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The Situation in Iraq

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Location: Washington, DC


THE SITUATION IN IRAQ -- (House of Representatives - September 17, 2004)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 7, 2003, the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Pelosi) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the minority leader.

Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to first of all express concern and sympathy for the people of the southeastern United States for all the suffering that they have endured because of the hurricanes over the past few weeks and what may come yet, our hearts, more than that, though, our intention to help in any way possible. I know that this Congress will do that. At a time like this the American people look to the Federal Government. They believe we have a compact with them to come to their assistance at this time of need, at a time of natural disaster.

I know this as a San Franciscan being subjected in California to earthquakes as we are, there is never a time when the public needs us more in terms of their personal well-being than when they are driven out of their homes, probably never to return to a situation similar to what they had before. It is very difficult to be made whole.

So I want to extend on behalf of my constituents and my colleagues in the Congress an expression of concern and interest in supporting anything that needs to be done to try to make them as whole as possible. I extend that to our colleagues who so ably represent their constituents in the southeastern United States.

Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor today gravely concerned about the situation in Iraq. As one who served on the Intelligence Committee for 10 years and now ex-officio in my role as leader and as briefed on a regular basis, as is Speaker Hastert, I have grave concerns not only about what is happening in Iraq but the denial that the administration has about what is happening there.

The President took us into this war in Iraq on the basis of unproven assertions and without evidence; he embraced a radical doctrine of preemptive war unprecedented in our history; and he failed to build a true international coalition. Therefore, American taxpayers are paying most all the cost, over $200 billion by now. More importantly, our national treasure, our men and women in uniform, are paying the biggest price of all. Over 1,000 now, 1,027 dead, this being a very bloody month, and it is not over yet. The cost in lives, and may I also add over 7,000 injured. Many of those who were injured have injuries for life. These are not patch-them-up injuries. Injuries for life. One thousand twenty-seven dead, over 7,000 injuries. The cost in lives and limb is huge. The cost to the taxpayers is huge, again, approaching a quarter of a trillion dollars, and the cost of our reputation throughout the world is immeasurable.

I say right up front that as a 10-year veteran of the Intelligence Committee, I said at the time of the vote that the intelligence did not support the threat that the administration was claiming existed in Iraq. It simply did not. I on the basis of that did not support the war.

It is interesting to see today yet another confirmation of that. The Iraq study finds a desire for arms on the part of Saddam Hussein but not the capacity. He wanted to start a program when the U.N. restrictions were lifted, but that is a far cry from an imminent threat to the American people. We went in under false pretenses. We misled the American people as to the caliber of the threat and to the association with 9/11.

But let us say that was then and this is now. What is so sad about it all, as with a preemptive strike, when you choose the timing and the nature of the war you are going to engage in, you have an additional responsibility as a country and as a President to be prepared. We sent our troops into harm's way without the proper equipment, without the proper intelligence to know the nature of the enemy, and without the proper training to deal with the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad.

Do not take it from me. The Department of Defense report has said that 25 percent of those who lost their lives or who were injured would have been saved if they had the Kevlar lining in their vests, if they had the armor on their cars and if they had other equipment that could have protected them. When we asked the administration about this, they said, "Well, we just have that for people who are on the front line." The front line in a guerilla war, when mortar shells are coming into the barracks causing some of these fatalities and casualties, that was a disservice to those troops. We should never ever have allowed that to happen.

I want to just quote General Zinni on that point. General Zinni was the former commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command, the area that contains Iraq. He said that in the lead-up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, he saw, at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility. That is at a minimum.

At worst, he saw lying, incompetence and corruption; that is, in the lead-up to the war.

It did not have to be that way. In fact, regardless of how you voted on the war or what you thought about the threat, the State Department very clearly put out an eerily prescient report, Iraq project report, on what to expect after the fall of Baghdad. The administration chose to ignore that and did not prepare for what would happen after the fall of Baghdad.

They told us that our troops would be met by rose petals. Instead, they are being met by rocket-propelled grenades. They told us, and I have the dates and the names of those who made these statements, that this is a country that could well finance its own reconstruction, and soon. And soon. And we here have given a price tag to the American taxpayers of over a quarter of a trillion dollars and growing. They could readily fund their own reconstruction, and soon.

Not only can they not fund it, the security situation in Iraq is so desperate that they cannot even begin construction. The $18 billion that Congress appropriated for reconstruction in Iraq as the initial stage of it, they have only been able to spend just under $1 billion because the security situation is so bleak. And why is it so bleak? Because they ignored the advice of those who knew better.

