UDALL STATEMENT ON SUPPORT FOR U.S. TROOP READINESS, VETERANS' HEALTH AND IRAQ ACCOUNTABILITY ACT
"I think it would be grossly irresponsible to vote against providing America's men and women in uniform with the equipment and resources they need and against providing them the best health care they may require when they come home.
"Many Americans are frustrated and angry because we are four years into a war the president assured us would be short and decisive. The president's misjudgments, lack of planning and poor leadership have made a bad situation worse. Many do not trust him to find a way to end this war, and they believe Congress should simply act to cut off additional funds.
"I opposed giving the president the authority to wage war in Iraq, but the fact is that we are still deeply engaged there. So long as our troops are in the field, we must provide them what they need even as we move to change the mistaken policies of the Bush administration in Iraq.
"This bill begins that change. It includes important language to hold the president accountable to the benchmarks set by his own administration and the Iraqi government and will provide General Petraeus and the administration with the leverage necessary to help the Iraqis forge a political solution. It will take a political solution - not a military one - to end this war.
"The bill is an important step toward a responsible end to the war in Iraq, based on a strategy of phased withdrawal of troops, accelerated diplomacy and redeployment that is based on Iraqi stability and not arbitrary deadlines. This legislation includes a date certain for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq. I do not believe this language is wise and were it up to me it would not be included in the bill. As a matter of national security policy, we should steer clear of arbitrary public deadlines and focus instead on realistic goals. Our military needs flexibility to be able to link movements of U.S. troops to the realities of the situation on the ground. The August 2008 deadline in this bill is far enough away that I believe we may be able to revisit it if need be.
"In addition, I am pleased that the Colorado delegation was successful in persuading the House leadership to include financial assistance for farmers and ranchers, including for those affected by Colorado's recent blizzards, and I am hopeful that the funding will be included in the final conference report.
"We need to be scaling back our military mission in Iraq. We need to make the U.S. military footprint lighter - not in order to hasten defeat or failure in Iraq, but to salvage a critical measure of security and stability in a region of the world that we can ill afford to abandon. We need to change course and chart a path that enhances our national security and sets the right priorities for the war on terrorism and struggle against extremists. This bill begins to chart this path, and that is why I support it."