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Pelosi on Iraq Bill: 'Benchmarks Without Deadlines Are Just Words; After Four Years, Words Are Not Enough'

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House Floor today about the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act, which passed by a vote of 218 to 212. 

Below are her remarks as prepared:

'Mr. Speaker, today is an historic day.  The new Congress will vote to end the war in Iraq.  

'Any discussion of the war in Iraq must begin with a tribute to our troops.  This day, and every day, we thank our troops for their courage, their patriotism, and the sacrifices they are willing to make.  For four years, under the most dangerous and demanding conditions imaginable, they have done everything asked of them.

'As Members of Congress, our first responsibility is set forth in the Preamble of the Constitution -- to provide for the common defense.

'As our leading national security experts, Chairmen Skelton, Murtha, and Obey understand that first responsibility, and are deeply concerned about the effect of the war in Iraq on our national security, especially our troop readiness.   

'As I have said from the beginning, the war in Iraq is a grotesque mistake.

'As the Iraq Study Group said in December, the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating.

'After four years of war, Iraq is in chaos, and the government is not being held accountable.

'The Administration is sending troops into battle that are not mission ready.

'And when they come home, they are not being honored as the heroes they are.  The revelations of appalling conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital and VA facilities across the nation remind us once again that our troops have been sent into war with no plan to care for them when they come home.  

'Our commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, recently said: 'There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq.'  Yet the President's response to escalating levels of violence is to deploy more troops -- a strategy that has been tried without success on three previous occasions.  

'In the short time since the escalation began, disturbing facts have come to light, among them.

'The admission by General Peter Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that he is 'not comfortable' with the readiness of Army units in the United States.

'The declaration, whereby the Department of Defense has finally admitted that 'elements of a civil war do exist in Iraq.'  In fact, it is even worse than that.  

'The conclusion by the special inspector general that the failure of the reconstruction effort in Iraq was caused by a lack of planning, coordination and oversight.

'We must respond to those and other facts about the Iraq War.  

'The bill we debate today, the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act, does that by providing for our veterans, protecting our troops, rebuilding our military, holding the Iraqi government accountable, and bringing our troops home.    

'Rather than sending more troops into the chaos that is the Iraq civil war, we must be focused on bringing the war to an end.  We can do that today by passing this bill that transforms the performance benchmarks that have already been endorsed by President Bush and Iraqi leaders into requirements.  

'That will enable the primary mission of our troops to shift from combat to training.  When those benchmarks are met, or when it becomes clear after a reasonable amount of time that they cannot be met, the bill requires that our troops leave Iraq on a schedule that our former colleague, Lee Hamilton, the co-chair of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group calls 'responsible, not precipitate.'

'Benchmarks without deadlines are just words, and, after four years of this war, words are not enough.

'As Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in endorsing this bill, 'It is clear that a different approach is needed if the Iraqis are to be encouraged to make the political accommodations necessary to promote stability and national reconciliation.'

'This bill also calls upon the Department of Defense to adhere to its own readiness standards.  Those standards are intended to ensure that before our troops are sent into harm's way, they have the equipment and training they need to enable them to perform their missions successfully.  

'The war in Iraq has produced a national security crisis, with military readiness at its lowest level since the Vietnam War.  By addressing that crisis, the bill supports the troops and protects the American people.

'The American people have lost faith in the President's conduct of this war.  

'Today, the Congress has an historic opportunity: to vote to end the war in Iraq.

'Each Member of the House will make a choice - the world is watching for our decision.  Will we renew the President's blank check for an open-ended commitment to a war without end, or take a giant step to end the war and responsibly redeploy our troops out of Iraq?

'The American people see the reality of this war.  The President does not.  The American people want a New Direction in Iraq.  Today the Congress will provide it.  

'I urge my colleagues to join me in bringing this war to an end by supporting the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act.'