Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today in response to President Bush’s remarks this afternoon:
“We hope President Bush’s comments today about pursuing Osama bin Laden and combating terrorism indicate he is finally ready to join Democrats in addressing the very real threats we face around the world. It is precisely because of President Bush’s flawed strategy in Iraq that those threats have escalated, and it is because of the Administration’s mismanagement of the war that we stand unready for the next attack. Far from keeping Osama bin Laden on the run, President Bush has distracted us from tracking down a resurgent Al Qaeda.
“Just as we will not give the President a blank check for his directionless war, we refuse to rubberstamp his nominee for Attorney General. The Senate fully intends to fulfill its constitutional duty and demand clarity from this nominee on the illegality of a technique the United States has previously prosecuted as torture. Ambiguity on this question endangers our soldiers abroad and is counterproductive to winning the war on terror.”
President Bush Continues to Play Politics With National Security, But Makes U.S. Less Safe
Today, President Bush urged Congress to listen to the threats of Osama Bin Laden and focus on our nation’s national security needs, but President Bush’s tragically flawed policies have made our nation less, not more safe. The President has failed to finish the job he started in Afghanistan, which is becoming increasingly more violent and remains a magnet for foreign fighters. The Afghan-Pakistan border remains a terrorist safe-haven and constitutes the primary threat to our homeland. Our forces continue to be bogged down in an intractable civil war, which is making us less safe and hurting our ability to respond to other threats. America’s standing in the world continues to decline and our allies are withdrawing from the field. It’s time President Bush stopped playing politics with national security and started working with Democrats to make our country safer.
PRESIDENT BUSH URGED CONGRESS TO FOCUS ON BIN LADEN AND NATIONAL SECURITY THREATS, BUT HE HAS NOT TAKEN THE THREAT FROM BIN LADEN SERIOUSLY
President Bush Said He Wasn’t That Concerned About Bin Laden. Asked in a press conference about the threat of Osama Bin Laden, President Bush responded, “So I don’t know where he is. You know, I just don’t spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you.” In response to a follow-up question Bush said, “And, again, I don’t know where he is. I — I’ll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him. [President Bush Press Conference, 3/13/02]
White House Homeland Security Adviser Frances Townsend Called Bin Laden “Virtually Impotent.” “This is a man on the run from a cave who is virtually impotent other than these tapes.” [Fox News Sunday, 9/9/07]
- Osama Bin Laden Is Still At-Large After 2242 Days on the Run Since September 11, 2001.
BUSH ADMINISTRATION HAS TAKEN ITS EYE OFF THE BALL: AFGHANISTAN, Al-QAEDA AND TERRORISM CONTINUE TO THREATEN AMERICA’S NATIONAL SECURITY
Global Terrorist Incidents Have Increased Dramatically Since 2001. “Between January 2001 and September 2001 there were 1,188 terrorist incidents around the world, including the three separate 9/11 events which have become infamous in the memory of Americans. Attacks within Israel alone accounted for 238 terrorist incidents, with Iraq and Afghanistan contributing four. Counting only those incidents attributed to Islamist extremist groups, there were 61 incidents globally with 40 occurring outside of Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan. The comparison with the same time period in 2006 is stark. Worldwide, there were 5,188 terrorist incidents, 1,437 excluding Israel, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Of those remaining incidents, 490 were attributed to Islamist terrorism, of which 92 were extraneous to the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel.” [American Security Project, “Are We Winning?,” September 2007]
U.N. Report: Afghanistan Experiencing Most Violence Since 2001. “Afghanistan is currently suffering its most violent year since the 2001 U.S.-led intervention, according to an internal United Nations report that sharply contrasts with recent upbeat appraisals by President Bush and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai. ‘The security situation in Afghanistan is assessed by most analysts as having deteriorated at a constant rate through 2007,’ said the report compiled by the Kabul office of the U.N. Department of Safety and Security. There were 525 security incidents — attacks by the Taliban and other violent groups, bombings, terrorism of other kinds, and abductions — every month during the first half of this year, up from an average of 425 incidents per month in 2006.” [McClatchy, 10/1/07]
- Violence in Afghanistan Has Increased 30 Percent Since Last Year. “Reporting to the U.N. Security Council, special representative for Afghanistan Tom Koenigs said while there was a dip in violence in the last two months, the number of violent incidents was still up 30 percent from last year. ‘The sad result is a significant increase in the numbers of civilian casualties — at least 1,200 have been killed since January this year,’ Koenigs said, noting the United Nations had recorded 606 roadside bombs and 133 suicide attacks, up from 88 suicide bombs by the same time last year.” [Reuters, 10/15/07]
