WASHINGTON – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Representatives Rahm Emanuel (IL), Howard Berman (CA), Harold Ford (TN), Martin Frost (TX), Baron Hill (IN), Darlene Hooley (OR), Charlie Stenholm (TX), and Ellen Tauscher (CA) sent a letter to President Bush late yesterday articulating their reasons for supporting both of the president’s war supplemental requests this year while stressing their deep concern that the Administration has failed “to articulate a clear, comprehensive plan that addresses the extent, duration and cost of our future involvement in Iraq.” The letter also urges the President to immediately spell out such a plan. Attached is the full text of the letter:
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Last week, we voted for H.R. 3289, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill that provides nearly $87 billion to fund our nation's continuing military and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. As you know, when this legislation is enacted, Congress will have appropriated more than $150 billion for the war in Iraq this year alone – an amount that surpasses the discretionary spending in 12 of the 13 annual spending bills approved by Congress.
This enormous expenditure is made even more glaring when juxtaposed against the comments of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to the House Appropriations Committee on March 27: “We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon.”
The fact is, virtually every assumption the Administration made going into Iraq – from the potential cost to the number of troops needed to the certitude that weapons of mass destruction would be uncovered – has either been proved wrong or yet to be proved correct. It must be noted that the one official who spoke truthfully about the potential costs, Lawrence Lindsey, was relieved of his duties. The one who spoke truthfully about the potential force levels needed, General Eric Shinseki, retired. And yet, today, their predictions look prescient.
However, despite the many flawed assumptions and inaccuracies that have marked the Administration’s approach to Iraq to date, we supported this additional appropriation for two critical reasons. First, our armed forces in the field, who are putting their lives on the line in Operation Iraqi Freedom, must have the equipment and materiel that they need to secure and stabilize Iraq so that Iraqis themselves may begin to govern their country as soon as safe and practicable. That, in fact, will hasten our troops’ return home. And second, the reconstruction assistance is vital to helping Iraq get back on its feet, and it is clear that a self-governing, non-threatening Iraq serves America's national interests.
Still, we remain deeply concerned that your Administration has failed even at this date – nearly six months after the fall of Baghdad – to articulate a clear, comprehensive plan that addresses the extent, duration and cost of our future involvement in Iraq in the post major-conflict period.
And our concern is widely shared. As Retired General Anthony Zinni, a former envoy to the Middle East, stated on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on September 30:
“I think there was definitely a lack of planning for the aftermath. I think the conduct of the war went superbly well. And certainly my hat is off to Tommy Franks in the way he handled that. I think it was clear they [Pentagon planners] underestimated what they were going to do in the aftermath of war. . . . We owe them [our armed forces] the same kind of planning that Tommy gave the troops.”
Senator Chuck Hagel’s assessment on the CBS “Early Show” on September 9 was even more blunt: “I think [the Bush Administration] did a miserable job of planning for post-Saddam Iraq.”
Mr. President, we believe it is absolutely imperative that you immediately spell out a coherent, clear plan that articulates our nation’s goals in Iraq, that includes a timetable for achieving those goals, and that estimates what this effort will cost the American taxpayer.
At present, neither you nor any senior Administration official has informed the American people of the future costs of the war in Iraq, or articulated how long it will take before you can actually – and accurately – tell the American people: Mission Accomplished.
Furthermore, we find it absolutely dismaying that the Administration failed to enlist a broader coalition to participate in this action – a failure which has forced American servicemen and women and the American taxpayer to shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden in Iraq. In that regard, you have a tremendous opportunity to enlist the support of the international community at this week’s donor conference in Spain. And we urge you to seize it.
Quite frankly, Mr. President, our men and women on the ground today in Iraq, who are making the greatest sacrifice on our behalf, deserve a post-major conflict and reconstruction plan that matches their bravery, valor and patriotism. Good, sound policies are as important to protecting our troops as are the latest in military equipment and materiel. Yet, to date, no such plan exists. We believe that it is not too late to enunciate one, and urge you as our Commander in Chief to immediately do so.