WASHINGTON, D.C.–Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid released this statement following President Bush’s comments at the White House Tuesday morning:
The President apparently remains in a dangerous state of denial about the situation on the ground in Iraq and its impact on our security at home. Although the President rightly stated that the American people voted against failure in Iraq last November, they also clearly voted against a policy that is leading us to failure – and that’s what the President’s stay the course strategy does.
While ten more of our brave men and women died yesterday in one of the deadliest days of this war, President Bush continues to offer more of the same: a failed policy that has our troops mired in an open-ended civil war that risks our security at home. The Iraq policy set forth in the Supplemental bill has been supported by the American people, senior military leaders and a bipartisan majority in Congress. It changes the course by fully funding our troops and providing a responsible end to this war. It holds the Iraqis accountable for securing their nation and forging political reconciliation. It ensures our troops are combat-ready before being deployed to Iraq, and provides them with all the resources needed on the battlefield and when they return.
Most importantly, it recognizes that each day we stay the course in Iraq further weakens our fight against terrorism and other threats throughout the world. The President repeatedly used the phrase “precipitous withdrawal” in his remarks. There is nothing precipitous about insisting that the President change course after more than four years of his failed policy. We hope the President will join us in giving our troops the resources and strategy they need and deserve.
The Supplemental Changes the Course in Iraq
The President’s stay-the-course strategy isn’t working. The supplemental bill being voted on this week in the Senate and the House provides full funding for the troops and a change in the strategy. The President should drop his veto threat and sign this important bill.
The Supplemental Changes the Course in Iraq
1) Transitions the U.S. mission away from policing a civil war to training and equipping Iraqi security forces, protecting U.S. forces and conducting targeted counter-terror operations.
Why we need to transition the mission in Iraq:
- The United States has given up on training Iraqi troops. “Military planners have abandoned the idea that standing up Iraqi troops will enable American soldiers to start coming home soon and now believe that U.S. troops will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces. Training Iraqi troops, which had been the cornerstone of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy since 2005, has dropped in priority, officials in Baghdad and Washington said.” (McClatchy, 4/19/07)
- The Iraq Study Group said that training and equipping Iraqi forces was the most important mission. “The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army, which would take over primary responsibility for combat operations…A vital mission of those rapid reaction and special operations forces would be to undertake strikes against al Qaeda in Iraq.” (Iraq Study Group Report, 12/06)
2) Begins the phased redeployment of our troops no later than October 1, 2007, with a goal of removing all combat forces by April 1, 2008, except for those carrying out security, training and counter-terror operations. .
Why we need a phased redeployment:
- The Iraq Study Group supported a phased redeployment of forces from Iraq. “While these efforts are building up, and as additional Iraqi brigades are being deployed, U.S. combat brigades could begin to move out of Iraq. By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.” (Iraq Study Group Report, 12/06)
3) Holds the Iraqi government accountable by setting measurable and achievable benchmarks on the Iraqi government for security, political reconciliation, and improving the lives of ordinary Iraqis.
Why we need to hold the Iraqi Government accountable:
- Lee Hamilton, former Co-Chairman of the Iraq Study Group, notes that the Iraqi government has consistently missed benchmarks with no penalties. “These benchmarks are not new. They have been widely agreed upon by the White House and the Iraqi government, as have target dates for completion. At issue is the conditionality of U.S. support. Time and again, Iraqis have missed deadlines. Time and again, deadlines have been extended, and U.S. political, economic and military support has continued and even increased.” (Washington Post, 3/25/07)
- The Iraq Study Group firmly believed in benchmarks for the Iraqi government – tied to specific calendar dates. “The United States should consult closely with the Iraqi government and develop additional milestones in three areas: national reconciliation, security, and improving government services affecting the daily lives of Iraqis. As with the current milestones, these additional milestones should be tied to calendar dates to the fullest extent possible.” (Iraq Study Group Report, 12/06)
4) Launches a diplomatic, economic and political offensive, starting with a regional conference working toward a long-term framework for stability in the region.
Why we need a new plan:
- Former Secretary of State James Baker made it clear – you must talk with your enemies, not just your friends. “For 40 years we talked to the Soviet Union during a time when they were committed to wiping us off the face of the earth. So you talk to your enemies, not just your friends.” (CNN’s The Situation Room, 12/6/06)
- The Iraq Study Group said the United States must engage Iran and Syria towards creating greater stability in the region. “Under the aegis of the New Diplomatic Offensive and the Support Group, the United States should engage directly with Iran and Syria in order to try to obtain their commitment to constructive policies toward Iraq and other regional issues. In engaging Syria and Iran, the United States should consider incentives, as well as disincentives, in seeking constructive results.” (Iraq Study Group Report, 12/06)
5) Rebuilds our overburdened military by ending the deployment of non-battle ready forces and includes significant increases above the President’s request for the National Guard and Reserves, the military health care system, military housing, and mine resistant vehicles for our troops in Iraq.
