Thank you very much, Mr. President. Just a couple of days ago, my son Lief called me and indicated that his lovely wife Amber was going to have another baby. That will be my --? our 16th grandchild. Mr. President, I have thought about that, and I have to say that I've been in public service a long time.
Never have I been so concerned about our country. We have gas prices that are really unbelievable. This year they've been over $3 in the state of Nevada. Diesel fuel is still over $3 a gallon in Nevada. The majority leader of the House of Representatives is under indictment. The man in charge of contracting for the federal government under indictment.
Deficits, Mr. President, so far you can't see them. The deficits have been basically run up by President Bush's Administration these last five years. We're the wealthiest nation in the world but we are very poor as it relates to health care. We have an intractable war in Iraq. Is it any wonder that I'm concerned about my family, my grandchildren
This past weekend, we witnessed the indictment of L. Lewis Libby, the Vice President's chief of staff, also on the President's staff, a senior advisor to the President. Mr. Libby is the first sitting white House staffer to be indicted in 135 years. Is it any wonder, Mr. President, that i'm concerned about my grandchildren?
This indictment raises very serious charges. It asserts this Administration engaged in actions that both harmed our national security and were morally repugnant. The decision made to place united states soldiers, our military into harm's way I believe is the most significant responsibility the constitution vests in the Congress and in the President. The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really all about, how this Administration manufactured and manipulated Intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions.
Mr. President, these are not just words from Harry Reid. Larry Wilkerson, Colonel Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff -- Colin Powell, of course, was Secretary of State. This man was his chief of staff for four years. Here's what he said about the war in Iraq.
"In President Bush's first term, some of the most important decisions about U.S. National security, including vital decisions about post-war Iraq, were made by a secretive, little-known cabal, was made up of a very small group of people led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But the secret process was ultimately a failure. It produced a series of disastrous decisions."
That's what I'm here to talk about today, Mr. President. As a result of its improper conduct, a cloud now hangs over this Administration. This cloud is further darkened by the Administration's mistakes in prisoner abuse, hurricane Katrina, and the cronyism and corruption in numerous agencies throughout this Administration.
And unfortunately, it must be that said a cloud also hangs over this Republican-controlled Congress for its unwillingness to hold this Republican Administration accountable for its misdeeds on these issues. During the time that we had a Democratic President, eight years, and when the Democrats were in charge of the Committees, we were in the majority, oversight hearings were held covering the gamut of what went on in this Administration -- that Administration. Today there is not an oversight hearing held on anything.
Let's take a look at back how we got here with respect to Iraq. The record will show that within hours of the terrorist acts of 9/11, senior officials in this Administration recognized those attacks could be used as a pretext to invade Iraq. The record will also show that in the months and years after 9/11, the Administration engaged in a pattern of manipulation of the facts and retribution against anyone who got in its way as it made its case for attacking, for invading Iraq.
There are numerous examples of how the Administration misstated and manipulated the facts as it made the case for war. The Administration’s statements on Saddam's alleged nuclear weapons capabilities and ties with Al Qaeda represent the best examples how it consistently and repeatedly manipulated the facts. The America people were warned time and time again by the President, the Vice President, the current Secretary of State and their other capacities about Saddam's nuclear weapons capabilities. The Vice President said -- and I quote --
"Iraq has reconstituted its nuclear programs,"
Playing upon the fears of Americas after September 11, these officials and others raised the specter that left unchecked, Saddam could soon attack America with nuclear weapons.
Obviously we know now that their nuclear claims were wholly inaccurate. But more troubling is the fact that a lot of Intelligence experts were telling the Administration then that its claims about Saddam's nuclear capabilities were false. The situation is very similar with respect to Saddam's links to Al Qaeda. The Vice President told the America people -- I quote again –
"...we know he's out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons and we know he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al qaeda organization."
These assertions have been totally discredited, not a little bit, totally discredited. But again, the Administration went ahead with these assertions in spite of the fact that the government's top experts did not agree with these claims.
Again, Wilkerson is a person in point. What has been the response of this Republican-controlled Congress to the Administration's manipulation of Intelligence that led to this protracted war in Iraq nothing. Did the Republican-controlled Congress carry out its constitutional obligations to conduct oversight no. Did it support our troops and their families by providing them the answers to many important questions No. Did it even attempt to force this Administration to answer the most basic questions about its behavior? No.
Unfortunately, the unwillingness of the Republican-controlled Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities is not is not limited to just Iraq. We see it with respect to the prison abuse scandal. We see it with respect to Katrina, and we see it with respect to the cronyism and corruption that permeates this Administration.
Time and time again, this Republican-controlled Congress has consistently chosen to put its political interests ahead of our national security. They have repeatedly chosen to protect the Republican Administration rather than to get to the bottom of what happened and why it happened.
There's also another disturbing pattern, namely, about how this Administration responded to those who challenged its assertions. Often this Administration has actively sought to attack and undercut those who dared to raise questions about its preferred course. For example, when General Shinseki indicated several hundred thousand troops would be needed in Iraq, his military career was ended -- fired, relieved of duty when he out its inspectors.
When Nobel prize winner and head of the IAEA raised questions about the Administration's claims of Saddam's nuclear capabilities, the Administration attempted to remove him from his post.
When ambassador Joe Wilson stated that there was an attempt by Saddam -- no attempt by Saddam to acquire weapons from Niger, the Administration not only went after him to discredit him, they launched a vicious and coordinated campaign, going so far as to expose the fact that his wife worked as a C.I.A. spy.
These people are now having 24-hour protection fearing for their own safety.
Given this Administration's pattern of squashing those who challenge its misstatements, and I've only mentioned a few, what has been the response of the Republican-controlled Congress?
