Washington, DC — One day after the death of the 2,500th American soldier in Iraq, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following speech on the Floor of the U.S. Senate. The American people have watched the brave men and women of the military serve valiantly for over three years in Iraq. Unfortunately, Republicans in the Senate refuse to condemn amnesty for our soldiers’ killers. What’s more, despite his trip to Baghdad, President Bush still won’t offer a plan or a strategy to ensure their eventual return home. When asked about the meaning of so many Americans killed serving in Iraq, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow responded it was “a number.”
The text of Senator Reid’s remarks, as prepared, is below.
Our valiant troops are now serving in the fourth year in Iraq. Day after day, they’ve demonstrated courage, skill and bravery. They don’t ask for much, but all of us owe them a lot. And at the top of that list of the things we owe them is an honest debate about what’s going on in Iraq.
Yesterday, Democrats offered an amendment to express the sense of the Senate that Iraq not grant amnesty to terrorists who kill our troops as part of their reconciliation plan. Our amendment came in response to reports that the Iraqi Prime Minister was in favor of such a proposal.
Instead of joining us in a debate about this amendment, the Majority, the Republicans, decided to play political games, and quickly claimed the Iraqi Prime Minister had been misquoted. They wouldn’t simply go on record in support of our troops. Instead, they offered some procedural gimmicks to stop a vote from taking place on this amendment.
It’s too bad, as just this morning there’s more news that the Prime Minister has talked about and may indeed favor amnesty to those Iraqis who kill American troops. It’s all over the country in the news.
For example, it’s on page 22 of the Washington Post. The aide who first leaked the story has now resigned. But he stands by what he said. Today he’s quoted as saying, “the Prime Minister himself has said that he is ready to give amnesty to the so-called resistance, provided they’ve not been involved in killing Iraqis.”
What the aide says is just what we said was happening in Iraq yesterday. Amnesty will be granted to those that kill Americans but not those who hurt Iraqis.
I think this issue sounds like it deserves the Senate’s attention. Doesn’t it seem as we should weigh in on this and tell the Iraqis there will be no get-out-of-jail-free cards for those who kill our troops?
We should have had that debate yesterday. But instead the Republicans cut and run from the debate.
In effect, they’re filibustering their own defense authorization bill, not allowing the matter to move forward. They stopped in midday. It doesn’t make sense. Today, we still don’t know what the Iraqi government intends to do. So isn’t it the Senate’s job to direct President Bush to come forward and tell the Iraqis to stand down? Terrorists who kill our troops should not be set free. Our troops have given too much in the name of Iraqi freedom to see their killers let go.
Mr. President, there’s something else we owe our troops: an acknowledgment of their tremendous sacrifice.
In the Senate yesterday, we had a moment of silence because we lost our 2,500th troop in Iraq. It was a solemn milestone which we observed in this Chamber.
Over at the White House, I guess they have a different feeling. In all the news around the country today, there’s a quote from Tony Snow, the President’s Press Secretary, who said in response to the news, “it’s a number.”
“It’s a number.”
I say to the White House, it’s more than a number. It’s somebody’s son or daughter, someone’s father or mother, a neighbor, an uncle, or an aunt.
In Nevada, we’ve lost 39 soldiers in Iraq. Every one of them is more than a number.
I wonder how my friends – the Lukacs and the Salazars – feel about that statement?
These are two Nevada families I met around Memorial Day in my office, and then again at Memorial Day Ceremonies in Boulder City. Both of them had lost sons in Iraq.
I wonder how they feel about their sons being just numbers?
They’re not just numbers. They’re no more numbers than the people who have been wounded. They’re not numbers either.
All of them–they’re people–people who in many instances who have lost eyes and legs and arms and are paralyzed.
They’re not just numbers.
Mr. President, I think maybe we should discuss briefly what a Republican Congressman said yesterday. I know this man, know him well. I’ve been going to the House gym for a lot of years, and a man who also goes there–by the name of Wayne Gilchrest–is my friend. He is a Republican Congressman from Maryland.
One day, we were standing in the House gym–I’ve known him for many, many years–and because of our knowing one another, he was – he was shaving, actually, with his shirt off and on his back – I noticed he had a real scar. I said, Wayne, what is that scar? He said, I was shot in Vietnam.
He was a sergeant. Raised his arm to fire and as he did that, somebody shot him through the chest. The bullet came out of his back and left a big scar.
The words he remembers is “Sarg has been shot. Hope he’s not dead.”
He survived after many months in hospitals. He was a school teacher when he came back from Vietnam, taught kids. Now he is a member of Congress and has been for sometime. Here’s what he said in the Washington Post Yesterday.
“I can’t help but feel through eyes of a combat-wounded Marine in Vietnam, if someone was shot, you tried to save his life. . . . While you were in combat, you had a sense of urgency to end the slaughter, and around here we don’t have that sense of urgency.”
“To me, the administration does not act like there’s a war going on. The Congress certainly doesn’t act like there’s a war going on. If you’re raising money to keep the majority, if you’re thinking about gay marriage, if you’re doing all this other peripheral stuff, what does that say to the guy who’s about ready to drive over a land mine?”
Mr. President, our troops are more than just numbers, and they deserve a better debate.