Congressional Record: May 20, 2004 (Senate)
Page S5940-S5942


  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, according to the Washington Post, a recent 
poll by the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, which is, for all 
intents and purposes, an entity of the U.S. Government, showed that 80 
percent of the Iraqis surveyed reported a lack of confidence in the CPA 
and 82 percent disapprove of the U.S. and allied militaries in Iraq.
  I mention this for two reasons.
  First, I remember when, less than 2 months ago, much was made by 
administration officials and several Senators of a February poll which 
suggested that Iraqis strongly supported the U.S. occupation. They held 
it up as proof that our strategy was working, even if they could not 
explain what the strategy was.
  To quote one of my friends on the other side of the aisle, who spoke 
on April 8:

       [I] noticed the BBC/ABC poll results in Iraq, which are 
     fascinating. I only wish Americans were as upbeat about 
     America as Iraqis are about Iraq. If you watched U.S. TV 
     every day, you would think there was nothing but bad things 
     happening in Iraq . . . But, in fact, in the BBC/ABC poll, 
     which was taken from February 9th to February 28th, in answer 
     to the question, ``How are things going today, good or bad, 
     in Iraq?'' Overall, 70 percent said good, 29 percent said 
     bad. . . And in terms of the optimism factor, how they will 
     be a year from now, 71 percent of Iraqis thought things would 
     be better a year from now . . .

  He concluded by saying that this encouraging news was thanks to the 
leadership of the President of the United States.
  Whatever the accuracy of that February poll, the CPA's recent poll 
indicates that far more Iraqis today oppose what we are doing in Iraq. 
The CPA's poll also shows that more than half of Americans surveyed 
oppose the President's policy.
  This latest poll also compels us to ask why so many of the people we 
sought to liberate, and did liberate from the brutality of Saddam, 
turned against us so quickly. And why so many Americans are questioning 
the President's decision to go to war.
  There are many reasons, the genesis of which dates back to the 
President's fateful decision to shift gears from fighting al-Qaida, 
which had attacked us, to overthrowing Saddam Hussein, who had not 
attacked us and who apparently had no plan or ability to.
  That decision, followed by a remarkable series of miscalculations and 
misguided policies, has enmeshed our troops in an ill-fated, costly war 
from which neither the President, nor anyone else in his 
Administration, appears to have the faintest idea of how to extricate 
  Let's review the history.
  After September 11, there was nearly universal support for 
retaliation against al-Qaida. There was widespread sympathy and support 
for the United States from around the world. But then the President, 
encouraged by a handful of Pentagon and White House officials, most 
notably the Vice President, who were fixated on Saddam Hussein, changed 
course. And what followed, I believe, has very possibly increased the 
risk of terrorism against Americans.
  We remember when someone in the administration ``gave currency to a 
fraud,'' to quote George Will, by putting in the President's 2003 State 
of the Union speech that Iraq was trying to buy uranium in Africa.
  This administration repeatedly, insistently and unrelentingly 
justified pre-emptive war by insisting that Saddam Hussein not only had 
weapons of mass destruction but was hell-bent on using them against us 
and our allies.
  Administration officials, led by Vice President Cheney, repeatedly 
tried to link Saddam Hussein to 9/11 in order to build public support 
for the war, though there never was any link--none.
  Truth tellers in the administration--like General Shinseki and 
Lawrence Lindsay--were either ridiculed or hounded out of their jobs 
because they had the temerity to suggest realistic estimates for the 
number of soldiers and amount of money it would take to do the job 
right in Iraq.
  Incredibly, there was no real plan, despite a year-long, $5 million 
study by the State Department, to deal with the widespread looting that 
greeted our soldiers once Saddam had fallen--doubling or tripling the 
cost of reconstruction, and leaving open the gates to stockpiles of 
weapons and ammunition that have been used with deadly results against 
our soldiers.
  We remember President Bush flying onto the aircraft carrier and 
declaring ``Mission Accomplished'' when, in fact, the worst of it was 
  Two months later, the President taunted Iraqi resistance fighters to 
``Bring It On!'' while our troops were still in harm's way and were 
fending off ambushes and roadside attacks every day and every night.
  Some of our closest allies and friends, like Mexico and Canada, and 
even those countries Secretary Rumsfeld called ``Old Europe,'' were 
belittled and alienated because they disagreed with our strategy of 
pre-emptive war--countries whose diplomatic and intelligence and 
military support we so desperately need today.
  That sorry chronology has brought us to where we are today. Each day 
that passes, more Iraqis seem to turn against us, threatening the 
mission and morale of our troops.
  The latest episode in this misguided adventure is the Abu Ghraib 
prison scandal. It is tragic for many reasons, but none more so than 
the harm it has caused to the image of our Armed

[[Page S5941]]

Forces and to our Nation, particularly among Muslims, and the fact that 
it could so easily have been prevented.
  The International Red Cross had warned U.S. officials about the 
mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners last year, and nothing was done about 
it for months.
  We also know that similarly cruel and degrading treatment of 
prisoners occurred at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The New York 
Times first reported it last March. It described prisoners who had been 
kept naked in freezing cold cells, forced to stand for days with their 
arms upraised and chained to the ceiling, subjected to other 
humiliating and abusive treatment, and in at least two instances 
prisoners died in what were ruled homicides. We have since learned that 
many more detainees have died in U.S. custody in both Afghanistan and 
  Even before last June, when I first sought information about the 
abuses at Bagram, my attempts to seek information about the 
dehumanizing and, I believe, illegal treatment of prisoners at 
Guantanamo were ignored.
  It is no secret that Guantanamo was chosen precisely because the 
Pentagon wanted it to be outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts. They 
did not want to be subjected to the watchful eyes of attorneys who know 
the law. They did not want to be bothered with U.S. or international 
law. As it turns out, many of the prisoners at Guantanamo who had been 
drugged and shackled and hooded and denied access to lawyers, were 
released after it was determined, a year or two later, that they were 
  Now we hear that there are videos of the treatment of prisoners at 
Guantanamo, but, like Abu Ghraib, we only learned about it from the 
press. That is the only way we have learned about any of what is 
increasingly looking like a pattern of cruel and degrading treatment of 
terrorism suspects in U.S. military custody.
  Top Pentagon officials continue to insist that there is no pattern; 
that we are dealing only with ``isolated incidents.'' We could debate 
when ``incidents'' become so pervasive that they are part of a 
``pattern.'' One might think that similar types of abuses of prisoners 
in U.S. custody in Cuba, Afghanistan, and Iraq during approximately the 
same time period would suggest a pattern, but perhaps not to those who 
bear responsibility. The fact is, as the Washington Post so clearly 
stated on May 20, this was ``A Corrupted Culture.''
  We have heard that U.S. military intelligence gave the orders. We 
have heard of attempts by military to block investigations by the 
International Red Cross. We have heard that FBI officers declined to be 
present during interrogations because of the harsh methods that were 
used. We have heard of complaints by former Iraqi and Afghan prisoners 
that were ignored. We have heard about investigations of alleged abuses 
that were cursory, at best. We have heard of instances when denials of 
misconduct by military officers were treated as proof that nothing bad 
happened, while those who alleged the abuse were never interviewed.

  We have learned that self-serving and reassuring statements about 
respect for the law by officials here in Washington, including the 
President and the Pentagon's top lawyer, bore little resemblance to 
what was going on in the field.
  The sadistic acts that have now been published on the front pages of 
every newspaper in the world as well as millions of television screens 
have endangered our soldiers and civilians abroad and threaten our 
national security and foreign policy interests abroad. The photographs 
will be used as recruiting posters for terrorists around the world. 
They depict an interrogation and detention system that is out of 
control. They have made a mockery of President Bush's statement a year 
ago that the United States will neither ``torture'' terrorist suspects, 
nor use ``cruel and unusual'' treatment to interrogate them, and they 
directly contradict the more detailed policy on interrogations outlined 
in a June 25, 2003, letter to me by Defense Department General Counsel 
William Haynes.
  It is apparent that, when it comes to Iraq, this administration is 
disinterested, at best, in the views of anyone who is either a member 
of the minority, or who, Republican or Democrat, dares to utter words 
of caution or criticism. But there are some basic truths that cannot be 
  First, atrocities occur in all wars. Invariably, there are 
incidents--often many incidents--in which excessive force is used, 
civilians are brutalized, prisoners of war are tortured and summarily 
executed. There has never been a war without such heinous crimes.
  Second, our Armed Forces are the finest in the world. The vast 
majority of our troops have conducted themselves professionally and 
courageously, in accordance with the laws of war. But even Americans 
have at times used excessive force and violated the rights of civilians 
or prisoners. There were instances of this long before Abu Ghraib 
  And it is precisely because these atrocities are predictable in any 
war that the Geneva Conventions and the Torture Convention exist. The 
United States was instrumental in the drafting and adoption of these 
conventions, whose purpose is to prevent atrocities against civilians 
and the mistreatment of prisoners of war, including Americans.
  We should also recognize that not only were the abuses at Abu Ghraib 
prison not isolated incidents; similar practices have recently been 
documented in many prisons in the United States. We have seen the same 
types of humiliating and sexually degrading treatment, the assaults by 
prison guards, the misuse of dogs against defenseless prisoners, and 
the same failure to hold accountable those in positions of 
  The President reaffirmed, in the midst of the Abu Ghraib scandal, 
that the United States is a nation of laws, and that those responsible 
for the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners will be punished. This, of 
course, must happen. But it does not obscure the glaring hypocrisy of 
this administration.
  On the one hand, last March, referring to the capture of U.S. 
soldiers by Iraqi forces, President Bush said, ``We expect them to be 
treated humanely, just like we'll treat any prisoner of theirs that we 
capture humanely. If not, the people who mistreat the prisoners will be 
treated as war criminals.'' On the other hand, there is the White House 
Counsel, who called the Geneva Conventions ``quaint'' and ``obsolete,'' 
and there is the pattern of abuses themselves and the way the 
administration ignored inquiries and warnings for months.
  The White House set the tone, and the consequences were disastrous. 
According to the International Red Cross, 70 to 90 percent of the Iraq 
prisoners arrested--who were unquestionably entitled to the protections 
of the Geneva Conventions--were later determined to have been detained 
by mistake. That is appalling, but not so appalling that the 
Administration did anything about it.
  The Red Cross reported that soldiers carrying out arrests ``usually 
entered after dark, breaking down doors, waking up residents roughly, 
yelling orders. Sometimes they arrested all adult males present in a 
house, including the elderly, handicapped or sick people. Treatment 
often included pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with 
rifles, punching and kicking and striking with rifles.''
  Is it any wonder that so many Iraqis want us to leave? This is not 
what we expect of the conduct of our military operations. The Geneva 
Conventions have the force of law, and as a nation whose Bill of Rights 
was the model for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that holds 
itself out as a force for human rights and human dignity around the 
world, we should set the example. Any person taken into U.S. custody 
should be treated, at a minimum, consistent with the Geneva Conventions 
and in accordance with the Torture Convention.
  This fiasco is part and parcel of the increasing insecurity in Iraq 
and the dangers facing our troops from a hostile population that has 
resulted from such miserably poor planning that so many people warned 
  It has claimed the lives and limbs of hundreds of Americans and of 
thousands of Iraqis.
  It has caused deep divisions between ourselves and the Iraqi people 
and Muslims around the world.
  It has damaged our image as a nation that stands for respect for 
human rights.
  It represents a colossal failure of leadership.

