Good morning. This is Senator Patty Murray from Washington State.
Next week, our country will mark a solemn day — the beginning of the fifth year of the war in Iraq. Five years, 3,200 Americans killed, nearly 30,000 wounded, over $400 billion spent ... and still no end in sight. In Congress, my fellow Democrats and I believe it is time to bring this war to a close. Our troops — who have served bravely under difficult conditions — have done everything we have asked. As we enter the fifth year, it is time for the Iraqis to step up, secure their own country, and finally take responsibility for their own future.
The war raging in the streets of Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq is a civil war. It can't be won by military force alone. It can only be resolved by Iraqis talking to Iraqis, and forging the political settlements that will end the violence.
Unfortunately, this is a reality President Bush and a majority of congressional Republicans still refuse to recognize. They want to stay the course. They want to ignore the lessons of the last four years. They want to commit America to an open-ended civil war. I did not support the war in 2002, and I do not support escalating it now. We need a new direction, not more of the same failures.
This week, Democrats voted to give our troops the best chance to succeed in Iraq and to defeat Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. We voted to narrow the mission of U.S. forces in Iraq, and to begin the redeployment of our troops within the next four months. We voted for Iraqis to take responsibility for their country. Regrettably, our effort was blocked by Senate Republicans and a president who stubbornly refused to listen.
But we will not give up on this debate. Democrats will keep pushing in Congress until there is a change of course in Iraq. American lives, American security, and America's future are all on the line. While we fight for a new direction in Iraq, Democrats are also fighting for the troops who have come home. Too many of our returning troops are bearing the burden of the administration's failure in Iraq. When my father served in World War II with the Greatest Generation, veterans had everything they needed to succeed in life after war. That unfortunately is not the case these days.
We've heard horrific tales of wounded soldiers recovering among mold at Walter Reed. We've heard of injured troops being sent back into battle before they're healed. Meeting the needs of our brave men and women in uniform should be the first order of business. But for this president, it has been only an afterthought, and our troops are paying the price.
We need a comprehensive look at the problem, and we need comprehensive solutions. Our troops and their families deserve immediate attention and access to resources that meet their needs from the battlefield to the VA and everywhere in between.
Our injured heroes returning from Iraq deserve access to quality mental care, treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, and less bureaucratic red tape.
Our veterans of Iraq deserve their benefits in a timely manner, so they can provide for their families and aren't forced into homelessness. And our troops in battle deserve proper armor, and a strategy that will help them complete the mission, so they can come home.
This is what Democrats are working to deliver in Congress. As we enter the fifth year of the war in Iraq, we pray Congressional Republicans and President Bush will finally join us.
I'm Patty Murray. Thank you for listening.