Good morning. This is Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.
The Presidents surge has failed and there is no end in sight for the war in Iraq. This is what I learned on my summer visit to that ravaged country.
After arriving in Iraq in August, it didnt take long to see that the surge failed to achieve its main goal - reducing the violence so that progress could be made on key political benchmarks. At a meeting with Iraqs Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Barham Saleh, our six-member Congressional delegation was informed that the night before, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi had left the government. The week before, the Sunnis had pulled out their Cabinet members. What was left of the Parliament was on vacation, and Dr. Barham said that a political settlement wont be done this September and it wont be done next September. But he never did say how many Septembers it would take.
Later, while dining on lobster tortellini in the air-conditioned elegance of Ambassador Ryan Crockers home in the Green Zone, General David Petraeus, commander of our forces in Iraq, made the case with charts and pointer that the security situation had improved somewhat during the surge. And yet while we were choosing between coffee, tea, or espresso to go with our dessert, outside in the 120 degree heat on that very day, August 6, four U.S. soldiers were killed by an IED blast in Diyala, one British soldier was shot in Basra, six street cleaners were blown up, 33 Iraqis were killed in a residential neighborhood in Tal Afar, and 17 bodies killed by death squads were discovered.
Outside in the scorching air, our young men and woman in uniform were sweating under their body armor during, what is in fact, the bloodiest summer of the war, driving on roads that our delegation flew over in Blackhawk helicopters because the driving was too dangerous for us. There they were, doing their valiant best to carry out a misguided mission, risking and too often losing their lives, while we looked at a chart telling us that in one place, in one month, after four and a half years, there had been a slight drop in violence. There was no chart showing that overall sectarian attacks around the country had nearly doubled from last year. And there was no chart that measured the more than 3,700 of our troops that have been killed and the more than 27,660 wounded, many profoundly and for life.
Neither was there a chart showing the enormous cost of the war, now up to $3 billion a week, $12 million every hour - enough to fix all the broken bridges in our country, expand health care coverage for our children, help our students afford college, develop renewable sources of energy, and make our streets safer.
And as we finished our strawberry cake, our troops were out in the real world and not there to hear General Petraeus tell us that the United States would be in Iraq for another nine to 10 years. That means children who are now 8 years old, who were 4 years old when the war started, could yet serve in Iraq, according to General Petraeus.
Nine to ten years. That was not the timetable I nor most Americans had in mind, but General Petraeus acknowledged that as a military man, at the end of the day, he takes his direction from the civilian leadership. If the civilian leadership in this country determines that the war is to end and the troops come home, then that is what will happen.
I took his statement as a challenge. The Congress of the United States is reconvening on Tuesday. Most Democrats and a growing number of Republicans have come to the same conclusion - the best way to protect our troops is to end this war in Iraq.
With the President stubbornly continuing to stay the course in Iraq, I urge my Republican colleagues to join with Democrats and the vast majority of Americans who are demanding a new direction in Iraq and refocusing Americas efforts on fighting the real threats of terrorism around the world.
This is Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. Thank you for listening.