GROWING OPPOSITION TO THE WAR IN IRAQ CROSSES PARTISAN AND IDEOLOGICAL LINES -- Remarks on the Floor of the Senate, September 27, 2006
In recent weeks, some of our national leaders have claimed -- and will probably claim again between now and November 7 -- that opposition to the war in Iraq is rooted in partisan politics.
Before we get any closer to the 2006 mid-term elections, I think we should pause for a moment to look at some evidence that suggests that is not the case. The truth is, while many Democrats certainly oppose this war and believe it is doing more harm than good to America, some Republicans are beginning to reach the same conclusion. They include some of the strongest and most highly respected conservative voices in this country.
There is no one who deserves to be called the father of modern American conservatism more than William F. Buckley, Jr. He has been a leading voice among conservatives for more than half a century. Over the summer, in an interview with CBS news, Buckley said George W. Bush has abandoned conservative principles in his foreign policy. Buckley views the war in Iraq as a failure.
He said: “If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we’ve experienced it would be expected that he would retire or resign.”
He believes the Bush administration has been engulfed by Iraq, and consequently is unable to deal effectively with other international problems.
Buckley said: “The continued tumult in Iraq has overwhelmed what perspectives one might otherwise have entertained with respect to, well, other part of the Middle East, with respect to Iran in particular.”
From Buckley’s perspective, Bush has gotten himself into trouble because he has not been guided by conservative principles – a view that I do not necessarily share. But Buckley and I do agree that the result has been a weakening of America in the world arena.
As Buckley put it: “Mr. Bush faces a singular problem best defined, I think, as the absence of effective conservative ideology – with the result that he ended up being very extravagant in domestic spending, extremely tolerant of excesses by Congress, and in respect to foreign policy, incapable of brining together such forces as apparently were necessary to conclude the Iraq challenge.”
Next came Congressman Christopher Shays, a Republican from Connecticut. Shays was originally among the strongest supporters of the war in Iraq. But in August, after returning from his 14th trip to Iraq, he announced that he favors a definite timeline for withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Shays told Newsweek Magazine: “We need to send a very powerful message to the Iraqis that there is not an open checkbook and our soldiers are not going to be in harms way forever.”
Perhaps Shays was influenced not only by his on-the-scene observations in Iraq, but also by the citizens in his district. The polls show that two-thirds of his constituents favor getting out of Iraq.
It is a similar story all across the nation. Americans in ever-larger numbers, regardless of political affiliation or ideological leaning, are reaching the conclusion that going to war in Iraq was a mistake. That is why you are seeing more and more Republicans turning their back on the administration’s Iraq policy.
In June, Republican congressman Gil Gutknecht of Minnesota told his fellow House members that “now is not the time to go wobbly” on Iraq. Just a month later, in July, after returning from a trip to Iraq, Gutknecht said America lacked strategic control of the streets of Baghdad, and he called for a limited troop withdrawal.
We see the same thing happening right here in Pennsylvania. In our eighth congressional district, Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick had nice things to say about George W. Bush’s principles and resolve, but he also said Bush had been “mistaken in crucial ways,” and said that he opposed Bush’s stay-the-course strategy in Iraq.
So quite clearly, hostility toward this administration’s decisions, policies and management in Iraq is not partisan in nature. Opposition to this war comes from all sides, and it reflects the feeling of an ideological cross section of the American public.
I must believe that liberals, conservatives and moderates alike must be disgusted with the way our troops are treated. In previous speeches on the floor, I have described the way our fighting men and women are putting their lives on the line in Iraq without proper body armor and with inadequate equipment. I recently received information from a Marine who had been sent to Iraq – a list of items that Marines are expected to supply themselves when our government sends them into combat. I think it is disgraceful that they are expected to supply these things for themselves in a combat zone while this administration spends a fortune lining the pockets of politically connected firms like Haliburton. Here is the list of things this young Marine was expected to provide:
- Extra socks, underwear, t-shirts, and towels/washcloths.
- Extra rank insignia and boot bands.
- Bungee cords
- Ear plugs
- Sewing kits
- Field mirror
- Elbow and knee pads
- Locks (combination or key)
- Laundry bags
- Gloves - particularly if you're searching people, you need the kind that won't be punctured by knives or needles.
- Mirrors - again for searching, this time under cars to look for wires.
- Letter writing material
- Ziploc and trash bags.
- Zip ties (cable ties)
- Boots. Concerning boots, he writes: “many guys buy their own, though the ones that are issued are just ok. The problem becomes that they are hard to get replaced (as in takes multiple months), a trial that my unit is going through right now. They seem to have a problem with the soles detaching from the boot, which is what has happened to many guys here, including me.”
I realize that Bush is always looking for opportunities to appeal to his conservative base, but most of them long ago gave up hope that he would ever turn out to be a fiscal conservative, with his borrow-and-spend policies and steadily increasing budget deficits. So I really do not think saving a few bucks by short-changing our men and women in uniform is going to improve his declining standing among conservatives.
Even as a consensus gradually develops in this country that the war must end and our troops must come home, our death count continues to grow, gradually yet tragically. As of this week, 2,705 America soldiers have been killed in Iraq, and 19,910 have been wounded. Two more Pennsylvanians were added to the roster of those killed in action over the past month.
Specialist Tristan C. Smith, 23, of Bryn Athyn, Pa. died in Taji, Iraq, on August 27, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Bradley Vehicle during combat operations. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.
Private First Class Justin W. Dreese, 21, of Northumberland, Pa. died in Yusifiyah Iraq, on September 2 of injuries suffered from mortar fire during dismounted combat operations. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
Thank you Madam President.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo