It was a colossal mistake for our country to invade Iraq. Instead of focusing on the destruction of Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the true culprits of September 11th, the Bush Administration chose to divert our military from the real terrorist threat to this country in order to pursue a war of choice with Iraq.
By repeatedly exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, George Bush deeply misled the American people and deceived them into supporting a war that has been mismanaged at almost every step. The Bush Administration's willingness to wage a war based on false pretenses has severely damaged our international credibility, making our country more vulnerable and less secure.
As a result of this president's inadequate preparation and grave mistakes, our military personnel and their families have paid the biggest price. The deployments of our troops have been extended too far, taxing the physical and mental health of our soldiers and Marines, while severely straining the military's overall readiness and pushing it to a breaking point. Most tragic of all, the lives of thousands of troops have been cut short, and countless lives have been permanently altered by injury.
My first priority, without question, is the security of our troops overseas. On the battlefield, we must properly protect and arm our troops. When they return home, we must assure that our veterans have access to the highest quality services. That is why I pushed for a historic $6.6 billion increase in veterans' health care spending in the budget passed at the end of 2007. This landmark commitment to veterans' care is the right thing to do, and I simply do not understand why it took so long to become law.
However, the ultimate safety of our troops can only be secured by a careful and quick end to this war. For too long, the Bush Administration has forced our troops to police Iraq's civil war. The Iraqis are relying on us as a crutch, and if we persist with the same failed policy, the Iraqi government will never stand up and take responsibility for its own country. The only way to force the Iraqis to make the political concessions necessary to achieve stability is to demonstrate that our commitment is not open-ended by establishing a timeline for ending our military presence. I have not supported any war funding bill without a clear timeline for the withdrawal of our troops, and this will continue to be my position.
While our military has been mired in Iraq, Afghanistan--the original safe haven for those that attacked us on September 11th--has deteriorated and the Taliban has reemerged. The Bush Administration made an enormous strategic mistake by pulling back on our efforts in Afghanistan before all of our objectives had been achieved. We must prioritize Afghanistan and work with tribal leaders to contain the country's insurgency, invigorate their economy, and minimize the drug trade. We cannot afford to have Afghanistan spiral into a failed state. If it were to do so, this development would have extremely grave consequences for the region and also present the threat of Afghanistan becoming an international training ground for terrorists once again.