DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2007--Continued -- (Senate - September 06, 2006)
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, like others, I have had the good opportunity to listen with great interest during the course of the afternoon about the nature of the resolution which is before us which questions the serious judgments of the Secretary of Defense in bringing us to where we are. He is the principal architect of the Iraq policy. I have listened to others talk about the general nature of the threat in terms of our national security.
In most recent times, we have an excellent Department of Defense study, some 63 pages long. We referenced it yesterday. It talks about the principal challenges we are facing in Iraq. I will briefly mention parts of it.
It talks about sustained ethnosectarian violence is the greatest threat to security and stability in Iraq; breaking the cycle of violence is the most pressing immediate goal of the coalition in Iraqi operations; conditions that could lead to civil war exist in Iraq, specifically around Baghdad; concern about civil war with the Iraqi civilian population has increased in recent months.
It goes on and talks about both Shia and Sunni death squads are active in Iraq and responsible for the significant increase in sectarian violence; militias--small, illegally armed groups--operate openly and often with popular support; civilian casualties increased by approximately 1,000 per month since the previous quarter; executions in particular reached new highs in the month of July; and rising sectarian strife defines the nature of violence in mid-2006.
Now we have to ask ourselves: How could all of this come to pass? Who was the architect that brought us to this situation? Clearly, it is because of the persistent, stubborn insistence of those who believe that we ought to stay the course, the principal architects being the Secretary of Defense and the President of the United States.
As has been mentioned here time in and time out, America was struck by al-Qaida, not Saddam Hussein. All of us gathered together to support the attacks that took place in Afghanistan and the isolation of Osama bin Laden and the belief, as has been pointed out earlier in the course of the afternoon, we had a real opportunity to catch and to punish and to bring to justice the individual that was the principal architect of 9/11. But instead, the administration moved military units and moved focus out of that search for Osama bin Laden into Iraq--into Iraq. It was Osama bin Laden who was the architect, not Saddam Hussein, and as a result, we have effectively taken our eye off the principal author of terrorism.
Even as the President of the United States spoke yesterday, 17 times he mentions Osama bin Laden. He was the one who was the architect. We should have been after him for the last 4 years. Instead, we have been weighted down with the resulting conditions that I described earlier, and the principal architect of that is the Secretary of Defense. He was wrong when he represented that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that threatened the United States. He was wrong about the connection of al-Qaida to 9/11, as was demonstrated by the 9/11 Commission. He was wrong about the insurgency being just a group of dead-enders. He was wrong about the administration of Abu Ghraib. He has just been continuously wrong, and we have the current situation which is outlined not by those of us who are supporting this resolution but by the Department of Defense.
Let's look at what the military does to its soldiers when they have failures in the performance of their duty. Here we have just mentioned, and it has been discussed over the course of the afternoon, the series of blunders by the Secretary of Defense--a series of blunders. Let's look at how the military treats its people.
In 2003, the Navy fired 14 commanding officers. In October of 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 of 2003 and January of 2004, the commanding officers of the submarine Jimmy Carter and the frigate USS Gary were both fired because of ``loss of confidence.''
In 2004, the Navy fired the captain of the USS 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 it had ``lost confidence'' in the captain's ability to operate the carrier safely. He was the eleventh 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 are fired. The message to the civilian leadership of this administration is equally clear: If you fail, there are no consequences, 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 to which military officers in the Navy are held.
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 are doing and mindlessly lead our troops into battle unprepared? Clearly, there must be accountability for this breathtaking incompetence which has put our soldiers in daily danger and weakened American 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 a 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 is 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.
That is what this resolution is all about.
The Bush administration has had its chance, and it has failed the basic test of competence. It is more focused on the spin of 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 the President to replace Secretary Rumsfeld. It is long past time for Secretary Rumsfeld to go, and I urge the Senate to pass this resolution.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I yield myself 10 minutes. Just for the information of the Members, I intend to ask for the yeas and nays at the conclusion of the debate.
Mr. President, the Kennedy-Reid amendment requires the Secretaries of Defense and State to determine every 3 months whether Iraq is in a civil war and to outline a plan to protect our troops in the event of a civil war.
Under our amendment, if the administration determines that Iraq is not in a civil war, the amendment requires a description of the efforts by our Government to avoid civil war in Iraq, a plan to protect our troops in the event of a civil war, and a strategy to ensure that our troops don't take sides. If the determination is that Iraq is in a civil war, the amendment requires the Secretary of Defense to explain the mission of our troops and the duration, his plan to protect our troops, and a strategy to ensure that they don't take sides in a civil war.
