about the war in Iraq. In January 2005, in a speech at John's Hopkins University, he outlined realistic goals and benchmarks to end U.S. involvement in Iraq and bring our troops home and argued that a timetable for withdrawal would incentivize the Iraqis to take responsibility for their future. Kennedy stated a revision of Colin Powell's Pottery Barn rule. He said: "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." In line with this vision for Iraq's future, he outlined a plan for success in Iraq. His policy called for political and military disengagement from the Iraqis, while simultaneously helping them to build up their own security forces so that they can defend themselves.

Kennedy coauthored the law requiring the Department of Defense to provide periodic reports to the Congress and American people on progress being made on security, political milestones and training Iraqi security forces so they can take responsibility for Iraq's security. He also authored the law, in August of 2006, along with Senators Reid, Biden and Levin to require a new NIE on the prospects for security and stability in Iraq. It would be the first time an NIE is produced since mid 2004. In the report, the 16 agencies of the intelligence community said - for the first time - that Iraq was in a civil war.

In January 2007, at a speech before the National Press Club, Senator Kennedy spoke out against President Bush's plan for a surge of forces in Iraq. He argued that Authorization for the use of military force no longer applied to Iraq and that the war should not be escalated. Kennedy explained the legislation that he would introduce later that day, requiring that Congress vote to grant authorization for U.S. forces to be in Iraq beyond the level that existed there on January 9, 2007. He argued against an escalation of our forces stating it will not advance our national security interests or move Iraq toward self-government.

Senator Kennedy held the first Congressional hearing on Iraqi refugees in January 2007 and led the charge for the U.S. to help solve this grave humanitarian crisis. He was the lead sponsor on Iraqi immigration and refugee legislation that have increased the number of special immigrant visas for Iraqi and Afghan translators and interpreters. Senator Kennedy believes that America has a strong obligation to keep faith with the Iraqis and Afghans who have worked so bravely with the U.S. government and military - and have often paid a terrible price for it. These interpreters and translators have been the eyes and ears of the military, and they have saved American lives.

Senator Kennedy was also the lead sponsor of Iraqi refuge legislation that required the Administration to increase its efforts to resettle Iraqi refugees and to improve its response to the overall Iraqi refugee crisis. The new law, which went into effect in January 2008, requires the State Department to create a mechanism inside Iraq for Iraqis who worked with our government to apply for refugee and immigrant status inside that country. Without such a mechanism, Iraqis were fleeing to neighboring Jordan or Syria, applying to the United Nations, and being referred back to the United States Government. The new system opens a direct mechanism for some Iraqis inside Iraq. It also created a senior coordinator for refugees to facilitate the process and ensure that our resettlement and assistance programs operate efficiently.

Establishing Cultural Bridges

In the aftermath of September 11, Senator Kennedy felt strongly that it was important to establish positive ties with the people of the Muslim world. To support that goal, in October of 2002, he and Senator Richard Lugar established a program to provide scholarships for secondary school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to spend up to one academic year in the United States. These students live with American host families, attend high school, engage in activities to learn about American society and values, acquire leadership skills, and help educate Americans about their countries and cultures. When they return home, the students apply their leadership skills in various ways that enable them to share their American experiences and observations, including community service projects. Since the program began, approximately 2,700 students from more than 30 countries have participated in it. Students from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Jordan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Qatar and other countries have been hosted by American families throughout the United States.


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