Good morning. I'm Gov. Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
As Americans, we are united in our support for our troops. And because we support our troops, Democrats have put forward a plan for success in Iraq. A plan to get us out of Iraq.
We have made it clear that we will work with the President to find a solution. In response, the President continues to say "my way or the highway," and Vice President Cheney uses divisive rhetoric to question the patriotism of members of Congress who disagree with him. That's not what the country needs right now.
It is time for the President and Republicans in Congress to stop try to bully their way through this and work with Democrats to end the war. It's time for the president to show respect to the American people, who voted overwhelmingly to leave Iraq.
President Bush and his Republican allies did not have a clear plan when they misled our nation into this war and they do not have a clear plan to get our troops out. The Republicans sent our brave men and women in uniform to Iraq without proper body armor, equipment or training.
Our military is now stretched to a breaking point. Just this week, the Army announced they will send large division units back to Iraq without giving them at least a year's rest at home, as the Pentagon's standards require. Because our forces have been so badly depleted, the Pentagon just yesterday announced they are deploying an additional 12,000 National Guard reserves to Iraq.
The disgraceful conditions at Walter Reed and veterans' hospitals across the country are an appalling example of the way that President Bush and Republicans in Congress have failed our men and women in uniform. Upon returning home from Iraq, too many of our troops face a system that has been starved of resources for six years, and cannot adequately provide the care and services our troops deserve.
That is wrong.
The Democratic plan is clear:
Our plan ensures that American troops have the resources they need to complete their mission. But the mission itself must change. It's time for the mission in Iraq to focus on a political solution and not a military one.
Our plan says that our brave men and women should not be policing a civil war. The Iraqis have to be accountable for their own future. Our troops can't solve their political problems. That's why we have put forward clear benchmarks that will require the Iraqis to take control of their own future.
Our plan includes a phased redeployment of our troops that begins to bring most of them home, with some remaining in Iraq for a period of time to be used only for counterterrorism operations, and training of Iraqi Security Forces to help ensure stability.
We believe that we should refocus our military efforts on Afghanistan and on fighting terrorism.
We have presented this plan to President Bush, but he stubbornly refuses even to discuss it.
We intend to see that the troops get what they deserve and we will not give President Bush a blank check for a war without end.
Contrary to what President Bush says, Democrats are funding priorities that Republicans have long ignored. We are providing $96 billion to ensure troops have the resources they need. We're providing $4.3 billion to make sure they receive the health care they deserve and we're providing $2 billion to secure our ports, mass transit and airports. That's what President Bush calls pork. We call it supporting our troops.
Seventy one percent of the American people have made it clear they want to get out of Iraq. The American people are asking: How can the President continue to ignore our voice and the voices of military experts?
The answer is that he can't continue this way. He has forgotten the simple truth that the power he has is not his to keep, it is on loan from the American people. That's why Democrats have put forward a clear and reasonable plan to get our troops out of the middle of a civil war in Iraq.
We have a new Congress in Washington. The American people have elected us to hold President Bush and the Republicans accountable for the incompetence in Iraq, the mismanagement at Walter Reed, the purging of Justice Department officials for partisan gain. We will do what the American people have asked us to do. We will bring our troops home.
Let's remember this debate is not about President Bush, it's not about Republicans or Democrats. It's about our brave men and women who serve America. Together as Americans we have to stand up for our troops. The best way to do that is to get them out of the middle of a civil war in Iraq.
I'm Gov. Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. I wish everyone a happy Easter and Passover holiday as we remember the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform serving overseas.
Thanks so much for listening.