Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate, arguing that rather than making America safer, the war in Iraq has strained our military and National Guard, distracted us from Afghanistan, strengthened Al Qaeda, and squandered our moral authority in the world. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“In this work period, we will turn once again to the raging civil war in Iraq. Over the past two weeks, as the war has begun its sixth year, we have heard more of the same happy talk we’ve come to expect from the Bush Administration: ‘Mission accomplished.’ ‘The insurgency is in its last throes.’ ‘The surge is working.’
“To say that the Bush/Cheney spin machine lacks credibility is an understatement. Last week, the President marked the beginning of the sixth year of war by delivering more of the same disconnected rhetoric. But at the very same time he spoke of progress, the facts on the ground betrayed his happy talk.
“As Senator Hagel said, the President’s words – compared with the real facts on the ground – are like Alice in Wonderland. The situation on the ground in Iraq is fluid and changing rapidly. But it is clear that the Bush strategy of trading long-term security success for short-term gains is failing.
“It is clear that the Iraqi civil war persists. It is clear that this war is Shiite vs. Shiite, Maliki vs. al-Sadr, Iraqi vs. Iraqi – with American troops caught in the middle.
“As one Iraqi teacher said in the New York Times this weekend, ‘We were expecting one thing but we saw something else…with the presence of this new government and this democracy that was brought to us by the invader, it made us kill each other. And the war is now between us.’
“Every one of us supports our troops. Every one of us is honored by their sacrifice and grateful beyond expression for their outstanding work. But when it comes to judging the Iraq war, only one question matters: Are we safer? The answer is undeniably no. And no amount of spin from the White House can change that fact.
“Because of Iraq, our military is stretched thin and its ability to address new threats is compromised. Many of our troops are now on their third, or even fourth tours of duty. General Colin Powell has said that our Army is ‘about broken.’ Are we safer with a nearly broken military? Of course not.
“Because of Iraq, the Bush Administration has taken its eye off the ball in Afghanistan. That country is backsliding into violence, chaos and rampant drug trade. Are we safer as Afghanistan falls deeper into mayhem? Of course not.
“Because our troops, our equipment and our intelligence is focused on Iraq, America’s number-one enemy – Osama bin Laden – remains free now nearly seven years after September 11th. His Al Qaeda network is growing ever stronger, plotting new attacks. Are we safer with Bin Laden free and Al Qaeda strengthening? Of course not.
“Because of Iraq, our National Guard – the brave men and women charged with protecting us from disasters and threats here at home – don’t have the manpower or equipment to do their job effectively. Are we safer with a weakened National Guard to protect us at home? Of course not.
“Because of Iraq and the Bush Administration’s shoot first, talk later style of cowboy diplomacy, our moral authority in the world is shattered. Our former allies are unwilling to stand by our side. Our ability to solve conflicts through diplomacy is diminished. Are we safer as a weakened moral force in the world? Of course not.
“The American people know this. By overwhelming numbers, they continue to oppose the war. And with good reason: We are objectively less safe because of Iraq. And the cost of the war to our country has been enormous.
“We have already lost 4,000 young Americans. 30,000 more have been wounded, many gravely. We are now spending $12 billion every month on the war. That’s almost $300,000 each minute. The President told us the war would cost no more than $60 billion. We’ve already spent ten times that much.
“We are building barracks in Iraq when we should be helping millions of Americans avoid losing their homes to foreclosure. We are policing the streets of Baghdad when we should be investing in universal health care and a better education system. We are protecting oil fields in Basra when we should be funding renewable energy production to help stem the tide of global warming.
“When all is finally said and done, experts say the war is going to cost as much as $3 trillion or more. Where does that $3 trillion come from? It’s all borrowed from future generations. The legacy of our generation could be to leave our children and grandchildren with a safer, cleaner, more prosperous country. Instead, the war in Iraq will ensure that we leave future generations with trillions of dollars in debt.
“Instead of making our own country safer, we are greasing the pockets of corrupt Iraqi politicians and buying their temporary cooperation. And let’s not forget – Iraq is not a poor country. Far from it. Their oil resources make them one of the world’s wealthiest. Record high oil prices have supplied Iraq with literally more money than they know what to do with.
“As we borrow and spend billions of dollars to provide the security state that the Iraqi government has failed to create for themselves, Iraq is bringing in billions in oil money faster than they can open bank accounts to store it all.
“If a parent gives a teenager the choice of either getting a job or receiving an allowance for doing nothing, the teenager will of course choose to do nothing. As long as we guarantee to the Iraqi government that our troops and our money will support them, they will never have incentive to do the job themselves. The security welfare state we’ve created will go on and on forever.
“It has also become clear these past two weeks that the Bush Administration has no intention of reducing our troop commitment below pre-surge levels before the end of his presidency. He can spin the surge however he wants, but the fact remains that the purpose of the surge was to create a stable situation that would allow us to bring our troops home sooner.
“Iraqi politicians were supposed to take advantage of the temporary surge to create a stable situation that would allow them to build a lasting peace and us to bring our troops home. But they haven’t done that. And the Bush Administration refuses to hold them accountable.
“A surge that only leads to more surge is not a success. In fact, it’s not even a surge – it’s an escalation of the war. All the surge has done is bring more young Americans into battle and delay the time when they can come home.
“Has the war made our country safer? No. Has the surge hastened the day our troops can come home? No. Even now – in the war’s sixth year – does the President have an exit strategy? No.
“With 150,000 young Americans serving in Iraq, it appears that President Bush has an exit strategy for just one man – himself – on January 20th. For those who bravely serve – for the families that anxiously await their return – and for the safety and well-being of our nation, the rest of us shouldn’t have to wait that long.”