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Statement by Senator Edward M. Kennedy on Secretary Rumsfeld

Location: Unknown


I support this resolution.

Apart from President Bush, no one embodies the Administration's failures in Iraq more than Secretary Rumsfeld. On issue after issue, Secretary Rumsfeld has been wrong, and the consequences have been severe for our men and women in uniform and for the safety of the American people.

In September 2002, as Congress was preparing to vote on whether to authorize the war, Secretary Rumsfeld stated categorically to the House Armed Services Committee that, "Knowing what we know about Iraq's history, no conclusion is possible except that they have and are escalating their WMD programs." As the world now knows, Secretary Rumsfeld was wrong.

When General Eric Shinseki estimated at the start of the war that we would need several hundred thousand soldiers to carry out the mission, Secretary Rumsfeld scoffed and said, "The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far from the mark." Again, Secretary Rumsfeld was profoundly wrong.

When concerns were expressed that America would end up in a lengthy and intractable war, Secretary Rumsfeld said that the war "could last, you know, six days, six weeks, I doubt six months." He was convinced that the war would be easy, cheap, and fast. But as he well knows, it's now been more than three years, with no end in sight to the quagmire we're in.

Secretary Rumsfeld was careless and callous about issues that have proven critical to our chances of success in Iraq. When massive looting occurred after Baghdad fell because we did not have enough troops to maintain order, Secretary Rumsfeld cavalierly dismissed the problem, saying, "stuff happens."

Secretary Rumsfeld failed to see the insurgency that was taking root in the streets and cities of Iraq. He consistently called the insurgents "dead-enders" and failed to see the huge danger that their improvised explosive devices posed to our troops.

Secretary Rumsfeld sent our soldiers into battle without adequate armor, and failed to correct the problem immediately, when it became obvious in the casualty reports. Instead, he blithely excused his own preparations for war by saying "You go to war with the army you have. They're not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time."

Secretary Rumsfeld still doesn't understand the war he rushed us into. He has said, "The idea that what's happening over there is a quagmire is so fundamentally inconsistent with the facts." But the dictionary defines a quagmire as "a complex or precarious position where disengagement is difficult." No serious person thinks that definition does not describe our plight in Iraq.

On issue after issue, Secretary Rumsfeld has blundered. He is the chief architect and defender of a policy that has failed our soldiers and our national security interests - and failed miserably. He has consistently put ideology above basic military planning. As long as he remains at the Pentagon, our policy will not change.

Fundamentally, however, the American people know that the buck does not stop with Secretary Rumsfeld. It stops with President Bush.

It is preposterous for President Bush to pretend that the war in Iraq has made America safer.

President Bush and his administration distorted and misrepresented the intelligence about Saddam Hussein's links to Al Qaeda and his nuclear weapons program.

The Bush Administration bungled pre-war diplomacy on Iraq, leaving America isolated and unable to obtain real allied support.

The Bush team failed to consider the possibility that the liberation of Iraq might not be the cakewalk they predicted.

The President failed to consider the possibility that his preoccupation with Iraq could undo much of our achievement in Afghanistan.

The Bush Administration failed to understand the grave implications of disbanding the Iraqi military, and they had to begin training a new one from scratch when their blunder was finally obvious too obvious to deny.

President Bush once said that the war in Iraq was a catastrophic success. He was half-right- the war has been a catastrophe - for our soldiers, who were foolishly sent to war with no plan to win the peace. It has been a catastrophe for our nation's standing in the world. It has been a catastrophe for the war on terror. The war in Iraq has distracted us from the real threat of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and elsewhere. It has made the war against terrorism far harder to win.

None of this in any way detracts from the extraordinary heroism of our soldiers. They have responded to their mission in Iraq with immense courage and dedication. But their outstanding service to our country does not and cannot excuse the incompetence of their civilian leaders.

In an August, 2004 report on the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, General Anthony Jones defined leadership failure as a situation where "leaders did not take charge, failed to provide appropriate guidance" and "failed to accept responsibility or apply good judgment." By this standard, and on this record, President Bush and his Administration are clearly guilty of leadership failure.

