FUMO REMARKS ON THE MILITARY'S RECRUITING PROBLEMS, AND OTHER HIDDEN COST OF BUSH'S WAR IN IRAQ, APRIL 11, 2005
Last week marked the beginning of the major league baseball season, and Iím sure my colleagues in this chamber join me in wishing our Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates a successful season.
We would do well to remember, however, that although sports often provide a welcome respite from the problems of our world, they are still merely a temporary diversion. So while young people from the major leagues all the way down to neighborhood youth teams look forward to a new baseball season, other young Americans are putting their lives in danger fighting a war in Iraq. Tragically, some of them will yet lose their lives to that war.
A story in the Washington Post last week, as opening day of the baseball season approached, strangely juxtaposed baseball and Iraq. It serves to remind us of the many different ways we are paying a huge cost for a Bush Administration war that was launched upon false premises and misinformation.
As we know, Major League baseball has returned to our nationís capital, with the Washington Nationals. According to the news story in the Post, the United States Army has considered the unusual step of purchasing the naming rights to the stadium where the new team will pay its home games. The Army believes it has to raise its profile, because its recruiting numbers are way down. Then a few days ago came another news story, announcing that the National Guard is also considering purchasing the naming rights at RFK Stadium.
Understandably, Bushís war in Iraq is dampening enthusiasm for life in the military.
No final decision has been made on the Army or the National Guard stadium naming rights, but the several million per year it would cost doesnít begin to measure the size of the militaryís current problem. Over the past few years, the Army has been forced to increase its advertising budget significantly thanks to the Iraq war. In addition to the billions of dollars the Pentagon is spending actually fighting the war, the Army now finds that it has to give $212 million per year of taxpayer money to Madison Avenue.
Thatís only a minor part of the billions of dollars weíre spending on this war, but itís one of the hidden costs of this ill-advised conflict.
Letís not forget the rising price of oil and gasoline at the pumps. Oil was selling last week for about $54 a barrel, and people are paying $2.27 for a gallon of gasoline as armed conflict in the Middle East continues.
But money isnít the worst of it. There is also the serious cost we are paying in military readiness, and most tragically, the loss we are suffering in U.S. lives.
As concerned as we all should be about the money we are spending on this war, an even bigger worry is the decline in this nationís long-term military preparedness and the decline in our national security. Because although the U.S. Army is spending plenty of tax dollars to advertise a military career, the regular U.S. Army missed its recruiting goal by 27 percent in February. The Army announced at that time that it also expected to miss its goal in March, and to miss its goal again in April.
For the year to date, Army reserve recruiting is also off by 10 percent, and the Army National Guard is down by 25 percent.
The Bush administration keeps assuring the American public that it wonít have to reinstitute the draft. They havenít explained how they will keep us militarily strong and how they will protect our national security with a large portion of our Army bogged down for years in Iraq, and with our military recruitment numbers falling.
If people arenít going to join the armed forces voluntarily and Bush isnít going to reinstitute the draft, it kind of makes you wonder what the president will use to defend our country Ė spitballs?
Of course, miscalculation is nothing new for the neoconservatives and the gang at White House that marches to their drumbeat. This was the same commander-in-chief who turned a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier into his own personal showboat in May of 2003, announcing that the war was over and the mission had been accomplished after just six weeks. Tell that to the families of the 1500 servicemen and women who have been killed in action since his theatrical flyboy performance.
That brings us to the most tragic cost of all -- the price we pay in lives.
I applaud the many brave and patriotic Americans who serve in the military, and I especially rise here today to honor the ultimate sacrifice of those who lost their lives. To help us recall that these are not merely combat statistics, I would like to pay tribute today to just two of the many Pennsylvanians who have been killed. In fact, they are the two Pennsylvanians who most recently lost their lives in combat in Iraq, according to information released thus far by the Defense Department.
Army Pvt. Landon S. Giles, just 19 years old, of Indiana, Pa. died on February 26 in Abertha, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated while he was on patrol. He was assigned to the Army's 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.
Then on March 7, in Ramadi, Iraq, Pfc. Michael W. Franklin, age 22, of Coudersport, Pa. died when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near him. He was assigned to the Armyís 44th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
They are among the total of 1547 American soldiers who have died since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Pvt. Giles, the Indiana boy, was among 58 Americans killed in February of this year. Pfc. Franklin, the young man from Coudersport, was among 36 Americans killed this past March.
So far in April, the U.S. has lost 13 servicemen.
Since the Iraq invasion just over two years ago, 6,019 American soldiers have been wounded badly enough that they were unable to return to duty.
The dead were patriotic men and women who died because they signed up to serve their country, and for that we should thank them and honor them. At the same time, I understand the reluctance of some young people to join the military today. Unlike other times in our history -- for example after we were attacked at Pearl Harbor and men of all ages rushed to the recruiting stations the next day to sign up and fight -- Americans today realize we were led into this war by one of the great con jobs of all time, perpetrated on the American people by an administration that was looking for excuses to start a war rather than looking for the best way to protect this countryís interests.
And as a result, the Pentagon is sinking more of its budget into advertising, but in the end young people are finding the military less and less attractive, and our country is becoming less and less secure.
Thank you, Madam President.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo