As we continue in the sixth year of the war, it is clear that the Bush Administration has no strategy for victory in Iraq and no plan to bring our troops home. Long after our military has fulfilled its mission in Iraq, the White House and its Republican allies in Congress have failed to advance a viable strategy for establishing long-term security and stability in the country. The costs of Bush Republican mismanagement have been devastating for our military and their families, for our national security, and for priorities at home. As the latest emergency war funding request makes clear, however, the Bush Administration has no plan to right our course. It is calling for more money for the same failed strategy and open-ended commitment in Iraq – apparently delaying the tough decisions for the next administration.
Democrats understand what is at stake in our Iraq strategy. As we take up the Supplemental Appropriations bill, Senate Democrats have advanced several policy provisions to effectively transition our mission, remove our troops from the country’s ongoing civil war, and begin to shift responsibility to the Iraqi government, so that we may refocus our resources on the fight against al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, restore our military readiness, and address other national security threats and critical needs at home.
Working to Effectively Secure Iraq, Put an End to the Bush Administration’s Open-Ended Commitment in Iraq, and Bring Our Troops Home
Transitioning the mission of U.S. forces in Iraq. Senate Democrats have repeatedly pushed for a change of course in Iraq so that the United States can refocus our resources on the battle against al Qaeda and other terrorist threats, rebuild our overstretched military, and address other critical issues at home and abroad. The Supplemental Appropriations bill includes a provision that calls for the transition of our mission in Iraq to counterterrorism operations, training and equipping Iraqi forces, and force protection, with the goal of completing that transition by June 2009.
Providing a plan for the safe and orderly redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq. The bill includes a provision requiring a report on the feasibility and strategy for implementing a safe and orderly phased redeployment of U.S. military forces from Iraq over a 12-month and 18-month period.
Prohibiting the U.S. government from establishing a permanent presence in Iraq. The perception that the United States seeks to establish a permanent military presence in Iraq has served as a powerful recruiting tool for Iraqi insurgents and other extremists throughout the Middle East. A provision in this bill would state that the United States will not have a permanent presence in Iraq. Such an assertion would support U.S. diplomatic efforts by sending a clear signal to the Middle East and the international community that America recognizes and fully supports the sovereignty of the Iraqi people.
Prohibiting the Bush Administration from entering into a security agreement with Iraq without congressional approval. In December 2007, President Bush signed a Declaration of Principles for a long-term Relationship of Cooperation and Agreement in Iraq.The Bush Administration has suggested that it will move forward unilaterally, and not seek the advice or approval of Congress. The bill includes a provision that would prohibit the use of funds to implement any security agreement, assurance, or arrangement with the Iraqi Government unless it has entered into force in the form of a treaty ratified by the Senate or in the form of a law passed by Congress. As provided by the Constitution, the Bush Administration cannot be allowed to enter into a security agreement with the Iraqi government that could impact our country for years to come: Congress must have a key role in negotiating any security agreement with Iraq.
Requiring notification of detainment to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Reports of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) holding detainees without notification of the ICRC or similar organizations have raised questions about the treatment of suspected terrorists and have allowed extremists to spread propaganda about U.S. detention practices. An amendment to the bill would require the ICRC to be notified in a timely manner and consistent with the requirements of U.S. Armed Forces, and provided access, when an individual is being detained by any U.S. government agency.
Restoring Balance to Our Overstretched Military
Requiring that U.S. troops deployed to Iraq be "fully mission capable." Reports of U.S. troops being sent into Iraq without adequate equipment or proper training have become almost commonplace since the start of the Iraq war. An amendment to the bill would require that troops meet the Pentagon’s definition of "combat ready" before they are authorized to deploy to Iraq. It is our obligation to ensure that our military heroes have the tools and resources they need on the battlefield.
