Sen. Vincent J. Fumo

District Office

1208 Tasker Street
Phila, PA 19148

Harrisburg Office

545 Main Capitol
Hbg, PA 17120




Madam President,

This week is the first meeting of the Senate since Memorial Day, and I think it is especially appropriate today to continue the practice I began in April of reading the names of several soldiers from Pennsylvania who have been killed in Iraq.

As we remember all of America’s war dead in this Memorial Day season, let us pause for a moment and pay tribute to two in particular – not because their service or their deaths were in any way extraordinary, but simply because it helps remind us that these are typical young Americans in the military, who routinely puts their lives on the line for their country as they do their duty.

Corporal Kyle J. Renehan, age 21, of Oxford, Pa., died December 9 in Germany, from injuries received on November 29 as result of enemy action in Babil Province, Iraq.  He was assigned to Marine Air Control Squadron 2, Marine Air Control Group 28, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Corporal Michael R. Cohen, age 23, of Jacobus, Pa., died November 22 as result of enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.  He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force.

We can and should be proud of these young men. They truly did die in service to their country, even though the leaders of that country let them down by sending them poorly prepared into a war based on false pretenses.  Those brave soldiers, I am confident, joined the United States Armed Forces to fight for freedom, and for that they deserve our gratitude.

It is not their fault that their leaders, our leaders, are misguided. There was a time when most of the world looked at America, and at the American GI, as symbols of freedom.  Sadly, the world doesn’t look at us that way any more.

Bob Herbert described the reasons for this very well in his New York Times column on Memorial Day.  I think it is worthwhile to repeat his column here. The headline said:

America, a Symbol of . . .


”This Memorial Day is not a good one for the country that was once the world's most brilliant beacon of freedom and justice.

”State Department officials know better than anyone that the image of the United States has deteriorated around the world. The U.S. is now widely viewed as a brutal, bullying nation that countenances torture and operates hideous prison camps at Guantánamo Bay,
Cuba, and in other parts of the world - camps where inmates have been horribly abused, gruesomely humiliated and even killed.

”The huge and bitter protests of Muslims against the United States last week were touched off by reports that the Koran had been handled disrespectfully by interrogators at Guantánamo. But the anger and rage among Muslims and others had been building for a long time, fueled by indisputable evidence of the atrocious treatment of detainees, terror suspects, wounded prisoners and completely innocent civilians in
America's so-called war against terror.

”Amnesty International noted last week in its annual report on human rights around the world that more than 500 detainees continue to be held ‘without charge or trial’ at Guantánamo. Locking people up without explaining why, and without giving them a chance to prove their innocence, seems a peculiar way to advance the cause of freedom in the world.

”It's now known that many of the individuals swept up and confined at Guantánamo and elsewhere were innocent. The administration says it has evidence it could use to prove the guilt of detainees currently at Guantánamo, but much of the evidence is secret and therefore cannot be revealed.

”This is where the war on terror meets Never-Never

”President Bush's close confidante, Karen Hughes, has been chosen to lead a high-profile State Department effort to repair America's image. The Bush crowd apparently thinks this is a perception problem, as opposed to a potentially catastrophic crisis that will not be eased without substantive policy changes.

”This is much more than an image problem. The very idea of what it means to be American is at stake. The United States is a country that as a matter of policy (and in the name of freedom) "renders" people to regimes that specialize in the art of torture.

” ‘How,’ asked Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, ‘can our State Department denounce countries for engaging in torture while the C.I.A. secretly transfers detainees to the very same countries for interrogation?’

”Ms. Hughes said in March that she would do her best ‘to stand for what President Bush called the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity.’ Someone should tell her that there's not a lot of human dignity in the venues where torture is inflicted.

”The U.S. would regain some of its own lost dignity if a truly independent commission were established to thoroughly investigate the interrogation and detention operations associated with the war on terror and the war in Iraq. A real investigation would be traumatic because it would expose behavior most Americans would never want associated with their country. But in the long run it would be extremely beneficial.

”William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in an interview last week that it's important to keep in mind how policies formulated at the highest levels of government led inexorably to the abusive treatment of prisoners.

" ‘The critical point is the deliberateness of this policy,’ he said. ‘The president gave the green light. The secretary of defense issued the rules. The Justice Department provided the rationale. And the C.I.A. tried to cover it up.’

”In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, most of the world was ready to stand with the U.S. in a legitimate fight against terrorists. But the Bush administration, in its lust for war with Iraq and its willingness to jettison every semblance of due process while employing scandalously inhumane practices against detainees, blew that opportunity.

”In much of the world, the image of the U.S. under Mr. Bush has morphed from an idealized champion of liberty to a heavily armed thug in camouflage fatigues. America is increasingly being seen as a dangerously arrogant military power that is due for a comeuppance. It will take a lot more than Karen Hughes to turn that around.”

The latest statistics from Iraq, for the benefit of the members, is that we have lost 1,677 men and women, and 6,367 wounded casualties who could not return to battle. 

I would hope that at some point in time this administration would see the light and end the policies which are destroying the credibility of this nation, and destroying our young men and women. We will have damages from this for decades to come. 

Thank You, Madam President. 


Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo