Washington, DC — Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following remarks on President Bush’s speech to the nation marking the fifth anniversary of 9/11.
“I was honored to join with President Bush and others at the Pentagon yesterday to commemorate the five year anniversary of 9/11. And I was pleased to join my colleagues on the east steps of the Capitol in an emotional tribute to those who died on that fateful day five years ago.
“9/11 was one of the darkest days of this nation’s history. It brought America together like never before. We were inspired by the bravery of our fellow Americans, we stood shoulder to shoulder with the President, and when he stood upon that mound of rubble at Ground Zero with bull-horn in hand, he spoke for all of us.
“Last night, however, the President spoke for his Administration, not for the nation. No bull-horn, only the bully-pulpit of his office, which he used to defend an unpopular war in Iraq and to launch clumsily disguised barbs at those who disagree with his policies there.
“By focusing on Iraq in the manner he did, the President engaged in an all too familiar Administration tactic: conflate and blur the war in Iraq with the response to 9/11.
“Despite definitive and repeated findings that there were no ties between Iraq and al Qaeda a finding most recently echoed by the Republican controlled Senate Intelligence Committee the President continued to deliberately lump and blur al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Iraq and 9/11 together.
“This was a political move, designed to tap the overwhelming public sentiment to destroy al Qaeda as a way to bolster sagging public support for the war in Iraq.
“Despite the President’s best efforts, the American people can see through this ploy. They understand that Iraq is largely a sectarian struggle, and that the longer we are bogged down in the streets of Baghdad, the easier it is for al Qaeda and its affiliates to reconstitute in places like Afghanistan and Somalia.
“Americans understand that this administration’s ‘stay the course’ strategy is hurting our security, and moving Iraq in the wrong direction.
“Unemployment in Iraq is as high as 40 percent. Inflation has increased by 50 percent in the last year. An average of 1,000 Iraqis are dying each month.
“The American people deserved better last night. They deserved a break from politics that honored the spirit of 9/11. They deserved a chance to reclaim that sense of unity, purpose and patriotism that swept through our country five years ago. Feelings only the Commander-in Chief can help inspire.
“Sadly, it was a missed opportunity for President Bush, who apparently was more consumed by staying the course in Iraq and playing election year politics.”