March 19, 2003 -- - Byrd: 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
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 U.N.
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
There is no credible information to connect Saddam Hussein to
9/11. The twin towers fell because a world-wide terrorist group,
al-Qaida, 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
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
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.
McCain: Madam President, I observed the comments of
the distinguished Senator from West Virginia concerning the
events which are about to transpire within the next hour or so,
or days. I did not really look forward to coming to the floor
and debating the issue. It has been debated. It has been
discussed in the media. It has been discussed at every kitchen
table in America. But I felt it would be important for me to
respond to allegations concerning the United States of America,
its status in the world, and, in particular, what happens after
this conflict is over, which I do not think we have paid enough
attention to, perhaps understandably, because our first and
foremost consideration is the welfare of the young men and women
we are sending in harm's way. But to allege that somehow the
United States of America has demeaned itself or tarnished its
reputation by being involved in liberating the people of Iraq,
to me, simply is neither factual nor fair.
The United States of America has involved itself in the
effort to disarm Saddam Hussein, and now freedom for the Iraqi
people, with the same principles that motivated the United
States of America in most of the conflicts we have been involved
in, most recently Kosovo and Bosnia, and in which, in both of
those cases, the United States national security was not at
risk, but what was at risk was our advocacy and willingness to
serve and sacrifice on behalf of people who are the victims of
oppression and genocide.
We did not go into Bosnia because Mr. Milosevic had weapons
of mass destruction. We did not go into Kosovo because ethnic
Albanians or others were somehow a threat to the security of the
United States. We entered into those conflicts because we could
not stand by and watch innocent men, women, and children being
slaughtered, raped, and "ethnically cleansed.'' We found a new
phrase for our lexicon: "ethnic cleansing.'' Ethnic cleansing is
a phrase which has incredible implications.
The mission our military is about to embark on is fraught
with danger, and it means the loss of brave young American
lives. But I also believe it offers the opportunity for a new
day for the Iraqi people.
Madam President, there is one thing I am sure of, that we
will find the Iraqi people have been the victims of an
incredible level of brutalization, terror, murder, and every
other kind of disgraceful and distasteful oppression on the part
of Saddam Hussein's regime. And contrary to the assertion of the
Senator from West Virginia, when the people of Iraq are
liberated, we will again have written another chapter in the
glorious history of the United States of America, that we will
fight for the freedom of other citizens of the world, and we
again assert the most glorious phrase, in my view, ever written
in the English language; and that is: We hold these truths to be
self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by
their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and among these
are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The people of Iraq , for the first time, will be able to
realize those inalienable rights. I am proud of the United
States of America. I am proud of the leadership of the
of the United States.
It is not an easy decision to send America's young men and
women into harm's way. As I said before, some of them will not
be returning. But to somehow assert, as some do, that the people
of Iraq and the Middle East are not entitled to those same
God-given rights that Americans and people all over the country
are, that they do not have those same hopes and dreams and
aspirations our own citizens do, to me, is a degree of
condescension. I might even use stronger language than that to
So I respectfully disagree with the remarks of the Senator
from West Virginia. I believe the President of the United States
has done everything necessary and has exercised every option
short of war, which has led us to the point we are today.
I believe that, obviously, we will remove a threat to
America's national security because we will find there are still
massive amounts of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq .
Although Theodore Roosevelt is my hero and role model, I
also, in many ways, am Wilsonian in the respect that America,
this great nation of ours, will again contribute to the freedom
and liberty of an oppressed people who otherwise never might
enjoy those freedoms.
So perhaps the
West Virginia is right. I do not think so. Events will prove
one of us correct in the next few days. But I rely on history as
my guide to the future, and history shows us, unequivocally,
that this nation has stood for freedom and democracy, even at
the risk and loss of American lives, so that all might enjoy the
same privileges or have the opportunity to someday enjoy the
same privileges as we do in this noble experiment called the
United States of America.