Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Byrd v Cheney

Senator Byrd on Iraq and V.P. Cheney

Byrd 2006 <http://www.byrd2006.com>
Sen. Byrd

Mr. President, if we look out the window in most of our great country,
we can witness the season change. The air has become crisp with
autumnal chill. The leaves on the trees change color: from the
exuberant, green lushness of the summer months, to the tired brown,
yellow and red of autumn, much like the graying hair of a man advancing
in age.

Nature can sometimes mimic human events with a subtlety that no words
can quite convey. As our country heads into the season that is
celebrated with the love of family and home, Americans should also look
across the landscape of America and reflect upon the loss of so many
young Americans in the twelve months since autumn last fell upon us. In
the past year, more than 820 service members have lost their lives in
Iraq.

The evening news features pictures of American troops who have perished
in service to our country. I am struck by these colorful mosaics of
these troops: the green and blue of their uniforms, set against the
background of the bold colors of our flag. Each of these proud troops
holds an expression of pride and courage, even though many of them
appear to be so young -- 18 or 19 years old.

I can only imagine the grief of their loving families during this time
of the year, as the somber tones of fall contrast with the joy of being
with family during the upcoming holidays. I pray that God will comfort
those who have suffered losses, that He will bless the fallen in their
everlasting life, and that His hand will protect those who still serve
in harm's way.

That so many have sacrificed during this war in Iraq is reason enough to
ask questions about our government's policy in that faraway country.
Our troops continue to shed their blood, and our nation continues to
devote enormous sums of our national wealth, to continue that war.
Whether one supported or opposed the war at its outset: no American must
ever surrender the right to question the government.

The Constitution protects the American people from unjust laws that seek
to stifle the patriotic duty to question those who are in power, but it
is the courage of the American people that compels them to actually
speak out when those in power call for silence. If anything, attacks on
the patriotism of freedom-loving Americans may result in even more
Americans fighting against attempts to squelch the Constitutional
protections of freedom.

Since our country was sent to war on March 19, 2003, two thousand and
seventy-three Americans have been killed. Nearly 16,000 troops have
been wounded. Our military is straining under the repeated deployment
of our troops, including the members of the National Guard. More than
$214 billion has been spent in Iraq. Urban combat takes place each and
every day in Baghdad. Veterans hospitals in our own country are
threatened by budget shortfalls. And yet, Americans are still left to
wonder, when will our brave troops be coming home?

I opposed the war in Iraq from the outset. But our troops were ordered
to go to Iraq, and they went. The question is now: When will they come
home? The Administration has so far laid out only a vague policy,
saying our troops will come home when the Iraqi government is ready to
take responsibility for its country. That sort of political doublespeak
is small comfort to the mothers and fathers of our fighting men and women.

Wednesday evening, the Vice President of the United States even claimed
that criticism of the Administration's war in Iraq was "dishonest and
reprehensible." The Vice President's comments come on the heels of
comments from President Bush, who said, "What bothers me is when people
are irresponsibly using their positions and playing politics. That's
exactly what is taking place in America."

The President and the Vice President need to reread the Constitution.
Asking questions, seeking honesty and truth, and pressing for
accountability is exactly what the Framers had in mind. Questioning
policies and practices, especially ones that have cost this nation more
than 2,000 of her bravest sons and daughters, is a responsibility of
every American. It is also a central role of Congress. We are the
elected representatives of the American people. We are the men and
women who are tasked with seeking the truth. But instead of working
with the Congress, instead of clearing the air, the White House falls
back to the irksome practice of attack, attack, attack, obscure,
obscure, obscure.

The American people are tired of these reprehensible tactics. Circling
the wagons will not serve this Administration well. What the people
demand are the facts. They want their elected leaders to level with
them. And, when it comes to the war in Iraq, this Administration seems
willing to do anything it can to avoid the truth -- a truth that I
believe will reveal that the Bush Administration manipulated the facts
in order to lead this nation on the road to war.

The Administration claims that the Congress had the same intelligence as
the President before the war, and that independent commissions have
determined that there was no misrepresentation of the intelligence. But
neither claim is true.

