From Our Archives: Arrogance of Power

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CommonDreams.org

From Our Archives: Arrogance of Power

Today, I Weep for my Country...

by
US Senator Robert Byrd

Speech delivered on the floor of the US Senate


March 19, 2003 3:45pm


I believe in this beautiful country. I have studied its roots and

gloried in the wisdom of its magnificent Constitution. I have

marveled at the wisdom of its founders and framers. Generation

after generation of Americans has understood the lofty ideals that

underlie our great Republic. I have been inspired by the story of

their sacrifice and their strength.

But, today I weep for my country. I have watched the events of recent

months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America

one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has

changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is

disputed, our intentions are questioned.

Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand

obedience or threaten recrimination. Instead of isolating Saddam

Hussein, we seem to have isolated ourselves. We proclaim a new

doctrine of preemption which is understood by few and feared by

many. We say that the United States has the right to turn its

firepower on any corner of the globe which might be suspect in the

war on terrorism. We assert that right without the sanction of any

international body. As a result, the world has become a much more

dangerous place.

We flaunt our superpower status with arrogance. We treat UN Security

Council members like ingrates who offend our princely dignity by

lifting their heads from the carpet. Valuable alliances are split.

After war has ended, the United States will have to rebuild much

more than the country of Iraq. We will have to rebuild America's

image around the globe.

The case this Administration tries to make to justify its fixation

with war is tainted by charges of falsified documents and

circumstantial evidence. We cannot convince the world of the

necessity of this war for one simple reason. This is a war of

choice.

There is no credible information to connect Saddam Hussein to 9/11.

The twin towers fell because a world-wide terrorist group, Al Qaeda,

with cells in over 60 nations, struck at our wealth and our

influence by turning our own planes into missiles, one of which

would likely have slammed into the dome of this beautiful Capitol

except for the brave sacrifice of the passengers on board.

The brutality seen on September 11th and in other terrorist attacks we

have witnessed around the globe are the violent and desperate

efforts by extremists to stop the daily encroachment of western

values upon their cultures. That is what we fight. It is a force

not confined to borders. It is a shadowy entity with many faces,

many names, and many addresses.

But, this Administration has directed all of the anger, fear, and

grief which emerged from the ashes of the twin towers and the

twisted metal of the Pentagon towards a tangible villain, one we can

see and hate and attack. And villain he is. But, he is the wrong

villain. And this is the wrong war. If we attack Saddam Hussein,

we will probably drive him from power. But, the zeal of our friends

to assist our global war on terrorism may have already taken flight.

The general unease surrounding this war is not just due to "orange

alert." There is a pervasive sense of rush and risk and too many

questions unanswered. How long will we be in Iraq? What will be the

cost? What is the ultimate mission? How great is the danger at home?

A pall has fallen over the Senate Chamber. We avoid our solemn duty

to debate the one topic on the minds of all Americans, even while

scores of thousands of our sons and daughters faithfully do their

duty in Iraq.

What is happening to this country? When did we become a nation which

ignores and berates our friends? When did we decide to risk

undermining international order by adopting a radical and

doctrinaire approach to using our awesome military might? How can

we abandon diplomatic efforts when the turmoil in the world cries

out for diplomacy?

Why can this President not seem to see that America's true power lies

not in its will to intimidate, but in its ability to inspire?

War appears inevitable. But, I continue to hope that the cloud will

lift. Perhaps Saddam will yet turn tail and run. Perhaps reason will

somehow still prevail. I along with millions of Americans will pray

for the safety of our troops, for the innocent civilians in Iraq,

and for the security of our homeland. May God continue to bless the

United States of America in the troubled days ahead, and may we

somehow recapture the vision which for the present eludes us.

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