[[Page S5942]]

  As I and so many others have said for months, we cannot succeed in 
Iraq by ourselves. Not when the rationale for going to war has been 
exposed for the pretext that it was. Not when we are widely perceived 
as occupiers. Not when photographs of uniformed Americans abusing naked 
Iraqi prisoners have become the symbol of that occupation.
  We saw, with the horrifying murder of Nicolas Berg by al-Qaida, the 
incredible depravity and determination of the enemy we face. Only weeks 
ago there were images of dismembered American corpses hanging from a 
  We are united in our revulsion, and in our commitment to bring to 
justice those responsible for such despicable acts. The question is how 
to do it effectively.
  Last October 13th, in a memo entitled ``Global War on Terrorism,'' 
Secretary Rumsfeld asked, ``Are we capturing, killing or dissuading 
more terrorists every day than the madrassas and radical clerics are 
recruiting, training and deploying against us?''
  Since then, he and the President have called Iraq the main front in 
the war against terrorism. It certainly did not used to be. Last week, 
I asked Secretary Rumsfeld how he would answer the question he posed 
last October--whether we are winning the fight against terrorism. He 
said he didn't know.
  That speaks volumes. We are spending more than $1 billion a week in 
Iraq, and the Secretary doesn't know if we are winning.
  President Bush's Iraq policy has been discredited not only among the 
world's Muslims, but among most of our friends and allies. Not only 
have we lost the moral authority that is necessary to defeat terrorism, 
we have been unable to even secure the country we liberated. As I have 
said repeatedly, we need a radical change of course, and that decision 
can be made only by the President of the United States.
  The President has reaffirmed his steadfast support for the Secretary 
of Defense, and at this point it appears that Secretary Rumsfeld has no 
plans to leave. But many are seriously questioning whether we can 
succeed in Iraq, or against terrorism for that matter, so long as he 
and General Myers, and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, who are so closely 
identified with this discredited policy, remain at the helm.
  At the same time, the President needs to articulate credible, 
achievable goals in Iraq, beyond ``staying the course'' and the usual 
cliches about remaking the Middle East.
  We and the rest of the world need to know what those goals are and 
how he plans to achieve them, to whom we are going to turn over 
sovereignty that can effectively govern, how the President plans to 
secure the support needed from other nations to effectively address the 
deteriorating security situation, how long he expects our troops to 
stay in Iraq, and how many more billions of dollars it may cost.
  Unless the President can answer these questions, more and more 
Americans will question how much longer we can ask our troops to risk 
life and limb in Iraq and the taxpayers to continue to pay for a policy 
that is not working.