Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV): "The Truth Will Emerge"

Article excerpt

Remarks on the Senate Floor, May 21, 2003

Truth has a way of asserting itself despite all attempts to obscure it. Distortion only serves to derail it for a time. No matter to what lengths we humans may go to obfuscate facts or delude our fellows, truth has a way of squeezing out through the cracks, eventually.

But the danger is that at some point it may no longer matter. The danger is that damage is done before the truth is widely realized. The reality is that, sometimes, it is easier to ignore uncomfortable facts and go along with whatever distortion is currently in vogue. We see a lot of this today in politics. I see a lot of it-more than I would ever have believed-right on this Senate Floor.

Regarding the situation in Iraq, it appears to this senator that the American people may have been lured into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, in violation of long-standing international law, under false premises. There is ample evidence that the horrific events of Sept. 11 have been carefully manipulated to switch public focus from Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, who masterminded the Sept. 11 attacks, to Saddam Hussain, who did not. The run up to our invasion of Iraq featured the president and members of his cabinet invoking every frightening image they could conjure, from mushroom clouds, to buried caches of germ warfare, to drones poised to deliver germ-laden death in our major cities. We were treated to a heavy dose of overstatement concerning Saddam Hussain's direct threat to our freedoms.

The tactic was guaranteed to provoke a sure reaction from a nation still suffering from a combination of post-traumatic stress and justifiable anger after the attacks of 9/11. It was the exploitation of fear. It was a placebo for the anger. Since the war's end, every subsequent revelation which has seemed to refute the previous dire claims of the Bush administration has been brushed aside. Instead of addressing the contradictory evidence, the White House deftly changes the subject.

No weapons of mass destruction have yet turned up, but we are told that they will in time. Perhaps they yet will. But, our costly and destructive bunker-busting attack on Iraq seems to have proven, in the main, precisely the opposite of what we were told was the urgent reason to go in. It seems also to have, for the present, verified the assertions of Hans Blix and the inspection team he led, which President Bush and company so derided. As Blix always said, a lot of time will be needed to find such weapons, if they do, indeed, exist. Meanwhile Bin Laden is still on the loose and Saddam Hussain has come up missing.

The administration assured the U.S. public and the world, over and over again, that an attack was necessary to protect our people and the world from terrorism. It assiduously worked to alarm the public and blur the faces of Saddam Hussain and Osama bin Laden until they virtually became one. What has become painfully clear in the aftermath of war is that Iraq was no immediate threat to the U.S. Ravaged by years of sanctions, Iraq did not even lift an airplane against us. Iraq's threatening death-dealing fleet of unmanned drones about which we heard so much morphed into one prototype made of plywood and string. Their missiles proved to be outdated and of limited range. Their army was quickly overwhelmed by our technology and our well-trained troops. Presently our loyal military personnel continue their mission of diligently searching for WMD. They have so far turned up only fertilizer, vacuum cleaners, conventional weapons, and the occasional buried swimming pool. They are misused on such a mission and they continue to be at grave risk.

But, the Bush team's extensive hype of WMD in Iraq as justification for a preemptive invasion has become more than embarrassing. It has raised serious questions about prevarication and the reckless use of power. Were our troops needlessly put at risk? …