Washington, DC — With Iraq in chaos and the Bush Administration unable or unwilling to change course, Senate Democrats today demanded a real change. Moved by years of mismanagement and incompetence, and working to ensure the kind of leadership that will enforce change in Iraq, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid offered a Sense of the Senate amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill calling on President Bush to change course in Iraq to provide a strategy for success, and replace Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld immediately.
Three years into what is now a Civil War in Iraq, the time has come to change course. Bush Administration policies and the mismanagement of the civilian leadership of the Pentagon have left America bogged down and diverted from the war on terror, strained the military to a level not seen since Vietnam, and emboldened terrorist groups and extremist regimes. The time has come for a change, and Democrats have offered a series of proposals to put America back on the right track in addressing the civil war in Iraq. For all those policy changes, however, Democrats believe the civilian leadership of the Pentagon, principally Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, must be replaced to adequately implement them.
The text of Senator Reid’s Sense of the Senate amendment calling on President Bush to change course in Iraq by replacing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is below, as is the prepared text of the Senate Democratic Leader’s speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate introducing his resolution.
Text of the Amendment
Sense of the Senate on the Need for a New Direction in Iraq Policy and in the Civilian Leadership of the Department of Defense:
- U.S. forces have served honorably and courageously in Iraq, with over 2,600 brave Americans having made the ultimate sacrifice and over 20,000 wounded.
- The current “stay the course” policy in Iraq has made America less secure, reduced the readiness of our troops, and burdened America’s taxpayers with over $300 billion in additional debt.
- With weekly attacks against American and Iraqi troops at their highest levels since the start of the war, and sectarian violence intensifying, it is clear that staying the course in Iraq is not a strategy for success.
- Our troops deserve and the American people expect the Bush Administration to provide competent civilian leadership and a true strategy for success in Iraq.
- President Bush needs to change course in Iraq to provide a strategy for success. One indication of a change of course would be to replace the current Secretary of Defense.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid
September 6, 2006
“In war, strategy is the searchlight that illuminates the way ahead. In its absence, the U.S. military would fight hard and well but blindly, and the noble sacrifices of soldiers would be undercut by the lack of thoughtful leadership at the top that soberly assessed the realities of the situation and constructed a response.”
This quote, Mr. President, is from the book Fiasco, which was written by Washington Post senior Pentagon correspondent Thomas E. Ricks. The quote concerns a war and a Secretary of Defense I would like to talk about today.
The War is Iraq. The Secretary of Defense is Donald Rumsfeld.
It was not a quick or easy decision for me to come to the floor to demand President Bush replace Secretary Rumsfeld. I’ve always held the opinion the President of the United States deserves ample leeway in determining who serves in his cabinet.
Regrettably–after five years of mismanagement and mistakes in Iraq that have made America less safe–the time for that leeway has passed. So today, I will offer an amendment expressing the sense of the Senate that President Bush replace Secretary Rumsfeld immediately.
Mr. President, this amendment is bigger than Donald Rumsfeld. This is about changing course in Iraq, and the President demonstrating to the American people he understands America cannot “stay the course” when the present course is taking our country in the wrong direction.
The United States currently has 140,000 soldiers serving in Iraq – thousands of them are Nevadans. They’re bravely performing their jobs. It is time for President Bush to do his and chart a new direction in Iraq.
In the last month, scores of U.S. soldiers and Marines have been killed, hundreds of U.S. troops have been wounded, more than 1,000 Iraqi civilians have died, and American taxpayers have lost another $12 billion dollars to this mismanaged war.
The totals for this conflict now stand at more than 2,600 Americans killed, over 20,000 Americans wounded – 1/3rd of the wounded missing arms, eyes, paralyzed or coping with brain injuries, and over $300 billion in American taxpayer funds expended.
Today, because of Iraq, the readiness of our troops has declined to levels not seen since Vietnam. Not a single Army non-deployed combat brigade is currently prepared to meet its wartime mission, and the chief of the National Guard has said the Guard is “even further behind or in an even more dire situation than the army.”
In peace time, such a state of our military would be disturbing. At a time of war, it is unacceptable.
The facts on the ground do not lie. All the speeches by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld do not change what is taking place on the ground. The current course in Iraq is not working. Not for our military. Not for the Iraqi people. And not for our security.
