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Sen Byrd Speech -- White House Still Has No Plan for Iraq / 09-21-04

Remarks by U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd

September 21, 2004

Bush White House Still Has No Plan in Iraq

Senator Byrd delivered the following remarks in the Senate after President Bush addressed the United Nations about the situation in Iraq.

Earlier today at the United Nations, the President of the United States painted a pretty picture of the occupation of Iraq. But the President's picture was far from the reality of the situation facing our soldiers, the very limited Iraqi security forces, and, importantly, the Iraqi people.

The reality is that, today, Iraq is in flames. A horrifying wave of violence has struck yet again, targeting Iraqi police, government leaders, innocent civilians, and our very own troops. The death toll in Iraq continues to mount. As of today, more than one thousand and thirty American troops have died in this war. More than 700 Iraqi police have perished in the short time since the force has existed. The number of civilians killed in President Bush's preemptive war is unknown, but it numbers in the thousands.

Who is responsible for this bloodshed in Iraq? Is it a small group of religious radicals? Or the secret agents of Osama bin Laden? Or terrorists who might otherwise sneak onto the streets of New York City? No, no, and no! An ever-growing pile of press reports indicate that the insurgency is larger and more broad than the White House will admit.

On Wednesday, September 15, the Wall Street Journal reported that "Iraq's once highly fragmented insurgent groups are increasingly cooperating to attack U.S. and Iraqi government targets, and steadily gaining control of more areas of the country." Meanwhile, the Commander in Chief seems to be in the dark about the worsening situation in Iraq. Faced with the spread of violence in Iraq, the President continues to speak of Iraq as a country of free people. But what liberty is there to be enjoyed when the police are being killed by the scores, the chances of a peaceful election have been thrown out the window, and many Iraqis are too afraid to send their children to school?

One must begin to question whether the President is getting the bad news about what is happening on the streets of Baghdad and Fallujah, or if he is simply ignoring it. Surely the Commander in Chief has a responsibility, has the obligation, to change his strategy when it has been proven a failure. Instead, the White House blindly insists that the problems of Iraq will sort themselves out if we simply maintain a resolve to stay the course. Do the American people really want to stay the course that has resulted in the deaths and injuries of thousands of our troops?

Now, the President wants to spend another $3.4 billion in reconstruction funds to again try to bolster the same Iraqi security forces that have been outgunned and inadequately trained to take on the insurgents in Iraq. This is even more evidence that the Administration has no plan for post-war Iraq, other than to throw more money at the problem and hope for the best.

As the cost of the war spins out of control, we must remember that, last Fall, the Bush Administration promised that its request for the biggest foreign aid package in half a century would bring security and stability to Iraq. The White House got enough members of Congress to vote for $18.4 billion to buy that pig in a poke, and the President got unprecedented flexibility to spend that reconstruction money as he sees fit. Has that reconstruction money helped to get our troops out of harms way? No! In fact, our troops are under a greater number of daily attacks now than they were when the President asked for his massive foreign aid program.

As the President wants to spend more and more money in Iraq, our troops are getting sucked ever-deeper into the bloody quicksand of the Middle East. Most astonishing yet, the White House has not held anyone in the Administration accountable for the mess that has become Iraq. It is business as usual in the White House bubble.

The Pentagon botched plans for post-war Iraq, and the shame of Abu Ghraib has further turned world opinion against the United States. But instead of holding someone at the Department of Defense accountable for those mistakes, the Vice President said that we have the "best Secretary of Defense the United States has ever had."

The CIA failed to detect Osama bin Laden's plot to attack New York City and Washington, DC, and then it produced faulty intelligence that the White House used to take our nation to war against Iraq. Instead of holding someone at the CIA accountable for those mistakes, the President praised the former CIA Director as "a strong leader on the war on terrorism."

The U.S.-run occupation government in Iraq mistakenly disbanded the Iraqi army, bungled the management of $18.4 billion in reconstruction funds, and turned a blind eye to the rising flames of anti-Americanism in Iraq. Instead of demanding accountability for the mistakes made by the Coalition Provisional Authority, rumors abound that its former head, Ambassador Paul Bremer, could be up for a promotion to Secretary of State. How about that?

For all the mistakes that have been made in President Bush's unprovoked war on Iraq, not a single Administration official has been held accountable for the mess that Iraq has become. Not a single Administration official has been called to step aside for the mistakes that they have made. In fact, the only senior Administration official that the White House has seen fit to fire was the former Secretary of the Treasury, who dared to question the fiscal responsibility of more massive tax cuts. If this President can't hold his advisors accountable for their mistakes, then the people should hold the President accountable for his poor judgment.

The situation in Iraq has been elevated beyond a crisis. The White House plan for holding Iraqi elections in January 2005 is falling apart with each new attack on our troops. Instead of demonstrating the leadership to bring more countries in to assist in rebuilding Iraq, the President pays lip service to international help. The President has only proposed to sink more taxpayer money into the same failed policies that brought us to this point. We are falling deeper and deeper into debt. The President has failed to act to counter the surge in violence that is costing the lives of our men and women in uniform. How long can this bumbling by the White House go on? How long must our troops be tied down in Iraq? How long will we struggle without a plan to end the spreading violence? How long will it take for our country to turn away from this dead-end policy created by the dead-brained thinking in this White House? How long, Mr. President? How long?

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