Chris Jones on Sun, 23 Mar 2003 20:09:11 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Robert Byrd speech

Now here's a statesmen...

Why I weep for my country

Robert Byrd, 85, the oldest and longest-serving man in the US Congress, last
week denounced his nation's march to war. Byrd, a Democrat from West
Virginia, was first elected to the Senate in 1958 after six years in the
House of Representatives. This is an edited version of his speech.


Sunday March 23, 2003

The Observer 


I believe in this beautiful country. I have studied its roots and gloried in
the wisdom of its magnificent Constitution. I have marvelled 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

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 pre-emption 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

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 worldwide 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 11 September 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. We
will probably drive Saddam Hussein 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?

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?

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

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