In advance of President Bush’s speech tomorrow, Hillary Clinton delivered the following remarks at a town hall event with senior retired military officers and Pennsylvania veterans in Aliquippa, PA earlier today:
“Yesterday in the Senate Armed Services Committee, I asked General Petraeus for the conditions under which he would actually support a change of course in Iraq, and to begin a drawdown of our troops, given that the surge has failed to achieve its stated goal of political reconciliation among the Iraqis. Well, he didn’t really answer me.
“I also asked Ambassador Crocker if the United States Congress would have the same opportunity as the Iraqi Parliament will have to review any agreement or long-term security pact that President Bush is negotiating with the Iraqis. Ambassador Crocker said that the Congress, your representatives, would not have that chance.
“I have two requests of President Bush for his speech on Thursday. First, I call on the President to answer the question that General Petraeus did not. What is our end game in Iraq given the failure of surge to achieve the objective that the president outlined for it? Second, I call on President Bush to pledge to the American people, who have sacrificed greatly for this effort that the United States Congress will have the chance to review and vote on any long-term security agreement he has negotiated with the Iraqis.
“President Bush must not saddle the next president with an agreement that extends our involvement in Iraq beyond his presidency. We have lost more than 4,000 of our best sons and daughters. They have given their lives in service to our country in honor and for the objective of giving the Iraqi people the greatest gift another human being can bestow – the gift of freedom. Tens of thousands of our young men and women have suffered – wounds both visible and invisible – to their bodies, their minds and their hearts.
“This war has cost more than $1 trillion if you factor in the lifetime of care and support that is due to our returning veterans, and of course, we must. Our ongoing military involvement in Iraq has also undermined our efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Admiral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said last week that our continued involvement in Iraq has meant we cannot deploy the forces we need to that country.
“There has been a harsh and daily toll on our men and women in uniform, many of whom are on their second, third, and even fourth tours of duty. Among combat troops sent to Iraq for the third or fourth time, more than one in four show signs of anxiety, depression or acute stress, according to an official Army survey of our soldiers’ mental health. And we cannot forget the toll on military families. When fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives sign up to serve our country, their families sign up, too.
“So it is vital for our national security – and for the health and safety of our men and women in uniform – that we begin to end the war in Iraq and rebuild our military. A great Pennsylvanian, Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘Well done is better than well-said.'”