Good morning, this is Diane Farrell of Connecticut.
This week, things got so bad in Iraq that George Bush compared it to the Tet Offensive - the battle that helped turn U.S. public opinion firmly against the Vietnam War.
In 1968, with the Vietnam War at its height, I was a teenager in Westport, Connecticut. We all remember the horrors of Vietnam. I also remember that because of failed policies in Vietnam, Americans rallied to change the leadership that took us down that wrong path.
October of 2006 could go down as the deadliest month yet in Iraq. On one day this week, nearly a dozen Americans died in combat and just like that, a dozen families had their lives changed forever. And just in the last two days, generals on the ground say it's getting worse.
Like you, I am proud of the brave men and women, serving our country in Iraq. They are performing honorably in the worst of circumstances.
It's been the performance of our leaders in Washington that troubles me.
The leaders in Washington trouble me because they fail to admit their mistakes. Instead of looking at the situation on the ground and making choices, they bury their heads in the sand and hope for the best.
First President Bush chose to ignore the top generals in Iraq. Then he and the Republican Congress chose to dismiss our own government's intelligence experts who said that our presence in Iraq is actually spreading terror throughout the world, spawning new generations of Islamic radicals and making us less safe at home.
They hoped for the best, but the situation has worsened. We will be dishonoring the service men and women on the frontlines as well as their families here at home if we simply stay the course. We need a new direction in Iraq.
To be blunt, the president and the Republican Congress have been wrong on Iraq and wrong to keep their failed strategy. Even leading Republicans like James Baker and Colin Powell say it's time for a new policy.
My opponent has made 14 trips to Iraq and yet he too stubbornly supports the president's stay the course approach.
Unfortunately for our troops, "stay the course" is a slogan, not a strategy.
My opponent recently made some comments about torture that disturbed many here in Connecticut.
He said that the tragedies at Abu Ghraib were "not torture" and then, this week, he suggested that if he were in charge, he would have had us in Iraq even earlier, and for no specific reason.
Our troops deserve from their leaders in Washington, nothing short of a commitment equal to the dedication the troops bring to their duty every day. Instead they get a flat denial of the horrible reality. That is why we need a new direction in Iraq.
Democrats will change the course in Iraq and we will focus our efforts on defeating the terrorists with policies that are both tough and strategic.
Democrats will do what Congress has failed to do - hold the president accountable. We will ask the tough questions and demand solutions that do right by our troops.
I have laid out a plan for Iraq. First, fire Donald Rumsfeld - he implemented a flawed policy, failed our troops and he must be replaced.
Second, Congress must finally do its duty of oversight so that we can provide our troops a strategy that reduces our role in Iraq and begins to bring service men and women home.
Next we must turn Iraq back over to the Iraqis. My plan calls for benchmarks of success as Iraqis work to take care of their own country.
An arbitrary departure date could be dangerous but real goals for the new Iraqi government and its army are necessary. Iraqis need a system that reflects the vast cultural and religious differences among them.
We also must make sure our troops have the equipment, the health care and the strategy necessary to succeed and we will accept nothing less for our brave men and women.
We also need to be smart about how we fund this war and we need to account for the hundreds of billions spent in Iraq, some of which has been lost as a result of incompetence and corruption.
When families here in Connecticut ask me about the billion dollars we spend every week in Iraq, I can't help but share their dismay. In fact, when my cousin was deployed to Iraq, I wrote him a check so he could buy better body armor. Families are doing everything they can to protect their loved ones because our government isn't.
We need to get the international community back on our side because going it alone has not worked and will continue to fail. We need to restore trust in American leadership.
This won't happen in an instant, but we must be committed to success.
Iraq has always been a war of choice fought on false pretenses.
Now American families face a choice. In two weeks, voters have a chance to send a message about the need for change and the stakes couldn't be higher.
If we re-elect stay-the-course Republicans, the message we will be sending will be one of support for our current policies in Iraq.
If we replace them with Democrats who use realism to get results, the message we will be sending will be loud and clear: it is time for a new direction in Iraq.
On November 7, you can send a message that it is time for accountability. On Nov 7 you can send a message that it is time for a congress that asks the tough questions, demands the honest answers. On Nov 7, you can send a message that it is time to honor our troops.
Changing direction in Iraq starts with changing the people we send to Washington.
This is Diane Farrell of Connecticut, thanks very much for listening.