Upsetting
Tuesday, February 18, 2003
  Reckless Administration May Reap Disastrous Consequences (this is easily dismissed as "partisan")

by US Senator Robert Byrd
Senate Floor Speech - Wednesday, February 12, 2003

To contemplate war is to think about the most horrible
of human experiences. On this February day, as this nation stands at the
brink of battle, every American on some level must be contemplating the
horrors of war.

Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent -- ominously, dreadfully silent.
There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros
and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.

We stand passively mute in the United States Senate,
paralyzed by our own uncertainty, seemingly stunned by the sheer turmoil of
events. Only on the editorial pages of our newspapers is there much
substantive discussion of the prudence or imprudence of engaging in this
particular war.

And this is no small conflagration we contemplate. This
is no simple attempt to derange a villain. No. This coming battle, if it
materializes, represents a turning point in U.S. foreign policy and
possibly a turning point in the recent history of the world.

This nation is about to embark upon the first test of a
revolutionary doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate
time. The doctrine of preemption -- the idea that the United States or any
other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently
threatening but may be threatening in the future -- is a radical new twist
on the traditional idea of self defense. It appears to be in contravention
of international law and the UN Charter. And it is being tested at a time of world-wide
terrorism, making many countries around the globe wonder if they will soon
be on our -- or some other nation's -- hit list. High level Administration
figures recently refused to take nuclear weapons off of the table when
discussing a possible attack against Iraq. What could be more destabilizing
and unwise than this type of uncertainty, particularly in a world where
globalize has tied the vital economic and security interests of many
nations so closely together? There are huge cracks emerging in our
time-honored alliances, and U.S. intentions are suddenly subject to
damaging worldwide speculation. Anti-Americanism based on mistrust,
misinformation, suspicion, and alarming rhetoric from U.S. leaders is
fracturing the once solid alliance against global terrorism which existed
after September 11.

Here at home, people are warned of imminent terrorist
attacks with little guidance as to when or where such attacks might occur.
Family members are being called to active military duty, with no idea of
the duration of their stay or what horrors they may face. Communities are
being left with less than adequate police and fire protection. Other
essential services are also short-staffed. The mood of the nation is grim.
The economy is stumbling. Fuel prices are rising and may soon spike higher.

This Administration, now in power for a little over two
years, must be judged on its record. I believe that that record is dismal.

In that scant two years, this Administration has
squandered a large projected surplus of some $5.6 trillion over the next
decade and taken us to projected deficits as far as the eye can see. This
Administration's domestic policy has put many of our states in dire financial condition,
under funding scores of essential programs for our people. This
Administration has fostered policies which have slowed economic growth.
This Administration has ignored urgent matters such as the crisis in health
care for our elderly. This Administration has been slow to provide adequate funding for homeland
security. This Administration has been reluctant to better protect our long
and porous borders.

In foreign policy, this Administration has failed to
find Osama bin Laden. In fact, just yesterday we heard from him again
marshaling his forces and urging them to kill. This Administration has
split traditional alliances, possibly crippling, for all time, International order-keeping
entities like the United Nations and NATO. This Administration has called
into question the traditional worldwide perception of the United States as
well- intentioned, peacekeeper. This Administration has turned the patient
art of diplomacy into threats, labeling, and name calling of the sort that
reflects quite poorly on the intelligence and sensitivity of our leaders,
and which will have consequences for years to come.

Calling heads of state pygmies, labeling whole countries
as evil, denigrating powerful European allies as irrelevant -- these types
of crude insensitivities can do our great nation no good. We may have
massive military might, but we cannot fight a global war on terrorism alone. We
need the cooperation and friendship of our time-honored allies as well as
the newer found friends whom we can attract with our wealth. Our awesome
military machine will do us little good if we suffer another devastating
attack on our homeland which severely damages our economy. Our military
manpower is already stretched thin and we will need the augmenting support
of those nations who can supply troop strength, not just sign letters
cheering us on.

The war in Afghanistan has cost us $37 billion so far,
yet there is evidence that terrorism may already be starting to regain its
hold in that region. We have not found bin Laden, and unless we secure the
peace in Afghanistan, the dark dens of terrorism may yet again flourish in that
remote and devastated land.

Pakistan as well is at risk of destabilizing forces.
This Administration has not finished the first war against terrorism and
yet it is eager to embark on another conflict with perils much greater than
those in Afghanistan. Is our attention span that short? Have we not learned that
after winning the war one must always secure the peace?

And yet we hear little about the aftermath of war in
Iraq. In the absence of plans, speculation abroad is rife. Will we seize
Iraq's oil fields, becoming an occupying power which controls the price and
supply of that nation's oil for the foreseeable future? To whom do we
propose to hand the reigns of power after Saddam Hussein?

Will our war inflame the Muslim world resulting in
devastating attacks on Israel? Will Israel retaliate with its own nuclear
arsenal? Will the Jordanian and Saudi Arabian governments be toppled by
radicals, bolstered by Iran which has much closer ties to terrorism than
Iraq?

Could a disruption of the world's oil supply lead to a
world-wide recession? Has our senselessly bellicose language and our
callous disregard of the interests and opinions of other nations increased
the global race to join the nuclear club and made proliferation an even
more lucrative practice for nations which need the income?

In only the space of two short years this reckless and
arrogant Administration has initiated policies which may reap disastrous
consequences for years.

One can understand the anger and shock of any President
after the savage attacks of September 11. One can appreciate the
frustration of having only a shadow to chase and an amorphous, fleeting
enemy on which it is nearly impossible to exact retribution.

But to turn one's frustration and anger into the kind of
extremely destabilizing and dangerous foreign policy debacle that the world
is currently witnessing is inexcusable from any Administration charged with
the awesome power and responsibility of guiding the destiny of the greatest
superpower on the planet. Frankly many of the pronouncements made by this
Administration are outrageous. There is no other word.

Yet this chamber is hauntingly silent. On what is
possibly the eve of horrific infliction of death and destruction on the
population of the nation of Iraq -- a population, I might add, of which
over 50% is under age 15 -- this chamber is silent. On what is possibly only days before we
send thousands of our own citizens to face unimagined horrors of chemical
and biological warfare -- this chamber is silent. On the eve of what could
possibly be a vicious terrorist attack in retaliation for our attack on
Iraq, it is business as usual in the United States Senate.

We are truly "sleepwalking through history." In my heart
of hearts I pray that this great nation and its good and trusting citizens
are not in for a rudest of awakenings.

To engage in war is always to pick a wild card. And war
must always be a last resort, not a first choice. I truly must question the
judgment of any President who can say that a massive unprovoked military
attack on a nation which is over 50% children is "in the highest moral
traditions of our country". This war is not necessary at this time.
Pressure appears to be having a good result in Iraq. Our mistake was to put
ourselves in a corner so quickly. Our challenge is to now find a graceful
way out of a box of our own making. Perhaps there is still a way if we
allow more time.
 
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