Washington, DC — Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following statement at a Democratic Policy Committee hearing in Chicago, Illinois, investigating the Bush Administration’s conduct of the war in Iraq. The hearing featured testimony by three Iraq veterans and a former National Security Advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, who cited the Administration’s failure to provide sufficient resources to train and equip the Iraqi Police Service – a failure which allowed the insurgency to take root and gave rise to corrupt special police units that function as “death squads.” The war in Iraq has so far cost the nation the lives of some 2,700 brave U.S. soldiers, left over 20,000 wounded, and cost more than $325 billion. Democrats believe such a terrible cost requires the highest level of oversight and accountability.
Statement as prepared.
Today, we hold the second of our bipartisan hearings on the war in Iraq. Our goal in this hearing is the same goal we had in our first hearing: to find out what has gone wrong in planning and conducting the war in Iraq, so we can finally begin the process of setting it right.
To help us achieve this goal, we once again have assembled a panel of outstanding witnesses: four courageous Americans who volunteered to serve their nation in Iraq, and who have agreed to testify, so that the mission they started can be completed with dignity and honor.
To all of you, thank you for your service, your sacrifice, and your attendance at today’s hearing. Like thousands of others, you have served the nation with enormous skill, bravery and determination. Your presence is a tribute to your patriotism and your continued dedication to our troops.
Mr. Chairman, throughout our nation’s history, Congressional oversight of war has played an important role in keeping our nation safe. From Lincoln in the Civil War to Roosevelt in World War II, administrations have been called before the legislative branch and the American people to account for their actions and their use of taxpayer money.
Unfortunately–for the war in Iraq and so many other pressing matters of national security–the 109th Congress has sat on the sidelines, refusing to question this administration’s course or chart a new course that could make America safer.
The fact is, Americans are learning more about missteps in Iraq from Bob Woodward’s new book than they have from the actions of Congress, or the candor of the President. Both have repeatedly put their political interests ahead of the security of our country.
There’s no better example than what’s happening in Chicago today. While we have come to focus on finding solutions in Iraq, the President and Republicans have chosen to ignore this important hearing, so they can raise money and prop up Dennis Hastert instead.
They’re focused on November, when they should be focused on making America more safe and finding a way forward.
Mr. Chairman, today, this committee will hear testimony concerning the training of Iraqi security forces.
We will find out–from commanders who have been on the ground–why President Bush’s slogan, “stand up, stand down,” has not come true. We will gain insight into recent news reports that thousands of Iraqi police have died in the past few months, while others have actively engaged in or supported the activities of sectarian militias.
And we will use this information to demand a new direction in Iraq, which allows our troops to complete their mission with dignity, restores some degree of security and order for the Iraqi people, and makes America more secure.