Campaign 2010

Apr 21, 2004

Major Pelosi Speech on Iraq

Given to the American Society of Newspaper Editors:


“Today, I would like to talk with you about two issues of great consequence for our nation—the war in Iraq and the budget deficit.

“For more than a year and a half, your headlines have been dominated by Iraq. Through the reporting of your newspapers and brave embedded reporters, we have seen the inspiring service and sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform, civilian aid workers, and indeed our courageous journalists. But that reporting and the situation on the ground has raised serious questions about the Administration’s Iraq policy.

“From the outset, I believe the President’s policy has had little basis in reality.

“The Administration told the country that it was a certainty that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that threatened the United States. We now know that the Administration’s characterization is not true and was not true.

“On the cost of reconstruction, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz insisted that, ‘We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon.’ But we know that is not true, and the American people have provided more than $120 billion thus far, much of it for reconstruction activities.

“And tragically, the Administration promised our troops would be greeted with roses, not rocket-propelled grenades, but more than 700 Americans have lost their lives since the war began. Over 500 of them since the President declared major combat operations to be over.

“A year after the invasion, Iraq is neither stable nor secure, and a very dangerous situation is getting even worse. Our military performed its duties magnificently, and we all salute the courage, the patriotism, and the sacrifice of our troops.

“The enormous challenges we continue to face in Iraq are because the President failed to plan adequately for the period following the end of major combat operations. As retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni has said, the level of sacrifice has not been matched by the level of planning.

“The Administration failed to listen to its own State Department. A yearlong State Department study, the Future of Iraq Project, warned of the problems that would be encountered if looting was not controlled, if the Iraqi army was disbanded too quickly, if the poor conditions of Iraq’s infrastructure were not accurately assessed, and if effective use was not made of Iraq’s media to educate the Iraqi people on the coalition’s objectives for a post-Saddam Iraq.

“However, the Administration ignored that advice, and failed to control looting, disbanded the army, massively misjudged the infrastructure, and failed to win Iraqi hearts and minds through the media.

“The President substituted poor judgment for sound preparation.

Unanswered Questions

“In just 70 days, the U.S. will turn over sovereignty to an Iraqi transitional government, but several questions remain unanswered.

“What will be the composition and character of that government? All we have is a sketch of what a government might look like, recently done by Lakhdar Brahimi of the United Nations. The Bush Administration has approached the transfer of sovereignty precisely backward, choosing a date for transferring power before there was a government to receive it. Months ago, the Administration chose this date without an inkling of what this government would look like.

“What is the status of American forces in Iraq? Since there is no new government with which to negotiate, we will have more than 120,000 American troops in Iraq on June 30, but we do not know what limitations will be placed on their commanders. It is very important to know what these limitations are, for the safety and security of our troops.

“Why are Iraqi security forces so unprepared? Last weekend, Ambassador Bremer acknowledged the obvious – Iraqi forces will not be capable of providing security for the foreseeable future. We have put a lot of eggs in that basket.

“Secretary Powell’s so-called ‘Pottery Barn’ theory is true – ‘you break it, you own it.’ We are in Iraq now, and Iraq needs to be stable and secure before we can leave. While there were no proven direct ties to al-Qaeda before the war, in the postwar chaos, Iraq is now a magnet for terrorists.

“At his news conference last week, the President pointed to his recent decision to work with the United Nations and to more fully involve nations in the region as signs of progress in Iraq. Many in our country—and indeed in the world—have been demanding these steps for more than a year and a half, nearly two years.

“The situation on the ground would likely be better today – and less dangerous for our troops—if President Bush had faced reality and taken those steps earlier. It remains imperative that we build a meaningful, multinational coalition.

“This week, we learned that troops from Spain and Honduras are leaving Iraq, increasing the burden on our troops. We can not afford what we have now—a coalition of the shrinking. American troops continue to take nearly all of the risks, and American taxpayers continue to pay nearly all of the bills.

“The President’s resolve may be firm, but his judgment is not sound. It is ironic that in a nation obsessed with reality television, we have a President who is increasingly divorced from reality.

Bush Deficit

“Here at home, when it comes to the looming fiscal crisis caused by his decision to abandon fiscal discipline, President Bush seems to be living in a virtual reality.

“Your front pages have again told the story. When President Bush took office, we were on a track to a $5.6 trillion surplus. Now, the budget deficit is projected to be well over $3 trillion over the next 10 years—a $9 trillion fiscal collapse.

“To listen to the President, the Bush deficit was caused by others – a slow economy, the war on terrorism. But as the Congressional Budget Office reported last month, an overwhelming cause of long-term structural deficits is the President’s tax cuts for the high end. And he is still insisting on $1 trillion in additional tax breaks for those who need them least. This has a tremendous impact in our country.

“This is not a one-day story. The Bush deficit poses a long-term crisis. But in the Alice-in-Wonderland world of this Administration, ‘deficits don’t matter.’

“But deficits do matter to America’s workers. Higher deficits mean fewer good-paying jobs. The UCLA Anderson Forecast warned that new hiring will be constrained because of bulging government deficits.

“Deficits do matter to seniors. Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan recently warned that record federal budget deficits may force the President to cut Social Security benefits to pay for his tax cuts for those making the most in our country.

“Deficits do matter to America’s families. Higher deficits mean higher interest rates, which mean families pay more for homes, cars, and college tuition. According to a recent study by the Brookings Institution, the Bush deficit will force a family with a 30-year mortgage of $250,000 to pay $2,000 more every year in higher interest.

“To address this looming catastrophe, Democrats proposed a budget that would reach balance by 2012. Democrats would put the budget on a pay-as-you-go system in which both tax cuts and spending increases must be paid for.

“Right now, the budget is in a House-Senate conference committee, and a major point of contention is pay-as-you-go. The Senate has included pay-as-you-go for tax cuts in their budget, but the House Republicans’ obsession with tax cuts prevents them from facing reality and including it under pay-as-you-go.

“So for the fourth time in four years, President Bush and the Republicans in Congress seek to pass a budget that will create record deficits and threaten America’s economic security. We now have a deficit that is half a trillion dollars for one year alone. That is an astounding burden on our children. We should be giving them opportunity, not obligations.

“Democrats will continue to fight for a fiscally sound budget that includes tax cuts that help all Americans and that ensures our national security, grows the economy to create good-paying jobs, expands opportunity by improving education, increases access to quality health care, and protects our environment. And it is paid for.

Time to Face Reality

“It is time for a reality check for this Administration. From their prediction that U.S forces would be greeted with roses not rockets in Iraq, to their belief that their reckless economic policies and historic deficits would create jobs here at home, President Bush and Republicans have been living in a dream world. But it can be a nightmare for the American people.

“It is time for the President to face reality. In Iraq, it is time to form a real partnership with the world to stabilize and rebuild that nation. Here at home, it is time to reduce the deficit that threatens our economic security and erodes opportunity.

“Thank you for the opportunity to be here. Thank you for providing the American people with the insights into their government that they need to ensure that our democracy continues to flourish.”

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