As many in the progressive blogosphere are already aware, the Senate has been debating the National Defense Authorization Act, which will set military policy for the coming fiscal year. My Democratic colleagues and I – as well as a few but growing number of Republicans – are determined to take this opportunity to demand fairer treatment of our troops and force President Bush to listen to the will of the American people and change course in the war in Iraq.
Yesterday, the first amendment to the defense bill was authored by Senator Jim Webb of Virginia. Senator Webb’s troop-protection amendment would have required that active-duty troops receive as much time at home – recuperating and retraining – as they spend in combat, while giving the president the authority to waive these requirements if additional troops are needed in an emergency.
I was proud to co-sponsor Senator Webb’s legislation because I felt that it was time to bring the systematic abuse of our re-deploying troops to an end. It is simply unacceptable that our troops are being deprived of the time that they need to recover from combat, complete additional training, and spend precious time with their families. Senator Webb’s bill would have gone a long way toward restoring our military’s readiness by giving our brave and courageous service men and women an established amount of time between deployments to protect their mental and physical well-being while providing some stability and predictability for their families.
This is exactly the type of amendment that should have drawn strong, bipartisan support. Unfortunately, many Republicans in the Senate would rather continue to beat to the drum of Karl Rove in support of President Bush’s failed policies in Iraq by filibustering and killing Senator Webb’s amendment.
Today the Administration released the progress report on Iraq, which shows there is mixed progress by the Iraqi government in meeting political benchmarks and little-to-no progress in quelling Iraqi sectarian violence. This report comes on the heels of several other reports and statements by U.S. officials showing that Al-Qaeda has strengthened and has become bolder in its attempts to strike the United States as a direct result of our occupation in Iraq.
All of this despite the facts from the Congressional Research Service that show the war in Iraq is now costing us over $10 billion a month, despite our military leaders stating that the our troops are worn down, and despite recent polls that show that over 71% of the American people favor removing all U.S. Troops from Iraq by April 1 of next year.
The time for a change in direction in Iraq is now.
That is why I am cosponsoring an amendment by Senators Carl Levin and Jack Reed that would begin troop withdrawal within 120 days and redeploy most combat troops by next April. However, the Republicans have made it clear that they will filibuster this amendment just as they filibustered Senator Webb’s troop-protection bill, and the White House has already threatened to veto the National Defense Authorization Act if this amendment is included. The Republican Party is stubbornly supporting the failed policies of President Bush while ignoring the will of the American people, the safety of our troops, and our nation’s national security to the point that I believe “GOP” now stands for “Grand Obstructionist Party”.
The choice is now clear. You either side with the President and his failed policies, or you side with the American people and our military commanders who have concluded that there is no military solution to the mess in Iraq. You either support this endless, pointless war, or you support a smarter, more focused campaign against the terrorists who truly threaten us.
I know where all of you stand and I need your help to move America forward.
Now more than ever we need the progressive blogosphere to do what they do best—to rally around those that support a change of course in Iraq and to call out those who would rather follow the orders of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney than the voice of the American people.
I also hope that you will sign up for email updates on this important issue on my new campaign website at www.tomharkin.com so that I can keep you updated on our campaign for a smarter course of action in the war in Iraq and the war on terror.
With your help, I am confident that more Republicans will join us in the days and weeks ahead and we will prevail in bringing the Iraq war to an end.
Thank you for your support,
Sen. Tom Harkin