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House Legislation

Hon. Cynthia McKinney
on Defense Budget Statement

February 26,, 2002

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, February 6th, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld testified before the House Armed Services Committee and asked for a record increase in defense spending. He pointed to the brave new world post-September 11th as justification for the largest hike in defense spending in 20 years. Sadly, Secretary Rumsfeld thinks that the brave new world of post-September gives us amnesia about 9-11 and events before 9-11. He also mistakenly believes that all of his destabilizing proposals can be justified as a reasoned response to 9-11.

And incredibly, both the Vice President and the President placed separate calls to TOM DASCHLE asking that the fog of ignorance around the events prior to and the day of 9-11 not be lifted.

The fact, however, is that September 11 was not a failure of our nation's defenses.

Rather, September 11 was a colossal intelligence failure--a failure to act on timely and accurate warnings predicting massive terrorist attacks against our nation. The Los Angeles Times and other leading press outlets have identified some of these missed warnings.

And this was not the first time that our intelligence agencies have let us down. The same failure to act on critical warnings happened with respect to the terror attacks against our embassies in Africa.

Even the CIA, the FBI and other senior Capitol Hill figures all now agree that there were serious lapses in the handling of perishable and highly significant warnings preceding the September 11th attacks. But instead of examining what went wrong with respect to these warnings and then trying to prevent it from ever happening again, President Bush and Vice President CHENEY now seek to actually prevent the Congress from investigating these and other events surrounding September 11th.

Indeed, Senator RICHARD SHELBY, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee told CNN: "It was a real massive failure . . . In my judgment too many bureaucratic failures, not enough coordination between the Agencies.'' The active efforts by President Bush and Vice President Cheney to prevent a Congressional investigation into the events surrounding September 11 not only violate the principles of good government, but are an affront to the memories of all those who perished in the September 11 attacks.

And sadly, the Administration now chooses to direct us on a path of war while refusing to allow us to know how we got there.

I have been asked by my constituents to explain to them why and how September 11 happened. Indeed, the whole world community continues to search for answers to those exact questions. That cannot be done if the Executive Branch will not cooperative with the Legislative Branch in answering important questions about what was known before, during, and after the tragedies in New York and Pennsylvania and Washington, DC and who knew it.

Why doesn't the Executive Branch want us to know answers to these questions?

Is there something that they don't want the American public to know?

Instead of working with the Congress to search for answers to these questions the Administration has now become obsessed with finding ways to expand the U.S. military budget. The White House is now using our new War Against Terror as a means of siphoning public attention away from the events surrounding September 11 in order to generate widespread support for the largest increase in defense spending in a generation. The Administration has even identified a dubious "axis of evil'' to further justify this increased spending.

The President has requested an increase of $48.1 billion in defense spending. Sadly, many commentators have already pointed out that President Bush's father stands to personally gain immense profits from the President's proposals because of the former President's relationship with The Carlyle Group, a leading defense conglomerate. One particular defense contract, for the development and purchase of a mobile howitzer, the Crusader, exists with the Carlyle Group. Though the company has received millions for this weapon system, the Crusader is too hefty to transport, has not yet reached its production phase despite years of engineering and re-engineering, and is far from fulfilling its purpose or need.

In his testimony before the Congress Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that America can afford this increase just fine. This comes after defense spending snared a whopping 62 percent of all new spending for the year 2002. This argument is specious. Perhaps the US could be made to afford such an increase just fine, but it comes at a tremendous price of deficit spending and cuts to important safety net programs as well as denying a real prescription drugs program to our seniors through Medicare. In addition, as Rumsfeld himself noted on the eve of September 11th, "according to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.''

Let me repeat that, please.

The current Secretary of Defense admits that the Pentagon cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.

Does Arthur Anderson keep the Pentagon's books?

Rumsfeld's trick of throwing bones to would-be critics in the form of much-needed pay raises for the troops should not obscure the fact that the bulk of this budget hike goes not for pay raises, but for expensive gadgets such as ballistic missile defense; three new, separate fighter planes; and Star Wars.

Of the $48.1 billion requested in additional funding, less than 5 percent of that increase is for soldier pay raises. And let us not forget that the President's first act in this war on terrorism was to waive the high-deployment overtime pay for our troops who are on the front line of this new war.

I might remind Mr. President that we still have veterans from the Vietnam War suffering from the ill effects of Agent Orange. We still have Vietnam veterans impoverished and sleeping on the streets of our Nation's Capital. We still have veterans from the Gulf War suffering the ill effects of Gulf War Syndrome. And we still have service men and women in our armed forces living on food stamps and residing in poor housing.

How in good conscience can the Secretary of Defense come before this Committee and ask for yet more money for aircraft, ships and missiles and not adequately address these critical issues concerning the personal welfare of our veterans and serving men and women?

Sadly, however, at the same time that the President proposes the largest defense spending hike in 20 years, his budget also proposes to cut funds for programs that bridge the digital divide. He proposes reducing funds for highway construction and urban development and cutting funding for the EPA by $300 million. And despite the down-turned economic situation, the President has also proposed to cut back on job training, assistance for low income home heating, and rural housing and utility improvements. Moreover, funds to cleanup the Savannah River Site nuclear weapons complex are sliced, and our international food aid and peacekeeping funds are also shrunk.

At $379.3 billion, the President's proposal for defense spending will not tell us how, just a few months ago during the trial of suspects charged with initially bombing the World Trade Center in 1993, an informant told U.S. officials that bin Laden's group was trying to make war on the United States and in particular would bomb an embassy in Africa, yet we did nothing to stop the blasts and consequently lost hundreds of lives in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam.

Nor will this budget explain the Mossad warning of a major terrorist force of 200 individuals entering the U.S. which apparently, again, fell on deaf ears.

What of the supposed warning, to German police in the week before September 11th by an Iranian in Hamburg, of an impending attack on the U.S. using hijacked planes?

And this budget fails to illuminate for us who exactly it was that performed the unusual stock trades in secret on the Friday and Monday before September 11th, but who has since decided not to pick up the tidy profit in public that those stock trades made.

The U.S. Government is now being sued by survivors of the African embassy blasts because it has become clear that the United States had ample warning but chose to do nothing rather than prevent the loss of life. Given the prior warnings, insider stock trades, and convoluted financial interrelationships, September 11th represents yet another chance that was wasted to save innocent lives.

The most shocking aspect of the President's request involves the New Defense Strategy to be implemented now. Secretary Rumsfeld testified that a major role now for the U.S. military will be to occupy an opponent's capital and replace his regime. In as much as the Secretary has identified some 60 countries, including our own, that host terror cells, and has publicly stated his intention to "drain the swamp,'' we can only surmise that the U.S. military is now in the business of taking over capitals around the world and replacing regimes.

And with the events surrounding Florida and the November 2000 Presidential election as a backdrop, I think Mr. Rumsfeld has accurately reflected his Party's military thinking, starting with Washington, DC.


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