Friday, February 17, 2006

Bush Review by Boxer

Barbara Boxer Reviews Bush
If you recall, a year ago, I had just completed questioning Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at her confirmation hearing about how the Bush Administration had misled us into the Iraq war, how they had failed to plan for winning the peace, and how they had no timetable for bringing our troops home. With your help, I was able to ask the tough questions and hold the Administration accountable for its mistakes, missteps, and misleading statements.

Unfortunately, not much has changed in the last year. Yes, we've heard the President acknowledge that "mistakes were made" in Iraq -- but in no way does this amount to "accountability." If the president truly believed in taking responsibility, he would have made some dramatic changes to remedy his many mistakes. Instead, all we've seen and heard is "stay the course."

Yesterday, a little more than a year since I first questioned her about Iraq, I once again had the opportunity to question Secretary Rice at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- yet one more chance for her to set the record straight, and another chance she has

I gave Secretary Rice another chance to take responsibility for the Administration's failed policy for winning the peace, as our occupation has now created a hotbed for insurgents and terrorists in Iraq; by the Administration's own acknowledgement, it didn't exist before our invasion -- not to mention the thousands of lives that have been lost and hundreds of billions of dollars that have been wasted there.

I gave Secretary Rice another chance to tell us what the Administration's plan is for bringing our brave men and women in uniform home, after more than three years of long and difficult duty in Iraq.

You can read my statement from today's hearing below. Needless to say, Secretary of State Rice failed to take responsibility for the Bush Administration's mistakes. So it's up to you and me to keep speaking out and setting the record straight.
"Administration's Tin Ear on the Middle East is Making America Less Safe"
Opening Statement of Senator Barbara Boxer
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing
February 15, 2006

Madam Secretary, the president said during his State of the Union address that we are winning in Iraq; and he is confident in his plan for victory.

Unfortunately, the American people don't share this confidence. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted January 26th through the
29th shows that a majority of Americans... believe the president has failed to give good reasons why the U.S. must keep troops in Iraq. Similarly, 53 percent of Americans are less confident that Iraq will come to a successful conclusion. They don't share his confidence because they see what is happening on the ground. They see brave men [such as] ABC's Bob Woodruff and his cameraman seriously injured while trying to record on, "the good news coming out of Iraq."

They see Jill Carroll of the Christian Science Monitor, a young woman who went to Iraq to tell the story of the Iraqi people, kidnapped and begging or her life -- and we pray for her safe return. And, of course, the deaths and the injuries keep climbing -- up to 19,000 Americans either dead or wounded. This Administration's rosy scenarios like the Vice President's statement that the insurgency was in the last throes, your statement in '05 that the insurgency has been dealt several blows, just don't match realities on the ground.

The number of attacks against coalition troops, Iraqi security forces, and civilians increased by 29 percent last year.
Let me give you specifics:
Insurgents launched 34,000 plus attacks in 2005, an increase of 8,000 from 2004. Last year, the number of car bombs more than doubled from 420 to 873. The number of suicide car bombs went from 133 to 411. 67 attackers wore suicide vests last year, up from seven in 2004. Roadside bombs increased from 5,000-plus to 10,000-plus. Last week, a chart appeared in the New York Times depicting the extent of casualties just in one month. And I just want you to see this, because sometimes we don't recognize what's going on there. More than 800 people were killed as a result of the insurgency.

And what do the Iraqi people think of all this? 64 percent of Iraqis believe that crime and violent attacks will decrease when the United States redeploys out of Iraq. Perhaps more important[ly], 73 percent of Iraqis believe there will be greater cooperation among Iraq's political factions when the United States redeploys.

So I say to you, if we're in Iraq to help the Iraqi people, then we ought to start listening to the Iraqi people and start a redeployment. Now, success in Iraq also depends greatly on the ability of our forces to better secure Iraq's oil infrastructure. Paul Wolfowitz told Congress in 2003, "We're dealing with a country that can finance its own reconstruction with oil, and relatively soon." That was another rosy scenario. The reality is [that] Iraq's oil production has dropped from pre-war levels.

And I want to show you a headline from the New York Times a little more than a week ago: "Oil graft fuels the insurgency." The Iraqi finance minister has estimated that insurgents receive 40... to 50 percent of all oil smuggling profits in the country. So not only is the oil not financing the reconstruction; it is financing the insurgency that is killing American troops. Our main reason for going to Iraq was to get rid of the WMDs, or, as you said, not to wait for the smoking gun to become the mushroom cloud. That was a farce. And the truth is coming out.

The CIA intelligence officer in charge of the Middle East intelligence from 2000 to 2005 wrote, "Intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made."

Our standing in the world is low, according to the Pew Research Center, and the American people know it. Two-thirds of Americans say [that] there is less international respect for the U.S. than in the past. And when asked why, a strong majority, seven in 10 Americans, cite the war in Iraq. The war in Iraq is bringing our standing down in the world. American people are smart.

Now you have cited elections in the Middle East as a sign that, "The neighborhood is changing." But is the neighborhood changing for the better? It doesn't appear so.

You have admitted to being blindsided by the Hamas victory -- saying, "I've asked why nobody saw it coming. It does say something about us [sic] not having a good pulse."

And I do appreciate your candor there. But this has become a pattern.

This Administration was shocked by Hamas, shocked by the election of the Iranian leader, shocked that Iraqis voted for conservative religious parties with ties to Iran instead of secular candidates like Ahmed Chalabi, whose party got not one single vote in the Iraqi parliament. I remember when he sat behind the first lady in 2004 at the State of the Union address. This Administration seems to have a tin ear when it comes to the Middle East, and that tin ear is making us less safe.

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