"In 2003 President Bush misled us into an unnecessary war with Iraq and today, four and a half years later, he is still misleading us," Senator Bernie Sanders said on the day when Gen. David H. Petraeus testified before Congress that by next summer the U.S. should be able to reduce its troop strength in Iraq to the level it was at before the escalation he announced late last year. "The goal of the ‘surge,' as stated by Mr. Bush on December 9, 2006 as he announced the troop expansion was ‘an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself.' It was to give the Iraqi government the time and space it needed to bring about political reconciliation and long-term stability. That has not happened, according to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.
Despite the extraordinary efforts and sacrifice of American soldiers, the Iraqi government remains divided and dysfunctional. Of the 18 benchmarks that they were supposed to have achieved by now, only three have been met, four have been partially met and 11 have been outright failures.
The Iraqis themselves know the ‘surge' has not worked. According to a recent ABC/BBC poll, more Iraqis say security in their local area has gotten worse since the ‘surge' has begun, than say it has gotten better. Most dishearteningly, a majority of Iraqis now believe that it is acceptable for attacks to take place against American troops—with 57 percent now holding that view, which bodes badly for American forces stationed in Iraq.
After the deaths of more than 3,700 American soldiers, the wounding of 27,000 more, and the expenditure of over $500 billion, Sanders said "it is not acceptable that the Bush administration still has no exit strategy. We are caught in a morass."
General Petraeus had said before testifying to Congress that the Iraqi situation would not be resolved "in a year or even two years," and this summer he referenced the "at least nine or 10 years" it took Britain to resolve the violence in Northern Ireland. "This sort of long-term occupation is totally unacceptable," Sanders said. "The United States needs to move in a new direction in Iraq. It must also find a new direction for fighting the growth of international terrorism.
"I will continue to demand a timetable for the withdrawal of our troops, a withdrawal which should be completed within the next year. Although we must continue to support the Iraqi government and their military so that they can defend themselves, the time to begin bringing home our American troops is now."