week, it’s the words of others – one who I am usually
not politically in tune with –
that I want to share with you
as our nation faces uncertainty, strife and fear.
May Reap Disastrous Consequences
SENATOR ROBERT BYRD
from Senate Floor Speech,
Feb. 12 2003
contemplate war is to think about the most horrible of human
experiences. On this February day, as this nation stands at the brink of
battle, every American on some level must be contemplating the horrors
this Chamber is, for the most part, silent — ominously, dreadfully
silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the
nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.
this is no small conflagration we contemplate. This is no simple attempt
to defand a villain. No. This coming battle, if it materializes,
represents a turning point in U.S. foreign policy and possibly a turning
point in the recent history of the world.
nation is about to embark upon the first test of a revolutionary
doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate time. The
doctrine of preemption — the idea that the United States or any other
nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently
threatening but may be threatening in the future — is a radical new
twist on the traditional idea of self defense. It appears to be in
contravention of international law and the U.N. Charter. And it is being
tested at a time of world-wide terrorism, making many countries around
the globe wonder if they will soon be on our — or some other
nation’s — hit list.
are huge cracks emerging in our time-honored alliances, and U.S.
intentions are suddenly subject to damaging worldwide speculation.
Anti-Americanism based on mistrust, misinformation, suspicion, and
alarming rhetoric from U.S. leaders is fracturing the once solid
alliance against global terrorism which existed after Sept. 11.
at home, people are warned of imminent terrorist attacks with little
guidance as to when or where such attacks might occur. Family members
are being called to active military duty, with no idea of the duration
of their stay or what horrors they may face. Communities are being left
with less than adequate police and fire protection. The mood of the
nation is grim. The economy is stumbling. Fuel prices are rising and may
soon spike higher.
Administration, now in power for a little over two years, must be judged
on its record. I believe that that record is dismal.
foreign policy, this Administration has failed to find Osama bin Laden.
In fact, just yesterday we heard from him again, marshaling his forces
and urging them to kill. This Administration has split traditional
alliances, possibly crippling, for all time international order-keeping
entities like the United Nations and NATO. This Administration has
called into question the traditional worldwide perception of the United
States as well-intentioned, peacekeeper. This Administration has turned
the patient art of diplomacy into threats, labeling, and name calling of
the sort that reflects quite poorly on the intelligence and sensitivity
of our leaders, and which will have consequences for years to come.
heads of state pygmies, labeling whole countries as evil, denigrating
powerful European allies as irrelevant — these types of crude
insensitivities can do our great nation no good. We may have massive
military might, but we cannot fight a global war on terrorism alone. We
need the cooperation and friendship of our time-honored allies as well
as the newer found friends whom we can attract with our wealth. Our
awesome military machine will do us little good if we suffer another
devastating attack on our homeland which severely damages our economy.
Our military manpower is already stretched thin and we will need the
augmenting support of those nations who can supply troop strength, not
just sign letters cheering us on.
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 land.
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?
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?
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?
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?
only the space of two short years this reckless and arrogant
Administration has initiated policies which may reap disastrous
consequences for years.
can understand the anger and shock of any President after the savage
attacks of Sept. 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.
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.
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 percent
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.
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 awakenings.
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 percent 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 more time.”
Have More To Fear Than Fear Itself;
But Try Not To Let That Ruin Your Day
television and news reports have extensively described the possibility
of terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington. D.C. They
have featured duct tape, survival gear, escape routes, antidotes to
poisons, and other means to attempt to escape the wrath of Osama bin
Laden and his cohorts.
don’t share that high degree of anxiety. I do worry a lot, about
getting cancer, my wife and children’s well being, avoiding airplane,
automobile and skiing accidents, and unexpected twists and turns in
mental and physical health. I believe that “every day we live is
a gift of God,” and I am thankful for the absence of misfortune.
am probably spoiled by the tranquility we have enjoyed in America, but
my psyche has not been captured by the fear of terrorism. I would
take all reasonable precautions, if I knew what they were. I
support our efforts at homeland security, but I don’t know how
effective they will be. I think most New Yorkers feel that way . .
. concerned but not unduly alarmed at recent events and non-events.
officials and the media have stirred a great deal of anxiety and fear.
Caught unaware by the events of Sept. 11, government appears to issue
frequent unspecific warnings so that if anything does happen, no one can
allege that it was not anticipated. The media reflect this anxiety, as
well as report useful preparations for defense of our city and the
national capital. But sometimes we recall the boy who cried “wolf”
so often that he was ignored when the wolf did arrive to eat him and his
sheep. There are surely wolves out there, but when will they visit our
color-coded danger chart now exhibited reminds me of the system long
used to describe the risk of forest fires, depending on how dry the
woods and how high the winds. It also suggests the atomic clock,
printed in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to describe the risk of
nuclear war. On this clock, it is now seven minutes to twelve, just what
it was when they began in 1947, but the minute-hand has been turned
forward and backward in the intervening 56 years. The fact that atomic
weapons have not been used by any country since World War II is a
hopeful sign . . . it means the Bulletin is still being published.
generation was really frightened of war just once in our lives . . .
during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. I remember crowds gathering
outside Grand Central Terminal, watching television in a nearby bar,
trying to keep up with the standoff between President Kennedy and Soviet
leader Khrushchev. There was tangible fear at that time that the
Russians would try to break our naval blockade to deliver missiles to
Fidel Castro in Cuba, where launching sites, pointed at us, had been
prepared for their arrival.
navy had been ordered to stop the missile-bearing ships, and violence
and casualties were a likely result. In the post-Stalinist climate of
that time, mutually assured destruction was a real possibility.
Since North Vietnam never threatened American cities, we have not had
that level of anxiety in the United States for the last forty years.
intuitive feeling – definitely not based on inside information – is
that people should go about and continue their lives as normally as
possible and be careful not to frighten their children. I assume there
will be attacks of some kind on us, and that our country will resist and
retaliate. The great majority of us are likely to survive these attacks.
But if we wait until the enemy develops nuclear weapons, that majority
may become a minority.
let’s take it easy. Whatever happens will happen. Meet the challenges
as they arise, day by day. England endured the German blitz for years,
when London was bombed nightly by planes and later by V-1 and V-2
rockets, built by the architects of our space program. Israeli civilians
have been subjected to deadly terror attacks for years. Israel
retaliates selectively, and these attacks have diminished, despite a
ready supply of deluded martyrs.
Americans and New Yorkers we are now required by history to exhibit
courage and endurance, as well as patience and fortitude. The United
States will do whatever is necessary to protect us — and to terminate
our enemies with extreme prejudice.
bless America, and keep an eye on New York.
Stern is founder and director of NYCivic, a good government group. He
can be reached at: email@example.com
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@queenspress.com