This evening, President Bush spoke about his views on the future of American involvement with the war in Iraq. Although his speech was highly anticipated, his words, unfortunately, only provided more of the same empty rhetoric that this Administration has been used throughout the duration of the war.
In his statement, the President claimed that we would soon begin the process of bringing home some of the troops. I would genuinely like to think this means he is finally looking at the facts and beginning to listen to reasonable voices, but the fact remains that this minimal redeployment only ends the so-called 'surge,' which was expected to end by next year anyway, and leaves 130,000 American soldiers in the line of fire.
Clearly, the Administration is not working toward ending the war. Instead, it is keeping the status-quo, determinedly maintaining the same failed policies that began this quagmire and has kept us involved for the past four-and-a-half years, during which time:
- 3,741 Americans have died in the Iraqi desert
- Over 23,000 Americans have been wounded
- My home of Brooklyn has lost 16 young women and men to the war, including four sons of the 11th District, which I represent. These are Specialist Segun Frederick Akintade, Private First Class Rayshawn S. Johnson, Lance Corporal Nicholas Whyte and Operations Specialist Joseph Alomar; may their souls rest in peace.
- over $400 billion of taxpayer money has already been requested by the President for the war, taking our nation to unprecedented levels of debt.
Now the President is requesting an additional $50 billion from the American people to continue staying-the-course in this war.
There are 37 million Americans living below the poverty line. Six million children across America do not have healthcare, including 384,000 children in the state of New York. Yet, just weeks ago, when Democrats in Congress passed programs that would have cost only a fraction of the President's war request to help fight poverty and to guarantee health insurance for children, the President threatened to veto these bills, claiming they are too expensive.
Clearly, this Administration favors spending our hard-earned money on sending Americans into a hot desert and harm's way than on building a stronger country at home!
After the great toll that has been spent in taxpayer money and human life, the most shining example of success that the President and General Petraeus put before us is the progress that has been made in the Anbar Province.
Yet, though there have been some improvements in that one region, violence there still remains a regular occurrence and no one can say for certain whether the progress is real and the hostilities will remain low when our troops leave the area.
As for the rest of the country, recent reports have found that the actions taken by this Administration appear to have made virtually no difference in the overall situation on the ground.
For Iraqis, the cost of the war has meant great suffering. The President began the war under the premise of helping the people of Iraq, but after all this time, they remain in great trauma.
The populace lives in constant fear of violence, kidnapping, theft, and other horrors against their families. We often hear reports of the Americans who are killed or injured, but rarely do we here about the far larger number of innocent Iraqis who are victims of the same terrorist acts.
Since April 2005, when the Associated Press began calculating civilian deaths, there have been at least 27,564 Iraqis killed due to violence. Last month alone, there were 1,809 people killed.
Each day, more and more people pick up and go, leaving behind their homes and possessions, becoming either displaced within Iraq or refugees in a foreign land to escape the destruction of their own country. Some estimates have put the total number of refugees and displaced individuals at 4 million people, but there are so many who have run away, we do not really know how many there are.
Even by the limited standards which the President and the Iraqi government set for themselves, this effort has been a failure. According to a report just released by the Government Accountability Office, Iraqis have met just 3 of 18 benchmarks and have made significant progress toward only 4 others.
All of the lives, time, and money invested on the war, and the Iraqi government has earned what would be a dismally failing grade in any classroom.
According to the Administration's plan, next summer, when the 'surge' comes to an end, we will be exactly where we were last year before it began.
The President claims he would like to bring home some of our soldiers between this fall and next year. I say we should hold his feet to the fire and demand he redeploy all of our troops right now.
This President has fallen far short of our nation's needs, so it is up to Democrats to create a 'New Direction' for America.