Escalating Our Military Involvement in Iraq Sends Precisely the Wrong Message
'Last November, the American people delivered a strong message of no confidence in the President's Iraq policy and clearly expressed their desire for a new direction. The President had an opportunity tonight to demonstrate that he understood the depth of the concern in the country, make a long overdue course correction, and articulate a clear mission for our engagement in Iraq. Instead, he chose to escalate our involvement in Iraq's civil war by proposing a substantial increase in the number of our forces there. This proposal endangers our national security by placing additional burdens on our already over-extended military thereby making it even more difficult to respond to other crises.
'While we all want to see a stable and peaceful Iraq, many current and former senior military leaders have made clear that sending more American combat troops does not advance that goal. Our troops have performed the difficult missions given to them in Iraq with great courage. The Congress and the American people will continue to support them and provide them with every resource they need. But our military forces deserve a policy commensurate with the sacrifices they have been asked to make. Regrettably, the President has not provided that tonight.
'Rather than escalating our involvement in Iraq by sending additional troops, we believe that a plan for the way forward in Iraq requires these elements:
- Shifting greater responsibility to the Iraqis for their security and transitioning the principal mission of our forces from combat to training, logistics, force protection, and counter terrorism operations;
- Beginning the phased redeployment of our forces in the next four to six months; and
- Implementing an aggressive diplomatic strategy, both within the region and beyond, which reflects the continuing obligation of the international community to help stabilize Iraq and which assists the Iraqis in achieving a sustainable political settlement, including by amending their constitution.
'Iraqi political leaders will not take the necessary steps to achieve a political resolution to the sectarian problems in their country until they understand that the U.S. commitment is not open-ended. Escalating our military involvement in Iraq sends precisely the wrong message and we oppose it.
'In the days ahead, Congress will exercise its Constitutional responsibilities by giving the President's latest proposal the scrutiny our troops and the American people expect. We will demand answers to the tough questions that have not been asked or answered to date. The American people want a change of course in Iraq. We intend to keep pressing President Bush to provide it.'