Tuesday, July 05, 2005

I write Durbin about his comments on Gitmo. Durbin writes back on war in Iraq

I wrote Durbin complianing about his comments on the troops guarding terrorists caught in Afganistan at Gitmo, and Durbin writes me back talking all about Iraq. And he writes a whole lot.

The best way to get out of a war Senator is to win it.

July 5, 2005

Mr. Bill Baar

Dear Mr. Baar:

Thank you for contacting me about the situation in Iraq.
I appreciate hearing from you.

I believe risking the lives of our men and women in uniform by going towar should be our last option, to be used only when all other options fail. I did not feel we had reached that point when the President committed our troops to war, nor did I support the Congressional resolution authorizing a unilateral war against Iraq. Far too many of ourmen and women in uniform have died in this war, including many from our own Illinois communities who serve in the National Guard and Reserves. My deepest sympathies go out to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives in this endeavor, as well as to the many other Americansoldiers who have suffered life-changing injuries.

It is clear we were not prepared for the situation we face today. Inaddition to the loss of life, this war is costing us more than $1.5 billion a week. Yet, even though the Congress gave the Administration every dollar it requested, too many soldiers have traveled the dangerous roads of Iraq in inadequately armored Humvees, with widespread reports of soldiers lacking vital equipment such as protective body armor and modern defensive equipment on helicopters. The failure to properly equip our military personnel is unconscionable. I have pressed hard for the deployment of up-armored Humvees and the best equipment we can give our forces. I also worked successfully to increase the level of combat pay we provide to our troops and have fought to make up the salary difference
forfederal employees who take a pay cut when they are mobilized to performactive
service as a member of the National Guard or Reserve, just as manystate and local governments and private companies have done for theiremployees.

The sad truth is that, from the beginning, the Bush
Administration discounted any evidence that did not fit with its view that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat to the United States and that Iraq could be easily rid of him and turned into a democracy. It is clear that the main reasons offered for going to war with Iraq -– that its possession of weapons of mass destruction and its close ties to global terrorist groups represented an imminent threat to the United States -– were gross exaggerations.Similarly, Administration officials greatly underestimated thedifficulties associated with the post-war occupation and reconstruction ofIraq. Despite warnings from both internal and independent experts, BushAdministration officials insisted that U.S. troops would be welcomed asliberators and reconstruction would not place a financial drain on theU.S. Treasury. The reality has been quite different, and the Bush Administration's unilateralist policies have left the United States bearing the bulk of the costs -- in human lives as well as financial resources.

Unfortunately, it is easier to get into a war than to get out of one. Setting a timetable for withdrawal is not prudent at this time, but I cannot accept the Administration's failure to establish a clear plan toend the conflict and return our troops home. President Bush has taken America to war without enough troops to secure Iraq or a comprehensiveplan to win the peace. Vice President Cheney's recent declaration that theinsurgency was in its last throes has not been confirmed by a singlemilitary leader and is challenged every day with new reports of liveslost.

America has invested too much and lost too many soldiers to turn its back on the people of Iraq. We cannot cut and run and leave chaos in our wake, but we cannot achieve our goal of a safe and stable Iraq until the President puts forward a comprehensive plan for success and a clear strategy for how we will achieve it. That is the President'sresponsibility to every American soldier. And it is Congress'responsibility to insist that he do so.

In pursuit of one element of that goal, I introduced an amendment to the 2005 supplemental spending bill to require the Administration to provide Congress with regular, comprehensive assessments of the progress being made in training and equipping Iraqi security forces. This measure, which was adopted as part of the emergency appropriations bill, directs the Pentagon to report to Congress every 90 days on the estimated strength of the Iraqi insurgency; the status of efforts to recruit, train, and equip Iraqi security forces; and Iraq's progress toward achieving important milestones toward political stability. In addition, the reports shallinclude an assessment of how many U.S. forces will be needed in Iraq in 6,12, and 18 months.

The sooner the new Iraqi government is able to stand on its own andresponsibly govern the people of Iraq, with a trained and fully functioning security force, the sooner we can bring the tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers there back home to their families. I will continue to do all I can in support of efforts to achieve this goal. Thank you again for your message. I will be sure to keep your concernsin mind as this situation develops further.

Sincerely, Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

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