FUMO REMARKS ON THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S INABILITY TO MANAGE DISASTERS, WHETHER CAUSED BY NATURE OR TERRORISTS, Remarks on the Floor of the Senate, March 14, 2006
This month marks a grim anniversary. It has now been three years since the Bush Administrationís invasion of Iraq, a war sold to the American public on false pretenses, a war that stands not as a symbol of democracy, but of the dark and cynical politics of fear.
These three years of repeated Bush miscalculations have produced disaster upon disaster in Iraq. These three years have brought that country to the brink of civil war. These three years have taken a country that had only tenuous connections to al Qaida, and transformed it into a major haven for terrorists. These three years have made the United States less safe, not more.
In fact, if there is one theme that runs through the Bush presidency, it is incompetence.
The grisly result in Iraq is a waste of American lives. To date, 2,318 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq. Another 16,653 have been wounded, 7,912 of them too seriously to return to action.
And now, approximately a half trillion dollars of taxpayer money has been wasted there.
The evidence of this administrationís incompetence is plain, in our foreign policy and domestic policy alike.
2,179 of those American fatalities have occurred since May 1, 2003. That was that date that George Bush, under a Mission Accomplished banner, declared major combat operations over in Iraq.
2,111 of those American fatalities have occurred since July 2, 2003, the day that the cowboy in the White House said of the insurgents, ďbring Ďem on.Ē
1,855 of those American fatalities have occurred since December 13, 2003. That was the day Saddam Hussein was captured, which was supposed to be the beginning of the end of the opposition faced by our troops.
This administrationís incompetence in running a war creates a vicious cycle, never more clear than in the pathetic response to the disaster in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
Bushís misbegotten war is draining resources away from our domestic needs. Clearly, as many insiders have testified in the aftermath of Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has become a second-rate priority within the Department of Homeland Security, which Bush created in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The sad irony is that while Bush sold himself to the American public in the last election as the right guy to handle a disaster in the event of another terrorist attack, Hurricane Katrina proves that this administration canít manage a disaster at all. The American public now knows how completely unprepared we are to cope with disaster, whether it is caused by terrorists or by Mother Nature.
Other evidence of incompetence has been heaped upon that of Katrina.
Sixteen miners lost their lives in West Virginia several months ago. The managers of the mine had a poor safety record. Of course, the Bush Administration has cut 100 officers from the Mine Safety and Health Administration. On his watch, the MSHA has imposed fines 43 percent smaller than those in the Clinton Administration, and it has collected a smaller percentage of the ones it has imposed. The Bush Administration cares more about protecting the industry than it does protecting the people who work in the mines.
And that is a pattern. On January 22, the Associated Press reported that American troops in Iraq were exposed to contaminated water last year. The contractor responsible for the water supply was none other than Haliburton, the company formerly headed by Dick Cheney. Even though Halliburtonís internal documents show that its top employees in the camp near Ramadi knew of the contamination, the company denied it publicly, and did not inform the troops.
Then there is Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program created by the Bush Administration. Seniors face incredible confusion as they choose among 40 or 50 different options in some parts of the country. Thatís because Part D was intended mainly to benefit private insurers, not senior citizens. It is another Republican giveaway to big business, and it created a mess.
As a backdrop to all of this, there is the deficit. We had balanced federal budgets under Bill Clinton. After Bushís tax cuts for the rich, we have added hundreds of billions of dollars in deficits that will come back to haunt our children and grandchildren.
There is an explanation for this rampant incompetence that marks everything that the Bush Administration does. The mantra of the Reagan era was that government isnít the solution to our problems, government is the problem. For two and a half decades, Reagan disciples, including the current gang in the White House, have preached that government canít do anything right. That government is inherently bad. And we are now witnessing a self-fulfilling prophecy unfolding before our eyes.
For two and a half decades, Reagan disciples have aggressively attacked American government and consciously tried to make it weaker, and they are succeeding.
It is almost as if, while they are preaching the spread of democracy in another region of the world, they have forgotten that we already have a democracy here. Itís almost as if they have forgotten the legacy of the founding fathers, who gave us a government that is supposed to reflect the will of the people. A government that has been characterized by leaders such as Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Now that has been lost.
American government is a democracy. So why do national Republicans hate it so much?
It is a mystery to me.
It is clear, however, that under George Bush, government canít respond to a disaster, canít protect working people, canít help senior citizens, and canít manage a war that it started with no justification.
Meanwhile, under an incompetent administration that either couldnít or wouldnít interpret intelligence correctly, American military deaths continue. I would like to pay tribute now to two more brave Pennsylvanians who lost their lives in Iraq.
Sergeant 1st Class Brent A. Adams, age 40, of West View, died in Ramadi, on Dec. 1, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his military truck during combat operations. Adams was assigned to the Army National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division.
Private Dylan R. Paytas, age 20, of Freedom, died in Baqubah, Iraq, on Nov. 16, from multiple gunshot wounds. Paytas was assigned to the 3rd Brigade Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division.
Meanwhile, George Bush told the American people three weeks ago that he is confident we will capture Osama bin Laden. I guess heís just as confident now as he was on September 14, 2001 when he spoke in front of the rubble of the World Trade Center and promised us that Osama bin Laden could run but could not hide.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo