FUMO REMARKS ON BUSH ADMINISTRATION TORTURE TACTICS AND OTHER PROBLEMS WITH THE CONDUCT OF THE OCCUPATION OF IRAQ, Remarks on the Floor of the Senate, March 27, 2006
Last week, King George ventured from his palace on Pennsylvania Avenue to do something he rarely does. He actually spoke with some average Americans. He held a meeting with citizens in Cleveland, and this time they were not all conservative loyalists who could be counted upon to ask fawning questions that allowed him to duck the real issues.
The result was predictable. He resorted to more lies.
One gentleman in the audience rose to confront King George on being wrong about weapons of mass destruction, and wrong about Iraq’s links to the attacks of September 11th, and wrong about Iraq purchasing nuclear materials from Niger.
Bush responded this way: "First, just if I might correct a misperception, I don't think we ever said -- at least I know I didn't say that there was a direct connection between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein."
That is just one more George Bush falsehood. In fact, on at least two other occasions, he did just that:On March 21, 2003, Bush wrote in a letter to Congress: "The use of armed forces against Iraq is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."
And from his own mouth, in his state of the union address on January 28, 2003, came these words: “Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. Secretly and without fingerprints, he can provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists or help them develop their own. Before September 11, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could not be contained.”
In his speech to the Cleveland audience and again in a press conference in Washington the following day, Bush mentioned “our need to achieve victory in the war on terror,” and he called Iraq "the central front in the war on terror."
The problem that should concern all Americans, however, is that we are not engaged in a war on terror, as we should be. We are engaged instead in the occupation of Iraq. And because our troops and our foreign policy are bogged down there, we are ignoring the real war on terror, ignoring the main elements of al Qaeda, ignoring Osama bin Laden.
But it is worse than that. While repeatedly invoking September 11 as he attempts to justify his illegal invasion and his illegal occupation of Iraq, Bush has used tactics that in themselves are acts of terrorism.
To begin with the obvious, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed in a war that Bush started without just cause.
Even before that, captives from Middle Eastern countries, many of them guilty of no crimes and not members of al Qaeda, were hauled off to Guantanamo Bay and tortured. They continue to be detained there today with no trial scheduled. In the early phases of this policy, Alberto Mora, the navy’s general counsel, warned the Bush Administration in 2002 that its interrogation policies were crossing the line. Sure enough, United Nations investigators eventually declared Guantanamo Bay a torture camp.
Also, Iraqi captives, many of them guilty of no crimes and not members of al Qaeda, were locked up in the Abu Ghraib prison and tortured.
Also, people have been kidnapped by the American government on American soil and flown to Eastern European countries, where they are held in secret prisons and tortured.
We cannot defend these actions by claiming they are part of the war on terror. When it comes to torture, when it comes to the killing of innocent civilians for no reason, America does not get a free pass just by saying we are all for freedom and democracy and motherhood and Apple pie. There are no legal exceptions to rules against torture. It is crime against mankind, not against the laws of any one country. It is terrorism itself, and it has become the policy of the Bush Administration.
As a consequence, our esteem in the world is declining. As we have since the very start of this war, we are thumbing our nose at countries that once considered us allies. And for those who think that doesn’t matter, for those who like to bash the UN and who insisted on changing the name of French fries to freedom fries and other silliness, and for those who say that America is powerful enough that we can tell the rest of the world to take a hike, I say, wake up!
The only way we are ever going to defeat terrorism is with a network of international friends. If we are to win the war on terror, we will win it with good intelligence and international cooperation.
But by making the world distrust us for our lies and lose respect for us because of our repugnant tactics of torture, the war in Iraq has left us more vulnerable to terrorism.
The longer the Bush Administration continues to engage in terrorism, the fewer friends we are going to have in the international community.
History often assigns nicknames to rulers who are at the extremes. Thus we know of Alexander the Great, Richard the Lionhearted, and Ivan the Terrible. Now I fear that this era will go down as the time when our nation was ruled by the worst president in American history, King George the Terrorist.
I have been speaking out against the occupation of Iraq for many weeks now, and I have heard that some people consider it inappropriate for me to be making these remarks on the floor of the state Senate, because this is not a state issue. I disagree, because Pennsylvanians are dying in this unjust war. One of my main purposes in these speeches is to remind us all that there are real people behind the statistics of combat deaths in Iraq. So I have been paying tribute to two fallen Pennsylvania soldiers each time I speak.
But I make this promise today: when I run out of names of Pennsylvania soldiers killed in Iraq, I will stop making these speeches.
Sadly, though, that roll call is long, and I now pay tribute to two more Pennsylvanians whose lives were sacrificed. They served their country as they were called upon to serve it, and I ask you to join me now in honoring their memory.
Maj. Jeffrey P. Toczylowski, age 30, of Upper Moreland, died in Al Anbar Province, on November 3, from injuries sustained during combat operations. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group.
Staff Sergeant Daniel R. Lightner, Jr., age 28, of Hollidaysburg, Pa., died in Ar Ramadi, on October 27, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations. He was assigned to the Army National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division.
They are among the 2,323 U.S. military fatalities since he war began. Another 17,069 have been wounded, 7,961 of them too seriously to return to action.
Thank you Madam President.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo