Senator Barbara Boxer
Statement on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
September 5, 2006
Mr. President, I rise today to call for the immediate replacement of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. I understand that Secretary Rumsfeld underwent elective surgery for a torn rotator cuff earlier today. I surely wish him a speedy recovery.
Last week, Secretary Rumsfeld compared critics of the Bush Administration’s failed policies in Iraq to those who wanted to appease fascism and Nazism in the run up to World War II. He also accused them of failing to learn the lessons of history.But it is Secretary Rumsfeld who has failed to learn the lessons of history.
It is Secretary Rumsfeld who fails to understand that it was al Qaeda who struck the United States on September 11, 2001 and not Iraq -- a country that did not have a single al Qaeda cell. The American people know this. Today, 61% of the American people -- nearly two thirds of all Americans -- oppose the Iraq war.
Mr. President, the American people are right, and Secretary Rumsfeld is wrong. Secretary Rumsfeld is wrong because a majority of Americans know that Iraq is not a part of the war on terror -- it is a distraction from the war on terror. President Bush admitted as much on August 21 when he said that Iraq had “nothing” to do with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Secretary Rumsfeld is wrong because the American people know that -- five years after 9/11 -- Osama bin Laden remains at large while America is bogged down in Iraq -- a war that becomes increasingly costly in terms of both lives and treasure to the people of the United States with each passing month. We should not be surprised. Time and again, Secretary Rumsfeld has been wrong about Iraq, and time and again he has responded to his own mistakes by playing politics and attacking the patriotism of those Americans who oppose his ill-advised decisions.
It was Secretary Rumsfeld who failed to heed the warnings of military planners and experts that the overthrow of the Iraqi regime would be a prolonged and costly undertaking. In fact, he failed to heed even his own advice. I would like to share Secretary Rumsfeld’s own words with you to illustrate this point. In Secretary Rumsfeld’s “Guidelines for Committing Forces” he writes: “U.S. leadership must be brutally honest with itself, the Congress, the public and coalition partners. We must not make the effort sound even marginally easier or less costly than it could become. Preserving U.S. credibility requires that we promise less, or no more, than we are sure we can deliver. It is a great deal easier to get into something than it is to get out of it!”
Yet it was Secretary Rumsfeld who falsely told U.S. troops that the war “could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.” And it was Secretary Rumsfeld who said that the majority of Iraqis would treat American troops as liberators.
I would like to point out a few more of Secretary Rumsfeld’ more glaring failures: It was Secretary Rumsfeld who said on March 30, 2003, “we know where they [the weapons of mass destruction] are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat,” even though we now know those weapons do not exist.
It was Secretary Rumsfeld who said on April 11, 2003 -- in the wake of widespread looting after the fall of Saddam Hussein -- “Stuff happens, and it’s untidy, and freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.” We now know that this looting set the stage for the climate of fear and lawlessness that persists to this day in Iraq.
It was Secretary Rumsfeld who sent brave young American men and women into combat without sufficient vehicle or body armor, telling a young soldier on December 8, 2004 who asked why he had been sent to battle ill-equipped that: “As you know, 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.”
It was Secretary Rumsfeld who sent in far few troops to secure Iraq, leading to widespread violence, the rise of sectarian militias, and the rapid growth of the insurgency.
And it was Secretary Rumsfeld who presided over the Pentagon during the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal which diminished U.S. standing in the world and caused irreparable harm to the image of the U.S. military.
Mr. President, the American people have had enough of Secretary Rumsfeld and his incompetent and dangerous leadership. It is time for new leadership, new direction, and new vision, because America can do better. In fact, America must do better.
And this is not a view that is held exclusively by Democrats. A number of my friends across the aisle have also raised serious questions about Secretary Rumsfeld’s continued ability to lead. On of my colleagues in particular expressed “no confidence” in Secretary Rumsfeld. And a number of retired Generals who served our country with honor and distinction have called for Secretary Rumsfeld’s resignation over his mishandling of the Iraq war, including General Anthony Zinni, General Wesley Clark, Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, Major General John Batiste, Major General Charles Swannack Jr., Major General John Riggs, and Major General Paul Eaton.
Major General Paul Eaton, who was responsible for training Iraqi Security Forces from 2003 to 2004, wrote in the New York Times on March 19, 2006 that Secretary Rumsfeld “has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone else responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld must step down.”
