The American military is the best-trained, best-equipped fighting force in the history of the world. When President Bush instituted his "surge" strategy, he took an unsustainable number of troops from our force and placed them in a limited number of Iraqi areas. Most Americans realized that this strategy could produce short-term, limited reductions in some forms of violence. The real question, however, is whether it would also produce an overall reduction in violence and move Iraqis towards reform and political
reconciliation, as President Bush said it would in January.
Unfortunately, it has not.
Levels of violence in Iraq remain startlingly high, and claims of progress are simply not backed up by the brutal facts we see coming from the battlefield. While the Bush Administration claims that the escalation strategy has reduced overall violence, the Associated Press reported 1,809 civilian deaths in August, more than in any other month this year. Reports also indicate that this summer has been the deadliest so far for U.S. troops in Iraq. With over 260 losses, U.S. casualties in Iraq are 56 percent higher this year than at this time in 2006. So how can the president paint such a rosy assessment? The Washington Post has shown that the administration is "cherry picking" statistics to paint a false picture of Iraqi security. To downplay the number of sectarian deaths, some intelligence reports have decided to classify all deaths with unknown motivations as non-sectarian and exclude deaths by car bomb from officials statistics. To read the facts for yourself, see
As disturbing as the continued violence in Iraq is the lack of promised political progress. One message came across loud and clear from the three reports released this week: Iraq has not taken the political steps that Congress and the American people demanded and were promised at the beginning of the surge. When the president issued his report card on the situation in Iraq, he concluded that the Iraqi government had failed to meet ten of the 18 benchmarks designed to measure political and military
progress. This week, the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that even the president's disappointing report exaggerated the degree of progress. The GAO report shows that Iraq has met only three benchmarks.
Another report, issued by retired General James Jones, indicates that the Iraqi national police force is "dysfunctional" and recommends that the force be disbanded and rebuilt from scratch. The surge was supposed to enable the Iraqi security forces to stand up so that American troops could stand down. Instead, as Generals Jones and Petraeus have noted, it has allowed the Iraqi government to avoid making the tough political choices that could lead to lasting stability.
Unfortunately, as we heard last night, President Bush plans to leave 130,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely. That is the same number of troops as were fighting there before the surge. A war without end is not an acceptable option. We need a new direction, and in his speech President Bush only offered more of the same. As even General Petraeus acknowledges, the surge has overtaxed our armed forces and weakened America's ability to respond to threats elsewhere in the world. And equally troubling, during his Congressional testimony, General Petraeus could not agree with the President's fanciful assertion that the war in Iraq is making
America more secure.
To protect our military and our country, I once again renew my call to responsibly redeploy our troops from Iraq. I will continue to urge the president and my colleagues in Congress to finally face the reality that Iraq needs a political solution, not a military one. We must begin to address the dire readiness state of our military and refocus on fighting terrorism around the world. My thoughts, hopes and efforts will remain with our troops and
their families at this difficult time. They continue to bear the real burden of this war, and for that our nation thanks them.
Very Truly Yours,
Member of Congress