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Falling apart

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These are excerpts from the Democratic Party response to President Bush's radio address on May 1 given by Paul Rieckhoff, a first lieutenant who served in the National Guard attached to the 3rd Infantry Division from April 2003 to February 2004 in Adamiyah, in North East Baghdad. Here is what he says he saw:

...[W]hen we got to Baghdad, we soon found out that the people who planned this war were not ready for us. There were not enough vehicles, not enough ammunition, not enough medical supplies, not enough water. Many days, we patrolled the streets of Baghdad in 120 degree heat with only one bottle of water per soldier. There was not enough body armor, leaving my men to dodge bullets with Vietnam-era flak vests. We had to write home and ask for batteries to be included in our care packages. Our soldiers deserved better.

When Baghdad fell, we soon found out that the people who planned this war were not ready for that day either. Adamiyah, the area in Baghdad we had been assigned to, was certainly not stable. The Iraqi people continued to suffer. And we dealt with shootings, killings, kidnappings, and robberies for most of the spring.

We waited for troops to fill the city and military police to line the streets. We waited for foreign aid to start streaming in by the truckload. We waited for interpreters to show up and supply lines to get fixed. We waited for more water. We waited and we waited and the attacks on my men continued...and increased.

With too little support and too little planning, Iraq had become our problem to fix. We had nineteen-year-old kids from the heartland interpreting foreign policy, in Arabic. This is not what we were designed to do. Infantrymen are designed to close with and kill the enemy...

Since I've returned, there are two images that continue to replay themselves in my mind. One is the scrolling list of American casualties shown daily on the news -- a list reminding me that this April has become the bloodiest month of combat so far, with more than 130 soldiers killed.

The other image is of President Bush at his press conference two weeks ago. After all the waiting, after all the mistakes we had experienced first hand over in Iraq, after another year of a policy that was not making the situation any better for our friends who are still there, he told us we were staying the course. He told us we were making progress. And he told us that, "We're carrying out a decision that has already been made and will not change."

Our troops are still waiting for more body armor. They are still waiting for better equipment. They are still waiting for a policy that brings in the rest of the world and relieves their burden. Our troops are still waiting for help.

I am not angry with our President, but I am disappointed...

I don't expect an easy solution to the situation in Iraq, I do expect an admission that there are serious problems that need serious solutions...

My question for President Bush -- who led the planning of this war so long ago -- is this: When will you take responsibility for the decisions you've made in Iraq and realize that something is wrong with the way things are going?

Mr. President, our mission is not accomplished.

Our troops can accomplish it. We can build a stable Iraq, but we need some help. The soldiers I served with are men and women of extraordinary courage and incredible capability. But it's time we had leadership in Washington to match that courage and match that capability.

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