Our Military men and women deserve the utmost praise and gratitude for their commitment and valor. I am inspired by their dedication and sacrifice. But the burden of a war that has been so costly in terms of dollars and lives cannot and should not continue to fall solely on them. We must honor our military by providing them with missions they can accomplish and with the equipment and training they need to fight and to protect their lives. We must insist that before we send our battle weary warriors back into intense combat, we give them the time they need to rest and reconstitute and the time they deserve to spend with family and loved ones.
During this year, the Bush Administration has requested $1 trillion for the Department of Defense. $9 billion a month is being expended for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including a $2 billion a month logistic trail for transporting equipment and personnel into Iraq.
Over 3,200 of our sons and daughters have lost their lives in Iraq and close to 25,000 have been wounded, to include thousands of traumatic brain injuries and hundreds of limb amputations. The cost of disability benefits as a result of this protracted and intense war will be staggering. A recent report by the Harvard University School of Government put the total cost of providing medical care and disability benefits to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan at $350 to $700 billion.
While the U.S. continues to deplete its resources in Iraq, our ground forces in the United States are short on training, equipment and personnel. At the beginning of the Iraq war, 80% of all Army units and almost 100% of active combat units were rated at the highest levels of readiness. Just the opposite exists today. General Peter Schoomaker, Army Chief of Staff, said last week during a hearing on the Hill, "We have a strategy right now that is outstripping the means to execute it." General Cody, the Vice Chief, said that the Army's readiness level is "stark."
Meanwhile in Iraq the situation remains dire. Benchmarks established by this Administration are elusive and routinely ignored. Official reports sent to Congress indicate that oil production and electricity remain below prewar levels and less than half of the Iraqi population is employed. Attacks on U.S. forces have increased by 10 more percentage points over the last four months and the Iraqi Security Forces are not taking over the fight as promised. Two million Iraqis, many of who made up the brain trust in Iraq, have fled to neighboring countries. A new BBC poll shows that only 18% of Iraqis have confidence in U.S.-led forces and 53% of Iraqis believe security will improve when the U.S. withdraws from Iraq. The Pentagon is finally coming around to the fact that Iraq is engulfed in its own civil war. In its most recent report to Congress, Pentagon analysts reported "some elements of the situation in Iraq are properly descriptive of a "civil war," including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities and mobilization, the changing character of the violence, and population displacements."
After four years of incompetence and mismanagement, this Administration must come to the realization that Iraq's civil war can only be solved by the Iraqi people and that stability in Iraq can only be accomplished when U.S. and coalition forces end the occupation and redeploy.