EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2005 -- (Senate - April 14, 2005)
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, will the Senator from Illinois yield for a question?
Mr. DURBIN. Yes, I am happy to.
Mr. KENNEDY. The Senator points out the part of the amendment which is asking for an estimate of the number of troops. I am a member of the Armed Services Committee. This issue has come up in a number of different contexts. We are talking about an estimate. We are looking for an estimate in 6 months and 12 months and 18 months. I am just wondering whether the Senator from Illinois saw the New York Times on April 11 where General Casey, top commander in Iraq, told CNN a week ago that if all went well, ``we should be able to take some fairly substantial reductions in the size of our forces.'' And another senior military official said American forces in Iraq could drop to around 105,000 by early next year from 142,000 now.
Clearly, there are estimates that are being considered. It seems that the American people would like to know what these numbers are rather than reading them in the paper. I believe that is what the purpose of the amendment is--to try to communicate to the American people what the best judgment is in terms of the troops. Estimates can vary. As authors of the amendment, we understand that. But I do thank the Senator for referring to the GAO report, the fact that the GAO report of March 14 said that U.S. Government agencies do not report reliable data on the extent to which the security forces are trained and equipped. The number of Iraqi police is unreliable, and the data does not exclude police absent from duty.
All we are trying to do is to get estimates for the American people. Am I correct?
Mr. DURBIN. The Senator from Massachusetts is correct. He makes a valuable point. When we in Congress ask the Department of Defense, how are we doing in terms of training troops for the Iraqi side, what are your guesses and best estimates in terms of when American troops can come home, many times they tell us, we can't share that information. They give us widely different numbers.
The Senator from Massachusetts makes the point that spokesmen for the U.S. military apparently speak to the media frequently, volunteering information about how quickly troops can come home to the United States. If it is good enough for CNN, should it not be good enough for the USA; should not American taxpayers be given this information? I think we want to know that.
I understand that we have to stay the course and finish our job. I am committed to that, even though I shared Senator Kennedy's sentiments about the initiation of the invasion. One of the problems with the insurgency is the question of whether we are a permanent occupying force. I hope we make it clear to the Iraqis that we are there to finish the job, to stabilize their country, and come home. As we start moving down the line on this amendment, which the Senator from Massachusetts and Senator Levin have cosponsored, we are going to be moving toward that goal and delivering the right message.
Mr. KENNEDY. I thank the Senator. I agree with his conclusions. Many of us believe this will be enormously helpful in trying to establish the independent Iraq that all of us would like to see. But I thank the Senator for bringing up this matter.
This follows other evidence that we have had at other times in Defense appropriations legislation, basically to provide this kind of information to the parents, to the military. We are looking for a best judgment, best estimate. Clearly, today the military is thinking in those terms. I believe we ought to have some opportunity to share that information.
I thank the Senator from Illinois for offering this amendment.
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I thank Senator Durbin for bringing up this matter on the supplemental. I welcome the opportunity to join with him and our colleague from Michigan, Senator Levin, and others who support the amendment. As we have outlined, this amendment basically requires periodic reports on the progress we are making in training Iraqi security forces.
The Senate is currently debating an appropriations bill that would provide $81 billion, primarily for our ongoing war effort in Iraq. This funding will bring the total U.S. bill for the war in Iraq to $192 billion--and still counting.
All of us support our troops. We obviously want to do all that we can to see that they have proper equipment, vehicles, and everything else they need to protect their lives as they carry out their mission. It is scandalous that the administration has kept sending them into battle in Iraq without proper equipment. No soldier should be sent into battle unprotected. No parents should have to go in desperation to the local Wal-Mart to buy armored plates and mail them to their sons and daughters serving in Iraq.
Our military is performing brilliantly under enormously difficult circumstances. But they don't want--and the American people don't want--an open-ended commitment. After all the blunders that took us into war, we need to be certain that the President has a strategy for success.
The $5.7 billion in this bill for training Iraqi security forces is a key element of a successful strategy to stabilize Iraq and withdraw American military forces.
The administration has spoken frequently about the need for these funds. But there has been no accountability. It is time to put some facts behind our policy, and that is what this amendment does.
The administration has never really given us a straight answer about how many Iraqi security forces are adequately trained and equipped. We're obviously making progress, but it is far from clear how much. The American people deserve an honest assessment that provides the basic facts.
But that is not what we're being given. According to a GAO report in March:
U.S. government agencies do not report reliable data on the extent to which Iraqi security forces are trained and equipped.
It goes on to say:
The Departments of State and Defense no longer report on the extent to which Iraqi security forces are equipped with their required weapons, vehicles, communications, equipment, and body armor.
It is clear from the administration's own statements that they are using the notorious ``fuzzy math'' tactic to avoid an honest appraisal.
On February 4, 2004, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said:
We have accelerated the training of Iraqi security forces, now more than 200,000 strong.
Then, a year later, on January 19, 2005, Secretary Condoleezza Rice said that:
We think the number right now is somewhere over 120,000.
