Good morning. I'm former Sen. Max Cleland.
My fellow Americans, my friends, I'm a veteran of the Vietnam War. Having left three limbs on that battlefield, I've seen the toll that war can take on our troops and on our country. We are now engaged in another war — a war in Iraq. However, the Bush administration's plan for victory is not working.
"There is no strategy to win. The president disregarded the advice of top military brass who said that at least 500,000 troops were needed to secure Iraq. The president committed only one-fifth of that force to the war. Consequently, our military is completely overextended. Many servicemen and women are returning to Iraq for their third tour. The all-volunteer force is suffering — not only in the active forces, but also in the Guard and Reserves.
Iraq is still not secure and we don't have the forces there to make it secure.
Furthermore, Usama bin Laden and his terrorist cadre who did attack our country on Sept. 11, 2001, are still on the loose.
We are running out of time. We need a strategy to win in Iraq or an exit strategy to leave. The present course will lead us to disaster. More of the same just means more precious blood spilled in the desert.
The war is well into its third year. Early on, the president said 'Mission accomplished and major combat over.' This judgment was wrong. Major combat is not over. The cost has been extremely bloody for this nation.
Almost 2,000 servicemen and women are dead. More than 15,000 have been wounded. A quarter of a million American servicemen and women have returned to our country to face an uncertain future. They bring with them the horrors and pain of a war with no end.
The result of this war has left a multitude of military families looking to their government for help. Yet, the administration's budget for them is woefully inadequate. At least $3.5 billion dollars more is needed. We should be expanding VA healthcare — especially counseling for veterans and their families dealing with the emotional aftermath of war.
The toll on the serviceman and women in a war where a distinct majority of the casualties are due to explosive devices is especially devastating.
The Bush administration needs to step up the plate. It's time to face the truth. It's time for a strategy to win in Iraq or a strategy to get out.
I learned in Vietnam that the best way to support out troops is to either give them the forces and equipment needed to win or bring them home so we can care for those who have borne the battle.
I'm Max Cleland. Thanks for listening.