why now? why now?

A great orator, and perhaps the last of his kind.

I don't often see eye-to-eye with the senior Senator from West Virginia, but Democrat Robert C. Byrd did amazing work in the halls of Congress this week.

[the following quotes are excerpted from the complete text printed in the NYTimes]

The Senator begins with a characteristic reference to the Roman historian Livy, who was familiar with republics and dictatorships both.

Titus Livius, one of the greatest of Roman historians, said all things will be clear and distinct to the man who does not hurry. Haste is blind and improvident. Blind and improvident, Mr. President [the remarks are addressed to the president pro tem of the Senate], blind and improvident.
Byrd feels the White House pressure and knows the reason for it.
The newly bellicose mood that permeates this White House is unfortunate, all the more so because it is clearly motivated by campaign politics. Republicans are already running attack ads against Democrats on Iraq. Democrats favor fast approval of a resolution so they can change the subject to domestic economic problems.

Before risking the lives, I say to you the people out there who are watching through those electronic lenses, before risking the lives of your sons and daughters, American fighting men and women, all members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, must overcome the siren song of political polls and focus strictly on the merits, not the politics, of this most grave, this most serious undertaking, this most grave, this most serious issue that is before us.

Mr. President, the resolution S.J. Resolution 46, which will be before this Senate, is not only a product of haste, it is also a product of presidential hubris. This resolution is breathtaking, breathtaking in its scope. It redefines the nature of defense. It reinterprets the Constitution to suit the will of the executive branch. This Constitution, which I hold in my hand, is amended without going through the constitutional process of amending this Constitution.

S.J. Resolution 46 would give the president blanket authority to launch a unilateral, pre-emptive attack on a sovereign nation that is perceived to be a threat to the United States. A unilateral, pre-emptive attack on a sovereign nation that is perceived to be a threat to the United States. This is an unprecedented and unfounded interpretation of the president's authority under the Constitution of the United States, not to mention the fact that it stands the Charter of the United Nations on its head.

He warns of the horrible prototype which the rush to war will establish, both within the U.S. and without. (But why should this Junta care?)
Think for a moment of a precedent that this resolution will set not just for this president — hear me now, you on the other side of the aisle — not just for this president, but for future presidents. From the day forward American presidents will be able to invoke Senate Joint Resolution 46 as justification for launching pre-emptive military strikes against any sovereign nations that they perceive to be a threat.

You'd better pay attention. You're not always going to have a president of your party in the White House. How will you feel about it then? How will it be then?

Other nations will be able to hold up the United States, hold up the U.S.A. as the model to justify their military adventures. Do you not think, Mr. President, that India and Pakistan, China and Taiwan, Russia and Georgia are closely watching the outcome of this debate? Do you not think that future adversaries will look to this moment to rationalize the use of military force to achieve who knows what ends?

War is being invoked as a first resort, and we are not even allowed to ask why.
Mr. President, the Senate is rushing to vote on whether to declare war on Iraq without pausing to ask why. We don't have time to ask why. We don't have time to get the answers to that question why. Why is war being dealt with not as a last resort but as a first resort? Why is Congress being pressured to act now? As of today, I believe 33 days before a general election when a third of the United States Senate and the entire House of Representatives are in the final highly politicized weeks of election campaign
Once again, for Byrd and many others, there is the rhetorical question. Why just now?
It is now October of this year of our Lord 2002. Four years have gone by in which neither this administration nor the previous one felt compelled to invade Iraq to protect against the imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction until today, until now, until 33 days before Election Day. Now we're being asked, now we're being told that we must act immediately. We must put this issue behind us. We must put this question behind us. We must act immediately we are told before adjournment and before the elections. Why the rush? Why the rush?

About this Entry

Published on October 5, 2002 1:47 PM.

previous entry: Jessica Lange gets it

next entry: "jews hate Bush"