More Foreign Fighters Have Arrived This Year Than Any Time Since 2001 – Are More Violent Than Afghan Taliban. “The foreign fighters are not only bolstering the ranks of the insurgency. They are more violent, uncontrollable and extreme than even their locally bred allies, officials on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border warn…Their growing numbers point to the worsening problem of lawlessness in Pakistan’s tribal areas, which they use as a base to train alongside militants from Al Qaeda who have carried out terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Europe, according to Western diplomats. ‘We’ve seen an unprecedented level of reports of foreign-fighter involvement,’ said Maj. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux, deputy commander for security of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. ‘They’ll threaten people if they don’t provide meals and support.’ In interviews in southern and eastern Afghanistan, local officials and village elders also reported having seen more foreigners fighting alongside the Taliban than in any year since the American-led invasion in 2001.” [New York Times, 10/30/07]
NIE: Al-Qaeda Is Main Threat to U.S., Has Regenerated Key Elements of its Homeland Attack Capability. “Al-Qa’ida is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat to the Homeland, as its central leadership continues to plan high-impact plots, while pushing others in extremist Sunni communities to mimic its efforts and to supplement its capabilities. We assess the group has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability, including: a safehaven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership… As a result, we judge that the United States currently is in a heightened threat environment.” [National Intelligence Estimate, 7/17/07]
Al-Qaeda Gaining Strength, Has Sanctuary on Afghanistan-Pakistan Border. “Six years after the Bush administration declared war on al-Qaeda, the terrorist network is gaining strength and has established a safe haven in remote tribal areas of western Pakistan for training and planning attacks, according to a new Bush administration intelligence report to be discussed today at a White House meeting.” [Washington Post, 7/11/07]
Just 44 Percent of Urban Pakistanis Support Military Forces Going After Al-Qaeda, and Just 48 Percent Military Action Against the Taliban in Pakistani Terrority. “A WorldPublicOpinion.org poll finds that just 44 percent of urban Pakistanis favor sending the Pakistani army to the Northwestern tribal areas to ‘pursue and capture al Qaeda fighters.’ Only 48 percent would allow the Pakistan army to act against ‘Taliban insurgents who have crossed over from Afghanistan.’ In both cases, about a third oppose such military action and a fifth decline to answer.” [World Public Opinion, 10/31/07]
- Pakistanis Overwhelmingly Reject Foreign Forces to Combat Al-Qaeda or Taliban in Pakistani Territory. “Pakistanis reject overwhelmingly the idea of permitting foreign troops to attack al Qaeda on Pakistani territory. Four out of five (80%) say their government should not allow American or other foreign troops to enter Pakistan to pursue and capture al Qaeda fighters. Three out of four (77%) oppose allowing foreign troops to attack Taliban insurgents based in Pakistan.” [World Public Opinion, 10/31/07]
YET BUSH ADMINISTRATION IS BEATING THE DRUM FOR WAR IN IRAN… BUT MILITARY PROFESSIONAL CALL IT “NOT HELPFUL AND NOT USEFUL”
President Bush Said If You Are Interested in Stopping World War III, You Should Be Interested in Preventing Iran from Learning How to Build Nuclear Weapons. “So I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously. And we’ll continue to work with all nations about the seriousness of this threat.” [President Bush Press Conference, 10/17/07]
Vice President Cheney Threatened Iran with Serious Consequences If It Continues on Its Present Course. “‘The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences,’ Mr. Cheney said, without specifying what those might be. ‘The United States joins other nations in sending a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.’” [New York Times, 10/22/07]
- But Admiral William Fallon, Commander of the United States Central Command, Said Talk of War in Iran Is “Not Helpful and Not Useful.” In an interview with al Jazeera television, Fallon the warned that the talk of bombing Iran is not helpful. “This constant drumbeat of conflict is what strikes me which is not helpful and not useful…I expect that there will be no war and that is what we ought to be working for… It is not a good idea to be in a state of war. We ought to try and to do our utmost to create different conditions.” (Interview with al Jazeera, 9/30/07)
MILITARY PROFESSIONALS BELIEVE WAR IN IRAQ IS MAKING US LESS SAFE, NOT IN OUR STRATEGIC INTEREST
General Colin Powell Said Iraq War Has Made Us Less Safe. “Well, I think we are a little less safe in the sense that we don’t have the same force structure available for other problems. I think we have been somewhat constrained in our ability to influence events elsewhere. But I think that’s all recoverable. [CBS News’ Face the Nation, 12/17/06]
General Petraeus Said He Did Not Know If Continuing the Mission in Iraq Was making America More Safe.
Senator Warner: Are you able to say at this time if we continue what you have laid before the congress here,this strategy. do you feel that that is making America safer?
General Petraeus: Sir, I believe this is indeed the best course of action to achieve our objectives in Iraq.
Warner: Does that make America safer?
General Petraeus: Sir I don’t know actually. I have not sat down and sorted in my own mind. What I have focused on and what I have been riveted on is how to accomplish the mission of the multinational force Iraq. [Testimony of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker to the Senate Armed Services Committee, 9/11/07]
General Joseph Hoar Said War in Iraq Undercut Our Interests in the Middle East. “The war was never in our interest; that it actually was undercutting our interests in the region — regional stability — because by going in and knocking off Saddam, we ensured that this kind of conflict would eventually come about. And what we’ve been trying to do ever since is evade the inevitable.” [Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing, 1/18/07]
MILITARY LEADERS WORRY ABOUT OUR ABILITY TO RESPOND TO OTHER THREATS
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Said He Was Concerned That Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan Are Taking a Toll on U.S. Ability to Respond to Other Threats. “I know the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are taking a toll on you and your families…They are taking a toll on our equipment, our systems, and our ability to train as well. I worry, quite frankly, that they are taking a toll on our readiness for other threats in other places.” [Open Letter from Admiral Mullen to Servicemembers, 10/1/07]
Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez Said the Strategic Risk of Continuing the Strain on U.S. Forces Is Unacceptable. “But America must know the pressures that are being placed on our military institutions as we fight this war. All Americans must demand that these deploying formations are properly resourced, properly trained and we must never allow America’s support for the soldier to falter. A critical, objective assessment of our nation’s ability to execute our national security strategy must be conducted. If we are objective and honest, the results will be surprising to all Americans. There is unacceptable strategic risk.” [Military Reporters and Editors Address, 10/12/07]
- General Casey Fears Lack of Trained Forces for Missions Outside of Iraq. “‘The demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply,’ the Army chief of staff, Gen. George Casey, said last week. ‘Right now we have in place deployment and mobilization policies that allow us to meet the current demands. If the demands don’t go down over time, it will become increasingly difficult for us to provide the trained and ready forces’ for other missions.” [Associated Press, 8/20/07]
- General Casey Said Six Years of War Has Strained Our Forces And Demand for Forces Exceeds Supply. “As the chairman said, our nation has been at war for our six years. Our Army has been a leader on the front lines of this war and back here at home, and over time these operations have expanded in scope and duration. And as a result our all-volunteer force has been stretched and stressed… So, Mr. Chairman, as we look to that future, we do so with an Army that’s already stretched by the impacts of six years of war. And while we remain a resilient, committed, professional force, today’s Army, as Congressman Hunter said, is out of balance. The current demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply. We are consumed with meeting the demands of the current fight and unable to provide ready forces as rapidly as necessary for other contingencies. Our reserve components are performing an operational role for which they were neither originally designed, nor resourced. [House Armed Services Committee Hearing, 9/27/07]
- General Colin Powell Agreed With General Schoomaker That the Army Is Broken. “I’m suggesting that what General Schoomaker said the other day, before a committee looking at the Reserve and National Guard, that the active Army is about broken. General Schoomaker is absolutely right, and all of my contacts within the Army suggest that the Army has a serious problem in the active force, and it’s a problem that will spread into the Guard and Reserves: Backlog of equipment that is not being repaired, soldiers–especially officers and noncommissioned officers–going on repetitive tours.” [CBS News’ Face the Nation, 12/17/06]
