United House and Senate Democratic Leaders Call On the President to Urgently Change Course in Iraq

Escalating sectarian violence and rising death tolls require a new direction in U.S. policy

For Immediate Release:

October 20, 2006

Contact:Democratic Leadership

October 20, 2006

The President
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write out of a deep sense of concern that the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate and that there is no effective plan for improvement.  The escalating sectarian violence coupled with the recent increase in the number of dead and wounded Americans are but the latest indications that neither the current U.S. plan, nor that of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, will bring stability and security to Iraq.  Vice President Cheney’s recent comment that, overall, things are going “remarkably well” in Iraq is profoundly troubling if it reflects your Administration’s current assessment of the situation. 

Iraq continues a rapid descent into full-scale civil war, with our troops increasingly caught in the middle.  Over 200 U.S. troops were killed in the last 90 days, including 70 in the first two and one-half weeks of October, and on average 100 Iraqis are killed each day.  The growing militia groups are beyond the government’s control and have reportedly infiltrated the ranks of government security forces.  Despite your recent decision to increase the U.S. military presence in Baghdad, the capital remains, more than three and a half years after the invasion, a city beset by violence and chaos – a conclusion echoed yesterday by Major General Caldwell.  Unfortunately, recent violence in Balad, Basra, and Kirkuk demonstrates that Iraq’s problems are not limited to the capital.  Meanwhile, the insurgency is growing stronger in al Anbar province.  The increased violence and a larger U.S. military deployment come even as your Administration reports that about 450,000 Iraqi security forces have been fielded (army, police, and facilities protection service) and are increasingly operating on their own, casting doubt on the central pillar of your strategy that “as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.” 

It has never been more clear that we need to change course in Iraq.  We were, therefore, disappointed to learn that you persist in your “stay the course” thinking.  For example, during your phone call this past Monday with Prime Minister Maliki, it is reported that you told him, “Don't worry. You still have our full support,” and that the Prime Minister should disregard rumors that the U.S. government was running out of patience.  This message was conveyed to the Prime Minister despite the reluctance of the Iraqi Government to disarm the militias, despite the failure to move forward with a political reconciliation plan, and despite Iraq’s recent agreement to share intelligence with Iran.  Such a message at this critical time is also different than the one conveyed by the U.S. Ambassador in Iraq, the Secretary of State, the Republican Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and a bipartisan majority of Congress – all of whom have stated that it is important to keep pressure on the Iraqis to take more urgent action before the end of the year to resolve the political differences plaguing their country. 

Mr. President, time is not on our side in Iraq.  You and your Administration must do more to clearly inform the Iraqis that our commitment is not unlimited and that they must promptly make the political compromises necessary to bring Iraq together and to quell the violence.  “Staying the course” is not a strategy, nor is sitting on the sidelines hoping that the Iraqis will eventually forge a political solution.  We must actively engage the Iraqi leadership, just as we must work with each other to develop a better policy. 

In two previous letters to you, dated July 30th and September 4th, we outlined sound changes in U.S. policy that would give our troops and the Iraqi people the best chance for success.  In addition to beginning the phased redeployment and transitioning the U.S. mission in Iraq by the end of the year, we strongly believe your Administration needs to more proactively pressure Iraqi leaders to disarm the militias and to develop a broad-based and sustainable political settlement, including considering amendments to the Constitution to achieve a fair sharing of power and resources.  We also believe it is imperative to convene an international conference and contact group to support a political settlement in Iraq and to preserve Iraq’s sovereignty.  We hope you will revisit those recommendations in light of the growing crisis confronting Iraq. 

The steadily mounting sectarian violence, growing insurgency, and escalating casualty figures in Iraq are unacceptable and unsustainable.  We urge you to change course, level with the American people, and join with us to develop a policy that will work, before the situation in Iraq is irretrievable.  Thank you for your attention to our concern about the war, which is of critical importance to the American people. 

 

Harry Reid, Senate Democratic Leader

Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Leader

Dick Durbin, Senate Democratic Whip

Steny Hoyer, House Democratic Whip

Carl Levin, Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

Ike Skelton, Ranking Member, House Armed Services Committee

Joe Biden, Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Tom Lantos, Ranking Member, House International Relations Committee

Daniel Inouye, Ranking Member, Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee

John Murtha, Ranking Member, House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee

John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Vice Chairman, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

Jane Harman, Ranking Member, House Select Committee on Intelligence

###