Senator Fumo's remarks on the Floor of the Senate, January 23, 2006, concerning the Bush Administration tactics in conducting the war in Iraq.
Several weeks ago,
Lt. Col. Michael E. McLaughlin, age 44, of
Lt. Col. McLaughlin was among 49 US combat fatalities in Iraq so far this month. And he was one of two Pennsylvanians killed on the same day. Also on Jan. 5, Corporal Albert P. Gettings, age 27, of New Castle, died from wounds received as a result of enemy small-arms fire while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Fallujah. Gettings was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.
These brave Pennsylvanians are among the 2,229 American soldiers who have been killed in Iraq since this misguided war began in March 2003. Another 16,420 have been wounded.
I last spoke about Iraq in this chamber on July 5, 2005. And at that time, the U.S. military death toll was 1,742, and the wounded stood at 13,074. So in the past six-plus months, although the Bush administration has continued to defend its actions, the carnage has not abated.
While Americans are proud of our fighting men and women, and while we honor them for doing their duty, our countrymen doubt more and more whether the sacrifice is worth it.
Americans are wondering not only if the actual mission in Iraq is worth it, but they are seriously weighing the price our nation is paying in the deterioration of our constitutional rights here at home, and in our loss of prestige abroad. And as they ask those questions, they are beginning to wonder whether this war, supposedly being fought to extend freedom, is worth our own loss of freedom here at home. And as they see respect for America decline in the eyes of the world, they wonder whether this war is truly making us safer, or actually increasing our risk.
When we read the papers and watch the news on television, Americans learn that our country is guilty of torture. We learn that the national government is spying on its own citizens. We hear credible international experts say that Iran, which really will have weapons of mass destruction soon, is a bigger threat to us than Iraq ever was, yet we are unable to deal with it because so much of our attention is being sucked into our Iraqi quagmire.
The concerns expressed across America about the Bush Administration are not just political sniping. They are not just partisan attacks. Increasingly, they come from conservatives as well as liberals, and from those who are pro-military as well as those who are pacifists.
Last week in a national television interview, former Army Specialist Tony Lagouranis, who served as an interrogator in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, said America is doing itself damage by its interrogation tactics in Iraq. Lagouranis was stationed at the Abu Ghraib Prison two months after Iraqi detainees were abused there. He later worked in Fallujah.
Lagouranis discussed the use of torture with interviewer Chris Matthews. Lagouranis said, first, that he considers it morally wrong, but also that it is not effective because you can’t trust the information that comes from someone who will say anything to make the pain stop. He said that 90 percent of the people arrested and abused in prisons such as Abu Ghraib were innocent of cooperating with the insurgency. And perhaps of deepest concern for us, Lagouranis said these tactics were turning the Iraqis against the United States.
Matthews then asked if we are winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis.
Lagouranis replied: “We‘re certainly losing the hearts and minds. There‘s no doubt about that.”
Matthews then asked if we were to poll Iraq two years after our occupation, would we be better off, would their attitude toward Americans be better or worse?
Lagouranis said: “I think far worse.”
Later, asked if our tactics were hurting our cause, Lagouranis said: “Absolutely. It‘s hurting us in Iraq. I mean, it‘s fueling the insurgency.”
For a different reason, Sen. John McCain, another Republican, expressed gave reservations about our tactics. McCain, himself a prisoner of war in Vietnam, was worried about retaliatory torture on our POWs in this, and future, conflicts.
McCain, like many others, was worried about international reaction. The use of torture, and experiences like the Abu Ghraib affair, diminish America in the eyes of the world. We can’t just shrug it off and say that we don’t care about world opinion. George W. Bush himself has said that the war on terror is not a conventional war. More than anything else, victory and our long-term security will depend on good intelligence. That will require us to have the trust and respect of other nations and other peoples around the world.
U.S. Representative Jack Murtha of Johnstown, long known as one of the chief proponents in Congress of a strong military, called in November for U.S. troops to be pulled out of Iraq and sent home. His concern is for our troops, who he believes are on a mission that is actually weakening our military for no good purpose.
Even the most conservative newspaper in this state, the Tribune-Review in Western Pennsylvania, said in an editorial last week that it is time to bring our troops home, and to allow the Iraqis take control of their country, with all its attendant problems.
The damage that this war is
doing to America in the eyes of the world is just one reason that
Americans now doubt whether this war is worth it. There are other
reasons, and in the coming weeks I will have more to say about them. And
I will point out that just as the Bush administration has no respect for
human rights abroad, it has no respect for constitutional rights at
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo