Floor Statement on Iraq: As Prepared for Delivery

Floor Statement on Iraq: As Prepared for Delivery

M. President,

For more than 4 straight years now, President Bush has been declaring victory or progress in Iraq. But the thousands of soldiers who have lost their legs or have gone blind or suffer horrible nightmares might be finding it hard to celebrate. The families of those men and women might not be cheering very loud about this war. The thousands more whose children, whose mothers and fathers are lost forever, might be finding it hard to share in the latest cries of victory. Yes, the number of soldiers killed last month dropped to 37.
Well, that's another 37 families who have no reason to rejoice. And more American troops have died this year than any other year.

M. President, no matter how much military progress has been made in Iraq, that kind of security can only go so far. No amount of troops will force Iraqi politicians to agree on a fair distribution of oil revenues. No Abrams tank can build trust between Shiites and Sunnis.


{CHART 1} The whole point of the surge was to create the conditions necessary for Iraqis to make political progress. But just two weeks ago the Washington Post ran this headline: "Iraqis Wasting An Opportunity, U.S. Officers Say." Iraqi security forces are still unable to operate on their own. Any cease-fire between factions could evaporate in minutes. We've started drawing down troops to pre-surge levels, but we have to wonder whether we're going to be told that we're going to need to re-surge, to do it all over again, because the Iraqi government and security forces are still at square-one.

Our generals in Iraq have been the first to admit that a solution to that country's conflict has to be more than a military solution-it has to be a political solution.

A political solution is up to Iraqi leaders, and right now, there has been practically zero progress on the core critical issues necessary to bring lasting peace.

The administration set 18 benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet. They have barely met 3. So is it time to turn up the pressure, or let them keep squabbling while Americans pay and Americans die?

{CHART 2} There is more corruption in Iraq than almost anywhere else on Earth. It's a pit of quicksand when it comes to money. Some estimates say as much as a third of the money we spend on Iraqi contracts and grants winds up unaccounted for or stolen-with a lot of it going straight to Shiite or Sunni militias. Let me repeat that: one out of every three dollars we pay out gets lost or stolen.

Even after billions and billions and billions of dollars in funding, Iraqi society is still dysfunctional. American money went toward improving municipal water systems.
Iraqis now break open the pipes and steal the water. American money went toward books for schools. Iraqis steal them from the Ministry of Education and sell them on the street at three-times the price. Government officials have sold the furniture right out of their offices. That's what the American taxpayers are funding.

So is it time to change our strategy, or ignore the corruption while Americans pay and Americans die?

Here's the message we send to Iraqi politicians by sending them a blank check with no expiration date:
continue your squabbles, and we'll continue to see the loss of American life and continue to empty our treasury for you, for as long as you like. That message is, you can just sit back, while Americans pay and Americans die.

I think it's time for a different message. M. President, after seeing a surge in the military that's lasted for months do nothing about a splurge of corruption that's lasted for years, the conclusion we have to draw from that is clear:


the only way Iraqis will take charge of their own country and make the tough compromises necessary to form a functional society is when they believe we won't be there forever. That's the only way.

It is long past time for the Iraqi government to take charge, and the only way they're going to step up is if we begin to transition out. A reduction in fighting is not an excuse for a reduction in planning for our involvement to end.

The fact is, the violence has not stopped, and the costs of this war have only gone up. The war is costing us $10 billion dollars per month.
The debt our government is taking on and that taxpayers are going to be responsible for is exploding at the rate of $1 million a minute. {CHART 3}

When the numbers are that high, every American taxpayer has to ask him or herself a basic question: How does the President plan to pay for this war?

Well, last week we got a small part of an answer: he wants to cut funding for counterterrorism at home.

According to a leaked administration document, President Bush wants to cut counterterrorism funding for cities by more than half.
I had to do a double-take when I heard that. I thought, the report had to be wrong.

His reported budget would slash funding for police, firefighters, and rescue workers. It could mean fewer security guards at ports, less-reliable detection of explosives, less training for security personnel-basically, it would undercut the entire effort to prevent terrorism that our nation realized, one September day, was one of the most urgent challenges we have ever faced.

Cutting counterterrorism funding is simply outrageous.
I know this Congress will not stand for it-and the people who live in those cities definitely will not stand for it.

Is it really necessary to remind the President how important it is to protect our homes and families from terrorist attacks? Do we really have to say that we must do everything within the bounds of possibility and the law to prevent a terrorist attack from happening again?
Is that a risk he wants to take, to cut what amounts to point-zero-six percent of the federal budget, especially when the War in Iraq has eaten up $455 billion and counting, when the amount he wants to take away from police and firefighters is an amount we spend in Iraq every 5 days?

The President has requested $1 billion for the Iraqi police, but wants to cut funding for the COPS program that fights crime in American communities. He'll spend anything on the streets of Baghdad, but suddenly thinks we should be stingy when it comes to security on the streets of our hometowns.
The President wants a blank check for Iraq, but nothing for America.

From children's health, to cancer research, to crucial water resources, the President has vetoed what's most essential: our health, our safety, our liberty. He has repeatedly said all that is too expensive. Meanwhile, he's requesting $200 billion more to fight a war in Iraq that has achieved nothing for any of us, killed thousands of Americans, and left us more disliked around the world as a nation than at any point in our history. He wants a blank check for Iraq, but nothing for America.

If he submits a budget that cuts funding for counterterrorism, he truly would be laying the final brick in the Department of Homeland Hypocrisy.

M. President, in high school many of us read George Orwell's book 1984, which was about a nightmare world where words mean the exact opposite of what they should mean.

America is really starting to understand what the word "security" means to the President. He apparently thinks funding firefighters, police and emergency responders is excessive.
But he wants to spy on Americans without warrants, tap people's phones without any oversight,
condone procedures that even the U.S. Army itself considers torture, throw people in jail without trial, and basically ignore the most basic tenets of the justice system of the United States since we drafted our Constitution in 1789.

Now, President Bush wants to cut funding to stop terrorism, in order to fund a war that has created terrorists. M. President, America isn't just ready to turn the page on this administration. We're ready for a whole new book.

Thank you.

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