Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid delivered the following remarks on the floor of the United States Senate today before the vote on the Iraq Amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill.
Remarks as prepared:
“Today Senate Democrats offer what I believe is the most important amendment to this most important bill. Our amendment asks the Bush administration to give our troops in Iraq a strategy that is worthy of their sacrifices and heroic service.
“Three years ago America went into Iraq with the finest armed forces in the world. Our military forces were unchallenged and unmatched and they remain so today. Unfortunately, the President and his Administration have not exercised the leadership our troops deserve. They place our troops in harm’s way without a plan for success and damaged our standing in the world.
“It is long past time for the President, Vice President and the rest of the Bush White House to level with the American people and present the winning plan and strategy for Iraq that our troops and the American people deserve.
“For the last three years, Democrats have stood with our troops and tried to make certain we did everything we could to help them succeed. From the outset, we offered the Administration concrete proposals that would have greatly increased our prospects for success.
“We called on the Administration to put more troops on the ground….but the Administration rejected this call. We fought to provide more body armor and equipment for our troops…but our Republican colleagues refused to join us. We urged the Administration to increase international participation to secure and rebuild Iraq…but the White House failed to follow through. We stressed the importance of putting together a plan to win the peace…but again the Bush Administration just said no.
“And I would remind my colleagues that it wasn’t just the advice of Democrats that the Administration chose to ignore. It ignored the advice of our senior generals, our friends and allies around the world, teams of weapons inspectors, and even senior officials who served under President George H.W. Bush.
“The President and his team also chose to disregard the “Powell Doctrine,” which holds that military action should be used only as a last resort where there is a clear risk to national security. According to this Doctrine, if we do choose to fight, we should:
- use overwhelming force
- ensure that the conflict is strongly supported by the American people
- develop a clear exit strategy before we get into the conflict.
“Before this Administration took office, the Powell Doctrine was supported by the previous two Presidents, our military leaders and congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle. But this Administration turned the Powell Doctrine on its head:
- Military action appears to have been a first resort, not a last.
- When the risk to our national security was not clear, the Bush Administration manipulated and cherry-picked intelligence to hype the threat.
- Instead of using overwhelming force, the Administration rejected our senior military leaders’ advice and deployed a smaller force.
- And as we all know, there was not and is not an exit strategy to win the peace and bring our troops home.
“While we are determined to understand the mistakes this Administration made that brought us to this point, we are just as committed to finding a way forward to succeed in Iraq. Every day that goes by it becomes increasingly clear that the Administration’s Iraq policy is adrift and rudderless. All they are offering up is a bumper sticker slogan — “stay the course”.
“”Staying the course” is not a winning strategy. More than 2050 soldiers have died and 15,000 have been wounded. Iraq now risks becoming what it was not before the war: a haven for international terrorists and, as we saw in Jordan, a new launching pad for terrorist attacks. In addition, America’s taxpayers have already contributed more than $250 billion and are spending an additional $2 billion more every week this war continues. In short, our troops deserve more than a slogan. They deserve a real, clear strategy for completing their mission in Iraq.
“This amendment sets forth in the clearest terms the Democrats’ view of what the President and the Iraqi people must accomplish to succeed in Iraq and complete our mission.
“First, it is time to see a significant transition toward full Iraqi sovereignty with Iraqi forces helping to create the conditions that will eventually lead to the phased redeployment of U.S. forces. 2006 should be the year we take the training wheels off the Iraqi government and let the Iraqi people run their own country.
“Second, the Administration must tell the Iraqi people clearly and unambiguously that U.S. military forces will not stay indefinitely and that Iraqis must achieve a broad-based and sustainable political settlement that is essential for defeating the insurgency.
“Third, the President must submit to the Congress and the American people an unclassified plan for success in Iraq. The American people deserve to know the conditions we seek to establish, the challenges we face in achieving these conditions, and the progress we are making.
“For example, the Administration has said repeatedly that our forces can stand down as Iraqi forces stand up. The American people deserve to know what that means in very real and clear terms. How many capable Iraqi security forces are needed so that we can begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces as our tasks are achieved? How long will it take?
“It is no longer acceptable that the President refuses to answer these and many other basic questions about his policy in Iraq. It is not acceptable to this member of Congress and it is certainly not acceptable to our troops, many of whom are serving their third tour of duty in Iraq with no apparent end in sight.
“With this amendment, Democrats are standing with our troops and the American people and insisting that the President and the Republican-controlled Congress do their jobs. The President must be held accountable, and tell our troops and the American people his plan for Iraq and what additional sacrifices will be expected of our troops and the American people. We must honor our troops. We must preserve our national security. We must protect the American people. That is the least we should expect from our commander-in-chief.”