Mr. President, the Department of Defense can no longer be lead by a Secretary who refuses to take advice, who refuses to work with those who do not share his false views on the state of affairs in Iraq, who refuses to change course in the face of a policy that becomes a larger failure each and every day, and who insists on spending his time defending the past rather than coming up with innovative ways to move forward.
Time and again we have heard from this Administration that we have turned a corner, or that we have a “strategy for victory” in Iraq. And time and again, we have seen the situation in Iraq get worse, not better. The fact of the matter is that as of September 5, 2,652 troops have lost their lives in Iraq and nearly 20,000 have been wounded. The total cost of the Iraq war will soon reach $318.5 billion. Yet with all of these tremendous expenditures in terms of both lives and treasure, this Administration is still dramatically shortchanging the war on terror, starting with Afghanistan.
Afghanistan -- which should have been the central front in the war on terror -- is spiraling out of control, particularly in the South. The Taliban is making a resurgence, having stepped up attacks in recent months to trigger the deadliest violence since the late-2001 ouster of their regime. According to the New York Times, suicide bombings have doubled. And roadside bomb attacks -- modeled after those carried out in Iraq -- are up by 30 percent. To make matters worse, the United Nations announced Saturday that this year’s opium crop has reached the highest levels ever recorded -- yielding extraordinary profits that we know fall back into the hands of the very people we are trying to defeat.
And tragically, attacks against schools are on the rise. In January, armed men in the Zabul province of Afghanistan beheaded a high school headmaster in front of his children. By March, half of the schools in the province had closed, and attacks reached an average of one a day. It is clear that we are losing ground.
We are also weaker on Homeland Security. Since the halting of the London terror plot, TSA is asking passengers to give up their lip gloss and their Visine, yet TSA isn't examining every piece of cargo loaded on board our passenger planes. DHS is launching a pilot program at San Francisco Airport (SFO) this October to check all commercial cargo for explosives on commercial flights. We ought to be doing it at every airport.
But until that time, at the very least, blast resistant cargo containers need to be installed on passenger airlines that carry cargo, which was one of the 9/11 Commission recommendations. For several years, I have been pushing for a study of blast resistant cargo containers and working to get them on our planes. Currently, TSA is undertaking a pilot project using these containers, some of which are made with Kevlar, for baggage on passenger planes. I believe it is time to move past pilot projects, so I am introducing legislation to ensure that blast resistant cargo containers are mandatory on our planes.
DHS hasn't taken full advantage new liquid explosives detectors provided by the Japanese government. TSA Chief Kip Hawley recently said that the agency is testing equipment at six airports, but Japan has been using these detectors in its Narita International Airport in Tokyo.
I want to talk a minute more about shoulder-fired missiles, because this is another threat that this Administration has failed to move forward on in any meaningful way. We know that at least two dozen terrorist organizations are in possession of shoulder-fired missiles, and since 1970, over 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by MANPADS, causing over 600 deaths.
If this President is serious about aviation security, then he should order DHS to immediately begin equipping our Civilian Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) with countermeasures, and the President should fund this program in his FY2008 budget (DHS has set a goal and believes they can do it for $1 million a plane). Instead they are slow-walking this program.
We are no where near as safe as we should be. There has been a failure of leadership by this President and Republicans in Congress when it comes to Homeland Defense, and that is why it is so important that we have a new direction in this country. And this brings me back to the issue of Secretary Rumsfeld.
Just as Americans understand that we are losing ground in Afghanistan and failing to protect the country here at home, the American people will not be fooled by Secretary Rumsfeld and his rhetoric on Iraq. Staying the course with a failing policy in Iraq has absolutely nothing in common with standing up to the Nazis in the run-up to World War II. Attacking the patriotism of 61% of the American people does not make Secretary Rumsfeld a worthy leader of our brave men and women in uniform -- it makes him a divisive and increasingly isolated failure. How many more Americans have to die in the deserts and cities of Iraq before this President publicly acknowledges that his own Secretary of Defense has let this country down? How many more times must the American people have their senior leaders play the politics of fear instead of offering a new course in Iraq?
Mr. President, it is time for Secretary Rumsfeld to go.