Iraq Vets To President: We Need Honest Answers, Not Pep Rallies
In an early response to the President's speech this evening, Operation Truth (www.optruth.org) the nation's first and largest organization for Troops and Veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom, released the following statement from Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff. Operation Truth is comprised of hundreds of Veterans and Troops from Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, from all branches of the military, across all fifty states, Puerto Rico, and Guam.
"Tonight at Fort Bragg, in front of a backdrop of American service members, President Bush will tell the nation that victory is at hand, as long as we stay the course. Add a banner praising a job well-done and an aircraft carrier, and this all begins to seem eerily familiar.
"But the men and women of the American military have had enough of what's familiar from this administration. For us there is no alternative but to serve when called, as we have in Iraq for the past two years.
"Mr. President, this is a time for hard truths, and now that the opinion polls on the war have started to turn, you are going to Fort Bragg to make your case. Will it continue to be one version of progress from our Commander in Chief, but a very different measure from our commanders in the field? Why does your view of Iraq look so different from ours?
"We agree there is no choice but to succeed in Iraq. But, Mr. President, what is the plan to get there? We still don't know. To quote Senator Chuck Hagel, a great patriot, it seems to those of us who served in Iraq that your administration is "making it up as they go along."
"What is success? Tonight you will tell us Iraq is on the path to freedom and stability, but what does right look like? The CIA tells us Iraq is now a top breeding ground for terrorists. Are we killing more enemies than we're making?
"Last week, Vice President Cheney said the insurgency is in its last throes, but this week we're told to dig in for a 12-year battle. Have you asked your Secretary of Defense and Vice President to offer the Troops a straight answer?
"We don't need to be told about the political successes in Iraq, because we were there to safeguard an election one-year ago that you will certainly cite as progress. And we know that now is not a time for cheerleading.
"Mr. President, we don't need to be told that the insurgents intend to shake our will, because we've sifted through the havoc wreaked by even the crudest weapons, then watched our friends sent home, changed forever. We don't need to be told that your administration is committed to taking care of the Troops, because we've already gotten the bill you sent us for the meals we ate while recovering at Walter Reed.
"We don't need to be told that flak jackets and safer Humvees are on the way, because we've already learned that a phone-call home and a few hundred bucks is probably the quickest way to get body armor. Hundreds of Troops have been wounded or killed because of faulty vehicles or missing armor, but who has been held accountable?
"Each day we fulfill our commitment to this country, but we are still waiting for a Veteran's Administration that is properly funded and prepared to handle the consequences of this war. This past week it was revealed the VA was one billion dollars short of its health care need. Whose fault is that, and have you punished them for their failure to serve America's heroes?
"We have come a long way since the early days of tough talk and "Mission Accomplished" banners. The body count has increased exponentially, and the rumbling of an awakening public can now be heard. But for American Troops on the ground in Iraq, little has changed. For their families back home, the sleepless nights continue. The members of the military have long agreed that the strength of our force in Iraq cannot be sustained with an all-volunteer Army and dwindling recruitment numbers. Are you prepared to tell America's parents that their children will be needed to finish the job?
"Mr. President, we need honest answers, not pep rallies."