Reap Disastrous Consequences
by US Senator Robert Byrd Senate Floor Speech
Wednesday, February 12, 2003
war in Afghanistan has cost us $37 billion so far, yet there
is evidence that terrorism may already be starting to regain
its hold in that region. We have not found bin Laden, and
unless we secure the peace in Afghanistan, the dark dens
of terrorism may yet again flourish in that remote and devastated
Pakistan as well is at risk of destabilizing forces. This
Administration has not finished the first war against terrorism
and yet it is eager to embark on another conflict with perils
much greater than those in Afghanistan. Is our attention
span that short? Have we not learned that after winning
the war one must always secure the peace?
And yet we hear little about the aftermath of war in Iraq.
In the absence of plans, speculation abroad is rife. Will
we seize Iraq's oil fields, becoming an occupying power
which controls the price and supply of that nation's oil
for the foreseeable future?! To whom do we propose to hand
the reigns of power after Saddam Hussein?
Will our war inflame the Muslim world resulting in devastating
attacks on Israel? Will Israel retaliate with its own nuclear
arsenal? Will the Jordanian and Saudi Arabian governments
be toppled by radicals, bolstered by Iran which has much
closer ties to terrorism than Iraq?
Could a disruption of the world's oil supply lead to a
world-wide recession? Has our senselessly bellicose language
and our callous disregard of the interests and opinions
of other nations increased the global race to join the nuclear
club and made proliferation an even more lucrative practice
for nations which need the income?
In only the space of two short years this reckless and
arrogant Administration has initiated policies which may
reap disastrous consequences for years. One can understand
the anger and shock of any President after the savage attacks
of September 11. One can appreciate the frustration of having
only a shadow to chase and an amorphous, fleeting enemy
on which it is nearly impossible to exact retribution.
But to turn one's frustration and anger into the kind of
extremely destabilizing and dangerous foreign policy debacle
that the world is currently witnessing is inexcusable from
any Administration charged with the awesome power and responsibility
of guiding the destiny of the greatest superpower on the
planet. Frankly many of the pronouncements made by this
Administration are outrageous. There is no other word.
Yet this chamber is hauntingly silent. On what is possibly
the eve of horrific infliction of death and destruction
on the population of the nation of Iraq -- a population,
I might add, of which over 50% is under age 15 -- this chamber
is silent. On what is possibly only days before we send
thousands of our own citizens to face unimagined horrors
of chemical and biological warfare -- this chamber is silent.
On the eve of what could possibly be a vicious terrorist
attack in retaliation for our attack on Iraq, it is business
as usual in the United States Senate.
We are truly "sleepwalking through history."
In my heart of hearts I pray that this great nation and
its good and trusting citizens are not in for a rudest of
To engage in war is always to pick a wild card. And war
must always be a last resort, not a first choice. I truly
must question the judgment of any President who can say
that a massive unprovoked military attack on a nation which
is over 50% children is "in the highest moral traditions
of our country." This war is not necessary at this
time. Pressure appears to be having a good result in Iraq.
Our mistake was to put ourselves in a corner so quickly.
Our challenge is to now find a graceful way out of a box
of our own making. Perhaps there is still a way if we allow