Washington, D.C. - Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid delivered the following remarks at a press conference today with Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin and Senator Carl Levin.
Remarks as prepared:
“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.
“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 no longer an option.
“Together, we can do better. Democrats have developed a very clear path forward. There are three areas we believe need to be addressed:
- First, 2006 should be a significant year of transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with Iraqis taking more and more responsibility for their own security. It’s time to take the training wheels off the Iraqi government. Iraqis must begin to run their own country. In 2006, the US and our allies must do everything we can to make that possible.
- Second, the 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 needs to submit – on a quarterly basis – a plan for success to Congress and the American people. This plan must specify the challenges and progress being made in Iraq, timetables for achieving our goals and estimated dates for redeployment from Iraq as these goals are met.
“Apparently, Republicans have agreed this is the approach we need to take, as they have essentially accepted our amendment.
“It cannot be understated that by accepting our amendment, both the Republican leader and the chairman of the Armed Services committee agree that the administration needs to come forward and explain to Congress and the American people its strategy for success and completing the mission.
“It’s not easy for the President to admit mistakes. It’s a lot easier for him to lash out at those who question his policies, but political attacks are not going to get the job done. Our troops have done their job. It’s time for the President and this Republican-controlled Congress to do theirs.”
UNITED STATES POLICY ON IRAQ ACT
Getting Answers to the American People on the War in Iraq
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 ASSESMENT 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.