Senate Democrats

Democrats Offer a Change of Course

Reid, Durbin, Levin outline way forward in Iraq

WASHINGTON, DC - While recognizing that we can no longer continue to stay the course in Iraq with no end in site, Democrats today offered a change of course. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin and Senator Carl Levin came together today to discuss their proposal to protect America by outlining a way forward in Iraq. The proposal makes three key policy statements about Iraq and moves to hold the Bush administration more accountable for a strategy for success in Iraq.

First, Democrats believe 2006 must be a year of significant transition in Iraq to full Iraqi sovereignty, with Iraqis taking more and more responsibility for their own security. Second, the Bush administration must advise the Iraqi people that U.S. military forces will not stay indefinitely in Iraq, and that it is their responsibility to achieve the broad-based and sustainable political environment essential for defeating the insurgency. Third, the president must submit, on a quarterly basis, a plan for success to Congress and the American people that specifies the challenges and progress being made in Iraq with timetables for achieving our goals and estimated dates to bring our troops home.

“Our troops deserve a strategy in Iraq that is worthy of their sacrifice. That is why, for three years, Democrats have pushed the White House to lay out a plan for success,” said Senator Reid. “Unfortunately, the president has rejected our call, and instead, insisted America needs to ‘stay the course.’ With more than 2,050 Americans killed, more than $250 billion spent, and no end in sight after three years of war – ‘staying the course’ is not longer an option.”

The Senators also demonstrated how Senate Republicans used a Democratic amendment to draft their own amendment on the war in Iraq. While Senate Republicans have admitted that that policy in Iraq must be clarified and have recommended many of the same policy changes, they also have allowed that American troops could stay in Iraq indefinitely and refused to provide benchmarks for bringing American troops home.

“After more than three long years, the national debate on Iraq reaches a critical point this week in the US Senate,” said Senator Durbin. “The President has said there are two choices: resolve or retreat. But Democrats know there is a third way. We have proposed that solution in our amendment today. Democrats know that change is needed in our Iraq policy so that we can reach success in bringing our troops home safely.”

“We need to change course, in a number of ways, if we are going to succeed in Iraq,” Senator Levin said. “Our amendment recommends policy changes and would establish certain reporting requirements relative to our Iraq policy. ‘Stay the course’ is simply not an acceptable policy any longer.”

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UNITED STATES POLICY ON IRAQ ACT
Getting Answers to the American People on the War in Iraq – Mission NOT Accomplished

For too long, the Bush administration has failed to lay out a clear strategy for success in Iraq to the American people. Their rosy statements about the progress of the war are not matched by the conditions on the ground. In their few appearances before the Congress, the Secretaries of Defense and State have failed to answer the most basic questions about our progress in the war or provide even the simplest benchmarks by which the American people could measure our progress. Democrats are offering an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill that holds the Administration accountable for its actions and requires it to present a real plan for success.

DEMOCRATS OFFER THE FOLLOWING ASSESSMENT ABOUT THE WAR:

Our troops and their families deserve the respect and gratitude of the American people for their service and sacrifice. The Administration has said that as the Iraqis stand up, we can stand down. Democrats believe we should see a significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty in 2006 so that our troops can begin coming home. We also believe the Iraqi people must understand that the U.S. military will not stay in Iraq indefinitely; they must achieve the political stability necessary to defeat the insurgency.

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION MUST PROVIDE A PLAN:

It is essential that the Bush administration submit an unclassified strategy for success in Iraq to the Congress and the American people specifying how and when our troops can begin coming home.

An Assessment of the Bush Administration’s Actions to Achieve Progress in Iraq. The Bush administration must provide information on its efforts to convince Iraq’s communities to make the necessary compromises for a political settlement; efforts to engage the international community to help stabilize Iraq; efforts to strengthen the capacity of Iraq’s government ministries; efforts to accelerate the delivery of basic services; and efforts to train Iraqi security forces so those forces can protect Iraq on their own.

An Assessment of the Compromises Made by the Iraqi People to Achieve the Broad-Based and Sustainable Political Settlement.

An Unclassified Report to Congress and the American People. The Bush administration has classified most significant information about their Iraq war plans and kept that information from the Congress. The President should submit to the Congress and the American people an unclassified plan for success in Iraq. We deserve to know the conditions we seek to establish, the challenges we face in achieving these conditions, and the progress we are making. This report should also include:

  • The number of Iraqi battalions that must be able to operate independently or take the lead in counterinsurgency operations
  • The number of Iraqi special police units that must be able to operate independently or take the lead in policing
  • The number of regular police that must be trained and equipped
  • The ability of Iraq’s Federal ministries and provincial and local governments to independently sustain, direct and coordinate Iraq’s security forces

The Benchmarks for Success. The Bush administration must also provide benchmarks by which their success can be measured. This includes the criteria by which to measure the progress being made and a schedule for meeting these conditions.

A Plan for Bringing Our Troops Home. As it lays out a clear strategy with benchmarks, the Bush administration must also provide a campaign plan with estimated dates for the phased redeployment of our troops from Iraq as each condition is met, with the understanding that unexpected contingencies may arise.

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