When General Shinseki said that several hundred thousand troops would be required for the occupation, Secretary Wolfowitz said, "Wildly off the mark." And what General McCaffrey has said, "I think we got in there with a grossly anemic military force. We never defeated the elite elements of the Saddam regime. They walked away with their guns, their money and their leadership intact."

This is such a tragedy, because there was a representation made to the American people that was not true about the imminence of the threat and about its association to 9/11. Then we send our troops in without the proper preparation and risk and have all of these deaths and casualties. General Zinni further said, "Where are we, the American people, ..... if we accept this level of sacrifice without that level of planning" that is necessary? How can we ask our young men and women who are so brave?

The fact that the administration is in denial about the cause, the reason to go to war, that they are in denial about what is happening in Iraq does not for one minute diminish the valor of our men and women in uniform who are in Iraq and Afghanistan, but focusing on Iraq now. We all agree that we should have gone into Afghanistan. The tragedy of that is that if our country had stayed focused on the clear and present danger of terrorism and kept its focus on Afghanistan, here we would be 3 years later. Perhaps we would have caught Osama bin Laden. Whether we catch him tomorrow or the next day, it is still 3 years too late that this menace to the world roams, spreading his poison, continuing his threat to the world.

So if we had stayed focused, instead of overthrowing Saddam Hussein, we could have rooted out the Taliban; and instead of shooing away some of the al Qaeda and the rest, they ran for the hills. We could have been in pursuit. Instead, we turned our attention to Iraq.

So let us go back to Iraq. Now we have a national intelligence estimate that was given to the President months ago, and it spells out what the possibilities are in Iraq, and there are no good scenarios. It is very hard to find any good options on how to proceed in Iraq because there are no good options. We have a worst-case scenario that they could end up in civil war by 2005. Everything from there on down is very bleak for the Iraqi people and very sad as far as our country is concerned and the sacrifices that our young men and women are going to have to make there.

So I call on the President of the United States to hold someone accountable for this policy. Harry Truman said, "The buck stops here," but I do not see the President taking any responsibility. In fact, he thinks that the bleak report that the national intelligence estimate presented was progress, was progress. Let us just say that we have to have the ground truth about Iraq. What is happening there is not what the administration is telling us.

Almost 1 ½ years ago, the President said that the mission was accomplished, that the end of major combat had come. What was he talking about? Is this the same judgment that got us into war on unproven assertions? Is this the same judgment that sent our troops into war without the proper equipment, training, or intelligence to know who the enemy was?

The Department of Defense has commissioned a report that says who is the adversary? Who is the adversary? The American people have to call a halt to this going along with the rosy scenario because that is a more pleasant message for them to receive. The President has to speak truth to the American people as to what is happening in Iraq and what the risks are to our men and women in uniform whom we respect for their valor, their sacrifice, and the sacrifices of their families.

This national intelligence estimate has been in the media. That is the report that I am referring to, the national intelligence estimate that was in the media yesterday. And what is interesting about it is that the President had this estimate for months and continued to misrepresent to the American people, continued to misrepresent to the American people, what the situation was in Iraq and what we are facing there. The Bush administration failed to plan for the war and its aftermath. It failed to send an adequate number of troops to get the job done. The administration did not properly, adequately protect and train our troops.

The Department of Defense commission report said: "A breakdown of the casualty figures suggests that many U.S. deaths and wounds in Iraq simply did not need to occur ..... perhaps one in four of those killed in combat in Iraq might be alive if they had had stronger armor around them," the DOD study suggests.

In relationship to that, another quote about it from the Army Times, from the Army Times, which stated: "This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential, even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war."

It was interesting to hear Vice President Cheney's comments last night. As he was speaking, I was thinking of his statement in March of 2003 when he said, "We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators ..... I think it will go relatively quickly. ..... weeks rather than months."

Weeks rather than months? We are into years, and all the projections are that we will be there for many more years.

And Secretary Wolfowitz said, "We had a plan that anticipated, I think, that we could proceed with an occupation regime for much longer than it turned out the Iraqis would have patience for. We had a plan that assumed we'd have basically more stable security conditions than we've encountered." Another example of their poor judgment.

Again, Mr. Wolfowitz, and I will repeat this again because I think the American people should know, said on March 27, 2003, "There's a lot of money to pay for this. It doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon."

How do they face the American people after their misjudgments over and over and over again?

So I have mentioned that the Pentagon completed March 26 an intelligence report that was commissioned to answer a simple and provocative question in Iraq: Who is the adversary? This was in April of 2004, reporting on a March 2004 report a year after we went in. Who is the adversary?

