Today, Congressman Ben Chandler joined his colleagues in passing H.R. 1591, the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act. The following is a statement from Congressman Chandler on passage of the bill.
"Nearly four years after President Bush declared Mission Accomplished, our brave men and women are still fighting in Iraq. Our troops have done everything that has been asked of them, and it is time that the Iraqi people share the burden. It is my hope that the situation in Iraq will improve soon, and I strongly believe one of the quickest ways to arrive at that improvement is for the Iraqis to be held accountable for the future of their country. This legislation requires that result.
"All Americans want our troops to come home as soon as possible, and this bill is the most reasonable approach to meeting that goal. Immediate withdrawal of our troops is not feasible, but continuing the open-ended commitment of our armed forces is not sustainable. Our only option is the middle ground that this legislation takes. This bill will hold the Iraqi government to reasonable security, political and economic benchmarks that, if not met, will lead to the redeployment of our troops. These are the same benchmarks that the President specified in his January 10th address to the nation. It is time we match the President's rhetoric with policy. It gives the President's approach the opportunity to work, yet holds him accountable if it doesn't work.
"There is much at stake with this legislation beyond setting benchmarks. It provides critical resources for our men and women already on the ground and increased funds for our veterans who have returned from battle. It also calls for funding to refocus our security efforts on the most threatening Islamist terrorists around the world. While this new funding will make our troops safer and provide funds beyond what the President has requested, for the first time, this funding is not a blank check. It is the hope of Congress that this bill will be a means to an end for our troops in Iraq.
"It is also a goal of this bill that more resources be directed to the war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is long overdue that the Bush Administration be held accountable for not having the right priorities on fighting terrorism. Our priorities need to be destroying al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and all our terrorist enemies around the worldnot refereeing what has become a civil war in Iraq."