Despite their colossal failures and their gross incompetence, no one has been held accountable.

On the contrary, those who have been wrong on Iraq - consistently and deadly wrong and whose advice has made America less safe— have been rewarded.

President Bush refused to accept Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation, despite blunder after blunder.

Paul Wolfowitz, former Deputy Secretary of Defense and a chief architect of the war, was promoted to President of the World Bank, despite his persistent rosy assessments of progress in Iraq and his assurances that Iraqi oil would pay for the reconstruction.

George Tenet, former Director of the CIA, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, despite his "slam dunk" assurance that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Paul Bremer, former head of the American occupation entity, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom as well, despite his decision to disband the Iraqi army with their weapons in tact.

Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi was given a warm welcome on his visit last year to the United States to meet with Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Rice, and National Security Advisor Hadley, despite the fact that he is under investigation by the FBI for allegedly divulging U.S. secrets to Iran.

By contrast, the military holds its soldiers accountable for their failures.

In 2003, the Navy fired 14 Commanding Officers. In October that year, the Commanding Officer of a Prowler Aircraft Squadron lost his job after one of his jets skidded off a runway. The Navy cited a "loss of confidence" when they made the decision to dismiss him.

In December 2003 and January 2004, respectively, the Commanding Officers of the submarine JIMMY CARTER and the frigate USS GARY were fired, both for "loss of confidence."

In 2004, the Navy fired the Captain of the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier for running over a small boat in the Persian Gulf. The Navy didn't hide the incompetence or gloss over the facts. It responded decisively. It stated plainly that it had "lost confidence" in the Captain's ability to operate the carrier safely. He was the 11th Commanding Officer of the Navy to be fired that year.

In February 2004, the Commanding Officer of the frigate USS SAMUEL B ROBERTS was fired for a "loss of confidence," after he spent a night off the ship during a port visit to Ecuador.

For military officers in the Navy, the message is clear - if you fail, you're fired. The message to the civilian leadership in this Administration is equally clear - if you fail, there will be no consequences and no accountability, even if more than 2,600 Americans lose their lives.

It is time for the Department of Defense to run a tighter ship at all levels of command, including the civilian leadership. Those leaders at the Pentagon should be held at least to the same standard of accountability that military officers in the Navy are held to.

Secretary Rumsfeld must be held accountable for the massive failures in Iraq. Civilian control of the military is one of the great cornerstones of our democracy. But what if the civilian leaders don't know what they're doing, and mindlessly order our troops into battle unprepared?

Clearly, clearly, there must be accountability for this breathtaking incompetence, which has put our soldiers in daily danger, and weakened America's national security.

In a hearing by the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2004, former Defense Secretary Harold Brown described the key to accountability: "At each level, the question is loss of confidence. And in the Navy, the loss of confidence goes with grounding your ship. At a higher level, the loss of confidence has to be determined on a basis that's somewhat broader, the full performance. And I think that applies at the highest military levels. And it applies at the level of the Secretary of Defense and his staff. . . . And the electorate has to decide on the basis of its confidence at election time."

The Bush Administration has had its chance, and it failed the basic test of competence. It is more focused on the spin war than the real war in Iraq.

There is broad agreement among military experts, members of Congress of both parties, and the overwhelming majority of the American people that we need to change course in Iraq.

We need this administration to face up to its mistakes and correct them. A good place to start would be for President Bush to replace Secretary Rumsfeld.

A President who valued competence rather than loyalty would have fired Rumsfeld long ago. A President who wanted to be "a uniter, not a divider" would fire Rumsfeld today for equating his critics with Nazi appeasers. And a President who was serious about the war on terror would nominate a new Secretary of Defense who will focus on battling the terrorists instead of battling the growing number of Americans calling for change in our policy in Iraq.

It is long past time for Secretary Rumsfeld to go. I urge the Senate to pass this resolution.

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