At the end of October, President Bush told the American people: Absolutely, we're winning the war in Iraq. He spoke those words near the end of the bloodiest month of 2006 for U.S. troops.
Tonight, President Bush acknowledged what most Americans know: We are not winning in Iraq, despite the courage and immense sacrifice of our military.
Indeed, the situation is grave and deteriorating.
The president's response to the challenge of Iraq is to send more American soldiers into the crossfire of the civil war that has engulfed that nation.
Escalation of this war is not the change the American people called for in the last election. Instead of a new direction, the president's plan moves the American commitment in Iraq in the wrong direction.
In ordering more troops to Iraq, the president is ignoring the strong advice of most of his own top generals. General John Abizaid -- until recently, the commanding general in Iraq and Afghanistan -- said, and I quote, "More American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future," end of quote.
Twenty thousand American soldiers are too few to end this civil war in Iraq and too many American lives to risk on top of those we've already lost.
It's time for President Bush to face the reality of Iraq. And the reality is this: America has paid a heavy price. We have paid with the lives of more than 3,000 of our soldiers. We have paid with the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. And we've paid with the hard-earned tax dollars of the families of America.
And we have given the Iraqis so much. We have deposed their dictator. We dug him out of a hole in the ground and forced him to face the courts of his own people. We've given the Iraqi people a chance to draft their own constitution, hold their own free elections and establish their own government. We Americans, and a few allies, have protected Iraq when no one else would.
Now, in the fourth year of this war, it is time for the Iraqis to stand and defend their own nation. The government of Iraq must now prove that it will make the hard political decisions which will bring an end to this bloody civil war, disband the militias and death squads, create an environment of safety and opportunity for every Iraqi, and begin to restore the basics of electricity and water and health care that define the quality of life.
The Iraqis must understand that they alone can lead their nation to freedom. They alone must meet the challenges that lie ahead. And they must know that, every time they call 911, we are not going to send 20,000 more American soldiers.
As Congress considers our future course in Iraq, we remain committed, on a bipartisan basis, to providing our soldiers every resource they need to fight effectively and come home safely.
But it's time to begin the orderly redeployment of our troops so that they can begin coming home soon.
When the Iraqis understand that America is not giving an open- ended commitment of support, when they understand that our troops indeed are coming home, then they will understand the day has come to face their own responsibility to protect and defend their nation.