Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., conceded defeat late Thursday in the battle to convince the Senate to oppose the resolution handing President Bush unprecedented powers to declare pre-emptive war and invade Iraq.
Byrd pleaded with the American people to continue the fight.
“There is a point at which it becomes time to accept reality. It is clear that we have lost this battle in the Senate,” he said. “The next front is the White House.
“I urge all those people who are following the debate out there, who encouraged me in my efforts ... to turn their attention to the president of the United States. Call him, write him, e-mail him urging him to heed the Constitution.”
Byrd repeatedly referred to values embodied in the Constitution.
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“Those values do not include striking first at other countries, at other nations. Those values do not include using our position as the most formidable nation in the world to bully and intimidate other nations.
Earlier Thursday, the House of Representatives voted 296-133 to give Bush authority to launch a pre-emptive attack. House Republicans favored the resolution 215-6, while Democrats opposed it 126-81. The House’s lone independent voted against it.
Reps. Nick J. Rahall and Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., voted against the resolution, while Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., voted for it.
The Senate was to vote on the resolution either late Thursday night or early today.
Byrd used a quote to begin his final speech:
“It is the leaders of a country who determine the policy. It is always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship, a parliament or a communist dictatorship, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders....
“All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for a lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.”
Byrd then identified its author: “Herman Goering, founder of the Gestapo, president of the Reichstag, convicted war criminal.”
Byrd said his Washington, D.C. office received 50,000 e-mails and nearly 20,000 telephone calls during the past week.
“I want to thank all those people who took time to contact me. Their words have strengthened and heartened me. These are my heroes....
“The American people have a better understanding of the Constitution than the people they elected to represent them.”
Byrd again criticized Bush’s plans for a Department of Homeland Security. “What has the president done? He has proposed to create a new bureaucracy, to move boxes around on flow charts while our citizens are facing imminent risks....
“Where have you been? Raising money out on the campaign trail?” Byrd asked. “We have been stampeded, we have been rushed. It is unfair to the people of this country that is has to be that way.”
Recognizing the futility of continuing delays, Byrd concluded, “‘The moving fingers write, and having writ move on.’ So said the Persian poet Omar Khayyam....
“The Senate has made clear its intentions on the Iraq resolution. The outcome is certain. The ending has been scripted.
“But following this preordained course of action will do a grave disservice to the nation and to the Constitution of which it was founded,” Byrd said. “I am deeply disappointed in this Senate in which I have served for 44 years come next January. I do not in my heart believe this is what the American people expect out of the Senate.”
As Byrd finished, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said, “I want to thank you, as a new member of this body, for your incredible commitment to the Constitution, to the people. I have been proud to stand with you to oppose this resolution.”
Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., also thanked Byrd for his “extraordinarily effective and powerful presentation.”
Sarbanes also pointed out the difficulty the Senate would have in passing future legislation to curtail the power given Bush by the Iraq resolution, pointing out that just 33 votes are sufficient to uphold a presidential veto of such future legislation.
To contact staff writer Paul J. Nyden, use e-mail
or call 348-5164.
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