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Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld Should Resign

Location: Washington, DC

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld Should Resign -- (House of Representatives - May 17, 2004)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the order of the House of January 20, 2004, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized during morning hour debates for 5 minutes.

Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, over the weekend my hometown newspaper, the Asbury Park Press, ran an editorial calling on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to resign. It was a stunning criticism from a newspaper that is not known to be partisan. And I would like to take this opportunity to simply read the editorial.

"The United States needs to send this message to the world. We remain a civilized Nation. We respect international law. We respect the dignity of all individuals. We will at all times abide by the Geneva Convention governing the humane conduct of prisoner of war and apply that standard to all detainees.

"We hold ourselves to the highest moral standards and will not tolerate those who do not. And we will hold our leaders accountable when our conduct falls short. That message should be accompanied by the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. If he is not asked to resign by President Bush, he should do the honorable thing and step down on his own.

"The case against Rumsfeld, who has overseen the conduct of the war in Iraq, transcends the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib, but the scandal is an important element of it. The photos and accounts of the treatment of Iraqi detainees at the hands of American soldiers have shocked and disgusted Americans and the world. They have brought the realities of war whose daily horrors have largely been kept from public view into the national consciousness. They have shown that we are not immune from committing evil acts.

"Over the past 2 years the International Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International have all raised concerns about patterns of mistreatment of detainees by U.S. interrogators in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay. Rumsfeld's explanations for how the abuses were allowed to occur and how they escaped his attention for so long have not been convincing. Punishing only those directly responsible for the inhumane actions is not enough, not given the gravity of the offenses and the damage they have done to our Nation's reputation and our ability to win the war of ideas in the Arab world.

"There are many other reasons why it should be in America's best interest for Rumsfeld to step aside. As Defense Secretary he has mismanaged the war in Iraq every step of the way. He helped sell the idea that Saddam Hussein was working in concert with al Qaeda and posed a clear nuclear and biological threat to the United States. He ignored the advice of many of our long-standing allies and top Pentagon officials to continue what had been a successful strategy of isolating Saddam while continuing our search for weapons of mass destruction.

"Rumsfeld failed to anticipate the hostile reception we received following the 'liberation.' He miscalculated the troop strength needed to stabilize the country. He left Baghdad and other major cities unprotected from looters and thugs. He left museums, hospitals, government ministries and facilities essential to a functioning civil society unguarded. He failed to provide the necessary support and manpower and material for our military. And he allowed our military prisons to operate with inadequate staffing, training, and oversight.

"After the fall of Baghdad, instead of trying to internationalize the occupation and the rebuilding effort, Rumsfeld and other administration leaders chose to go it alone, putting virtually all the costs associated with the occupation, financial and human, on American soldiers.

"To date more than 770 American soldiers have died in Iraq. Another 4,100 have been wounded. We have committed more than $160 billion to the invasion, occupation, and reconstruction of Iraq. Estimates suggest the cost could easily reach $600 billion even if the June 30 deadline for handing over political control to the Iraqis is met-a dubious proposition.

"Our leaders in Washington need to send a clear message to the world that we have not abandoned our ideals. Rumsfeld's resignation would help underscore the point. More important, our leaders need to reinforce that message with the American people who are growing increasingly fearful that we have lost our way."

That is the end of the editorial, Mr. Speaker. I just want to say that I totally associate myself with the Asbury Park Press editorial. I think they are absolutely right. I do not think anybody has ever said it so well.

Mr. Speaker, I recently called on Secretary Rumsfeld to resign and I would urge my colleagues to do the same. Next, I would urge the President to take immediate steps to internationalize this conflict and build a strong coalition of partners in Iraq. The President should convene an immediate international summit on Iraq. The United States must go in with a plan that provides for new international arrangements to manage the political security and economic aspects of Iraq's transitions, and includes reorienting American policy to reflect those new international arrangements. We cannot simply continue to go it alone. We must internationalize this conflict. And I think that has also been a major part of what the Asbury Park Press says in this editorial.

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