Why our overburdend military needs a change in direction:
- The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has said our military is at significant risk. “Strained by the demands of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a significant risk that the U.S. military won’t be able to quickly and fully respond to yet another crisis, according to a new report to Congress. The assessment, done by the nation’s top military officer, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represents a worsening from a year ago, when that risk was rated as moderate.” (AP, 2/27/07)
- The military has been forced to send troops into battle that “are too injured to wear their body armor”. “As the military scrambles to pour more soldiers into Iraq, a unit of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga., is deploying troops with serious injuries and other medical problems, including GIs who doctors have said are medically unfit for battle. Some are too injured to wear their body armor, according to medical records.” (Salon.com, 3/12/07)
What Military Experts Are Saying about the Supplemental and the President’s Plan to Veto It
“This bill gives General Petraeus great leverage for moving the Iraqi government down the more disciplined path laid out by the Iraq Study Group. The real audience for the timeline language is Prime Minister al-Maliki and the elected government of Iraq. The argument that this bill aides the enemy is simply not mature – nobody on the earth underestimates the United States’ capacity for unpredictability. It may further create some sense of urgency in the rest of our government, beginning with the State Department.”
–Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, USA, Ret.
“The bill gives the president a chance to pull back from a disastrous course, re-orient US strategy to achieve regional stability, and win help from many other countries — the only way peace will eventually be achieved.”
–LT GEN Wm. E. Odom, USA, Ret.
“Supporting the Iraq Supplemental Bill not only reflects the thinking of the Iraq Study Group but puts teeth to the phrase “Supporting the Troops”. By establishing timelines it returns the responsibility of self preservation and regional sovereignty to the people of Iraq and their government.”
–Maj. Gen. Mel Montano, USANG, Ret
“This important legislation sets a new direction for Iraq. It acknowledges that America went to war without mobilizing the nation, that our strategy in Iraq has been tragically flawed since the invasion in March 2003, that our Army and Marine Corps are at the breaking point with little to show for it, and that our military alone will never establish representative government in Iraq. The administration got it terribly wrong and I applaud our Congress for stepping up to their constitutional responsibilities.”
–Maj. Gen. John Batiste, USA, Ret.
“We must commence a coordinated phased withdrawal of U.S. combat troops and condition our continuing support of the Iraqi government on its fulfilling the political commitments it has made to facilitate reconciliation of the contending secular factions. Otherwise, we will continue to be entwined in a hopeless quagmire, with continuing American casualties, which will render our ground forces ineffective.”
–Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, USA Ret.
The President’s Stay the Course Policies Aren’t Working
- Ten American soldiers killed, 20 injured in one of the deadliest attacks since the beginning of the war. “A suicide bomber rammed an explosives-rigged truck into a U.S. military outpost near Baghdad on Monday, killing nine soldiers and wounding 20 in the single deadliest attack on U.S. ground forces in more than a year, military officials said early today… A 10th soldier was killed Monday in a roadside bombing in the Diyala town of Muqdadiyah, the military said.” (AP, 4/24/07)
- Last week saw one of the deadliest bombing since the President’s escalation began. “At least 173 people died in Baghdad on Wednesday in a series of major explosions, making the day the capital’s deadliest since the onset nine weeks ago of a much-touted U.S.-Iraqi security plan. The violence capped a dreadful seven days that began with a stunning suicide attack in the Iraqi parliament building in the heavily fortified Green Zone that killed a lawmaker. At least 363 people have died in Baghdad in the past week, including 118 whose bodies were found dumped in various parts of the city.” (McClatchy, 4/19/07)
- As President Bush escalates forces in Baghdad, insurgents have struck American forces with increasing frequency outside the city. “In Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, the American military is engaged in an intractable guerrilla fight against an elusive and sophisticated enemy more deadly than many battle-hardened soldiers have ever encountered in Iraq. The attacks on U.S. and Iraqi soldiers here have risen sharply in recent months, a problem compounded by an influx of fighters in search of safer havens outside Baghdad. Many of the insurgents are well-trained, highly mobile fighters who refuse to get dragged into open confrontations in which American forces can deploy their overpowering weaponry.” (Washington Post, 4/22/07)