The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cummings) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. CUMMINGS. Mr. Speaker, tomorrow marks 6 years since America experienced its worst foreign terrorist attack. I send my solemn prayers to the families of the victims and the survivors of the September 11 attack, where nearly 3,000 persons lost their lives.
Although no amount of time can ever bring back the ones you cherish or erase the memories of the tragic event, it is my hope that their wounds have begun to heal.
While the world and the United States mourned the loss of innocent lives that day, we also sought answers as to who had attacked us and what would be our next steps. Rather than focusing on those responsible for organizing these attacks, President Bush and his administration diverted our efforts and refocused our resources to fight the global war on terror by waging war against the regime of Saddam Hussein via a preemptive strike. The administration presented its erroneous case by drawing on allegations that Iran had weapons of mass destruction, that it was a clear threat to the United States, and that it was connected with al Qaeda.
While failing to gain the support of the global community, this administration continued on with its ill-conceived stance on Iraq, convincing the majority of the Congress to vote in favor of entering a war where only 5 years later we continue to pay heavily.
And what exactly has been the cost? It has cost over $450 billion in taxpayers hard-earned dollars, according to the Congressional Research Service. It has left families of servicemembers and the larger population mourning the deaths of over 3,750 servicemembers, 69 of those being from the great State of Maryland. It has resulted in a strained family situation for those who endure multiple deployments, and has led to strikingly low levels of recruitment and retention of our mid-career armed servicemembers.
It has undercut our efforts to ensure adequate protection of the home front because much of the needed equipment has been left behind unaccounted for in Iraq, as the National Guard testified before a Senate committee last April.
It has belabored the economy, where the Government Accountability Office, GAO, has reported that the United States simply cannot continue spending at its current rate. And it has, in reality, resulted in the establishment of al Qaeda in Iraq, as reported by the National Intelligence Estimate.
Mr. Speaker, the GAO testified before the House Armed Services Committee, upon which I sit, last week that only three of the 18 benchmarks established by the Congress have been met. Four have been partially met, and 11 have not been met at all. Specifically, only two of the nine security-related benchmarks were met, two were partially met, and five not met at all.
Furthermore, in a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, September 6, the Jones Commission made clear that political reconciliation is a key component of resolving the issue of sectarian violence. Accordingly, political reconciliation requires the diplomatic and international support of the global community. Presently, the President and this administration's efforts to gain this pivotal support are less than adequate. The Bush administration, as it has done in the past, continues to try to buy the patience of this Congress and the American people by pulling for excuses.
Mr. Speaker, 5 years ago I expressed my disapproval of the war by voting against the United States military operations in Iraq.
Today, I still remain unwavering in my support of our troops and the urgent need to make a responsible and timely redeployment of our men and women in uniform as a means to end the continued bloodshed.
I urge my colleagues to support our troops, support saving taxpayer dollars, and support the victims of September 11 by ushering in measures that will ensure diplomatic multilateral and bilateral support for political reconciliation in Iraq. A more focused and more determined strategy that will refocus and better utilize our efforts to fight the global war on terror is necessary to ensure that the victims of September 11 have not died without adequate retribution.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.