Statement on 4th Anniversary of War in Iraq

thank you very much, madam speaker. four years ago tonight our TimeCode: 12:32:53.2 commander in chief, president bush, gave the orders that instigated operation iraqi freedom. whether they supported the president's decision or not, all and i emphasize all, TimeCode: 12:33:07.6 patriotic americans prayed for our success. as well as the safe return of our brave service men and women. four years later we still do. however today our success in TimeCode: 12:33:22.8 iraq is as elusive as it ever was and has ever been over the past 1,460 days. more than 3,200 american soldiers have given the TimeCode: 12:33:38.2 ultimate measure of sacrifice and more than 24,000 have been injured. the american taxpayers have spent more than $400 billion on this war and the president has asked for an additional $245 billion, including $100 billion TimeCode: 12:33:58.6 wartime supplemental spending bill that will be considered on the floor later this week. and thousands of iraqis have been killed while literally millions have fled to TimeCode: 12:34:12.0 neighboring countries. triggering a refugee crisis. yet despite this sacrifice and hardship, how much progress has been made? just last week the department of defense reported record levels of violence and TimeCode: 12:34:28.7 hardening sectarian violence in the fourth quarter of 2006. stating, and i quote, some elements of the situation in iraq are are properly described as a civil war. administration officials TimeCode: 12:34:44.4 themselves admitted last week that, political goals that were to have been met by the iraqi government this month will take significantly longer to achieve . said the administration. the national intelligence TimeCode: 12:34:58.8 estimate tells us that the war has increased the global terror threat rather than reduced it. and general peter schoomaker the army chief of staff has TimeCode: 12:35:10.5 issued strong warnings about the effect of this war on america's overall military readiness and our ability to respond to emerging strategic threats. indeed, ike skelton of missouri, the chairman of the TimeCode: 12:35:24.7 armed services committee said that the situation with respect to america's readiness of its armed forces is grave. and troubling. meanwhile the american people have wearied of administration claims that are divorced from TimeCode: 12:35:42.7 reality. mission accomplished. and the insurgency is in its last throws -- throes are just two of the assertion that is have proved sadly very badly mistaken. TimeCode: 12:35:58.5 from the outset the administration refused to commit a force commensurate with the threat it articulated. and now i ask for patience while a fourth troop escalation seeks to accomplish what three others could not. it profoundly miscalculated the TimeCode: 12:36:16.7 costs of this war. it went to war without a plan for postwar stabilization and security. and perhaps most egregiously the administration sent our troops into battle without TimeCode: 12:36:31.8 proper equipment. mr. speaker, madam speaker, given the repeated miscalculations by the administration over the last four years, and given the situation on the ground in iraq, today it is past time, TimeCode: 12:36:50.2 way past time that the united states congress, the people's representatives, to insist on accountability and a new direction in iraq. as one who supported the TimeCode: 12:37:04.5 authority of the president of the united states to remove saddam hussein, and listening to the president's state of the union where he said no one who voted voted for failure. that was accurate. i certainly did not vote for TimeCode: 12:37:20.1 failure. and i want success and seek success, but the administration's policies have not garnered success. therefore more blank checks and questioning by this congress TimeCode: 12:37:38.0 would constitute in my opinion a dereliction of our responsibility and our constitutional duty. thus this congress for the first time in four years will have the opportunity this week TimeCode: 12:37:51.1 to change america's course in iraq and to insist that the iraqis take control of their own destiny. the u.s. troop readiness veterans health and iraq accountability act offers the best way forward in iraq. TimeCode: 12:38:11.8 i urge members of both sides of the aisle to support it. and i would call the attention of many of our members to a vote in june of 1997 where so many members on the republican TimeCode: 12:38:26.3 side of the aisle voted to set a timetable, set a date certain for withdrawal or exit strategy . amendments sponsored by mr. buyer of indiana in which all of the present leaders of the TimeCode: 12:38:42.8 republican party who were in the congress at that time voted for. in short the legislation that will come before us is saying much the same but after four years of a lack of success why do i say a lack of success? secretary gates in his TimeCode: 12:38:59.7 confirmation hearing said that we are not winning in iraq. that was just a few months ago. and he was right. again i would reiterate in my opinion because we have never, not at the outset, not over the last four years, has this TimeCode: 12:39:16.7 administration deployed assets sufficient to meet the challenge. this legislation is designed to protect our troops, requiring troop deployment to adhere to the defense department's current standards for training, TimeCode: 12:39:30.0 not new standards, not new timelines, not new requirements, but the department of defense currently articulated standards to keep our troops safe, trained, and well equipped. standards for equipment and TimeCode: 12:39:46.0 armor where the president required to certify if he believes the nation's security requires d.o.d. standards be waived. none of us want to stand in the way if a crisis is imminent and deployment must be TimeCode: 12:40:02.8 accomplished. however all of us want to see our troops safe, equipped, and TimeCode: 12:40:09.5 trained. the bill also holds that iraqi government -- the iraqi government accountable measuring its performance by the benchmarks president bush outlined in his january 10 speech. again, the president's TimeCode: 12:40:25.2 benchmarks, not those imposed by congress but the administration's own benchmarks for the iraqis. in addition, the legislation provides a responsible strategy for a phased redeployment of u.s. forces, provides greater TimeCode: 12:40:40.3 protections for our troops and veterans, and refocuses our efforts on fighting al qaeda and the taliban in afghanistan. there are those of course who will claim that this legislation attempts to micromanage the war. TimeCode: 12:40:56.5 they are wrong. there is nothing in this legislation that will be considered this week that micromanages this war. neither general petraeus nor any of his commanders on the TimeCode: 12:41:10.0 ground or at sent come will in any way be constrained from -- centcom will in any way be constrained from the tactics or strategies they deem best to deploy in iraq. the only springs attached with those benchmarks and standards TimeCode: 12:41:27.3 endorsed by the president himself. our commander in chief. let me add is there anyone who believes that congress would be strongly asserting itself today if the president's policy were succeeding? TimeCode: 12:41:42.1 the answer i think is clear. this legislation is the justified response of the people's representatives to a polgi that is failing and a president who insists that we must continue to stay the course. there is not a new policy here. as i said before, we have TimeCode: 12:42:00.9 increased troops on three different occasions. unfortunately, lamentably it did not bring the stability and security that it was planned to bring. there are others who will argue that this bill will compromise TimeCode: 12:42:16.7 our position in the war on terror. to them i say that this legislation goes above and beyond the president's funding request supporting our troops, deployed at the tip of the spear. and reaffirming our commitment to fighting and defeating al TimeCode: 12:42:33.7 qaeda. and there are certainly those who will argue that this bill doesn't go far enough. that even one more day of fighting is one too many. to them i say respectfully that this legislation for the first time sets a date for the TimeCode: 12:42:50.2 responsible redeployment of american troops from iraq. it's not tomorrow, it's not the day after. but it is a date. a date that provides the iraqis with the time they need to ready themselves for the TimeCode: 12:43:04.8 responsibility they must assume . madam speaker, the iraq war is already longer than our participation in world war i, world war ii, and the korean war. TimeCode: 12:43:21.5 the specter of 5 1/2 years in iraq if our troops remain deployed until august 31, 2008, can hardly be called a precipitous cut and run. as we enter the fifth year of TimeCode: 12:43:37.2 this war, let us insist on a policy designed to achieve success. as we enter the fifth year of this war, let us respond to the plea of the american people for a new direction in iraq. and as we enter the fifth year TimeCode: 12:43:52.8 of this war, let us demonstrate to the world that american strength and american wisdom are not set in opposition. i urge my colleagues vote for a new direction in iraq. TimeCode: 12:44:09.0 support the u.s. troop readiness, veterans health, and iraq accountability act. mr. president, i did not vote for failure. i pray for the safety of our troops and for their success. TimeCode: 12:44:25.0 but i also strongly believe that the legislation we will bring to this floor on thursday is a reasoned, thoughtful way forward. a way forward that was initially suggested by the iraq TimeCode: 12:44:41.1 study group. five republicans and five democrats headed up by former secretary of state and advisor to this administration and previous administrations, james baker. it is time that the congress of the united states does not TimeCode: 12:44:58.0 simply rubber stamp the president's request. but on behalf of the american people, exercises its best judgment to make policy for a TimeCode: 12:45:09.0 change to make a policy for success, and make a policy to ensure victory against those who would terrorize americans, terrorize our nation, and TimeCode: 12:45:22.8 terrorize the rest of the world. through the employment of their terrorist acts. i yield back the balance of my time.