This week marks the beginning of the Iraq war's sixth year. In that time, nearly 4,000 American soldiers have given their lives in the line of fire, 30,000 have been injured, and we've spent over $520 billion and counting.
For this great sacrifice we have little to show for it. The military surge that began over a year ago has contributed to the dampening of violence in Baghdad. However, this has been as much a result of Shiite groups having already run the once majority Sunni out of town. The country is now divided in a sectarian fashion that, while producing short term security gains, makes addressing long term issues of how the country will be able to move forward just as difficult as before.
The Iraqi Parliament, despite receiving the security buffer the Bush Administration stated was necessary for democracy to flourish, has failed to deliver on virtually any of the political goals required to govern the country in peace without the need for foreign soldiers keeping the competing sectarian militias at bay. Just this week, another major boycott by influential Sunni leaders has scuttled reconciliation discussions yet again.
The sacrifice our soldiers in Iraq have made should at the least be matched by an Iraqi determination to make their own country whole by proceeding with the political decision-making necessary for a democratic state. We've given five years for this process to play out. Yet in that time, for every success our brave men and women have achieved, the Iraqis have countered with impasse and gridlock.
The American people support and our national security interests demand a new direction in Iraq – a war that has cost our nation dearly, degraded our military readiness, diverted resources from the global fight against terrorism, and harmed our reputation in the world. Congressional Democrats and our party’s standard-bearers, Senators Clinton and Obama, are calling for a responsible, phased redeployment of our troops out of Iraq. President Bush and his allies stand in the way of our efforts to bring the troops home, but I am confident that a majority of the American people want a change in Iraq and will voice that support this November. With new leadership in the White House, a way home can be found.
While our focus on Iraq enters its sixth year, we must also not forget about the conflict that continues in Afghanistan, and the fact that Osama bin Laden is still at-large. Next week, I will be joining a congressional delegation trip to the region, to examine both the Afghan and Pakistani security situations, in part to determine what level of funding our efforts to stop the Taliban from regaining a foothold in the region require. While Iraq gets most of the media attention these days, these two nations are probably an even more significant frontline in the battle against radical Islamic terrorism.