September 18, 2003

Losing Dollars and Sense in Iraq

Clark (D-NATO) has entered the race. Now we will see
what he is really made of. I am somewhat disturbed by
the tone of an op-ed piece he wrote recently for (I
think) the London Times. BUT he looked strong and did
not flinch or equivocate on SeeNotNews interview last
night -- for example, he would not be intimidated into
pandering to Sanctimonicutt on "partial birth
abortion," and he said he would appoint Stephen
Breyers to SCOTUS. If he continues to act more like
Dean (D-Jeffords) than Kerry (D-Mekong Delta), i.e. if
he hits hard and does not mince his words, he may be
able to lead. But if he turns and starts acting more
like Kerry than Dean, i.e. pulling his punches and
parsing his words to avoid scaring the
propapunditgandists, he will just become another
candidate...Clark-Dean or Dean-Clark could be a
powerful ticket -- if they do not back down from
savaging the _resident and "all the _resident's men,"
i.e., if they lead, if they say what a large and
growing mass within the electorate wants to hear.
We'll see...Meanwhile, savor another historic speech
from Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV)....

Published on Wednesday, September 17, 2003 by
Losing Dollars and Sense in Iraq
by US Senator Robert C. Byrd
Floor Remarks - US Senate
September 17, 2003

I rise today to voice my concern about the disastrous
turn which the fortunes of this nation have taken. The
Bush Administration, in a scant 2 years, has
imperiled our country in the gravest of ways, and set
us up for a possible crisis of mammoth proportions.

I urge my colleagues to think long and hard about the
growing quagmire in Iraq. I urge members of the
President's own party to warn him about the quicksand
he asks America to wade in.

Instead of linking arms with a world which offered its
heart in sympathy after the brutality of the terrorist
attack in September of 2001, this White House, through
hubris and false bravado, has slapped away the hand of
assistance. This Administration has insulted our
allies and friends with its bullying, and go-it-alone
frenzy to attack the nation of Iraq. In order to
justify such an attack, it was decided somewhere in
the White House to blur the images of Saddam Hussein
and Osama Bin Laden. Blurred images notwithstanding,
what is becoming increasingly clear to many Americans
is that they are going to be asked to carry a heavy,
heavy load for a long, long time.

Let me be clear. We are presently engaged in not one,
but two wars. There is the war begun by Osama Bin
Laden who attacked this nation on the 11th of
September, 2001. Then there is the war begun by George
W. Bush when he directed U.S. forces to attack the
city of Baghdad on March 19, 2003. The first war was
thrust upon us. The bombing of Afghanistan was a just
retaliation against that attack. The second war was a
war of our choosing. It was an unnecessary attack upon
a sovereign nation. This President and this
Administration have tried mightily to convince the
people of America that attacking Iraq was critical to
protecting them from terrorism. The case they make is
false, flimsy, and, the war, I believe, was unwise.

The war against Iraq has crippled the global effort to
counter terrorism. The war in Iraq has made a peace
agreement between Israel and its adversaries harder to
obtain. The obsession with Iraq has served to downplay
the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The
focus on Saddam Hussein has diverted attention from
Bin Laden, who is apparently still on the loose and
threatening to attack again. The war in Iraq has
alienated our traditional allies and fractured the
cohesive alliance against terrorism which existed
after 9-11. It has made the United States appear to
the world to be a bellicose invader. It has called our
motives into question. It has galvanized the worldwide
terrorism movement against us. The war in Iraq has
cost us lives and treasure. Yet, this President will
shortly request $87 billion more for his ill-fated
adventure. He says we will spend whatever it takes.

Prudence dictates that we consider the risks. This
nation has suffered massive job losses amounting to
93,000 in August alone and approximately 600,000 since
January of this year. Job loss of this magnitude means
less money coming into the treasury and more money
going out. U.S. manufacturing jobs continue to
disappear overseas as companies relocate operations on
other shores. There seems no end to the job
hemorrhage. The manufacturing sector has lost jobs for
37 months in a row. The weak job market threatens to
sap strength from our domestic economy. Should
inflation begin to creep up, as some worry it will,
higher energy costs and lower consumer confidence may
slow the economy further. Suppose another massive al
Quaeda attack were to occur here at home, killing
thousands and delivering another devastating blow to
the U.S. economy? Could we still afford to continue to
send billions to Iraq? At best our future economic
growth is uncertain. There are too many unknowns.

Our deficit is growing. When the $87 billion 2004 Iraq
Supplemental is included, the deficit for 2004 alone
is expected to total $535 billion. That number will
only grow if we continue to experience massive job
loss and the economy takes a turn for the worse. We
can ill afford to finance the rebuilding of Iraq
alone. Yet, President Bush steadfastly resists doing
what it takes to involve the international community.

