The Arrogance of Power
Senate Remarks by Robert C. Byrd
March 19, 2003
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 Saddam
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
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 world-wide 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 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 Iraq? What 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 inspire?
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.
Senator Byrd followed this speech a day later entitled
"Called to Battle: Words in Support of American Troops."