U.S. troops in Iraq deserve open debate over war plan, Tester tells colleagues

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – In his first Senate Floor speech criticizing the status of the war Iraq, Senator Jon Tester today delivered a strong message to his colleagues: U.S. troops and their families deserve honest, open debate over President Bush's decision to escalate the war.

Senate Republicans on Monday voted to block debate on a bipartisan, non-binding resolution co-sponsored by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.  Tester called the resolution "a first step."  The measure supports full funding of additional U.S. military personnel but disapproves of President Bush's plan to send 21,000 more combat troops and 28,000 more support troops into Iraq. 

"Make no mistake, we should deliberate," Tester said on the Senate Floor. "We should not rush to judgment or sentence. But that does not mean that we should not debate."

Blocking an up-or-down vote does nothing to bring the war closer to an end, he added.

During his speech, Tester also referred to former Secretary of State Colin Powell's guidelines for efficient military action.  Gen. Powell outlined the so-called "Powell Doctrine" when he served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the first Gulf War.

Tester criticized the Bush Administration for violating every principle of the Powell Doctrine in the political planning of the current Iraq war:

  • U.S. military action should be used only if there is a clear risk to    national security
  • The U.S. military should use overwhelming force to accomplish its mission
  • U.S. military action should have strong support by the general public
  • The U.S. military must have a clear exit strategy

Abandoning these principals has left the United States "lost in Iraq and alone in the world," Tester said, adding a troop escalation isn't a strategy but rather a tactic that has already worn-out its welcome.

"There have been four such troop escalations in Iraq so far and to what end? What benefit has been realized by this country, the Iraqi people or the region?" Tester said.

Tester's speech also criticized President Bush for failing to protect U.S. combat troops with adequate body and vehicle armor, and for failing to support adequate health care for all of America's veterans.

Tester called for permanent and mandatory full-funding of veterans' health care through the Veterans Health Administration.