Senate Democrats

Reid: Administration Lacks Will To Change Strategy Even As War Makes America Less Safe

Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate:

“Yesterday’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees afforded General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker the opportunity to address the two central questions of the war in Iraq: First – has the troop surge brought us closer to the day when our troops can come home? Second – is the war in Iraq making America safer? By all accounts, the answer to both questions is no.

“And while General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker both deserve our gratitude for their hard work under extraordinarily difficult circumstances, their testimony gave our country no reason to believe that the strategy will change.

“President Bush himself described the purpose of the surge as giving the Iraqi government and its people the space to achieve reconciliation.  Recent violence and the intensifying struggle between Al-Maliki and Al-Sadr provide evidence that the window we provided may be closing.

“President Bush clings to his talking points that the surge has worked.  But he called his plan a ‘return on success’ – meaning that if the surge worked, our troops could return home.  If we have the success he claims, where is the return?  We are stuck in a twilight zone in Iraq.

“When violence is up, the President says we cannot bring our troops home.  When violence dips, the President says we cannot bring our troops home.

“It’s long past time for the President to be honest with the American people: Under what circumstances could our troops come home?  Under what scenario could this war end?

“Based on everything we have heard, we can reach only one conclusion: With 160,000 courageous American troops serving in Iraq, President Bush has an exit strategy for just one man – himself – on January 20th, 2009.

“Here is what three United States Senators had to say during yesterday’s hearings: One Senator said, ‘I think Osama bin Laden is sitting back right now looking at this thing [and saying] in effect, “We’re kinda bankrupting this country.”  Another Senator said, ‘I think people want a sense of what the end is going to look like.’  A third said, ‘Our patience is not unlimited.’

“All three of these quotes were from Republican Senators.  To my Republican friends, I say: Let’s work together.  We had the opportunity to change the course in Iraq last summer, but Republicans who were willing to criticize the war proved unwilling to break with President Bush by voting against it.

“But it’s not too late.  Neither side is looking for a hasty withdrawal that would put our troops or the Iraqi people at undue risk.  We want a smarter, more sustainable strategy that addresses all the national security challenges our nation faces – from Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda safe haven in Pakistan, to winning the peace in Afghanistan, to rebuilding the full combat readiness of our ground forces.

“If we work together, Democrats and Republicans, we can set a new course that takes us responsibly out of Iraq and refocuses on the global challenges that have gone overlooked for far too long.”