The intelligence agencies are in the control of the White House. All
information given to the Congress was cleared through the White House,
and the President had access to an enormous amount of data never shared
with the Congress. There was a filter over the intelligence information
that the Congress received, and that filter was the Administration which
was actively engaged in hyping the danger and lusting after this war in
Iraq. Remember the talk of weapons of mass destruction, mushroom
clouds, and unmanned drones? The so-called proof for war was massaged
before it was sent to the Congress to scare members and leaked to
reporters to scare the people.

No independent commission has stated that the case for war was
indisputable. Commissions have looked at how the intelligence fell
short. But none have yet examined possible political manipulation.

Even the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence stalled in its
examination of possible White House manipulation. My colleague from
West Virginia, the Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee, Senator
Rockefeller, is rightly pressing for answers.

Right now, we are engaged in a mission with no definition. That is
troubling, because without a clearly defined mission it is impossible to
determine when our mission is truly accomplished.

This week, the United States Senate had the opportunity to establish
some very basic benchmarks for progress in Iraq, benchmarks that would
have clearly outlined goals and provided accountability in meeting
them. The proposal, offered by the Senior Senator from Michigan,
Senator Levin, was a modest, flexible approach that would have given our
troops, their families, the American people, and the Iraqi people some
basic guide posts. Unfortunately, the Senate could not see the wisdom
of this approach.

It is vital that we have benchmarks against which to gauge our
progress. That is how we can measure effectiveness and, most
importantly, how we know when the job is done.

The Administration's strategy of keeping our troops in Iraq for "as long
as it takes" is the wrong strategy. Who knows how long it will take for
the Iraqi government to institute order in that fractured country?

Unfortunately, the questions that the American people are asking about
the missteps and mistakes in the war in Iraq are not being answered by
the Administration. Vice President Cheney has dismissed these important
questions as "making a play for political advantage in the middle of a
war."

Perhaps the Vice President should question White House aides about using
war for political advantage. For example, on January 19, 2002, the
Washington Post reported that Karl Rove advised Republicans to "make the
president's handling of the war on terrorism the centerpiece of their
strategy to win back the Senate and keep control of the House in this
year's midterm elections." Does the Vice President have anything to say
about that?

The Vice President also lashed out at those who might deceive our
troops: "The saddest part is that our people in uniform have been
subjected to these cynical and pernicious falsehoods day in and day
out." Was the Vice President was trying to clarify some of his past
statements on Iraq?

On March 24, 2002, the Vice President said that Iraq "is actively
pursuing nuclear weapons at this time."

On August 26, 2002, the Vice President said, "Simply stated, there is no
doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is
no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against
our allies, and against us."

On March 16, 2003, the Vice President said, "We will, in fact, be
greeted as liberators."

Are these the "pernicious falsehoods" that the Vice President believes
our troops have been subjected to? That is, of course, a rhetorical
question. Far from questioning his own statements about the war in
Iraq, the Vice President's comments are a ham-handed attempt to squelch
the questions that the American people are asking about the
Administration's policies in Iraq. The American people should not be
cowed by these attempts to intimidate us. The American people should
not allow the subject to be changed from the war in Iraq to partisan
sniping in Washington. Instead, the American people must raise their
voices even louder to ask the Administration the same simple questions:
What is your policy for Iraq? When will the war be over? How many more
lives will this war cost? And when will our troops return home?

Mr. President, the holiday season is almost upon us. Americans will
soon gather together to give thanks for the blessings that have been
bestowed upon our families. But as we gather, there will be an empty
seat at many tables. Some chairs will be empty because a service member
is serving his country in a faraway land. Other seats will be empty as
a silent tribute to those who will never return.

Each of these troops has fought to protect our freedoms, including the
freedom of Americans to ask questions of their government -- the
people's government.

The whole picture -- the truth -- is that the continued occupation of
Iraq only serves to drive that country closer to civil war. American
troops are now perceived as occupiers not liberators. The longer we
stay, the more dangerous Iraq becomes, and the more likely it is that we
will drive the future government farther from a democratic republic and
closer to religious fundamentalism and, not insignificantly, the more
American and Iraqi lives will be lost.

I for one believe that it is time to say "well done" to our brave
fighting men and women. May Almighty God bless them -- one and all.
Let's say, job well done, and start to bring the troops home.

###

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