THE EVE OF WAR - Looking At All Sides

(09/28/2002)

Bob Weaver

America is on the fast track, going to war with Iraq. A war that has little support around the world, and could further polarize our enemies and separate us from our "friends."

The Bush administration is moving down the path of being the world's cop, such as pre-emptive strikes, placing America on the pedestal. Historically, those nations who have "pedestal status" eventually get knocked off.

A strong Bush supporter for war said to me yesterday, "The meek do not inherit the earth," contradicting a statement from the Christian bible.

The voices of those opposing a war with Iraq, at least in Washington, are fading.

The need to protect the supply of oil, Iraq having the second largest cache in the world, is not in the dialogue.

While most Americans desire to rid the world of the likes of Saddam, many are reluctant to get on the war wagon. Our government declares they have greater insight into his threat and we must act now.

Remembering 9-11 is enough for many to strike.

President Bush is asking for a resolution with the broadest authority since the Gulf of Tonkin which launched the Vietnam War. The resolution will allow him to proceed without congressional consultation. Remember Vietnam? The resolution virtually ignores the United Nations and would allow us to go into Iraq without support of our allies.

It is not unpatriotic to have anti-war dialogue, part of the checks and balances in our great democracy. We surely must consider the costs of life and money during these days before another war.

Senator Robert Byrd, our government's great historian, continues to ask the questions that prudent Americans should ask, knowing full well in a short time, with Americian Spirit, we will be supporting President Bush and our troops who will enter this bloody war.

Here is what Senator Byrd has been saying.

Will The U.S. Reap What It Has Sown? Byrd Asks

From the Charleston Gazette

Friday September 27, 2002
By Paul J. Nyden
Staff Writer

Will Saddam Hussein unleash botulinum toxin, perhaps nature’s deadliest poison, and other viruses and chemicals if the United States attacks Iraq?

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., posed this question to the Senate on Thursday, based on documents obtained from different federal agencies.

“We have a paper trail,” Byrd said. “We not only know that Iraq has biological weapons, we know the type, the strain, and the batch number of the germs that may have been used to fashion those weapons. We know the dates they were shipped and the addresses to which they were shipped.

“We have in our hands the equivalent of a Betty Crocker cookbook of ingredients that the U.S. allowed Iraq to obtain and that may well have been used to concoct biological weapons.”

Those shipments included:

Between 1985 and 1988, the nonprofit American Type Culture Collection made 11 shipments to Iraq that included a “witches’ brew of pathogens,” including anthrax, botulinum toxin and gangrene. All shipments were government-approved. Between January 1980 and October 1993, the federal Centers for Disease Control shipped a variety of toxic specimens to Iraq, including West Nile virus and Dengue fever.

The U.S. Commerce Department and CDC provided lists of these shipments. “The Defense Department ought to have the same lists, so that the decision-makers will know exactly what types of biological agents American soldiers may face in the field,” Byrd said.

“At last week’s Armed Services Committee hearing, Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld said he had no knowledge of any such shipments and doubted that they ever occurred. He seemed to be affronted at the very idea that the United States would ever countenance entering into such a deal with the devil.

“Secretary Rumsfeld should not shy away from this information. On the contrary, he should seek it out,” Byrd said.

In its Sept. 23 edition, Newsweek magazine published an article discussing the viruses, poisons and gases that the U.S. sent to Saddam Hussein in the mid-1980s. At that time, the U.S. regarded Iraq as a potential ally against Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeni.

Byrd criticized Rumsfeld for failing to answer questions he asked last week about these shipments to Iraq during an Armed Services Committee hearing.

“I repeat today what I said to him then,” Byrd said. “In the event of a war with Iraq, might the United States be facing the possibility of reaping what it has sown?”

Calls to the White House press office on Thursday afternoon were referred to the Department of Defense, where no one returned a call. One woman at the White House asked, “How do you spell Byrd?”

Federal documents and a United Nations Security Council report document a direct connection between periods when Iraq received toxins and viruses from the U.S. and the periods when Iraq developed biological weapons.

Byrd closed his speech by asking what the future holds.

“The role that the U.S. may have played in helping Iraq to pursue biological warfare in the 1980s should serve as a strong warning to the president that policy decisions regarding Iraq today could have far reaching ramifications on the Middle East and on the United States in the future.

“In the 1980s, the Ayatollah Khomeni was America’s sworn enemy, and the U.S. government courted Saddam Hussein in an effort to undermine the Ayatollah and Iran. Today, Saddam Hussein is America’s biggest enemy, and the U.S. is said to be making overtures to Iran.”

The Bush administration is also discussing whether to arm groups of ethnic dissidents, such as the Kurds, in Iraq.

“Could the U.S. be laying the groundwork for a brutal civil war in Iraq? Could this proposed policy change precipitate a deadly border conflict between the Kurds and Turkey?” Byrd asked.