At every step of the way, this administration has missed the threat to our troops, and the American people have seen it time and again. They saw it when the Bush administration disbanded the Iraqi Army after the fall of Saddam Hussein but allowed thousands to walk away with their weapons. They saw it when the Bush administration waited a full year to begin training the new Iraqi security forces. They saw it when the White House failed to see the insurgency spreading like a cancer throughout Iraq. They saw it when the Bush team failed to see the danger of roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices, yet sent our troops on patrol day after day, month after month, year after year. They saw it when the White House failed to provide the proper armor for our troops until the Congress demanded it.
Unfortunately, the administration's repeated failure to see each new threat in Iraq has put our troops and our security in greater peril. Today, once again, the administration refuses to recognize another seismic shift in Iraq--the dangerous prospect that we are drawn into a deadly and divisive civil war.
While the President and Dick Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary Rice are out on the campaign trail claiming progress in Iraq, military leaders and experts are urging the White House to heed the disturbing warning signs in Iraq. General Abizaid acknowledged the clear danger when he told the Senate Armed Services Committee on August 3:
I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I have seen it, in Baghdad in particular, and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war.
General Pace, at the same hearing, agreed about the threat of the civil war. He said:
I believe that we do have the possibility of devolving to a civil war, but that does not have to be the fact.
Others think that a civil war may have already begun. Former Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi said in March that Iraq is probably in ``an early stage of civil war.''
The British Ambassador to Iraq wrote in August:
The prospect of a low-intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy.
Our colleague from Nebraska, Senator Chuck Hagel, concurred, saying in August:
We, in fact, are in probably a low-grade, maybe a very defined, civil war.
General William Nash, who commanded our troops in Bosnia after that country's civil war ended, stated on March 5:
We are in a civil war now; it is just that not everybody has joined in.
These leaders see what is really happening in Iraq, not just the White House spin. Indeed, the September 1 report prepared by the Department of Defense on civility and security in Iraq reaffirms what the American people already understand, the conditions of civil war exist. Violence in Iraq is spiraling out of control, and staying the course is not a viable option.
This is what the Department of Defense report says:
Concern about civil war within the Iraqi civilian population and among some defense analysts has increased in recent months. Conditions that could lead to civil war exist in Iraq.
Rising sectarian strife defines the emerging nature of violence in mid-2006.
Sustained ethnic and sectarian violence is the greatest threat to security and civility in Iraq.
Sectarian tensions increased over the last 3 months, demonstrated by the increased number of executions, kidnappings, attacks on civilians, and internally displaced persons.
Civilian casualties increased by approximately 1,000 per month since the previous quarter. Assassinations, in particular, reached new highs in the month of July. The Baghdad coroner's office reported that 1,600 bodies arrived in June, and more than 1,800 bodies in July, 90 percent of which were assessed to be the result of executions.
Sectarian violence is gradually spreading north into Diyala Province and Kirkuk as Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish groups compete for provincial influence.
Both Shia and Sunni death squads are active in Iraq, and are responsible for the most significant increases in sectarian violence.
Militias and small, illegally armed groups operate openly and often with popular support. The threat posed by Shiite illegal armed groups, filling perceived and actual vacuums, is growing.
The security situation is currently at its most complex state since the initiation of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
That is all from the report prepared by the Defense Department. These facts are at odds with the administration's statement about civil war. Sectarian divisions are increasing. Militia violence and death squad activity is increasing. The number of Iraqis fleeing the violence is increasing. Yet the President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State continue to deny the possibility of civil war. As long as the administration continues to deny the plain truth, America will be behind the curve and unable to adjust to the current realities on the ground and protect our troops.
Most important, our amendment requires the administration to say what we are going to do about it. How are we going to advance America's interests in Iraq in a time of civil war? How are we going to protect our troops from getting drawn ever deeper into an endless sectarian conflict?
An article in Newsweek magazine on August 14 indicates that although the Bush administration insists that Iraq is a long way from civil war, some inside the White House and the Pentagon have begun some contingency planning. The American people and our men and women in uniform want to know what that means.
What is the role of our troops in a civil war? What is our mission? How long will it take? What are the rules of engagement? How do we prevent our troops from taking sides? As long as we are on the ground in the conflict, our troops run the risk that they will be perceived as helping one side against another.
