Showing posts with label Byrd. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Byrd. Show all posts

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Amazing Robert Byrd

The death of Senator Robert Byrd (D, WV) will leave a void that I’m not sure will be filled anytime soon. I don't want to make more of him in death than he was in life, and he certainly had his blind spots, but the more I read his words the last couple days, the more I am in awe of his prescience.  This man courageously spoke the truth to power…but power failed to heed his wisdom. From Oct 2009, on the proposed Afghan “surge”:
Mr. President, what is really at stake for the United States in Afghanistan? We all know that Afghanistan is not a threat to us militarily. The Taliban is not a threat to us militarily. Al Qaeda, however, is a demonstrated threat to us with ambitions and a philosophy that must keep us vigilant. But the link between al Qaeda and Afghanistan is a tenuous one, based only on the temporary expediency of location, an expediency that has already been replaced as the al Qaeda leadership has moved, and may move again.

Building a Western-style democratic state in an Afghanistan equipped with a large military and police force and a functioning economy based on something other than opium poppies may or may not deny al Qaeda a safe haven there again. It will guarantee that the United States must invest large numbers of troops and many billions of dollars in Afghanistan for many years to come, energy and funds that might otherwise go toward fueling our own economic recovery, better educating our children or expanding access to health care for more of our own people. And yet there are many here in this body -- the Senate -- who believe we should proceed with such a folly in Afghanistan. During a time of record deficits, some actually continue to suggest that the United States should sink hundreds of billions of borrowed dollars into Afghanistan effectively turning our backs on our own substantial domestic needs -- all the while deferring the costs and the problems for future generations to address.

Our national security interests lie in defeating -- no, in destroying -- al Qaeda. Until we take that, and only that, mission seriously, we risk adding the United States to the long, long, long list of nations whose best laid plans have died on the cold, barren rocky slopes of that far off country of Afghanistan.

Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast (see post on 28 June 2010) addresses the shortcomings of Senator Byrd as a younger man, and lauds his enlightenment later in his life:

The very same people who want to delude themselves that they have a free pass into heaven despite supporting policies that keep people mired in poverty, despite cheating on their wives and getting into bed with corporations that ruin their God's creation, don't want to give a man whose later life was about as solid a demonstration of penitence as I've ever seen, the same chance at redemption. So let them talk about the Klan instead of the apology, let them talk about the mistakes of a young man who was shaped by the most vile practices in this country's history, and who opened his eyes to realize the injustice in which he was raised. Let those who continue to use racist code to dogwhistle to those who would undo all the racial progress of the last fifty years remain focused on a renounced past. Let them project their own bigotry. Because what we honor today is not a life without mistakes, a life of unequivocal virtue. What we honor today is a life which demonstrated the possibility of growth and redemption.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Arrogance of Power

Go ahead and read this. Read it carefully. It was a speech on 20 March 2003 by a prescient person (revealed at the bottom).

I have added bolding to some of the passages that resonated with me:

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 globe.

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.


Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D - WV), on March 20, 2003, who just passed away on Monday.