Placing a time limit on combat deployments and ensuring adequate dwell time between deployments. Bush Administration policies that have required multiple and extended deployments for U.S. forces have left our forces dangerously overstretched and our military readiness at an all-time low. The bill includes two provisions that would require the Pentagon to follow its established guidelines on the length of combat deployments and on the periods of time home between deployments. The current guideline for the Army is deployment for a maximum of one year, followed by one year at home and for the Marine Corps it is a deployment for a maximum of 210 days, followed by time home for 210 days. By ensuring responsible deployment cycles, the measure offers critical support to our troops and their families; works to relieve the enormous stress on our ground forces; and helps to address rising recruiting and retention challenges within our military.
Prohibiting agreements subjecting U.S. armed forces to Iraqi criminal jurisdiction. The bill includes a provision that would prohibit the use of funds to negotiate or implement an agreement with the government of Iraq that would subject members of the U.S. armed forces to the jurisdiction of Iraqi criminal courts or punishment under Iraq law.
Calling on the Government of Iraq to Shoulder More Responsibility for the Country’s Reconstruction
Requiring the Iraqi government to share in the burden of its reconstruction and combined military operations. Since 2003, U.S. taxpayers have invested more than $46 billion in Iraq’s reconstruction. While the Bush Administration continues to seek additional funds for these efforts – including a $3 billion request in this emergency funding bill – Democrats believe that it is time that the Iraqi government began to assume responsibility for the cost of providing essential services and improving the quality of life of its citizens.
The bill would prohibit the obligation of these supplemental funds for large-scale infrastructure projects in Iraq valued over $2 million, with the exception of the Commanders Emergency Response Program. Additionally, it would require negotiations with the Iraqi government to share the costs of combined operations of the government of Iraq and Multinational Forces of Iraq, undertaken as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Asking Americans to continue to invest in Iraq’s reconstruction and bear the full burden of joint military operations is too much to ask when the Iraqi government has built up an estimated $30 billion surplus from oil revenues in recent years and, as the Special Inspector for Iraq Reconstruction recently reported, is expected to net an additional $70 billion in oil surplus this year.
Calling for equitable fuel prices for the Iraqis and U.S. troops in Iraq. American forces in Iraq are paying an estimated $153 million per month for gas, diesel, and other fuel, at an average of $3.23 per gallon. At the same time, Iraqis are paying just $1.36 per gallon for fuel, due to subsidies provided by the Iraqi government. An amendment to the bill would require that the President reach an agreement with the Iraqi government to ensure that we are paying no more for fuel for our troops in Iraq than what the Iraqis are paying.
Requiring a report on Iraqi budget. The bill includes a provision that would require the Secretary of Defense provide a detailed report for Congress on the most recent annual budget for the government of Iraq.
Combating Waste, Fraud and Abuse in War Contracting
Prohibiting war profiteering. Waste, fraud and abuse by U.S. companies has been a significant problem in the Iraq war and reconstruction efforts. The Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) has reported $10 billion in questioned and unsupported costs in Iraq reconstruction contracts. Today, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has 52 open investigations of reconstruction fraud and abuse. A provision in this bill would make war profiteering – overcharging in order to defraud or profit excessively from war – a federal felony. This would provide federal law enforcement with the tools to more effectively combat contracting fraud.
Wartime contract fraud statute of limitation extension. A provision in the bill would extend the current law on the wartime suspension of the statutory limitations for military contract fraud prosecutions to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also would extend the statute of limitations from three years to five years after the termination of hostilities.
Ensuring that private security contractors are held accountable for any criminal behavior in war zones. Currently, U.S. courts do not have clear jurisdiction over the criminal behavior of U.S. contractors in overseas war zones, except for Department of Defense contractors. This has posed a serious problem to the U.S. mission in Iraq, with more than 1,000 private security contractors working for the State Department, including 850 Blackwater employees. An amendment to the bill would close a loophole in current law to ensure that all U.S. private security contractors in Iraq and other war zones overseas are held accountable for any criminal behavior, as provided within the Special Maritime and Territorial Jurisdiction of the United States.