U.S. TROOP READINESS, VETERANS' HEALTH, AND IRAQ ACCOUNTABILITY ACT, 2007
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Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. I thank the gentleman for yielding and commend him for his exceptional leadership in bringing this important legislation to the floor. I also acknowledge the leadership of Mr. Murtha and Mr. Skelton for all that they are doing to make our country safer and to support our troops.
Mr. Speaker, the war in Iraq is the greatest ethical challenge facing our Nation. This is so because our troops are being sent into battle without the training, equipment. And the strategic plan for success because the administration is not honoring our commitment to our veterans and because the Iraqi war has strained our military, and therefore weakened our ability to fight the war on terrorism.
By placing an unacceptable strain on our military, this war is undermining our ability to protect the American people. Instead of making the American people safer, the war in Iraq has weakened our ability to protect our Nation from the threat posed by international terrorism, I repeat.
As Major General Petraeus said, right now we are not prepared. We are not prepared for the threat this Nation faces here at home. And, because in this business you cannot be half ready or half prepared, you are either ready or you are not.
We have put our citizens at greater risk. We have put their lives at greater risk, their property, our economy, our way of life, and that is just unacceptable.
Instead of strengthening our hand, the President's policies in Iraq have weakened our reputation in the world and diminished our ability to lead the international effort against terrorism, which again is the real threat.
With U.S. focus on Iraq, the war in Afghanistan has intensified because of the resurgence of the Taliban and al Qaeda in the absence of the fullest effort on our part there.
As Major General John Baptiste said, Here is the bottom line. Americans must come to grips with the fact that our military alone cannot establish a democracy. We cannot sustain the current operational tempo without seriously damaging the Army and the Marine Corps. Our troops have been asked to carry the burden of an ill-conceived mission. End of quote, Major General John Baptiste.
Our troops have done everything that they have been asked to do and excellently. We salute them for their courage, their patriotism, and the sacrifices they and their families are making. Instead of being honored as the heroes they are when they come home, our wounded veterans are being forced to cope with a system that is not equipped to care for them. Preparation was not made.
Americans have been shocked by the revelations of the appalling care at Walter Reed. As Senator Max Cleland, a great patriot, a decorated Army veteran, said, Walter Reed is the ugly face of the Iraq war. It is a face that the American people need to see because this administration from the beginning never planned to deal with casualties, never planned for the consequences of this war.
Last fall, the American people voted for a new direction in Iraq. They made it clear that our troops must be given all they need to do their jobs but that our troops must be brought home responsibly, safely and soon.
The President responded to this clear call for winding down the war in Iraq with a policy of escalation in Iraq that has been tried three times previously and failed and, additionally, has burdened our already strained military.
The problems addressed in this bill are problems of the President's own making. From the start of the war, the President has failed to recognize and to request in his budget the funds needed by our troops serving in Iraq, as has been indicated by the distinguished chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Mr. Obey.
This is the seventh emergency appropriations bill that Congress has had to pass to make up for the President's failure, seven emergencies. What is the surprise? Why aren't they understanding the cost of this war in lives and health, in reputation, in dollars, and the readiness of our military?
Furthermore, the President's budgets have failed to provide adequately for the medical needs of our troops wounded in Iraq and for other veterans. This bill supports our troops, honors our commitments to our veterans, rebuilds our military, and holds the Iraqi government accountable. It winds down the war by providing for the responsible redeployment of our combat forces based on benchmarks endorsed by the Iraqi government and by President Bush. They are his own benchmarks.
Oddly, though, even though they are the President's own benchmarks, holding the administration accountable to benchmarks has been criticized by the administration. They are criticizing their own benchmarks. Yet both Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and retired Major General Paul Eaton, formerly in charge of training of Iraqi security forces, have noted the value of timelines in persuading Iraqis to make the political compromises needed to end the violence.
Secretary Gates noted, we are all familiar with this, it bears repeating, ``The strong feelings expressed in Congress about the timetables probably has had a positive impact ..... in terms of communicating to the Iraqis that this is not an open-ended commitment.''
General Eaton said, ``This bill gives General Petraeus great leverage for moving the Iraqi government down the more disciplined path laid out by the Iraq Study Group.''
My colleagues, the war in Iraq has lasted longer than World War II and resulted in the lowest level of American military readiness since the Vietnam War. It has cost thousands of American lives, tens of thousands, scores of thousands of Iraqi lives, plus tens of thousands of our soldiers to suffer grievous injuries, and will cost well over $1 trillion if the war ended today.
The sacrifices borne by our troops and their families demand more than the blank check the President is asking for, for a war without end. The sacrifices demand a plan for bringing the war to an end. This bill contains that plan and provides the President for every dollar he asked for the troops, and, indeed, thank you, Mr. Murtha, much more.
I urge my colleagues to support it. I urge the President to sign the bill so that we can focus on winning the war against terrorism, which is the real threat to the American people. That is our responsibility, and we fully intend to honor it.
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