AMERICAN VOTERS HAVE REPUDIATED THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S IRAQ POLICY -- Senator Fumo's Remarks on the Floor of the Senate, November 20, 2006.
The stunning election results from earlier this month were the kind of event that every so often reaffirms our faith in American democracy. I say that not so much because my political party did well at the polls, although I was certainly pleased with outcome at the national level and at the top of the ticket here in Pennsylvania.
Rather, I make that statement because the November 7 elections demonstrated to the world once again that the American people have the ability to express their will through the ballot box. Not only can they can select their preferred candidates for public office, but they can also send a powerful message about public policy.
While it is certainly true that many factors go into the voters’ decisions, and local elections are rarely decided on a single issue, it is undeniable that the American people sent a message this month about the war in Iraq. By an overwhelming margin, they are against it, they want it to end, and they want our soldiers to come home. They may disagree on the precise timetable and they may disagree about the precise manner, but they left no doubt that they want the war to be managed differently than it has been by the current administration.
Many Democrats have ideas about what to do in Iraq. But although – as we have heard time and again – the Democrats have no consensus plan to end the war, the voters made it clear that they are willing to take their chances with new leadership rather than continue with the Bush Administration “Stay-The-Course” plan. And that itself is a powerful statement.
The voters’ message reverberated loudly in the halls of the Pentagon, when less than 24 hours after the polls closed, one of the main architects of this misbegotten war, Donald Rumsfeld, resigned.
According to some news reports Rumsfeld was cashiered by George W. Bush over the strenuous objections of Dick Cheyney. It is especially fitting that Cheyney found himself on the losing end of the election-day aftermath, because in the months leading up to the election, he certainly showed tremendous disrespect for the democratic process and the will of the people. On a network television appearance in early September, Cheyney again raised the dubious argument that those who disagree with the administration are aiding terrorists.
Referring to our allies possibly wondering if we are going to finish the job in Iraq, he said: “…Those doubts are encouraged, obviously, when they see the kind of debate that we’ve had in the United States. Suggestions, for example, that we should withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq simply feed into that whole notion, validates the strategy of the terrorists.”
So under Cheney’s logic, simply having a debate about policy, which is what we do in a free democratic country, helps terrorists. Talk about a guy who doesn’t understand what America is all about, and who needed a wake-up call from the voters.
We saw similar arrogance from our own soon-to-be-ex Senator Rick Santorum. Throughout the recent campaign, he repeatedly suggested that a vote for his opponent was a vote to make America weaker in the face of terrorism. He continually portrayed himself as some sort of intellectual foreign policy expert, when it fact he demonstrated time and again that he understands very little about global realities.
When the Bush Administration started using the term Islamic Fascists, Santorum jumped right on the bandwagon, even though the terrorists, while they might be bad guys, don’t meet the historically accepted definition of fascists. When even Bush’s own State Department asked the White House to stop using that term, Santorum obstinately kept right on using it. On October 11, he said during a campaign appearance that the State Department “went ballistic because we are offending our allies in the Middle East,” and then he added, “I don’t care if we offend our allies in the Middle East.”
Don’t care if we offend our allies in the Middle East? Exactly how does Rick think we are going to stop terrorist threats if not through the cooperation of our allies in the region? Yet he tried to portray his own re-election as some sort of national security imperative, when in fact the Bush Administration’s policies that he supported have made us less safe. That’s not only my opinion. It represents the non-partisan consensus of many American military leaders and intelligence analysts.
Cheyney and Santorum didn’t understand that having a debate, in which we are free to disagree with our leaders, is not a sign of American weakness; it is a sign of America’s strength.
Then there is Santorum’s absurd adherence to the claims that Saddam actually had weapons of mass destruction. The whole nation, not to mention the rest of the world, now realizes that those claims were false. Yet Santorum tried to use the discovery of some degraded mustard gas and nerve gas from the 1980s as proof that Iraq was a WMD threat. And he held that position even after David Kay, the head of U.S. weapons inspectors prior to the 2003 Iraq invasion, said experts were 100 percent in agreement that these old munitions posed no threat. But as usual, Rick knew better than the experts, or so he wanted the voters of Pennsylvania to believe, as he ran an election campaign filled with nothing but scare tactics.
But the voters saw through those tactics, and they defeated Santorum by a margin greater than any incumbent has suffered in a Pennsylvania statewide election in modern history.
Similarly, they saw through the campaign of fear waged by Santorum’s close allies -- Bush and Cheyney. And they saw through the incompetence that this administration has exhibited in military affairs and foreign policy.
So they repudiated the Bush-Cheyney-Santorum Iraq policy, and decided that America had to head in a different direction.
They repudiated the human rights abuses like those at Abu Graib, which make us less safe because they diminish America’s moral authority.
They repudiated the incompetence of a Defense Department that can’t properly equip our soldiers in combat.
They repudiated the lies that were used to sucker us into a war that was started to fulfill a misguided neoconservative agenda.
They repudiated the massive loss of innocent Iraqi lives in a civil war that this administration ignited.
They repudiated the billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money wasted on Bush administration favorites like the Halliburton Corporation.
They repudiated the fairy tales about the war paying for itself through Iraqi oil money.
They repudiated the fairy tale that the insurgency is in its final throes.
They repudiated stay-the-course.
And although his name was not on the ballot, make no mistake about it, they repudiated George W. Bush.
American democracy is an orderly, but slow process. Thank God that it is. Thank God that we don’t change leadership with a sudden coup in the dead of night.
Regrettably, Madam President, the really sad fact is that because of morons like Santorum, Bush and Cheyney, our country has suffered an unimaginable loss that will plague us for decades to come. Our children and their children will have to pay for this debacle to the tune of four trillion dollars and still counting. And we, our children and their children will have to suffer unrest and the justified hatred of generations of Iraqis who we have killed in their country. And we all will have to suffer the loss of our once precious national prestige and honored reputation as a nation that protects and defends freedom and democracy in the world. Because of the criminal actions of people like Bush, Cheyney and Santorum, it will take generations of Americans with good hearts and pure spirit to bring back our nation’s reputation in the world.
We must now go forward and thoroughly repudiate the acts of this administration and its supporters, just as we had to do the same when we finally abolished the shame of slavery in this nation. This stain that they have placed on America will not soon be removed. We can only hope that America has learned from their evil acts and that we never forget them, and never allow them to happen again. Never again should this nation unilaterally and illegally start a war. Never again should this nation take away the basic civil rights of our country for any reason.
We have much healing to do in the world and much repealing to do in Washington, of things like the horrendously misnamed “Patriot Act.”
Unfortunately, there are those who make the supreme sacrifice to preserve our orderly democracy, in ways that we sometimes do not consider or expect. While the American people wait for the government to carry out our will and extricate us from this war, our countrymen who are on the battle lines will continue to die. Some who have given their lives already are from our state, and I ask you to honor two of them now.
Lance Corporal Jason L. Frye, 19, of Landisburg, died October 6, 2005 from an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations against enemy forces near Al Karmah, Iraq. Corporal Frye was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.
Sergeant Allan R. Bevington, 22, of Beaver Falls, died from injuries suffered in Ar Ramadi, Iraq on September 21, 2006, when an improvised explosive device detonated near him during combat operations. Sergeant Bevington was assigned to the 40th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
Thank you Madam President.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo