Tester outlines 3-point strategy to bring troops home from Iraq, strengthen military

America ‘cannot wait any longer’ for a plan, senator says

(HELENA, Mont.) – Saying President Bush has weakened national security and failed to support U.S. troops by keeping them indefinitely in the middle of a bloody civil war, Senator Jon Tester today outlined his own 3-point strategy to bring the Iraq war closer to an end while strengthening the U.S. military.

Tester detailed his plan during a crowded speech in Helena this morning.  He asked Montanans to stand by him as he moves forward with the new strategy.

Americans "are dying every day in a war that the American people do not want to be fighting," Tester said.  "We and our troops deserve better."

Tester said the war in Iraq has claimed more than 3,500 U.S. lives, including 20 Montanans, at a cost of "$100,000 every minute of every hour of every day," totaling more than $2 billion per week.

Tester questioned the Bush Administration's lack of goals for Iraq.  He listed the military's three objectives going into the war more than four years ago: to search for weapons of mass destruction, to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein, and to secure free and democratic elections for the Iraqi people.  The U.S. military has achieved all of those objectives.

"It's time for American troops to stop refereeing a centuries-old civil war and come home after a job well done," Tester said.

Tester also vowed to continue to make sure U.S. troops have the resources they need in Iraq.  But he added the nation "cannot wait any longer" for a plan to bring them home.

During his speech, Tester outlined in detail a 3-point strategy for bringing the war closer to an end:

  • PROTECT     the mental and physical health of U.S.     troops: Tester supports legislation requiring the military to keep U.S.     troops at home for adequate rest and training before sending them overseas     for additional tours.  He said the measure is critical to the     strength, health and readiness of America's armed forces.
  • REDOUBLE     counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan: Tester     stressed the importance of refocusing the War on Terrorism.  He said Afghanistan     is quickly becoming the forgotten war, and Al-Qaida extremists there are     regrouping.  Tester supports keeping military intelligence trained on     Iraq and across the Middle East to monitor terrorist suspects.
  • DEAUTHORIZE     the 2002 use-of-force resolution: Tester supports a resolution     deauthorizing the war on October 11 of this year, five years after     Congress approved its use-of-force resolution for Iraq.  In order for     Congress to reauthorize the war, President Bush would have to make a case     for a new mission in Iraq.    

Tester said the war in Iraq is creating a "new kind of American veteran" by the thousands, many of whom suffer from disfiguring wounds, traumatic brain injury, severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and suicidal depression.

As a nation, the U.S. is doing an unacceptable job of taking care of this country's veterans, he said, adding he's doing everything he can to make sure vets have the access to health care they deserve.

"It is on behalf of those troops, and those who fought before them, that I speak to you today and I will fight in Washington tomorrow," Tester said. "And for every tomorrow until our troops start coming home from Iraq."