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Friday, January 19, 2007

In Own State of the Union, Top Dems Call For Iraq War End

The top Democrats who lead the U.S. Congress continued to push their opposition to President Bush's escalation of U.S. involvement in Iraq -- and the top Democrat in the Senate is going further by advocating a withdrawl of U.S. forces from the conflict in coming months.

Speaking in Washington in their own joint State of the Union speech, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid say Iraqis must shoulder more of the burden of security in their nation.

More than 3,000 American service personnel have lost their lives in Iraq while tens-of-thousands more have been wounded in combat in Iraq. Last year, violence claimed the lives of at least 34,000 Iraqis -- a rate of almost 100 a day, Reid notes. The war in Iraq has now lasted longer than World War II, Reid, a senator from Nevada, adds.

"Yet despite these tremendous costs, despite this great sacrifice, the Iraq war has made America less safe, not more safe," Reid says. "Our troops in Iraq --including hundreds of fine Nevadans -- have done everything asked of them. It's their political leaders at home who've failed. We must change course."

President Bush this month called for an increase of more than 20,000 U.S. troops to Iraq. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in 2003 because he said Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction. No WMDs have been found. Since the ouster of since-hanged Iraq leader Saddam Hussein, Iraq has been plagued by sectarian violence.

"Unfortunately, the president's new plan can be summed up in four words: 'more of the same,'" Reid says. "Like our military generals, the American people and a growingbipartisan chorus in Congress, I believe escalation is a serious mistake."

Democrats want to transform the U.S. military mission in Iraq, Reid says.

"The mission of our troops should be transitioned away from combat to training, force protection, logistics and counter-terror. U.S. forces have been given an impossible mission -- policing a civil war," he says. "It's Iraqis -- not our troops -- who should be walking the streets of Baghdad, trying to sort friend from foe."

The toll the Iraq war is putting on U.S. forces threatens U.S. security overall, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"The strain the war is placing on our Army and Marine Corps diminishes our ability to respond toother challenges and thereby threatens our security," she says. "Escalating our military involvement in Iraq will not reverse these negative effects, it will only add to them.

Reid says the U.S. should begin the phased redeployment of its forces within the next four to six months, putting more responsibility on Iraqis

"Only Iraqis can ultimately secure Iraq," Reid says. "A phased redeployment will allow our country to rebuild the military force here at home, and increase the number of troops available to hunt for Osama bin Laden and stabilize Afghanistan."

The issues facing Iraq are beyond solving by U.S. military force, Pelosi says.

"The solutions to the issues which divide Iraqis are political and diplomatic, not military. As such, they are beyond the ability of our troops, who have performed their difficult and dangerous missions with great courage, to resolve," she says. "The Iraqis and their neighbors have the most at stake in an unsafe Iraq. The sooner we give them the responsibility fortheir future, the sooner our troops can come home."

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