Senate Democrats

Reid: As the Situation in Iraq Worsens, America Can and Must Change Course

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada delivered the following speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate today in response to President Bush’s recent attacks on Democrats’ support of our troops:

“We heard again this afternoon the same old story from President Bush about the war in Iraq. He claimed again that his new escalation strategy is working, that the signs of success are everywhere, that victory is imminent. He also, once again, attacked those of us with the courage to ask the tough questions and tell the truth about Iraq.

“In an effort to shift attention from this Administration’s failed polities – and I say that in the plural – the President and his allies have repeatedly questioned whether I and my fellow Democrats support our troops. No one wants us to succeed in Iraq more than the Democrats. We’ve proven that time and time again since this war started more than four years ago. We take a back seat to no one in supporting our troops, and we will never abandon our troops in a time of war.

“Given the White House spin machine that’s been working overtime in an effort to defend its failed policies, I think it’s important for me to repeat what I said yesterday afternoon in this chamber. The longer we continue down the President’s path, the further we will be from responsibly ending this war. I said it yesterday, I say it again. The longer we continue down the President’s path, the further we will be from responsibly ending this war.

“But there is still a chance to change course and we must change course. The partisans who launched attacks on my comments are the same ones who continue to support a failed strategy that hurts our troops. Is this Administration supporting the troops when it sends our brave men and women into battle without the necessary body armor, with vehicles that are not properly armored? I ask, is the Administration supporting the troops when it fails to provide them the health care they have earned when they come home? Our responsibilities end with these troops never. They don’t end when they leave Iraq. They don’t end when they get home. We have to continue to help them. Is the Administration supporting the troops by threatening to delay the funding unless Congress continues to rubberstamp its failed policy?

“Mr. President, I believe supporting our troops means giving them the funding they need and a strategy they deserve. It means stopping the partisan attacks. It means spending time working together on a bipartisan basis to develop an effective strategy to successfully end this war. I wish some of my detractors felt the same.

“An effective strategy is exactly what we’re offering the President and our troops. No more, no less. Let’s all understand: Changing course in Iraq will increase America’s security by bringing this war to a responsible end and permitting our troops to more effectively fight terror all over the world. This is precisely the strategy President Bush is vowing to veto.

“We heard the same old story from the President today because his strategy calls for more of the same. It’s a failed strategy for our troops in Iraq. It’s a failed strategy for our security at home. It’s dangerous that the president refuses to recognize the reality on the ground in Iraq.

“For those who claim we are on the right path in Iraq, I ask them to look at this week’s newspapers. And I’m only going to mention just a few things in this week’s news. The White House announced additional National Guard troops would be send to Iraq – many, if not most, without the necessary training and equipment. The White House extended tours in Iraq for all active Army troops from 12 to 15 months. A week after the Iraqi Parliament was bombed in the Green Zone – which is the most secure part of Baghdad – almost 200 Iraqis lost their lives in that city on Wednesday.

“The bombings continue today. They will continue tomorrow. We’re losing about four American troops every day this month.

“I went to the White House this Wednesday. Speaker Pelosi and I offered to meet with the President and talk about a bipartisan way to craft an effective strategy in Iraq. We did so because we believe, as do the American people, that the lives of too many of our soldiers and too many Iraqis are on the line for the President to refuse to work with us.

“How has the President responded? He has chosen to repeat the inflexible veto threats and continued to attack those who questioned his failed policies. Meanwhile, Mr. President, our troops and our national security are suffering.

“It’s painfully clear to me, the American people, bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate, military experts all over the country, and the Iraq Study Group: The only way to succeed is to give our troops a strategy that their sacrifices deserve. These groups know there is no military solution in Iraq. General Petraeus, the commander on the ground, has said so himself. Twenty percent can be won militarily and 80 percent has to be won through our diplomatic efforts, politics and economics. I repeat: The only way to succeed lies through a comprehensive political, diplomatic and economic strategy. So says the commander on the ground there, General Petraeus. Unfortunately, the only one to whom this is not obvious is our President.

“The longer we continue down the President’s path, the further we will be from success. But there is still a chance to change course, and we must change course.

“That is what we’re offering the President in the supplemental we passed in both bodies with bipartisan support. We are offering a reasonable and attainable timeline to reduce combat missions and refocus our efforts on the real threats to our security.

“Mr. President, we’re offering action, not just words.”