Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., said President Bush’s plans to invade Iraq are
a conscious effort to distract public attention from growing problems at home.
“This administration, all of a sudden, wants to go to war with Iraq,” Byrd
said. “The [political] polls are dropping, the domestic situation has problems....
So all of a sudden we have this war talk, war fervor, the bugles of war, drums
of war, clouds of war.
“Don’t tell me that things suddenly went wrong. Back in August, the president
had no plans.... Then all of a sudden this country is going to war,” Byrd told
the Senate on Friday.
“Are politicians talking about the domestic situation, the stock market, weaknesses
in the economy, jobs that are being lost, housing problems? No.”
Byrd warned of another Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Passed on Aug. 7, 1964, that
resolution handed President Lyndon Johnson broad powers to escalate the war in
Vietnam, a conflict that cost 58,202 American lives and millions of Asian lives.
“Congress will be putting itself on the sidelines,” Byrd told the Senate. “Nothing
would please this president more than having such a blank check handed to him.”
Byrd said his belief in the Constitution will prevent him from voting for Bush’s
war resolution. “But I am finding that the Constitution is irrelevant to people
of this administration.”
Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., both praised Byrd after
“It is the height of patriotism to ask such hard questions,” Clinton said.
“No one exemplifies that more than the senior senator from West Virginia.”
Byrd said, “Before the nation is committed to war, before we send our sons
and daughters to battle in faraway lands, there are critical questions that must
be asked. To date, the answers from the administration have been less than satisfying.”
Byrd repeatedly said Bush has failed to give members of Congress any evidence
about any immediate danger from Iraq. Byrd also criticized his speech to the United
“Instead of offering compelling evidence that the Iraqi regime had taken steps
to advance its weapons program, the president offered the U.N. more of a warning
than an appeal for support.
“Instead of using the forum of the U.N. General Assembly to offer evidence
and proof of his claims, the president basically told the nations of the world
that you are either with me, or against me,” Byrd said.
“We must not be hell-bent on an invasion until we have exhausted every other
possible option to assess and eliminate Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction
program. We must not act alone. We must have the support of the world.”
Byrd said Congress needs solid evidence and answers to several specific questions,
Does Saddam Hussein pose an imminent threat to the U.S.?
Should the United States act alone?
What would be the repercussions in the Middle East and around the globe?
How many civilians would die in Iraq?
How many American forces would be involved?
How do we afford this war?
Will the U.S. respond with nuclear weapons if Saddam Hussein uses chemical
or biological weapons against U.S. soldiers?
Does the U.S. have enough military and intelligence resources to fight wars
in Afghanistan and Iraq, while mobilizing resources to prevent attacks on our
Byrd said the proposed resolution Bush sent Congress on Thursday would be the
“broadest possible grant of war powers to any president in the history of our
Republic. The resolution is a direct insult and an affront to the powers given
Byrd also criticized Bush’s request for power to carry out “pre-emptive attacks”
and send troops to Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, the West Bank and anywhere
else in the Middle East.
“I cannot believe the gall and the arrogance of the White House in requesting
such a broad grant of war powers,” Byrd said. “This is the worst kind of election-year
© Copyright 2002 The Charleston Gazette