[This week's Democratic Party Radio Address was delivered by the man who led our troops in Iraq from June 2003 to July 2004.]
Good morning, this is Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, U.S. Army, retired.
I speak to you today, not as a representative of the Democratic Party, but as a retired military officer who is a former commander of the Multi-National Force-Iraq.
In that capacity, I saw firsthand the consequences of the administration's failure to devise a strategy for victory in Iraq that employed, in a coordinated manner, the political, economic, diplomatic and military power of the United States. That failure continues today. At its base is the mistaken belief, despite years of evidence to the contrary, that victory can be achieved through the application of military power alone.
Our Army and Marine Corps will execute as directed, perform magnificently and never complain. That is the ethic of our warriors and that is what America expects of them. They will not disappoint us.
The keys to securing the future of Iraq are aggressive regional diplomacy, political reconciliation and economic hope. Yet, as our current commanders in Iraq have recently noted, the improvements in security produced by the courage and blood of our troops have not been matched by a willingness on the part of Iraqi leaders to make the hard choices necessary to bring peace to their country. There is no evidence that the Iraqis will choose to do so in the near future or that we have an ability to force that result. America lost that ability upon the transfer of sovereignty back in June of 2004.
Under the administration's recently announced plan, U.S. force levels in Iraq in July 2008 will be at about the same level they were in November 2006, when the American people demanded a change in direction in our Iraq policy.
Our Army and Marine Corps are struggling with changing deployment schedules that are disrupting combat readiness training and straining the patience and daily lives of military families. It will take the Army at least a decade to repair the damage done to its full-spectrum readiness, which is at its lowest level since the Vietnam War. In the meantime, the ability of our military to fully execute our national security strategy will be called into doubt, producing what is, in my judgment, unacceptable strategic risk.
Although we cannot withdraw precipitously from Iraq, we must move rapidly to minimize our force presence. Shifting the primary mission of our troops away from combat will lead to a smaller U.S. military presence, and a greater obligation on the part of the Iraqis to take the lead in solving their country's problems. Having fewer American troops in Iraq will also allow us to devote more resources to refit our ground forces to respond to different contingencies in other parts of the world. However, for as long as we have troops in Iraq, the American people must insist that our deploying men and women are properly trained and properly equipped for the missions they will be asked to perform.
The funding bill passed by the House of Representatives last week, with a bipartisan vote, makes the proper preparation of our deploying troops a priority and requires the type of shift in their mission that will allow their numbers to be reduced substantially. Furthermore, the bill puts America on the path to regaining our moral authority by requiring all government employees to abide by the Army Field Manual on interrogations, which is in compliance with the Geneva Conventions. America must accept nothing less.
It is well past time to adopt a new approach in Iraq that will improve chances to produce stability in the Middle East. I urge our political leaders to put aside partisan considerations and unite to lessen the burden our troops and their families have been under for nearly five years now. Strengthening America's security is a burden that must be shared by all Americans.
America must mobilize our diplomatic, political and economic power to achieve the reconciliation necessary to roll back de- Baathification and to advance the political progress in Iraq. Anything less is a dereliction of duty.
This is retired Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, and thank you for listening.
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