It should be obvious that we need assistance. The
United States cannot even continue to supply the
troops to secure Iraq without more help. A recent CBO
study which I requested makes it clear that to
maintain the level of troops we now have in Iraq will
stretch us very thin, should something happen in Korea
or elsewhere on this troubled globe. Our National
Guard is being asked to stay longer and longer in Iraq
to help backfill the shortage in regular troops. These
are men and women with jobs and families and key roles
to play in their own communities. We cannot continue
to utilize their skills in Iraq without suffering the
consequences at home. Even now, as a hurricane lurks
off of our shores, there are worries about shortages
of emergency personnel because so many national
guardsmen and women are serving in Iraq.

But, the Bush Administration continues to spend our
treasure and our troop strength in a single-focused
obsession with the fiasco in Iraq. Are we to mortgage
the future of our nation to years of financing this
adventure? Surely we cannot ask American families for
sacrifice indefinitely. We must come to grips with our
limits. We must acknowledge risks and realities.

Yet, on last Sunday, Vice President Cheney dug his
heels in at the suggestion of rethinking our policy in
Iraq. In a television interview, Cheney said that he
saw no reason to "think that the strategy is flawed or
needs to be changed."

He went on to try to convince the American public that
Iraq was "the geographic base" for the perpetrators of
9-11 - - a claim that this humble Senator has never
heard before, and that flies in the face of U.S.
intelligence agencies which repeatedly have said that
they have found no links between the 9-11 attacks and
Saddam Hussein or Iraq. We may come to rue the day
when we took our eye off of Bin Laden and sapped our
energies and our credibility in this quagmire in Iraq.
Yet, there seems to be no soul searching in this White
House about the consequences of this war.

While Bush's aides talk of "generational commitments"
and the President talks of "sacrifice," I wonder if
the American people fully comprehend what they are
being urged to forego. They have already sacrificed
loved ones with 158 troops killed and 856 wounded just
since President Bush declared the end of major combat
on May 1. How many more families must "sacrifice"
while we occupy Iraq?

A generation of "sacrifice" may also mean a slow
sapping of key national priorities, including
repairing the infrastructure which fuels our economic
engine and funding the institutions and programs which
benefit all Americans. Compare the latest request for
the Iraq Supplemental with the commitment in dollars
to other vital programs and the picture becomes clear.
President Bush is asking for $87 billion for Iraq, but
only $34.6 billion for Homeland Security. He wants $87
billion for Iraq, but only $66.2 billion for the
Department of Health and Human Services. The President
seeks $87 billion to secure Iraq, but only $52.1
billion for the Department of Education. He wants $87
billion to shore up Iraq but only $29.3 billion for
America's highways and road construction.

For the State Department and foreign aid for the
entire world, President Bush sees a need for only
$27.4 billion, yet Iraq is worth over three times that
much to this White House.

Remember that that $87 billion is just for 2004 alone.
Does anyone really believe that it will be the last
request for Iraq?

The President asked America for a generation of
"sacrifice," but that noble sounding word does not
reveal the true nature of what this President demands
from the American people. He asks them to supply the
fighting men and women to prosecute his war. He
implores our people to sacrifice adequate health care;
he asks them to settle for less than the best
education for their children; he asks them to
sacrifice medical research that could prolong and save
lives; he asks them to put up with unsafe highways and
dangerous bridges; he asks them to live with
substandard housing and foul water; he asks them to
forego better public transportation, and not just for
now, for generations, and all of it for his folly in
Iraq. Most puzzling to this Senator is this
President's stubborn refusal to guard against the
terror threat here at home by adequately funding
Homeland Security. Is he asking us all to risk the
safety of our homeland, too?

And to further insult the hard working people of this
nation, George Walker Bush proposes to lay this
sacrifice not only on the adult population of this
great country, but on their children, by increasing
the deficit with nary a thought to the consequences.

Yet not a peep can be heard from this White House
about paying for some of this "sacrifice" by foregoing
a portion of future tax cuts - - tax cuts that mainly
benefit those citizens who don't need so many of the
services government provides.

Our reputation around the globe has already been
seriously damaged by this Administration. Are the
dreams and hopes of millions of Americans to be
"sacrificed" as well on the altar of Iraq? I urge my
colleagues to think long and hard about the growing
quagmire in Iraq. I urge members of the President's
own party to warn him about the quicksand he asks
America to wade in. We need a long and thorough debate
about the future of this country. We need a serious
discussion about the kind of America we will leave to
our children. We need to renew our efforts to
negotiate a peace agreement between Israel and the
Palestinians. Are we fighting a war in Iraq when
pushing the peace might better serve our cause? We
must think again about worldwide terrorism and the
best ways to combat it. Let us not continue to simply
wage the wrong war in Iraq.


Posted by richard at September 18, 2003 02:31 PM