So how did this happen? Some people think, and as has been reported in the paper, that "no Iraqi leader has had more to do with U.S. intervention in Iraq than Chalabi, from charming Congress into authorizing almost $100 billion to back his fledgling Iraqi National Congress in the late 1990s and convincing Washington about Hussein's weapons of mass destruction in 2002 to pressing for war last year," has said both his supporters and critics. That was in May of 2004. At that same time, his office was being raided. At that same time, he was being charged with spying for the Iranians, giving information to the Iranians. Whom do we trust? Where, again, is the judgment?

"U.S. Intelligence agencies," and I will submit all this for the RECORD, "believe that Chalabi, the former Iraqi exile once strongly backed by some Bush administration officials, may have passed classified information on the American occupation of Iraq to the government of Iran, officials said."

How many more people have to die for us to subject the judgment that put them in the situation they are in in harm's way? Who is accountable for this policy? We have a situation where, again, the American people heard representations that were not accurate about the nature of the threat. Of course the American people want to support the President of the United States if they think that our country is in danger. Make no mistake. If there is a threat to the United States that we can anticipate, we will make sure that the American people will be protected.

President Kennedy said it best in his speech, We pay any price, bear any burden, fight any foe. That is our first responsibility as elected officials, to protect the American people. So it is not about not wanting to use force.

The military prepares for war as a last resort. The President chose to go to war as a first choice, a preemptive strike that was not prepared for. If we are going to preempt, we have the higher responsibility to be prepared; and this administration was not.

So it is with great sadness and great concern that I come to the floor today to express these concerns and to say it would be political to withhold criticism of the administration for what it is doing for fear that the American people might think that that is not patriotic. That is not patriotic? Senator Taft, who would be the majority leader of the Senate, the Republican majority leader, said that disagreement in time of war is essential to a governing democracy.

So now we have to see where we go from here. Well, General Hoar, and let me get this straight and, again, I will submit this for the RECORD, General Joseph Hoar too was a former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 20, 2004, said, "I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into an abyss." General Zinni said we are heading over Niagara Falls. The President says stay the course. Stay the course into an abyss, into Niagara Falls?

Mr. President, face the facts. The Bush administration must stop being in denial about what they got us into. They did not know what they were getting us into, even though their own State Department had given them the report on what to expect, even though their own generals told them the level of military capacity that we would need to go there, even though the intelligence did not support the threat that they were claiming. So now those who criticize or throw a spotlight on the facts are considered unpatriotic. No, very patriotic and in support of those troops.

On a regular basis I tried to visit them. I visited with them in Iraq and in Germany and just earlier this week met with some of the Marines who had come from Fallujah and other places in Iraq. One of the young men was blind. Others had amputations. Others had serious injuries, and hopefully some of them had not so serious injuries. It remains to be seen.

And every time I see them, I am in awe of the tremendous patriotism and sacrifice and valor that they have. God has blessed America with our young people who will go into battle to protect our country. And as I said, none of the poor judgment and mistakes, grotesque mistakes, of the administration can diminish the valor and the debt that we owe these young men and women. I will not even go into the whole subject of what we are doing to veterans when these folks come back because I want my focus to be on the war today, but we will be talking about that.

So as we look at them, we think their lives are changed. And these are the lucky ones who have survived. But these injuries, as I said, are for life. We owe them more than the President has given them. Some of the troops still do not have the equipment that would adequately protect them. They still do not 1 ½ years into this war.

I just want to make one more point. And that is the administration is going around saying, and we heard it at the convention, we succeeded too soon; so we were not ready for the aftermath of the war, assuming, as the President declared the war over May 1, 2003, and that they have had a "catastrophic success." That is the oxymoron of the century, and it is not even true. They had a catastrophic failure. A catastrophic failure. They succeeded too soon? They thought, and they told us, that they were going to take out Saddam Hussein that first night. They thought they had him holed up someplace in Iraq, and that is why they had to go in that night to decapitate Iraq, to cut off its head.

That is when they thought they were going to win. So they actually did not succeed sooner than they thought. In fact, they have not succeeded at all.

So let us, at least from this day forward, speak truth to the American people. When people say, how would so and so do differently, how would John Kerry do differently, one thing we have to do is stipulate to a set of facts and not have the misrepresentations that are coming forth from this administration about what the ground truth is in Iraq. Let us come together, in as bipartisan, nonpartisan of a way as we possibly can to say we are in a mess. We are in a mess. I do not know who the President takes his advice from, or gets his advice from, or if these are his personal decisions, but somebody has got to go. For the American people to accept this course of action that is a catastrophic failure, that is costing us the lives of our young people and their health and well-being and the well-being of their families, that is costing us a quarter of a trillion dollars, think of what we could do with that in America to make us stronger, and it is costing us enormously in our reputation around the world.