He again urged caution. “Decisions involving war and peace,” he said, “should never be rushed or muscled through in haste. Our founding fathers understood that, and wisely vested in the Congress, not the president, the power to declare war.”

Byrd said Congress must consider Bush’s requests for new war powers “carefully, thoroughly, and on our own timetable ... and avoid the pressure to rush to judgment on such an important matter.”

Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia’s senior U.S. senator, delivered this floor address Friday, September 20, 2002.

Bush’s Gall Is Amazing

BEFORE THE NATION is committed to war, before we send our sons and daughters to battle in faraway lands, there are critical questions that must be asked. To date, the answers from the administration have been less than satisfying.

After weeks of criticism from Congress and, indeed, the countries of the world, President Bush went to the United Nations to press his case that Iraq posed a serious threat to the peace and security of the globe. But instead of offering compelling evidence that the Iraqi regime had taken steps to advance its weapons program, the president offered the U.N. more of a warning than an appeal for support. Instead of using the forum of the U.N. General Assembly to offer evidence and proof of his claims, the president basically told the nations of the world that you are either with me, or against me.

Do not question this stand, the president said. If the U.N. is unwilling to act, then “by heritage and by choice, the United States of America will make that stand.”

While Mr. Bush tried to play the role of an international prosecutor, his case was, at best, circumstantial.

In the days that have followed that address, administration officials have attempted to provide some answers to the looming questions. But this week, when asked by the House Armed Services Committee members what was new, what was compelling to force the hand of this nation against Saddam Hussein, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld offered nothing new. He pointed to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 as compelling reason. And he said, “The last thing we want is a smoking gun. A gun smokes after it has been fired. The goal must be to stop Saddam Hussein before he fires a weapon of mass destruction against our people.”

My concern is that the United States, in forcing war in Iraq, will end up shooting itself in the foot unless proper care and deliberation proceed any action. We must not be hell-bent on an invasion until we have exhausted every other possible option to assess and eliminate Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction program. We must not act alone. We must have the support of the world.

Thursday, the administration sent to Congress a draft resolution to authorize the use of American military might against Iraq. In that resolution, the president requests approval for the “use all means he determines to be appropriate.” Congress must not hand this administration — or any administration — a blank check for military action. What we need is solid evidence. What we need are answers:

Does Saddam Hussein pose an imminent threat to the United States?
Should the United States act alone?
Should Congress grant the president authority to launch a pre-emptive attack on Iraq?
What would be the repercussions in the Middle East?
What would be the repercussions around the globe?
How many civilians would die in Iraq?
How many American forces would be involved?
Will even greater numbers of National Guardsmen and reservists be called up to prepare for an invasion?
Will troops be shifted from other missions to support a war against Iraq?
How do we afford this war?
Has the United States ruled out responding with nuclear weapons should Saddam Hussein use chemical or biological weapons against our soldiers?
Does Saddam Hussein have the capability to unleash weapons of mass destruction within the United States?
Does the United States have adequate military and intelligence resources to wage war in Afghanistan and Iraq while at the same time mobilizing resources to prevent or defend against attack within our own shores?
Are we focused too greatly on fighting suspected terrorism overseas while focusing too little on the threat of terrorism here at home?

These and many other questions need answers before American troops are committed to war.

On Thursday, (September 19, 2002) the president sent to Congress a suggested text for a resolution to authorize war with Iraq. The problems with this proposed resolution are numerous, and when taken as a whole, this resolution could constitute the broadest possible grant of war powers to any president in the history of our republic. The resolution is a direct insult and an affront to the powers given to Congress on matters of war under the Constitution.

The first two pages of the draft resolution have 16 “whereas” clauses that would serve to explain the intent of Congress in passing the resolution for the use of force. These clauses, as conceived by the White House, include numerous distortions of fact.

For example, in the ninth whereas clause, it is asserted that “the United States has the inherent right, as acknowledged in the United Nations Charter, to use force in order to defense itself.” As if that is a justification for pre-emptive war! Let me read the relevant section of the U.N. Charter: “Nothing in the present charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”

That does not seem to justify a pre-emptive attack.

In the 16 whereas clause, it is asserted that “the president has the authority under the Constitution to use force in order to defend the national security interests of the United States.” That is the broadest reading of the commander-in-chief clause I think I have ever seen! What about the power of the Congress, under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, to declare war? That is not mentioned at all in the resolution proposed by the White House.

Finally, the White House resolution would authorize the president “to use all means that he determines appropriate, including force ... to restore international peace and security in the region.” That is not an authorization for war with just Iraq. That language would allow the president to march our troops into Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, the West Bank, and anywhere else that one could argue is part of the Middle East, or has any security interest in the Middle East.

I cannot believe the gall and the arrogance of the White House in requesting such a broad grant of war powers. This is the worst kind of election-year politics.


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