On February 3, 2005, in response to questions from Senator LEVIN at a Senate Armed Services Hearing, General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conceded that only 40,000 Iraqi security forces are really capable. He said:
48 deployable (battalions) around the country, equals about 40,000, which is the number that can go anywhere and do anything.
Obviously, we need a better accounting of how much progress is being made to train and equip effective and capable Iraqi Security forces.
I am encouraged by reports from our commanders in Iraq that we are making enough progress in fighting the insurgents and training the Iraqi security forces to enable the Pentagon to plan for significant troop reductions by early next year.
On March 27, General Casey, our top commander in Iraq, said, if things go well in Iraq, ``by this time next year ..... we should be able to take some fairly substantial reductions in the size of our forces.''
According to the New York Times, on Monday, senior military officials are saying American troop levels in Iraq could ``drop to around 105,000'' by early in 2006.
These reports are welcome news after 2 years of war in Iraq.
April 9 marked the second anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, and in these last 2 years we have paid a high price for the invasion of Iraq.
America went to war in Iraq because President Bush insisted that Iraq had strong ties to al-Qaida. It did not. We went to war because President Bush insisted that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of acquiring a nuclear capability. He was not. Long after the invasion of Iraq began, our teams were scouring possible sites for weapons of mass destruction. Finally, last January, 21 months after the invasion, the search was called off all together.
As Hans Blix, the former chief U.N. weapons inspector, said in a lecture last month, the United States preferred ``to believe in faith based intelligence.''
Today, American forces continue to serve bravely and with great honor in Iraq. But the war in Iraq has made it more likely--not less likely--that we will face terrorist attacks in American cities, and not just on the streets of Baghdad. The war has clearly made us less safe and less secure. It has made the war against al-Qaida harder to win.
As CIA Director Porter Goss told the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 16, we have created a breeding ground for terrorists in Iraq and a worldwide cause for the continuing recruitment of anti-American extremists.
The Iraq conflict, while not a cause of extremism, has become a cause for extremists ..... Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-U.S. jihadists ..... These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced in and focused on acts of urban terrorism. They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups, and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries.
Three and a half years after the 9/11 attacks, al-Qaida is still the gravest threat to our national security, and the war in Iraq has ominously given al-Qaida new incentives, new recruits, and new opportunities to attack us.
According to CIA Director Goss, ``al-Qaida is intent on finding ways to circumvent U.S. security enhancements to strike Americans and the homeland.''
Admiral James Loy, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, also warned the Intelligence Committee about the threat from al-Qaida. He said, ``We believe that attacking the homeland remains at the top of al-Qaida's operational priority list ..... We believe that their intent remains strong for attempting another major operation here.''
The danger was also emphasized by Robert Mueller, the FBI Director, who told the Intelligence Committee, ``The threat posed by international terrorism, and in particular from al-Qaida and related groups, continues to be the gravest we face.'' He said, ``al-Qaida continues to adapt and move forward with its desire to attack the United States using any means at its disposal. Their intent to attack us at home remains--and their resolve to destroy America has never faltered.''
In addition to taking the focus off the real war on terror--the war against al-Qaida--the war in Iraq has cost us greatly in human terms.
Since the invasion began, we have lost more than 1500 servicemen and women. More than 11,500 have been wounded. That's the equivalent of a full Army division, and we only have 10 active divisions in the entire army. Despite recent progress, since the Iraqi elections in January we have still lost more than one soldier a day.
We need to train the Iraqis for the stability of Iraq. But we also need to train them because our current level of deployment is not sustainable. Our military has been stretched to the breaking point, with threats in other parts of the world ever-present.
As the Defense Science Board told Secretary Rumsfeld last September, ``Current and projected force structure will not sustain our current and projected global stabilization commitments.''
LTG John Riggs said it clearly: ``I have been in the Army 39 years, and I've never seen the Army as stretched in that 39 years as I have today.'' A full 32 percent of our military has already served two or more tours of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. That fact makes it harder for us to respond to threats elsewhere in the world.
The war has also undermined the Guard and Reserve. Forty percent of the troops in Iraq are Guard or Reservists, and we are rapidly running out of available soldiers who can be deployed.
The average tour for reservists recalled to active duty is now 320 days, close to a year. In the first Gulf War, it was 156 days; in Bosnia and Kosovo, 200 days. In December, General James Helmley, the head of the Army Reserves warned that the Reserve ``is rapidly degenerating into a `broken' force'' and ``is in grave danger of being unable to meet other operational requirements.''
The families of our military, Guard and Reserves are also suffering. Troops in Iraq are under an order that prevents them ever from leaving active duty when their term of service is over.
A survey by the Defense Department last May found that reservists, their spouses, their families, and their employers are less supportive now of their remaining in the military than they were a year ago.
The war has clearly undermined the Pentagon's ability to attract new recruits and retain those already serving. In March, the active duty Army fell short of its recruiting goal by a full 32 percent. Every month this year, the Marines have missed their recruiting goal. The last time that happened was July 1995.