When I was a student, I heard John Kennedy give his inaugural address here in the freezing cold on the steps of the Capitol, and everybody knows when he talked about "ask not what your country can do," but the very next line in that speech was to the citizens of the world, ask not what America can do for you, but what we can do, working together, for the freedom of mankind.

There has to be a change in attitude toward the rest of the world, not the condescension, go it alone, our way or the highway kind of approach, but an attitude of respect and collaboration and cooperation among countries for the freedom of mankind. Stay the course? I do not think so. But we, each of us, have a responsibility to protect and defend the American people, to protect and defend our Constitution. That is the oath we take, and to provide for the common defense is the first responsibility. We take that very seriously, every single one of us does.

Providing for the common defense means that we use war as a last resort, as the military prepares for it that we respect what they say about the capacity that is needed to succeed, that we respect our State Department when they tell us what to expect on the ground after the hostilities cease; of course they have not, but if they had paid attention to the State Department, they might have by now.

Klausewitz said, do not take the first step into war unless you are prepared to take the last step, and it is clear that this administration did not know what it was getting into, or else they grossly misrepresented the facts to the American people. In either case, staying the course is not an option. We will not leave Iraq until there is stability, until there is security there. But under the present plan, there is no end in sight to the chaos, to the quagmire, to the tragedy that this administration has taken us into.

So again, just today the announcements of more deaths in Iraq, that it is with great sadness and sympathy for the families of those affected, just another long list of young people. The other day when I was there, I was asking them how old they were: 19, 19, 20, 23, the national treasury of our country, our young people, squandered because of the poor judgment of this Bush administration.

The Bush Administration's Iraq Policy Poor Judgment, Poor Preparation

BUSH ADMINISTRATION: FAILED TO PLAN FOR THE WAR AND AFTERMATH

"In the lead up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility, at worse, lying, incompetence and corruption."-Marine General (Retired) Anthony Zinni, former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command; in the book about his career, "Battle Ready," published May 2004.

"I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into the abyss."-General Joseph Hoar, a former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command; testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, May 20, 2004.

BUSH ADMINISTRATION: SENT INADEQUATE NUMBERS OF TROOPS

"Wildly off the mark"-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz responding to the estimate by the Army's chief of staff, General Eric Shinski, that the occupation could require "several hundred thousand troops; testimony to the House Budget Committee, February 27, 2003

"I think we got in there with a grossly anemic military force. We never defeated the elite elements of the Saddam regime. They walked away with their guns, their money, their leadership intact."-Retired General Barry McCaffrey; NPR "Morning Edition," April 15, 2004

BUSH ADMINISTRATION: DID NOT ADEQUATELY PROTECT OR TRAIN OUR TROOPS

"A breakdown of the casualty figures suggest that many U.S. deaths and wounds in Iraq simply did not need to occur ..... perhaps one in four of those killed in combat in Iraq might be alive if they had had stronger armor around them, the study suggested,"-Newsweek on a Department of Defense commissioned report; May 3, 2004

"Where are we, the American people, ..... if we accept this level of sacrifice without that level of planning?"-Marine General (Retired) Anthony Zinni, former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, September 4, 2003

"This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential-even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war."-Army Times, May 10, 2004

BUSH ADMINISTRATION: SEVERELY MISJUDGED HOW A U.S. OCCUPATION WOULD BE RECEIVED

''We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. ..... I think it will go relatively quickly ..... (in) weeks rather than months."-Vice President Dick Cheney; Meet the Press, March 16, 2003

"We had a plan that anticipated, I think, that we could proceed with an occupation regime for much longer than it turned out the Iraqis would have patience for. We had a plan that assumed we'd have basically more stable security conditions than we've encountered."-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz; Testimony at Senate Foreign Relations Committee, May 18, 2004

BUSH ADMINISTRATION: SEVERELY MISJUDGED THE COST

"There's a lot of money to pay for this. It doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon"-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Atlantic Monthly, March 27, 2003

BUSH ADMINISTRATION: DOESN'T KNOW WHO THE ENEMY IS, MISJUDGED ITS "FRIENDS"

"The [Pentagon intelligence] report, completed March 26, was commissioned to answer a simple but provocative question: in Iraq, who is the adversary?"-New York Times, April 29, 2004

"No Iraqi leader has had more to do with the U.S. intervention in Iraq than Chalabi, from charming Congress into authorizing almost $100 million to back his fledgling Iraqi National Congress in the late 1990s and convincing Washington about Hussein's weapons of mass destruction in 2002 to pressing for war last year, say both his supporters and critics."-Washington Post, May 21, 2004

"U.S. intelligence agencies believe Ahmad Chalabi, the former Iraqi exile once strongly backed by some Bush administration officials, may have passed classified information on the American occupation of Iraq to the government of Iran, officials said."-Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2004

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