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Pelosi: We Must Work Together to Wind Down the Iraq War

Washington, D.C.--Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke during a press conference after meeting with Iraq veterans and military families to discuss war concerns with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today.  Below are her opening remarks:

'Thank you very much, Mr. Leader.  I join you in welcoming Aidan and Jeremy, Debbie, Sue, and Dale -- two veterans and moms of three persons in the military. 

'It is clear that in this war, we do not have a plan worthy of the sacrifice of these families.  We salute our men and women in uniform and their families for their courage, their patriotism, and the sacrifices they are willing to make for our country.

'We owe them much more, in terms of the plan for the war they are in and a plan for when they come home.  The facts in Iraq are these: the military is telling us that this war cannot be won solely militarily.  And yet the Administration refuses to accept its own benchmarks for political and diplomatic and economic change there to help our troops finish the job and come home safely and soon.

'The facts are that when they come home, we do not have the facilities, not even in WashingtonD.C., much less the rest of the country, to meet their health needs: physical and mental health needs.

'The American people, a majority of both houses in the Congress, large numbers of generals, the Iraq Study Group have all said that we must work together to wind down this war.

'It is in that spirit, the strength and inspiration of these families, the encouragement of those who have served in the military, the outside groups that are non partisan suggesting it, that we go to the President, extend a hand of friendship, and say to the President that we must work together.  We must negotiate an approach that will wind down this war.  I hope the President will be receptive to that.  In fact, I pray that he will be.

'For us and our country, this can be an historic day.  The President and leaders in Congress both must recognize their Constitutional responsibilities to provide for the common defense and both recognize that we have to respect each others' roles in it.  The legislation that we want to present to the President already is a compromise because it contains his own benchmarks for progress in Iraq.  It contains his Defense Department's own guidelines for training, equipment, and a length of stay at home and in theatre and yet the president wants to reject them. 

'The President has to think hard and long about the words of his own Secretary of Defense who was reported today as stating, and I quote Secretary Gates, 'The debate in Congress...has been helpful in demonstrating to the Iraqis that American patience is limited.  The strong feeling expressed in the Congress about the timetable probably has had a positive impact...in terms of communicating to the Iraqis that this is not an open ended commitment.'  I hope the President heard those comments.  I hope the President is listening and in that spirit of hope, that we will visit him this afternoon.

'Thank you, Mr. Leader.'