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UPDATE ON THE IRAQ
To: Reporters, editors, editorial writers and producers
Fr: Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Reid, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Assistant to the Majority Leader Durbin
Re: Iraq Accountability Bill
Date: April 27, 2007
"This bill gives General Petraeus great leverage for moving the Iraqi government down the more disciplined path laid out by the Iraq Study Group. The real audience for the timeline language is Prime Minister al-Maliki and the elected government of Iraq."
President's "Stay-the-Course" Strategy is Not Working
Events in Iraq make clear that the President's stay-the-course, military-only strategy is not working and a new direction is needed if progress is going to be made.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that ten weeks into the President's escalation: "there has been little or no progress in achieving three key political benchmarks set by the Bush administration: new laws governing the sharing of Iraq's oil resources and allowing many former members of the banned Baath Party to return to their jobs, and amendments to Iraq's constitution. As divisions widen, a bitter, prolonged legislative struggle is hindering prospects for political reconciliation."
On Monday, a suicide bomber detonated a truck filled with explosives at a U.S. military outpost near Baghdad, killing nine soldiers and wounding 20 in the deadliest attack on U.S. ground forces in more than a year.
Last week, at least 173 people died in a series of major explosions in Iraq's capital, marking Baghdad's deadliest day since the President's surge began. And, attacks on U.S. forces are up in areas outside of Baghdad, such as the northeast province of Diyala.
American People, Military Experts Support a New Direction In Iraq
In poll after poll, the American people have expressed their support for Congressional Democrats' reasonable plan to hold Iraq's Government accountable for making progress and responsibly redeploying U.S. troops out of Iraq's civil war so that they may focus on combating terrorism. A poll released earlier this week found that "a solid majority (56%) of Americans side with the Democrats" who want to set a deadline for troop withdrawal, versus 37% who say they agree with Bush [NBC News/Wall Street Journal, April 20-23].
The Iraq Accountability Act also represents the approach recommended by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which called for a goal of redeploying U.S. combat troops from Iraq by March 2008.
Iraq Study Group Co-Chair Lee Hamilton called for thoughtful consideration of the legislation in an op-ed this week in the Financial Times: "Just as Congress should respect the president's role as commander-in-chief, the president needs to stop viewing Congress as an adversary, and approach it as a partner. The Congress is carrying out its constitutional role to help make policy, not just write checks. It is representing the views of a broad majority of the American people. It is also proposing sound policy: spelling out a transition of US forces out of Iraq, and pressuring the Iraqi government to pursue political reconciliation." [4/23/07]
The Iraq Accountability Act also has been endorsed by several prominent retired generals, including Maj. Gen. John Batiste, Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, and Lt. Gen. William Odom.
The Democratic Majority is Committed to Supporting Our Troops
The Iraq Accountability Act provides more funding than President Bush requested for our troops and veterans, while forging a new direction in Iraq.
The measure provides $2.1 billion more for military health care and $1.8 billion more for veterans' health care. Other increases include $3 billion more for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, $2 billion more for a Strategic Reserve Readiness Fund that will meet troops' readiness needs, and $1.1 billion more for military housing.
Democrats have also promised to deliver the funding on time. In fact, the "Pentagon says it has enough money to pay for the Iraq war through June, despite warnings from the White House that troops are being harmed by Congress' failure to quickly deliver more funds." [AP, 4/19/07]
The Democratic Congress has considered the President's request within a time frame similar to those of previous Republican Congresses. For example, last year the Republican-controlled Congress did not approve the Iraq supplemental until June 15 - 119 days after President Bush submitted his request. Interestingly, the Bush Administration was largely silent about this delay.
House Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (FL) stated that a Republican Congress could have approved the President's request "before supper" or in other words without appropriate consideration [Roll Call, 3/8/07]. Democrats believe that such willful abdication of responsible oversight helped contribute to the failed policies in Iraq.
A New Direction in Iraq: Accountability, Benchmarks and a Responsible Timeline
Congress has a Constitutional responsibility to provide accountability in the Iraq war - a responsibility that was ignored for nearly four years by Republican-controlled Congresses much to the detriment of our nation's security.
The Democratic bill will hold the President accountable for meeting his own military readiness standards for our troops. The Iraq Government will also be held accountable for meeting political, economic and security benchmarks established by the Bush Administration and the Iraqis themselves.
The Democratic way forward in Iraq has five components:
Veto Threat is Rejection of Accountability
The President's threat to veto the Iraq Accountability Act is a rejection of the first measure that will hold this Administration accountable for its failed policies since the start of the war over four years ago.
After thousands of lives, tens of thousands wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars spent, President Bush continues to demand an open-ended commitment to keep American troops in Iraq indefinitely. In contrast, Congress is calling for a responsible end to the war consistent with our national security needs. The war is our top priority and the Democratic bill is not political theater or gamesmanship. It is the best work of both chambers of Congress to provide a responsible new direction.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates himself reiterated last week in his trip to Iraq that Congressional debate was helpful. He delivered the message to the Iraqi government that the "clock is ticking" on U.S. operations there. Republican members of Congress have begun to make similar statements, and we welcome the recognition that a new direction is needed.
The President Should Sign this Legislation
Congress is respectfully asking the President to respect the will of the American people and sign this measure next week.
By signing this bill, the President will:
We are hopeful that the President will make the right decision and support a responsible plan for change in Iraq that comports with the work of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and is overwhelmingly endorsed by the American people.
If the President vetoes the Iraq Accountability Act, he will needlessly delay resources for American troops and veterans, reject the benchmarks he announced in January to measure success in Iraq, and miss an opportunity to begin critical bipartisan cooperation with the new Congress to resolve our most pressing challenge as a nation.