Senate Democrats

Reid: Costs Of War Underscore Need To Change Course In Iraq

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada made the following statement this afternoon on the floor of the U.S. Senate:

Mr. President, today is a somber day in Nevada.  Yesterday a Navy helicopter crashed in Austin, Nevada, killing all five crewmembers on board.  It is believed the flight was from Fallon Naval Air Station.

Also yesterday, Nevada lost another soldier in Iraq – 25-year-old Sergeant Coby Schwab – to an IED attack.

Our State and nation mourn the losses of all six service members who served with honor and courage.  Our hearts and prayers are with their families.

No one wants success in Iraq more than we in the Senate.  I can think of no greater tribute we can pay to those six service members – and the more than 3,300 others who have lost their lives in Iraq – than to reach a responsible and successful end to this war that has cost us so much, in so many ways.

This morning’s Washington Post ran an article entitled “The Cost of War, Unnoticed.”  It tells us that the war in Iraq is about to become the most expensive conflict in U.S. history, after World War II.

But unlike World War II – fought literally all over the world – the Iraq conflict takes place in one country the size of just the State of California.

And also unlike other past wars, President Bush is putting the cost squarely on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren by financing it entirely through borrowing and raising the national debt.

Robert Hormats, a former Reagan administration official, says, “They tried to do this on the cheap and without a candid conversation with the American people about the cost.  But the irony is the great wartime leaders have seen it in the opposite way.”

From the beginning, President Bush has called this war a great challenge of our time.  Yet his actions don’t match his rhetoric.

He has expected sacrifice from our troops now, but has pushed the sacrifice of American taxpayers years into the future and long past his term of office.

All Americans will continue to bear the financial burden of this war in the future.  But right now, we are seeing the toll it is taking on our security here at home. 

In the wake of the tragic tornadoes that ripped through Kansas this past weekend, our National Guard did a fantastic job, and we are grateful for their work.

But the toll of the war in Iraq crippled the ability of our National Guard to do the dangerous and heroic jobs they are charged with doing.

According to Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, “Fifty percent of our trucks are gone.  Our front loaders are gone.  We are missing humvees that move people.  We can’t borrow them from other states because their equipment is gone.  It’s a huge issue for states across the country to respond to disasters like this.”

We cannot expect our first responders to keep America safe if they don’t have the supplies and equipment to get the job done.

Our troops – both active and in our Guard and reserve – are bearing the bulk of the burden of war.

But we all pay a price.

Whether in death and injury to troops, whether in a tremendous financial burden not yet fully realized, or whether in the inability of the Kansas National Guard to rescue and recover more quickly.

That is why it is crucial and well past time to change course toward a successful and responsible end to the war.

We continue to negotiate with the White House and our Republican colleagues in Congress. 

We continue to stand firm in our belief that the time for a new direction has come.

Even some of our Republican colleagues who have long supported the President on the war now seem to agree that it can no longer be open-ended.

Yesterday my colleague Senator Lott said: “This fall we have to see some significant changes on the ground.”

Over the weekend, House Minority Leader John Boehner said: “By the time we get to September or October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn’t, what’s Plan B.”

Just yesterday, my colleague, Republican Leader McConnell, echoed Leader Boehner’s sentiments. 

I am glad to hear them move toward our view.  But we can’t wait until fall.  We have a responsible Plan B right now. 

Our Plan B gradually reduces combat operations and refocuses our troops on protecting America’s security throughout the world.

Our Plan B begins to bring troops and equipment home, where they can protect American lives in Kansas and across the country.

Our Plan B begins to reduce the financial burden that this war is weighing on our shoulders and the shoulders of future generations.

And our Plan B puts the pressure on the Iraqi government that will ultimately lead them to take responsibility for their own future.