Five years after the attacks of September 11, 2001 America is not as safe as it needs to be. Secretary Rumsfeld and the Bush White House have mastered the politics of national security, but as we’ve seen day after day in Iraq, they’ve failed to do what it takes to make America safe.
This is not a personal attack. I am not looking to pick a fight with the Secretary of Defense or the President. It is about making America as safe as we can and should be.
Mr. President, Secretary Rumsfeld’s failed track record is well-documented, and the consequences of his mismanagement on American national security are well-known.
Secretary Rumsfeld was a leading participant in the administration’s cherry-picking and manipulation of intelligence in the run-up to war, exaggerating Iraq’s connections to Al Qaeda and the threat posed by its weapons of mass destruction.
As a result of his and others’ actions, the nation was rushed to war based on a faulty case, and the Pentagon is now spending $20 million on a public relations campaign to re-brand the war to the American people.
Secretary Rumsfeld was the one who ignored the advice of the uniformed military and went into battle in Iraq with too few troops and no plan to win the peace.
As a result, the insurgency was able to gain a foothold in Iraq, and now even the Pentagon is forced to conclude that civil and sectarian strife threatens our troops and the future of Iraq.
And Secretary Rumsfeld was the one who directed the disbanding the Iraqi Army and the purging of all Baath party officials from the Iraqi government. His lack of preparation delayed the training of Iraqi security forces.
As a result, here we are, three years later, with not a single Iraqi Army battalion that can operate independently – not one.
And let’s remember – the Secretary’s mistakes are not all buried in the past. Just last week, he demonstrated again he is not the man for the job during his remarks to the American Legion.
His remarks that were wrong, unnecessary, and a slap in the face to every American.
Rumsfeld’s speech was filled with reckless, irresponsible assertions. But the most insulting and misguided words compared critics of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy to those who appeased the Nazis leading to World War II.
The assertions were offensive, and indicative of a Secretary of Defense who has lost his way, who is not capable of overseeing America’s defense or a new direction in Iraq, who is more concerned with the Bush administration’s political fortunes than the safety and security of the American people, and who must be replaced.
One commentator observed that Rumsfeld’s comments:
“did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence–indeed, the loyalty–of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants–our employees–with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.”
We need to change course, and it starts at the top–with President Bush.
Before anyone dismisses this amendment as partisan politics, I would like to remind my colleagues that Democrats are not alone in criticizing the poor performance of Secretary Rumsfeld.
From the military, we’ve heard from eight retired generals who have called for Rumsfeld’s resignation.
From the Republican side of the aisle, we’ve heard from Senators McCain and Hagel–two heroes of the Vietnam war who have been harsh critics of the Secretary of Defense. Both have said they have “no confidence” in Rumsfeld, and Senator Hagel has added:
“The concern I’ve had is, at a very dangerous time, (the) secretary of defense does not command the respect and confidence of our men and women in uniform… There is a real question about his capacity to lead at this critical time.” [Lincoln Journal Star, 4/17/06]
In the House of Representatives, we’ve heard from Republicans like Chris Shays of Connecticut, who is quoted in today’s New York Times as saying he would vote for an amendment of “no confidence” if it came before the House.
From leading Conservatives, we’ve heard words like these, from William Kristol:
“Actually, we have a pretty terrific Army. It’s performed a lot better in this war than the secretary of defense has…. Surely Don Rumsfeld is not the defense secretary Bush should want to have for the remainder of his second term.” [Washington Post, 12/15/04]
And across the country and in my own state of Nevada, people from all walks of life have called on Donald Rumsfeld to step down.
There’s a reason for this bipartisan groundswell. It’s because having the right leadership to keep America safe is not a partisan issue. It’s a national priority.
Today in the United States Senate, I hope we see similar bipartisan support for my amendment.
There is no better way for the Senate to show the American people–and indeed the world–that we are committed to success in Iraq and a more secure America | than by demanding President Bush find leadership for the Pentagon that matches the skill, determination and commitment of our troops.
Mr. President, we need a vote on this amendment. It cannot fall to parliamentary tricks. Our troops and all American people must be given the opportunity to see the United States Senate stands with them in seeking a new direction for our country.