General Barry McCaffrey Said Army and Marines Were Broken Due to Six Years of War. “Your Army, somewhat the Marine Corps, are broken. Our equipment is broken. Hundreds of our armored vehicles are lined up at depots. It has been grossly under-resourced. We are in a position of strategic peril. In my judgment, our manpower is inadequate. I’ve been saying 80,000 troops short in the Army, 25,000 in the Marine Corps. Our recruiting is faltering. There is unquestionably, on the bottom end, a decrease in the quality of the kids coming into the United States Army now. We’re encountering all sorts of problems we didn’t see some years ago. You must fix the Army and the Marine Corps or we will be incapable of responding to the next crisis.” [Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing, 1/18/07]
General Barry R. McCaffrey Said We Are Unable to Respond to Other Threats. “This is the first time since World War II that we are strategically, as a ground combat force, in such as vulnerable position. If the other shoe drops, Castro dies, a half million Cuban refuges, miscalculation on the Korean Peninsula, a whole series of potential vulnerabilities, a major strike on the homeland, with millions of refugees in flight, we have left the U.S. Armed Forces, the U.S. National Guard, the central load-bearing institution of domestic security ill-equipped to move forward. So we’ve got to drawdown the force.” [House Armed Services Committee, 7/31/07]
DESPITE STEPPED UP EFFORTS, PRESIDENT BUSH’S POLICIES HAVE HURT OUR IMAGE IN THE WORLD, MAKING AMERICA LESS SAFE
Presidential Adviser Karen Hughes Was Picked to Head Public Diplomacy to Improve America’s Image in the World. “By nominating Karen Hughes as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, President Bush has tapped one of his closest and most trusted advisors for a difficult job. At his press conference this morning, the president emphasized the importance he is placing on improving America’s image abroad, especially in the Middle East.” [Newshour, 3/16/05]
- …But After 2 Years, Hughes Decided to Step Down, With the Job Unfinished. “Karen P. Hughes, one of the few remaining members of President Bush’s circle of longtime Texas advisers, said today that she will return to private life, stepping down as the head of public diplomacy at the State Department sometime in December…Opinion polls indicate that the image of the United States in Muslim countries — the chief target of Ms. Hughes’s labors — has not improved, and in some cases has deteriorated, since she took office two years ago.” [New York Times, 10/31/07]
Poll of Residents in 25 Countries Found 29 Percent Believe U.S. Exerts a Mainly Positive Influence in the World, Down from 36 Percent in 2006 and 40 Percent in 2005. “George Bush, the US president, is facing mounting disapproval of his policies abroad, according to a poll carried out for the BBC World Service, published today. The poll of 26,000 people in 25 countries showed just 29 percent now feel the United States exerts a mainly positive influence on the world, compared with 36 per cent a year ago and 40 percent two years ago.” [The Scotsman (UK), 1/23/07]
- 49 Percent of World Believes U.S. Exerts a Mainly Negative Role Internationally. “And 49 per cent now believe the US plays a mainly negative role internationally.” [The Scotsman (UK), 1/23/07]
… AND ALIENATED OUR ALLIES IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN
Japan Is Withdrawing Its Naval Forces From Support Role in Afghanistan. “Japan’s defense minister ordered ships supporting U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan to return home Thursday after opposition lawmakers refused to support an extension of the mission, saying it violated the country’s pacifist constitution… Japan, America’s top ally in Asia, has refueled coalition warships in the Indian Ocean since 2001, but opposition parties, bolstered by recent election wins, effectively scuttled the mission by raising concerns it was too broad and possibly violated the Constitution.” [Associated Press, 11/1/07]
Britain Plans to Hand Over Control of Security Operations in Basra, in Anticipation of Drawdown of Half of Remaining British Troops in Iraq. “Saying that Iraqi forces are now capable of dealing with the violence that persists in the south, Britain’s defense secretary said Wednesday that his government intended to hand over security for the area by mid-December. Defense Secretary Des Browne acknowledged that sectarian power struggles and gangsterism continue in oil-rich Basra province, but said Iraqi forces were best able to address them now… British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced last month that his government, the main U.S. foreign partner in Iraq, would pull out half its remaining troops by June, leaving 2,500 soldiers stationed outside Basra.” [Los Angeles Times, 11/1/07]
Poland Plans to End Its Military Operations in Iraq. “Also yesterday, Prime Minister-designate Donald Tusk of Poland said his country, which has about 900 soldiers stationed in southeast Iraq, wanted to end its military mission there next year, the Associated Press reported.” [Boston Globe, 11/1/07]