Tonight, President Bush will speak to the nation about the situation in Iraq. It’s about time.
I hope tonight he will address his words not just to us, and certainly not to Karl Rove or Donald Rumsfeld, but to a young American soldier in Iraq right now — the soldier carrying an M-16 in a dangerous place where he or she can’t tell friend from foe, the marine out on patrol at night who doesn’t know what’s coming around the next bend. America’s brave young men and women deserve to hear the truth.
For too long, the Bush administration’s strategy has been to divide not unite, to spin not to lead, to attack their political enemies at home rather than fight America’s enemies attacking our troops in Iraq.
It’s long past time to get it right in Iraq. The administration’s current lack of a coherent strategy is courting disaster instead of doing what’s needed for success.
That’s what we need from this administration. No more false rosy scenarios. No more happy talk about the Iraq insurgency being in “its final throes” when our military leadership knows that’s just spin.
It was with our troops in mind that I offered up a plan for Iraq in a New York Times op-ed this morning. I wrote: “The reality is the Bush administration’s choices have made Iraq into what it wasn’t before the war — a breeding ground for jihadists.”
As I said in the article and I will say again on the Senate floor today, there’s no time to wait — this is a time for humility from the White House, and a time to take specific steps to finally get it right in Iraq. It starts by telling the truth, and being straight with Americans.
Here’s what I think President Bush needs to address tonight – and we need to hold him accountable:
* The president must announce immediately that the United States will not have a permanent military presence or bases in Iraq.
* The United States must also insist that the Iraqis establish a truly inclusive political process and meet the deadlines for finishing the constitution and holding elections in December.
* We need to put the training of Iraqi troops on a true six month wartime footing and ensure that the Iraqi government has the budget needed to deploy them.
* The administration needs to work not just at security but at reconstruction — Iraqis need to see the electricity working and the water flowing.
* The administration needs to get Iraq’s neighbors off the sidelines — they can’t afford a failed Iraq on their doorstep, and Bush-style unilateralism needs to bend to getting these countries on board.
* And the administration must immediately draw up a detailed plan with clear milestones for the transfer of military and police responsibilities to Iraqis after the December elections. The plan should be shared with Congress.
It’s the only way we can set the stage for American forces to begin to come home.
The next months are critical to the future of Iraq and our security. If the administration fails to take the kind of steps I outlined today, we will stumble along, our troops at greater risk, casualties rising, costs rising, the patience of the American people wearing thin, and the specter of quagmire staring us in the face.
I urge you to watch the president’s speech tonight with a careful eye and to act in every way possible to demand what our troops deserve – leadership equal to their sacrifices.
28 June 2005