The administration should level with the American people about their planning to protect our troops. We all agree that the Iraqis need to make political compromises necessary to stop the violence and civil war. That is plan A. But what is plan B? What is the contingency plan? What is the plan to protect our troops?
That is the purpose of our amendment this evening. The amendment is needed to ensure proper planning in the event of civil war.
Instead of attacking those who want to change our course, President Bush ought to deal with the hard, cold facts. This Defense Department report underscores the fundamental truth that our brave troops are being let down by the administration and we need to find a way to succeed.
The administration needs to look at all of the facts and honestly address the question of civil war for the sake of our military and the American people. This legislation creates a continuing obligation to ensure that analysis on civil war is done regularly. The facts in the administration's report say one thing about civil war, but the conclusion about civil war says another. We need an honest assessment about the conditions and a clear plan to protect our troops.
Our soldiers and the American people deserve more from the administration. Together, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State need to set the White House political agenda aside and directly and thoughtfully address this ominous threat.
The administration acts as if the mere discussion of a civil war is defeatist. They have it exactly backward. This amendment is an effort to make sure that the administration confronts and deals with the facts on the ground in Iraq and recognizes the emerging threat before it consumes our troops.
We must do better. This administration owes it to the American people. Even more important, dealing with reality is essential and necessary to protect the lives of our brave soldiers.
Iraq's future and the lives of our troops are close to the precipice of a new disaster. The timebomb of civil war is ticking, and our most urgent priority is to defuse it.
For the sake of our men and women in uniform and the stability of Iraq, all Americans are anxious for success, but we need to be realistic and smart enough and humble enough to understand that even our best efforts may not prevent a civil war from overtaking events in Iraq.
We need to begin planning now for this possibility. Such planning is not an admission of defeat. It is essential and necessary for protecting the lives of our service men and women in Iraq who are performing so admirably today under such enormously difficult circumstances.
Benjamin Franklin said as long ago as the 18th century:
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
This was sound advice then, it is sound advice now. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, one can argue about the definition of a civil war, but what I am talking about is the concern of the commanders on the ground in Iraq. This is what GEN Rick Sanchez, former commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, said on January 7:
The country is on the verge of civil war.
GEN Peter Pace on March 13:
Everything is in place if they want to have a civil war.
Ambassador Khalilzad is concerned about the threat, March 7:
The potential is there for sectarian violence to become a civil war.
General Abizaid before the Armed Services Committee on August 3:
I believe the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I have seen it in Baghdad, and if not stopped, it is possible Iraq could move toward civil war.
General Pace the same day:
I do believe we have the possibility of devolving into civil war.
Here we have Newsweek magazine, August 14:
The Bush administration insists Iraq is a long way from civil war but the contingency planning has already begun. .....
Now, the Senator from Alaska says let's look at the most recent report from the Defense Department that we received September 1. Let's look at it. What does it say?
Concern about civil war within the Iraqi civilian populations among defense analysts increased in recent months. Conditions that could lead to civil war exist in Iraq.
And it continues:
Conditions that could lead to civil war exist in Iraq, specifically in and around Baghdad. Concerns about civil war within the Iraqi civilian populations increased in recent months.
All we are asking for is a plan to protect our troops. What are the rules of engagement if there is a civil war? That is the issue. That is the question. That is the information they ought to have, the families ought to have, and the American people ought to have. That is what this amendment is all about.
The White House evidently is concerned, according to news reports. Generals on the ground are concerned about it. The Defense Department's own report is concerned about it. All we want to do is let Congress know and let us have the kind of planning that is going to provide the greatest protection for American troops on the ground should there be a civil war. Rules of engagement--that is all this amendment does. And it does seem to me when we are talking about plans--we heard a great deal of debate about policy today. This is about a plan to protect American troops. That is what this amendment is.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, in the 30 seconds, refer to page 3 of my amendment. If there is not a civil war, we are still asking for the strategy to protect American troops. If there is a civil war, the strategy ought to be how are we going to protect the Armed Forces of the United States. This is a plan about how to protect American troops if there is a civil war, plain and simple.
The White House is concerned about it. Newspapers have published that they are concerned about it. We ought to be able to get it, and the members of the Armed Forces ought to be entitled to that information. We missed too many opportunities in the past. Let's not miss this one.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT