SENATOR FUMO'S REMARKS ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE, SEPTEMBER 19, 2006, CONCERNING THE WAY CONDITIONS IN IRAQ HAVE CONTINUED TO DETERIORATE OVER THE SUMMER, ACCORDING TO FOREIGN POLICY AND COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERTS.
This has not been a good summer for America overseas. Young U.S. soldiers have continued to die in Iraq. Innocent Iraqi civilians are being killed by the thousands, as the country slides into a state of chaos that we created. The focus of our national leadership remains on Iraq while counterterrorism experts say we are falling behind in the war on terror. The Taliban, which we had suppressed in the months after 9-11, is making a comeback in Afghanistan because we have turned our attention away from the real center of terrorism. Our national leaders talk tough on Iran’s nuclear program, but have no moral authority by which to compel the international community to address that threat. Several military and terrorism experts say we are worse off, not better, because of the war in Iraq.
As we return from recess, I think it would be useful to take a few minutes now to review several reports that have been made public this summer. The facts do not present a picture that should make Americans feel safe and secure, or feel confident in our national leadership.
In late June, a survey of one hundred American terrorism and security analysts by Foreign Policy Magazine and the Center for American Progress found that 84 percent believe we are losing the war on terror, and the reason is the war in Iraq.
Michael Scheuer, a former CIA counterterrorism expert who describes himself as a conservative Republican, said our entry into Iraq had proven to be a recruiting bonanza for terrorist groups. He said we had essentially created a training ground for al Qaeda.
“The war in Iraq broke our back in the war on terror,” he said. “It made everything more difficult.”
Eighty-six percent of the analysts said the world is becoming more dangerous for the American people.
Retired Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who was Colin Powell’s chief of staff at the State Department, said the Bush Administration deserved credit for its initial anti-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan. But he added that the United States is now too dependent on the military action in the war on terror. He said we should be using diplomacy to win the hearts and minds of Muslim people.
In July, 3,500 Iraqi civilians were killed in the worsening violence there. It was the highest one-month civilian death toll since the U.S. invaded more than three years earlier. Many of the bodies delivered to the coroner’s office in Baghdad were those of victims who had been executed at close range.
U.S. forces are not spared by the attacks, either. Also in July, 2,625 explosive devices were either detonated or discovered before they could explode. That is nearly twice as many as six months earlier.
In August, an analysis by the Associated Press found that despite the free elections on which the United States had pinned its hopes, the new government in Iraq was unable to get control of the country. In fact, it was growing increasingly unstable, and creeping closer and closer to civil war.
All along, the neo-conservatives who are the so-called brains of the Bush Administration have told us and the rest of the world that once the Iraqi people held elections and installed their own government with their own leaders under their own constitution, the violence would subside. But the AP analysis points out that the opposite seems to be true. Sectarian violence reigns supreme in Iraq, and the political and governmental processes will not be able to even get off the ground until that violence is quelled.
As just one example of how horrible conditions have become for the Iraqi people, and how far away the government is from stabilizing the country, one of the most dangerous occupations in Iraq this summer has been trash collector. In an effort to create such anarchy that even the most basic government services could not be provided, the killers were targeting the garbage workers in Baghdad, Trash collectors were dying by the hundreds at one point this summer. It has become a land where it is not even safe to pick up the trash, let alone one where the oil fields would pay for the war and for the rebuilding of the country, as Dick Cheyney and the neo-cons had promised.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon issued a report to the Congress revealing that during the three summer months of June, July and August, Iraqi civilian casualties had risen by 51 percent. Most of it was due to the dramatic rise of violence between the Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
The same report said the average number of weekly attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq had also risen by about 15 percent over those three summer months. Notably, these were the first full months since the new government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki took office on May 20, an event that was supposedly going to herald the beginning of transition of power to the Iraqi people.
Amid this bedlam and disorder, Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote an article in July in which he termed the Bush Administration policy in Iraq one of “wishful thinking.” He pointed out that each step of the way, they have operated on the hope that something would salvage this calamity, and each time they have been proven wrong. He wrote: “Well, Iraq has now held three successful nationwide ballots. Saddam Hussein has been captured. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been killed. And still violence continues to intensify in Baghdad and the Sunni provinces to the west and north.”
As to the question of how the U.S. is doing on the actual war on terror, which all Americans support, CBS Evening News carried a story on September 5 informing us that the Taliban, which most American assume had been defeated by American forces back in 2001, is resurfacing in Afghanistan.
The Taliban has retreated from Kandahar, and regrouped in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Most post-invasion Taliban fighters are new recruits. While we are distracted by an unnecessary war in Iraq that many experts agree is making us less safe, those who gave Osama bin Laden a safe haven are now undoing the one thing that this administration did right in the Middle East.
And finally, there came on September 9 a report from the U.S. Senate, disclosing a CIA analysis that dispelled still another of George W. Bush’s excuses for invading Iraq. The CIA said Saddam Hussein had no relationship with al Qaeda. In fact, he was distrustful of bin Laden and the rest of al Qaeda leadership.
Now, as the Iraqi people die in what looks like a civil war, even if we are not ready to officially call it that yet, members of the American armed forces continue to die with them.
Our death toll now stands at 2,684 The number of American wound is 19, 910.
Among the casualties are these two Pennsylvania soldiers:
Sergeant 1st Class Scott R. Smith, 34, of Punxsutawney, died on July 17 in Al Iskandariyah, Iraq, of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated during a controlled ordnance clearing mission. Smith was assigned to the 737th Explosive Ordnance Detachment, 52nd Ordnance Group.
Capt. Jason M. West, 28, of Pittsburgh, died on July 24 in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, when he encountered enemy forces using small arms fire. West was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division.
Thank you Madam President.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo