WASHINGTON -- March 16 -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today on the $81 billion supplemental budget request, including $75 billion to fund the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pelosi voted for the bill, which passed by a vote of 388 to 43. Below is Pelosi's statement:
"In a few days, we will mark the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and the start of a war that, in my judgment, did not need to be fought. At the time, the war was rationalized on intelligence estimates of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction capabilities that were wrong, and on suggestions that Iraq was somehow connected with the September 11 al-Qaeda attacks on our country that were never true.
"The President now says that the war is really about the spread of democracy in the Middle East. This effort at after-the-fact justification was only made necessary because the primary rationale was so sadly lacking in fact.
"The one constant in two years of combat has been the courage, dedication, and skill of the men and women of our armed forces. For more than 1,500 of our troops, service in Iraq required the ultimate sacrifice. That is a loss for which our country mourns each day. Thousands more have been wounded, their lives, and the lives of their families changed forever by this war. Similar losses have been experienced by families in Spain, in Italy, and, of course, in Iraq.
"The bill before us provides another $75 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This enormous sum was not requested through the normal budget process, not subjected to any hearings, and not counted against our massive budget deficits. In fact, this will be the third largest appropriations measure this year. And this $75 billion will be on top of the more that $200 billion previously appropriated, mostly by the supplemental appropriations process, for these military operations.
"How much of this cost would have been unnecessary had the Bush Administration taken the time and the care to plan adequately for a war of choice? We will never know. But we do know, because these supplemental spending bills are evidence of it, that our troops were sent into combat without the equipment they needed for a protracted insurgency operation.
"Our responsibility now is two-fold. First, to ensure that our troops have what they need to do their jobs effectively and as safely as possible. And second, to develop a strategy for success that will contain clear benchmarks by which the American people can measure progress toward the time when our forces will be brought home.
"That strategy for success must include an aggressive plan for transferring responsibility for their country's security to the Iraqis, an improved plan for Iraq's reconstruction, and an intensification of diplomatic efforts in the region.
"Other countries, the Netherlands and Italy among them, are making plans for the return of their forces. The United States does not need to adopt their timelines, but we do need clear criteria for judging certain fundamentals, including the capability and willingness of Iraqi security forces to deal with the insurgency and protect the country.
"Somewhere between an open-ended U.S. commitment to Iraq and a timetable for withdrawal must be a strategy for ending our military involvement. That fact was the heart of the amendment by my colleague, James Moran of Virginia, which the House adopted yesterday. The President owes it to the American people and this Congress to develop such a plan, clearly describe it, and provide an assessment of how much it will cost and how long it will take.
"I understand and share the frustration that will lead some to vote against this bill. We are being asked, again, to clean up a mess that many of us argued strongly against creating. Putting aside our frustration with this Administration so that we can provide our troops what they need does not, however, mean that we will forget the mistakes, miscalculations, and misrepresentations that brought us to the point where these billions are necessary.
"The time is long past due for an accounting for those failures. We in Congress understand our responsibility to provide for the common defense. The Administration must understand its responsibility to use the money this Congress provides effectively, and with a transparency that can withstand scrutiny."