In his weekly radio address on Saturday, Bush touted his surprise trip to Iraq on Labor Day, where “he met with Iraqi leaders and local sheiks who have joined U.S.-led coalition forces in fighting al Qaeda.”
“Together we have driven al Qaeda out of strongholds in Anbar,” Bush said. “The level of violence is down. Local governments are meeting again. Young Sunnis are joining the police and army. And normal life is returning.
“The people of Anbar have seen that standing up to the terrorists and extremists leads to a better life,” Bush said. “And Anbar has shown that improving security is the first step toward achieving economic progress and political reconciliation.”
In sharp contrast to Bush’s pre-Petraeus report spin on the Iraq War, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid discussed Bush’s fatally flawed war strategy. Reid also called on Bush to honor the memory of those lost on 9/11, as the 6th anniversay approaches, by working with Democrats to change course in Iraq and make America safer by refocusing our resources on a resurgent Al Qaeda.
The text of Harry Reid’s Democratic Radio Address, as delivered, is below:
“Good morning. This is Senator Harry Reid of Searchlight, Nevada – Majority Leader of the United States Senate. This Tuesday is the sixth anniversary of September 11th, and our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims and their families. In the days following those terrible attacks, the country’s pain and despair were quickly replaced with a steely resolve to bring those responsible to justice. The world stood by our side, ready to join us in this effort.
“But before he’d finished the job of destroying al Qaeda, President Bush chose a different path, misleading us into an ill-planned war in Iraq. As his own counter-terrorism chief said, attacking Iraq after 9/11 was like attacking Mexico after Pearl Harbor. And today, the results of his choice could not be clearer:
– 170,000 brave Americans are mired in a civil war in far-away Iraq;
– Osama bin Laden remains on the loose, making videos, mocking America, planning attacks;
– Al Qaeda and its leaders are resurgent;
– And international support for the United States has crumbled.
“Our military is not to blame for those setbacks. The men and women who serve us in uniform have met every challenge and surpassed every goal with remarkable courage. These are President Bush’s failures – and it is long past time for him to change his flawed policies.
“This week, President Bush will send General Petraeus to Congress to report on the war — but before the report arrives in Congress, it will pass through the White House spin machine, where facts are often ignored or twisted, and intelligence is cherry-picked.
“President Bush told us the purpose of his troop surge, his escalation in Iraq, was to give the Iraqis the space and safety to forge political progress and build a sustainable government. Unfortunately, that has not happened. Nonpartisan reports released this past week show that:
– the Iraqis have failed to meet 15 of 18 key benchmarks;
– Iraqi police forces are more interested in igniting rather than ending a civil war;
– and violence has not subsided despite the President’s assurances to the contrary.
“The unfortunate truth is that Iraq’s leaders have not taken meaningful steps toward building a country that can stand on its own in spite of President Bush spending almost $3 billion each week on this war.
“The release of the Bush/Petraeus report this week is yet another chance to evaluate these shortcomings and finally change course. We must responsibly end the war and return our focus where it belongs: defeating Al Qaeda and fighting a real, effective war on terrorism.
“If President Bush again refuses to do so, it will be up to the Congress to show him the way – and that is exactly what Democrats intend to do. When President Bush had a Republican Congress, they ignored the bipartisan and unanimous recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The Democratic Congress passed these recommendations within months of our taking charge and they’re now law.
“And Democrats have voted time and time again this year to change the mission in Iraq. Unfortunately, only a handful of Republicans have had the courage to vote with us. The vast majority have chosen to stick with President Bush and his failed policies.
“Many Republicans spent the summer saying that that September would be the time to change direction. September is here. Now they must finally stand with Democrats, our troops and the American people by voting to responsibly end the war.
“Just days after September 11th, President Bush said of bin Laden: “There’s an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive.’” He went on to say: “One thing for certain is we’re going to get him running and keep him running and bring him to justice.”
“Now six years have passed, and bin Laden has not been killed. He has not been captured. He is not on the run. To the contrary, our intelligence indicates he has used this time to rebuild his terrorist organization. President Bush’s failed policies have been bin Laden’s best recruiting tool. It is bin Laden who has used the breathing room created by the war in Iraq to regroup, re-tool, and recruit.
“So, Mr. President, on this sixth anniversary of 9/11, we ask you to honor the lives we lost on that tragic day by keeping your promise to bring bin Laden to justice and destroy his terror network once and for all. The families of those we lost on September 11th, our troops serving overseas and all Americans deserve no less. This is Senator Harry Reid. Thank you for listening.”
The N.Y. Times nails Bush on the pre-Petraeus report spin in an editorial in the Sunday edition:
President Bush, however, seems to be aiming for maximum political advantage — not maximum clarity on Iraq’s military and political crises, which cannot be separated from each other. Mr. Bush, we fear, isn’t looking for the truth, only for ways to confound the public, scare Democrats into dropping their demands for a sound exit strategy, and prolong the war until he leaves office. At times, General Petraeus gives the disturbing impression that he, too, is more focused on the political game in Washington than the unfolding disaster in Iraq. That serves neither American nor Iraqi interests.
Enough Is Enough.
Harry Reid is right… “Republicans “must finally stand with Democrats, our troops and the American people by voting to responsibly end the war.”