WASHINGTON – With U.S. troops entering their sixth year of combat in Iraq, New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez demanded Saturday that President Bush give an honest assessment of the costs of the conflict.
"The American people are still waiting to hear the straight talk we deserve," Menendez said in the Democrats' weekly radio address. "Instead of making more sweeping claims of victory, as he did this week, it's time for the president to face the reality of the situation we're in."
In a speech Wednesday at the Pentagon, Bush said, "The world is better, and the United States of America is safer" because of the war.
"No one would argue that this war has not come at a high cost in lives and treasure," Bush said. "But those costs are necessary when we consider the cost of a strategic victory for our enemies in Iraq."
Menendez responded, "President Bush should tell us the truth — that after thousands of lives lost and perhaps trillions of American taxpayer dollars, Iraq remains crippled by violence and corruption, still light-years from building a stable government or a lasting peace."
The senator argued that the war "has severely depleted the resources and morale of our armed forces" and said Bush should acknowledge "that because of Iraq, we haven't finished the job in Afghanistan, al-Qaida is regrouping and our hunt for America's No. 1 enemy — Osama bin Laden — has been compromised."
Menendez also linked the cost of the war to the United States' faltering economy. "Instead of building barracks in Iraq, we could be helping millions of Americans avoid losing their homes to foreclosure," he said. "Instead of policing the streets of Baghdad, we could be investing in universal health care and a better education system."