The Army Reserves are being hit especially hard. In March, it missed a recruiting goal by almost half, falling short by 46 percent.
To deal with its recruiting problems, the Army National Guard has increased retention bonuses from $5,000 to $15,000 and first-time signing bonuses from $6000 to $10,000. The Pentagon has raised the maximum age for Army National Guard recruits from 34 to 39. Without these changes, according to General Steven Blum, Chief of the Army National Guard, ``The Guard will be broken and not ready the next time it's needed, either here at home or for war.''
We all hope for the best in Iraq. We all want democracy to take root firmly and irrevocably.
Our men and women in uniform, and the American people deserve to know that the President has a strategy for success. They want to know how long it will take to train the Iraqi security forces to ably defend their own country so American men and women will no longer have to die in Iraq. They want to know when we will have achieved our mission, and when our soldiers will be able to come home with dignity and honor.
At a March 1 hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Abizaid, the leader of the Central Command, gave the clearest indication so far about when our mission might end.
General Abizaid said, ``I believe that in 2005, the most important statement that we should be able to make is that in the majority of the country, Iraqi security forces will take the lead in fighting the counterinsurgency. That is our goal.''
Speaking about the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, General Abizaid said, ``I think in 2005 they'll take on the majority of the tasks necessary to be done.'' That's this year.
On March 27, General Casey, commanding General of the Multi-National Force in Iraq said, ``By this time next year ..... assuming that the political process continues to go positively ..... and the Iraqi army continues to progress and develop as we think it will, we should be able to take some fairly substantial reductions in the size of our forces.''
Our troops are clearly still needed to deal with the insurgency. Just as clearly, we need an effective training program to enable the Iraqis to be self-reliant.
But there is wide agreement that the presence of American troops fuels the insurgency. If the Iraqis make significant progress this year, it is perfectly logical to expect that more American troops will be able to return home.
Shortly after the elections in Iraq in January, the administration announced that 15,000 American troops that were added to provide security for the elections would return.
Additional reductions in our military presence, as Iraqis are trained to take over those functions, would clearly help take the American face off the occupation and send a clearer signal to the Iraqi people that we have no long-term designs on their country.
In US News and World Report in February, General Abizaid emphasized this basic point. He said ``An overbearing presence, or a larger than acceptable footprint in the region, works against you ..... The first thing you say to yourself is that you have to have the local people help themselves.''
Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz stated in a hearing at the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 3, ``I have talked to some of our commanders in the area. They believe that over the course of the next six months you will see whole areas of Iraq successfully handed over to the Iraqi army and Iraqi police.'' Today 2 of those 6 months have passed, and all of us hope that we are on track to meet his goal.
Before the election in Iraq in January, the administration repeatedly stated that 14 of the 18 provinces in Iraq are safe. We heard a similar view in a briefing from Ambassador Negroponte earlier this year.
If some areas can soon be turned over to the Iraqis, as Secretary Wolfowitz indicated, it should be done. It would be a powerful signal to the Iraqi people that the United States is not planning a permanent occupation of their country. If entire areas are being turned over to the Iraqis, we should be able to bring more American troops home.
We know the road ahead will be difficult, because the violence is far from ended.
The President's commitment to keeping American troops in Iraq as long as it takes and not a day longer is not enough for our soldiers and their loved ones. They deserve a clearer indication of what lies ahead, and so do the American people.
President Bush should be able to tell us how much progress--how much real progress--we are making in training the Iraqi security forces. Our amendment asks for specific information on that progress, if it's happening.
President Bush should be able to tell us how many American soldiers he expects will still be in Iraq 6 months from now, 12 months from now, 18 months from now.
General Abizaid and other military officials have begun to provide clarification of that very important issue, and I hope the President will as well.
Our amendment contributes significantly to that goal, and I urge my colleagues to support it.
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I applaud the Senator from West Virginia for his amendment. We have to put a stop to all of the taxpayer-financed propaganda put out by our government to influence the American people.
Over the last year, we have found out that the Bush administration has used taxpayer funds to finance ``fake news reports'' by actors posing as reporters, not actual journalists, who read the administration's script on prescription drugs and the No Child Left Behind education program. Even more recently, we have found out that a number of actual real-life journalists have been secretly paid by the Bush administration to promote its political agenda. This is dangerous to our democracy. It's an unethical misuse of taxpayer funds.
Senator Lautenberg and I have generated a series of investigations by the Government Accountability Office critical of the Bush administration's propaganda efforts. We have introduced legislation, the Stop Government Propaganda Act, that the Byrd amendment complements. Our legislation, like the Byrd amendment, specifically prevents the administration--any administration, Democratic or Republican--from paying actors to pose as legitimate journalists in order to push for a political agenda.
I urge my colleagues to support the Byrd amendment. Congress cannot sit still while the administration corrupts the first amendment and freedom of the press.
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