SENATOR FUMO'S REMARKS ON THE FLOOR OF THE STATE SENATE, APRIL 26, 2006, regarding the Bush Administration's failure to understand how the world changed after September 11, 2001.
When people criticize the war in Iraq, we often hear George W. Bush, or Dick Cheney, or some other member of this administration, accuse those critics of not realizing that the world changed on September 11, 2001.
They imply, or occasionally state outright, that the critics have an obsolete, conventional view of war, and that they are ill-equipped, therefore, to manage or even understand the modern war against terror.
Unfortunately for America, the opposite is true. Evidence mounts that the people now running our government, and who hold civilian authority over the military today, are the ones who do not understand how the world changed on 9-11. The ill-advised invasion of Iraq and the mismanagement of the early days of the occupation, when we could have kept the insurgency from taking hold, demonstrate that the Bush administration lacks any comprehension of post 9-11 strategic military concepts, or geo-political realities.
This is not just my view. It is the view of James Webb, who was Secretary of the Navy in the administration of Ronald Reagan. Webb is a Naval Academy graduate and a decorated combat Marine officer in Vietnam. Among the awards he earned there are the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts. He later served as an instructor at Marine Corps Officer Candidates School.
So he is a man with credentials on this subject. In an interview last month on national television, he pointed out to Chris Matthews that we squandered an historic opportunity after 9-11 to bring most of the nations of the world with us in the war against international terrorism. Instead, we went off on our own, with just Britain and a few small countries supporting us, to attack a dictator who had nothing to do with 9-11, but who Cheyney and Rumsfeld and that gang wanted to finish off in what they considered unfinished business from the first Gulf War a decade earlier.
In Webb’s words: “We alienated allies almost deliberately, and we went after a situation that had existed pre-9-11. There is a lot of talk among the people who brought us into this war saying that the world changed after 9-11. My view is that it changed in a way differently than they are saying, that the problem of international terrorism grew from regional to international, rather than vice versa. And the worst thing that we could have done strategically would have been to go into one country that was not directly threatening us, and occupy it.”
Of course, George Bush first argued that we had to go into Iraq because they had weapons of mass destruction. When the world found out that wasn’t true, he flip-flopped and said it’s a good thing that we went into Iraq, because Saddam was a brutal dictator who had to be removed.
Webb, however, disputes that removing Saddam was essential. He believes we would have been better off using our military mainly to go after al Qaeda, and that we could have kept Iraq in check.
Webb said: “We could have contained Saddam Hussein. The greatest military victory of the last 80 years was the Cold War, where we contained an expansionist nation, wore them down, without a large loss of life . . . I mean, Saddam was approaching 70 at the time we went in, and he was pretty well beaten down. We could have done that -- focused on international terrorism. I wrote a piece on this very early on, right after 9-11, about how to fight international terrorism and one of the paragraphs in there was, do not occupy territory, do not allow yourself to become a target rather than a mobile apparatus for going after them.”
Instead, the Bush administration has made our soldiers exactly that, a target, bogged down and trapped in a war that has no end in sight. Instead of using our military smartly to go after Al Qaeda and to destroy terrorists, we sent our soldiers to Iraq, where we have created a climate that is breeding terrorism.
All this was because Bush and Cheyney failed to understand how the world is changing in another important respect. These two old oilmen are trapped in an outdated way of thinking about energy, and we are now paying the price in lives in Iraq, and in dollars here at home.
They invaded Iraq because they thought it would help us secure our future oil supply from the Middle East. In one of the most ridiculous miscalculations in an administration that has gotten almost nothing right, they even told us that the oil from Iraq would help pay for the war. Instead, the war costs are rising into the hundreds of billions, and Americans are paying higher and higher prices for gasoline.
Bush didn’t understand then that more Middle East oil is not the answer to our problem, Middle East oil is part of the problem. A big part.
I know he said in his State of the Union address that we have to end our addiction to oil, but after he spent five years in denial about everything from global warming to the impact of the international oil markets on our foreign policy, such statements are too little, too late. And they are nothing more than lip service anyway. While saying that we must end our oil addiction, he has proposed exactly zero policy initiatives to realize that goal. Instead, he keeps pushing non-solutions like drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge, where the estimated supply of oil would not be enough to offset even a year or two of the additional worldwide demand for oil that is being driven higher by India and China.
Fighting for oil in the Middle East, which is what the Iraq war was really all about, serves only to trap our nation’s economy in a game we cannot win, and it makes the continual increase of gas prices inevitable in the long term, which we are already beginning to see this month. It forebodes bad times, not only for drivers at the gas pump, but for our foreign policy, too. As Tom Friedman wrote earlier this year in his New York Times column: “…there’s another Sputnik that just went up: Iran. It’s going to make a nuclear bomb no matter what the United Nations or the United States say, because at $60-a-barrel oil [which is what it was then] Tehran’s mullahs are rich enough to buy off, or tell off, the rest of the world.”
Friedman pointed out that we are in a war with a radical faction of Islam, whose agenda is actually being funded by our own energy purchases in this country. Friedman added: “If we continue to depend on oil, we are going to undermine the whole democratic trend that was unleashed by the fall of the Berlin Wall. Because oil will remain at $60 a barrel and will fuel the worst regimes in the world – like Iran – to do the worst things.”
So not only in terms of military strategy, but also in terms world economic trends, the Bush Administration doesn’t understand how the world has changed, or how will continue to change.
And we continue to lose young American men and women in Iraq week after week – 2,391 U.S. dead so far -- because Bush and his key advisors were intent on fighting the last war, rather than understanding the post-9-11 future. Another 17,648 have been wounded, because the Bush Administration doesn’t understand how the world changed on 9-11.
Their loss is more profoundly sad because it has come in a war that was unnecessary, and even counterproductive. By taking us into it, Bush has not only ignored the new realities of the war on terror, he has destroyed much of the good will that the rest of the world felt toward us after the terrorist attacks, and he has weakened our economic future.
In this tragic effort, Pennsylvania recently lost two more of its native sons, and I ask you now to honor them and the sacrifice they have made.
Lance Corporal Jacob W. Beisel, 21, of Lackawaxen, Pa., died March 31 from wounds received while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province.
Staff Sergeant Eric A. McIntosh, 29, of Trafford, Pa., died April 2, while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province.
Both Marines were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.
Thank you, Madam President.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo