Senate Democrats

State Legislators Oppose President Bush’s Failed War Strategy

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Senate Democrats and state legislators from across the country today discussed their opposition to President Bush’s escalation of the war in Iraq.

Resolutions and letters calling for a change of course in Iraq have been introduced in 29 states and passed in more than a dozen. These state governing bodies join the majority of Americans, bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress, military experts and the Iraq Study Group in calling for a change of course.

Senators Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy and Sherrod Brown joined Hannah Pingree, Majority Leader of the Maine House of Representatives; Steve Doherty, former Minority Leader of the Montana State Senate and co-chair of the Progressive States Network; and Kansas State Senator Donald Betts.

“As we work to get our troops in the field the funding they need, the state legislators standing with us today have an up-close view of how this war affects communities across our country,” Reid said. “They know that the President’s policies have failed and want us to work together to fully provide for our troops, hold the Iraqi government accountable, and find a responsible end to the conflict.”

Said Kennedy: “The American people know that it is time for a new plan in Iraq. That is why 29 states have introduced resolutions against the escalation of our forces in Iraq. This President couldn’t be more wrong on Iraq. He was wrong to get us into this war, wrong to conduct it so poorly, wrong to ignore the views of the American people and wrong to accuse those of us who are working to change course as undermining our troops. Now the President is wrong to veto the supplemental. Doing so would delay funding for our troops and keeps them in a bloody civil war with no exit strategy in sight.”

“The war in Iraq has cost 142 Ohioans their lives and wounded another thousand,” Brown said. “The president should stop threatening to veto legislation and work with Congress to bring our troops home.”

Said Doherty: “Nationwide, Senators, state legislators, and citizens agree: This tragic war has dragged on for too long. It is a drain on this country. It is time to put forward a plan to bring the war to an end.”

“Our current open-ended commitment in Iraq is compromising critical domestic programs, from healthcare to development to education,” Pingree said. “President Bush’s failed Iraq policy has left our country worse off. Communities all over my state and around the country want America to change course and bring an end to this war.”

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Beyond the Beltway: Americans Reject Bush’s Iraq Policies

Today, as the President is trying to make the case for his flawed Iraq policies in Ohio, state legislators are standing with Democrats to say that Americans outside of Washington have had enough of the President’s “stay the course” strategy. Below is a look at what the war looks like in Montana, Kansas, and Maine. President Bush should listen to the voices speaking from beyond the beltway and sign the bill Congress is sending him that provides the troops with the funding they need and transitions the mission in Iraq .

Montana

Number of Active Duty Service-Members in Iraq : 1,092
Number of Reserve Forces in Iraq : 170
Number of Service-Members Killed in Iraq : 18

Number of Service-Members Wounded in Iraq : 185

Cost of War to the People of Montana: $698 Million
(Source: CTS Deployment File, 1/31/07; Department of Defense Personnel Statistics; nationalpriorities.org)

Montana soldiers are short-changed when going to Iraq . “If Zeimer’s combat career was brief, so was his training. He enlisted last June at age 17, three weeks after graduating from Dawson County High School in eastern Montana. After finishing nine weeks of basic training and additional preparation in infantry tactics in Oklahoma, he arrived at Fort Stewart, Ga., in early December. But Zeimer had missed the intense four-week pre-Iraq training–a taste of what troops will face in combat – that his 1st Brigade comrades got at their home post in October. Instead, Zeimer and about 140 other members of the 4,000-strong brigade got a cut-rate, 10-day course on weapon use, first aid and Iraqi culture. That’s the same length as the course that teaches soldiers assigned to generals’ household staffs the finer points of table service.” (Time, 4/16/07)

Rural Montana is feeling the pinch. “On a per capita basis, states with mostly rural populations have suffered the highest casualties in Iraq . Vermont, South Dakota, Alaska, North Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Delaware, Montana, Louisiana and Oregon top the list, the AP found. There’s a ‘basic unfairness’ about the number of troops dying in Iraq who are from rural areas, said William O’Hare, senior visiting fellow at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute, which examines rural issues.” (AP, 2/20/07)

Young lives have been cut tragically short by the war. “Kyle G. Bohrnsen loved to go bow hunting for elk and snowmobiling in his home state of Montana. ‘He was a very athletic, outgoing individual,’ said Lt. John Bleile, an Army casualty assistance officer at Bohrnsen’s home Thursday. Bohrnsen, 22, of Philipsburg, Mont., died Tuesday of wounds he suffered when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Baghdad.” (Rocky Mountain News, 4/13/07)

Soldiers are returning to Montana with deep scars – some only on the inside. “A former Army medic and Townsend native, who asked that his name be withheld, just happens to be one of those people. His nightmares, thoughts and memories of war – the things he did and saw in Iraq – have become his unwelcome companion. He wants to escape and suicide, the 25-year old confessed last week, has emerged as one of his options… ‘You’re just scared for your life,’ said the former medic, thinking back to his tour in Iraq . ‘People were getting shot all around me. I don’t know how the hell I made it through that.’” (AP, 4/16/07)

Kansas

Number of Active Duty Service-Members in Iraq : 1,322
Number of Reserve Forces in Iraq : 916
Number of Service-Members Killed in Iraq : 34

Number of Service-Members Wounded in Iraq : 312

Cost of War to the People of Kansas: $3.6 Billion
(Source: CTS Deployment File, 1/31/07; Department of Defense Personnel Statistics; nationalpriorities.org)

As Iraq grows more dangerous, Kansas service men and women are paying the price. “From October 2006 through last month, 532 American service members were killed, the most during any six-month period of the war. March also marked the first time that the U.S. military suffered four straight months of 80 or more fatalities. April, with 58 service members killed through Monday, is on pace to be one of the deadliest months of the conflict for American forces. The last six months saw eight Missouri fatalities and seven from Kansas. Over the previous six months, 10 Missourians were killed in Iraq ; four Kansans died.” ( Kansas City Star, 4/17/07)

Soldiers in Kansas are facing a longer time away from home. “More than two dozen units based at Fort Riley are likely to be impacted by the Army’s decision to extend tours from 12 to 15 months in Iraq and Afghanistan . A Fort Riley news release says 17 units from the northeast Kansas post now deployed will be affected. Eight units on orders to deploy later this year are also expected to be a part of the extension.” (AP, 4/12/07)

The Kansas National Guard Commander is worried about strain on his troops. “Equipment for the Kansas National Guard is getting worn out according to the Guard Commander. Major General Tod Bunting says the equipment is not the only thing getting worn out – so are the troops. Bunting says the Guard’s equipment is not being replaced quickly enough and that about 800 soldiers will stay in Iraq for now…some of them in their fourth tour.” (AP, 4/10/07)

Lack of equipment hurts National Guard’s readiness back home in Kansas. “Currently, about 16 percent of the Kansas National Guard’s equipment, valued at over $117 million, will not return to Kansas. With the potential for the amount of equipment left overseas to double, [Governor Kathleen] Sebelius is concerned about the impact this will have on the Guard’s primary mission back home.” ( Kansas City InfoZine, 2/13/07)

Topeka Capital-Journal says: “We are headed in the wrong direction.” The president wants more troops in Iraq . A growing number of Americans are becoming more disenchanted with the war. Democrats have recaptured majorities in the House and Senate. Politicians furiously debate our future. And when the shouting is over, the U.S military takes the hit. That is wrong. But it is happening. It happened again last week. Combat tours for Army soldiers were extended from 12 months to 15 months… We are headed the wrong direction.” ( Topeka Capital-Journal, 4/18/07)

Maine

Number of Active Duty Service-Members in Iraq : 732
Number of Reserve Forces in Iraq : 466
Number of Service-Members Killed in Iraq : 19

Number of Service-Members Wounded in Iraq : 168

Cost of War to the People of Maine: $1.2 Billion
(Source: CTS Deployment File, 1/31/07; Department of Defense Personnel Statistics; nationalpriorities.org)

Maine’s service men and women are finding their jobs incredibly difficult. “‘Convoy security is the second-most-dangerous job in Iraq (after foot patrol),’ said Churchill, who looks as though he still could be in high school. What’s worse, it’s a danger these soldiers cannot see. Anywhere along the hundreds of miles of Iraqi highway they travel each day and night, improvised explosive devices — roadside bombs that grow more sophisticated with each passing month — could go off at any time. ‘The worst part of all is you’re just heading down the road, waiting for it to happen,’ Churchill said over the low roar of his idling gun truck. ‘They’re getting good at hiding these things.’” ( Portland Press Herald, 4/18/07)

Maine’s service men and women hope they can just get home. “Gates continued, ‘All you can do is say, ‘Hey, they’ve got all that training they’ve gone through.’ As a leader, that’s my job — to have as many tools as possible in their tool box so they can have the best chances of survival on this mission.’ A short distance away, truck commander Harrington — the man with the marksman in his turret and the driver who can plow through anything — prepared for another night’s work along the most dangerous truck route anywhere on Earth. What goes through his mind at times like this? ‘We have, like, three months left to go,’ Harrington replied. ‘We’re like, OK, let’s keep our heads down and low-pro (low profile) for the rest of this duration and be safe.’” ( Portland Press Herald, 4/18/07)

Combat medics from Maine try to put the horror behind them. “Verreault, who would lean over the soldier for 20 long minutes, pumping six units of blood and 2 liters of saline solution into his veins as the rest of the trauma team prepared the patient for surgery, shook his head. ‘I treat it like a really long, bad run – like a marathon,’ Verreault said. ‘It hurts, but you disassociate the pain and the discomfort and just get on with putting one foot in front of another.’ Running toward the horror – these days in Iraq , it’s a way of life at a combat support hospital.” ( Portland Press Herald, 4/13/07)

Parents look to celebrate the lives of Maine’s fallen soldiers. “Several hundred gathered at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland to attend the funeral Mass for Swiger, a 24-year-old member of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. Swiger, serving his third tour in Iraq , died on March 25 when a suicide bomber attacked his convoy in Diyala province…’It is going to take a little while for the whole community to heal,’ Walter Swiger said. ‘Today brings a closure, somewhat, to the past 10 days. We have had the chance to celebrate Jason’s life.’” ( Portland Press Herald, 4/5/07)

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