Absolutely nothing. And where with their inactions they provide political cover for this Administration at the same time they keep the truth from our troops who continue to make large sacrifices in Iraq. Now everyone may think that the troops in Iraq are 100% Republican.
I've made a friend. He's a Marine. He was over in Iraq when the elections were held ten months ago. He said where he was and he never even went to the bathroom without a rifle, wherever he was in his duty all over this area, he said he couldn't find anyone that was happy with the way the elections turned out.
They, the Republicans, do anything they can to keep the truth from people like my Marine friend. This behavior -- I would give you his name -- this behavior is unacceptable. The toll in Iraq is as staggering as it is solemn. More than 2,000 -- 2,025 now -- Americans have lost their lives. Over 90 Americans have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the month of October alone, the fourth deadliest month in this going-on-three-year war. More than 15,000 have been wounded. More than 150,000 remain over there in harm's way. Enormous sacrifices have been made and continue to be made.
Mr. President, we've had soldiers and Marines from Nevada killed, from Eli, from Las Vegas, from Henderson, from Boulder City, from Tonapaw. Every time one of these deaths occur, it's a dagger in the heart of that community. This behavior is unacceptable.
I'm a patient man, Mr. President. I'm a legislator and I know things don't happen over night. I'm a patient man but the call from my son has put this in perspective. I'm worried about my family. The toll in Iraq is as staggering as, I repeat, it is solemn.
The troops have a right to expect answers and accountability worthy of that sacrifice. For example, more than 40 Democrats wrote a substantive and detailed letter to the President canning -- asking four basic questions about this Administration's Iraq policy, and we received, Mr. President, -- we received a four-sentence fence that is response:
"Thank you for your letter to the President expressing your concerns with Iraq. I've shared your letter with the appropriate Administration officials."
--Remember we wrote it to the President --
"and agencies responsible in this area. Please be assured your letter is receiving the attention it deserves. Thank you for your compliments, Candy Wolf."
That's the letter the Senators of the United States wrote to the President of the its body and we get a letter from Candy Wolf saying,
“Thanks, we're working on it.”
America deserves better than this. They also deserve a searching and comprehensive investigation into how the Bush Administration brought this country to war.
Key questions that need to be answered include:
~~How did the Bush Administration assemble its case for war against Iraq? We heard what Colonel Wilkerson said.
~~Who did the Bush Administration officials listen to and ignore?
How did the senior Bush Administration officials manipulate or manufacture Intelligence presented to the Congress or the American people?
~~What was the role of the White House Iraq Group, a group of senior White House officials, tasked with marketing the war and taking down its critics? We know what Colonel Wilkerson says.
~~How did the Administration coordinate its efforts to attack individuals who dared to challenge the Administration's assertions? We know what happened to them. I listed a few.
~~Why has this Administration failed to provide Congress with the documents that would shed light on their misconduct and the misstatements?
Unfortunately, the Senate Committee that should be taking the lead in providing these answers is not.
Despite the fact that the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee publicly committed to examine these questions more than a year and a half ago, he has chosen not to keep that commitment.
Despite the fact that he's restated the commitment earlier this year on national television, he has still done nothing except assemble a few quotes from Democratic and Republican Senators going back to the first Iraq war.
We need a thorough investigation that that Committee is capable and tasked to do. At this point, we can only conclude he will continue to put politics ahead of our national security. If he does anything at this point, I suspect it will be playing political games by producing an analysis that files any of these important questions.
Instead, if history is any guide, this analysis will attempt to disperse and deflect blame away from this Administration. Key facts about the Intelligence --
a Senator: Would the Senator yield for a question.
June 4, 2003, Intelligence Committee commits to bipartisan review of the deeply flawed Intelligence in Iraq's w.m.d.
February 12, 2004, Intelligence Committee commits to Phase 2, an investigation looking at five areas including whether the Administration exaggerate and manipulated [unintelligible].
July 9, 2004, Committee publishes phase one report on the Intelligence agencies mistakes on Iraq. Senator Rockefeller says publicly that phase two is as yet unbegun. Republican Chairman Roberts says it is one of my top priorities.
July 11 on Meet the Press, Republican Chairman Roberts says, “Even as I'm speaking our staff is working on phase two and we'll get it done.”
Fall of 2004, House Intelligence Committee, after no follow through on the Iraq w.m.d. Investigation, the House announced on May 2003, “No final report.”
Republican Committee Chairman Peter Goss is selected to C.I.A. Director. Regarding the question of vetting the Valerie Plame leak, Goss said,
“Show me a blue dress and some DNA and I'll give you an investigation.”
End of quote.
November, 2004, we had the Presidential election.
March 2005, President's hand-picked w.m.d. Intelligence Committee says the Intelligence agencies got the Intelligence dead wrong, but says that under the President's terms of reference we are not authorized to investigate how policy-makers used the Intelligence assessments they received from the Intelligence community.
March 31, 2005, Senator Roberts says it would be monumental waste of time to replow this ground any further replow
April 10, 2005, "Meet the Press" Senator Roberts commits to Tim Russert that the review will get done.
September 2005, Committee Democrats file additional views to their authorization bill blasting the Committee for failing to conduct phase two. There have been letters written to the Committee, a press release was issued even saying that they were going to go forward with this. Mr. President, enough Time has gone by. I demand on behalf of the America people that we understand why these investigations aren't being conducted, and in accordance with rule 21, i now move that senate go into closed session.
Mr. Durbin: Mr. President, I second the motion.
The presiding officer: The motion has been made to closed session. The chair pursuant to rule 21 directs the sergeant at arms to clear all galleries, clear all doors of the Senate Chamber and exclude from the chamber and its immediate corridors all employees and officials of this senate who under the rule are not eligible to attend the closed session and are not sworn to secrecy. The question is nondebatable.