Senate Democrats

REID: WE NEED LEADERSHIP, NOT RHETORIC IN IRAQ

Washington, DCAs President Bush renewed his public relations campaign on Iraq, Senate Democratic Harry Reid released the following statement. A fact check on the president’s speech to George Washington University is also attached below.

“Americans are rightly concerned by what they read, see, and hear every day about Iraq, and are worried that our troops find themselves mired in a country on the verge of civil war. Instead of redoubling his efforts to help form the representative government in Iraq that is essential for defeating the insurgency and ending the sectarian violence, the president has launched another public relations campaign here at home. Three years of recycled rhetoric have eroded the president’s credibility, and now we need more. President Bush must exercise leadership to help form a representative government in Iraq, to bring its political factions together, and to make 2006 the year of transition to Iraqi sovereignty–with Iraqis taking responsibility for their future–that Congress has called for, that the American people demand, and that our troops deserve.”

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Bush on Iraq: Fact vs. Fiction

Bush Plays Down Reports of Sectarian Violence in Iraq. Bush: “The situation in Iraq is still tense and we’re still seeing acts of sectarian violence and reprisal, yet out of this crisis we’ve also seen signs of a hopeful future. We saw the restraint of the Iraqi people in the face of massive provocation. Most Iraqis did not turn to violence and many chose to show their solidarity by coming together and joint Sunni and Shia prayer services. We saw the leadership of Sunni and Shia clerics who joined together to denounce the bombing and call for restraint.” [3/13/06]

Fact: U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad Sees Potential for Civil War. “The top U.S. envoy to Iraq said Monday that the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime had opened a ‘Pandora’s box’ of volatile ethnic and sectarian tensions that could engulf the region in all-out war if America pulled out of the country too soon. In remarks that were among the frankest and bleakest public assessments of the Iraq situation by a high-level American official, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the ‘potential is there’ for sectarian violence to become full-blown civil war.” [L.A. Times, 3/7/06]

Bush Talks about Progress in the Political Arena. “Soon the new parliament will be seen in Baghdad and this will begin the process of forming a government. Forming a new government will demand negotiation and compromised by the Iraqis, it will require patience by America and our coalition allies. In the weeks ahead Americans will likely see a good deal of political maneuvering in Iraq. As different factions and leaders advance competing agendas and seek their share of political power. Out of this process a free government will emerge that represents the will of the Iraqi people instead of the will of one cruel dictator.” [3/13/06]

Fact: Death Squads Operate from within the Iraqi Government. “Senior Iraqi officials Sunday confirmed for the first time that death squads composed of government employees had operated illegally from inside two government ministries. ‘The deaths squads that we have captured are in the defense and interior ministries,” Minister of Interior Bayan Jabr said during a joint news conference with the Minister of Defense. ‘There are people who have infiltrated the army and the interior.’ Jabr said Sunday that investigations into death squads still were ongoing in the Defense Ministry. He said the Interior Ministry had arrested 22 people, but released 18 suspects after questioning them.” [Knight Ridder, 3/13/06]

Bush Says Iraqi Security Forces are Taking the Lead. Bush: “When I reported on the progress of the Iraqi security forces last year I said that there were over 120 Iraq and police combat battalions in the fight against the enemy. And 40 of those were taking the lead in the fight. Today the number of battalions in the fight has increased to more than 130 with more than 60 taking the lead. As more Iraqi battalions come online, these Iraqi forces are assuming responsibility for more territory. [3/13/06]

Fact: Number of Iraqi Security Units Operating Independently has Decreased.

Number of Iraqi Security Force Units Able to Operate Independently 3 Prior to September 2005

[General John Abizaid, 9/29/05]

1 October 2005

DoD “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq” Report

and

0 February 2006

DoD “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq” Report

Bush Claims to Have a Plan for Iraq. “We have a comprehensive strategy for victory in Iraq. A strategy I laid out in the series of speeches last year.” [3/13/06]

Fact: Bush’s December “Strategy for Victory” Essentially a Public Relations Campaign. “Although White House officials said many federal departments had contributed to the document, its relentless focus on the theme of victory strongly reflected a new voice in the administration: Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University political scientist who joined the N.S.C. staff as a special adviser in June and has closely studied public opinion on the war. Despite the president’s oft-stated aversion to polls, Dr. Feaver was recruited after he and Duke colleagues presented the administration with an analysis of polls about the Iraq war in 2003 and 2004.” [New York Times, 12/4/05]

Bush Admits Training of Iraqi Police Lags, Emphasizes New Training Programs. “Our commanders tell me that the Iraqi police still lag behind the army in training and capabilities, so one of our major goals in 2006 is to accelerate the training of the Iraqi police. . . . . So we’re taking a number of steps to correct this problem. First, we’ve begun implementing a program that has been effected with the Iraqi agencies partnering U.S. Battalions with the Iraqi national police battalions. These U.S. Forces are working with their Iraqi counterparts, giving them tactical training so they can defeat the enemy and they’re also teaching them about the role of a professional police force in a democratic system so they can serve all Iraqis without discrimination.” [3/13/06]

Fact: Police Training is Starting from “Second Sub-Basement.” “[B]y the end of 2005 there were only 700 U.S. police trainers for an Iraqi police force of more than 100,000. Trainers now acknowledge that was a mistake that allowed the Interior Ministry forces to grow into an inscrutable bureaucracy of overlapping jurisdictions and tangled lines of authority. ‘We’re not starting from ground zero,’ said Witajewski, whose State Department program, with an annual budget of $1 billion, covers the cost of much of the police training in Iraq and will eventually take over advisory functions at the Interior Ministry once the U.S. military draws down. ‘We’re starting from the second sub-basement.’” [L.A. Times, 3/9/06]

Bush Portrays Problems in the Police Force as Minor Abberations. “One problem is that some national police units have been disproportionately Shia and there have been some reports of infiltration of the national police by militias.” [3/13/06]

Fact: Police Forces Face Systemic Problems, from the Top Down. “The police units are under the Iraqi Interior Ministry, led by Bayan Jabr, a Shiite Muslim with ties to a sectarian militia. The predominantly Shiite force has become highly politicized and is accused of torture and death squad operations against Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority. [L.A. Times, 3/9/06]

Bush Promotes Progress on IEDs. “In all, during the past six months Iraqi and coalition forces have found and cleared nearly 4,000 IEDs. Uncovered more than 1800 weapons caches and bomb-making plants. They detained hundreds of terrorists and bomb marks.” [3/13/06]

Fact: Number of Attacks with Improvised Explosive Devices on the Rise. The number of attacks with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) “against allied and Iraqi forces and Iraqi civilians nearly doubled in the last year, to 10,593 in 2005 from 5,607 in 2004. The military says it is able to discover and defuse only about 40 percent of the bombs, and the result is deadly: 407 of the 846 Americans killed last year in Iraq were killed by the bombs.” [New York Times, 3/6/06]

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