The most important hearing of the year was held on Capitol Hill last week on a critical issue this country faces today. No, you didn't hear about it because there was no press coverage.
The information that was presented was so damaging to the left that a petty squabble occurred over the ground rules. This kept the fate of this hearing in doubt until one minute before the witnesses were to be seated. As a result, the press was never alerted, which may have been the point. It was the Democrats' only avenue to prevent this information from getting out.
The hearing, on July 9, before the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works was on military readiness. More specifically, it dealt with the impact our environmental laws are having on the military's ability to prepare our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines for the battlefield. General John Keane, vice chief of staff of the Army, said the problems created by these laws are "formidable."
He used Ft. Bragg, where our Special Forces and paratroopers are trained, as an example of the nonsense that now is bringing the military to its knees. At Ft. Bragg, the Army has been ordered to protect all the trees, in which birds might have or want to build a nest. In effect, every tree – and trees cover the majority of Ft. Bragg's 130,000 acres.
"We have a 250 foot buffer around each tree," Gen. Keane explained. "There can be no bivouacking or occupation for more than two hours at a time, no use of camouflage, no weapons fired other than 7.62 and 50 caliber blank ammunition, no use of generators or riot agents, no use of smoke grenades, no digging – that's tough on an army – and no vehicles closer than 50 feet."
In short, the Army cannot prepare these men for the real world of combat. Can you imagine asking a firefighter to train without smoke and then sending him to fight a major fire? Can you imagine training a police officer without real bullets? That is tantamount to what the military has been ordered to do.
Keane told those assembled how hard it is to face soldiers dealing with the reality of that impact on them. "They are in places that they wouldn't normally be or at a time they normally would not be there, because you can't make noise in order to protect the [nesting] cavities." We are talking about birds and trees here! The soldiers can't make noise because it might offend the birds. Let's get real!
The problems related by Keane are not unique to the Army. Each one of the vice-chiefs of staff had made himself available for this hearing. Each echoed Keane's concerns and told his own horror stories.
Unfortunately, this hearing was not held in the Senate Armed Services Committee where it belonged. Why? The House of Representatives included two provisions in the Defense authorization bill that would give the military a little relief. Before they could be debated properly in the upper chamber, all four of the environmental subcommittee chairmen: Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., Bob Graham, D-Fla., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., wrote to Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and asked him not to deal with them. These Democrat senators maintained that the proposals were outside of his jurisdiction and should come under Environment and Public Works.
Then their lackey, chairman Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., simply stalled the hearing on this critical issue until the full Senate passed the Defense authorization bill without these important measures. Jeffords' all-Democrat staff even pulled off those last-minute shenanigans to keep the hearing in doubt until the last minute. When the hearing finally was held, not a single Democrat senator even bothered to show up. Even those aforementioned sub-committee chairmen ducked this hearing, as did our former first lady, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
This not only was an affront to the vice chiefs of staff, it was an affront to everyone who wears the uniform of the United States military. It was an affront to the parents of those young solders who will die needlessly in the war on terrorism because they will be sent into battle without the kind of training they will need to survive.
I know why those Democrat senators didn't show. They didn't want to admit that they consider trees, tortoises, snails, seagulls – even microscopic shrimp – more important than the lives of the men we are sending into battle to protect us.
To borrow some words from Gen. Keane, "There is an ever increasing tension between the two national goals of protecting the environment and military readiness, and it is out of balance and out of whack."