to earth, shall rise again, –
The eternal years of God are hers;
But Error, wounded, writhes in pain,
And dies among his worshippers.”
Truth has a way of asserting itself despite all attempts to obscure
it. Distortion only serves to derail it for a time. No matter to
what lengths we humans may go to obfuscate facts or delude our fellows,
truth has a way of squeezing out through the cracks, eventually.
But the danger is that at some point it may no longer matter. The
danger is that damage is done before the truth is widely realized.
The reality is that, sometimes, it is easier to ignore uncomfortable
facts and go along with whatever distortion is currently in vogue.
We see a lot of this today in politics. I see a lot of it –
more than I would ever have believed – right on this Senate
floor. Regarding the situation in Iraq, it appears to this senator
that the American people may have been lured into accepting the
unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, in violation of longstanding
International law, under false premises. There is ample evidence
that the horrific events of September 11 have been carefully manipulated
to switch public focus from Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, who masterminded
the September 11 attacks, to Saddam Hussein, who did not. The run-up
to our invasion of Iraq featured the President and members of his
Cabinet invoking every frightening image they could conjure, from
mushroom clouds, to buried caches of germ warfare, to drones poised
to deliver germ-laden death in our major cities. We were treated
to a heavy dose of overstatement concerning Saddam Hussein’s direct
threat to our freedoms. The tactic was guaranteed to provoke a sure
reaction from a nation still suffering from a combination of post-traumatic
stress and justifiable anger after the attacks of 911. It was the
exploitation of fear. It was a placebo for the anger.
Since the war’s end, every subsequent revelation that has seemed
to refute the previous dire claims of the Bush Administration has
been brushed aside. Instead of addressing the contradictory evidence,
the White House deftly changes the subject. No weapons of mass destruction
have yet turned up, but we are told that they will in time. Perhaps
they yet will. But our costly and destructive bunker-busting attack
on Iraq seems to have proven, in the main, precisely the opposite
of what we were told was the urgent reason to go in. It seems also
to have, for the present, verified the assertions of Hans Blix and
the inspection team he led, which President Bush and company so
derided. As Blix always said, a lot of time will be needed to find
such weapons, if they do indeed exist. Meanwhile, bin Laden is still
on the loose and Saddam Hussein has come up missing. The Administration
assured the US public and the world, over and over again, that an
attack was necessary to protect our people and the world from terrorism.
It assiduously worked to alarm the public and blur the faces of
Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden until they virtually became one.
What has become painfully clear in the aftermath of war is that
Iraq was no immediate threat to the United States. Ravaged by years
of sanctions, Iraq did not even lift an airplane against us. Iraq’s
threatening, death-dealing fleet of unmanned drones about which
we heard so much morphed into one prototype made of plywood and
string. Their missiles proved to be outdated and of limited range.
Their army was quickly overwhelmed by our technology and our well-trained
troops. Presently our loyal military personnel continue their mission
of diligently searching for WMDs. They have so far turned up only
fertilizer, vacuum cleaners, conventional weapons and the occasional
buried swimming pool. They are misused on such a mission, and they
continue to be at grave risk. But the Bush team’s extensive hype
of WMDs in Iraq as justification for a pre-emptive invasion has
become more than embarrassing. It has raised serious questions about
prevarication and the reckless use of power. Were our troops needlessly
put at risk? Were countless Iraqi civilians killed and maimed when
war was not really necessary? Was the American public deliberately
misled? Was the world?
What makes me cringe even more is the continued claim that we are
“liberators.” The facts don’t seem to support the label we have
so euphemistically attached to ourselves. True, we have unseated
a brutal, despicable despot, but “liberation” implies the follow-up
of freedom, self-determination and a better life for the common
people. In fact, if the situation in Iraq is the result of liberation,
we may have set the cause of freedom back 200 years. Despite our
high-blown claims of a better life for the Iraqi people, water is
scarce and often foul, electricity is a sometime thing, food is
in short supply, hospitals are stacked with the wounded and maimed,
historic treasures of the region and of the Iraqi people have been
looted, and nuclear material may have been disseminated to heaven
knows where, while US troops, on orders, looked on and guarded the
oil supply. Meanwhile, lucrative contracts to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure
and refurbish its oil industry are awarded to Administration cronies,
without benefit of competitive bidding, and the United States steadfastly
resists offers of UN assistance to participate. Is there any wonder
that the real motives of the US government are the subject of worldwide
speculation and mistrust?
And in what may be the most damaging development, the United States
appears to be pushing off Iraq’s clamor for self-government. Jay
Garner has been summarily replaced, and it is becoming all too clear
that the smiling face of the United States as liberator is quickly
assuming the scowl of an occupier. The image of the boot on the
throat has replaced the beckoning hand of freedom. Chaos and rioting
only exacerbate that image, as US soldiers try to sustain order
in a land ravaged by poverty and disease. “Regime change” in Iraq
has so far meant anarchy, curbed only by an occupying military force
and a US administrative presence that is evasive about if and when
it intends to depart. Democracy and freedom cannot be force-fed
at the point of an occupier’s gun. To think otherwise is folly.
One has to stop and ponder. How could we have been so impossibly
naïve? How could we expect to easily plant a clone of US culture,
values and government in a country so riven with religious, territorial
and tribal rivalries, so suspicious of US motives and so at odds
with the galloping materialism that drives the Western-style economies?
As so many warned this Administration before it launched its misguided
war on Iraq, there is evidence that our crackdown there is likely
to convince 1,000 new bin Ladens to plan other horrors of the type
we have seen in the past several days. Instead of damaging the terrorists,
we have given them new fuel for their fury. We did not complete
our mission in Afghanistan because we were so eager to attack Iraq.
Now it appears that Al Qaeda is back with a vengeance. We have returned
to orange alert in the United States, and we may well have destabilized
the Mideast region, a region we have never fully understood.
We have alienated friends around the globe with our dissembling
and our haughty insistence on punishing former friends who may not
see things quite our way. The path of diplomacy and reason have
gone out the window, to be replaced by force, unilateralism and
punishment for transgressions. I read most recently with amazement
our harsh castigation of Turkey, our longtime friend and strategic
ally. It is astonishing that our government is berating the new
Turkish government for conducting its affairs in accordance with
its own Constitution and its democratic institutions. Indeed, we
may have sparked a new international arms race as countries move
ahead to develop WMDs as a last-ditch attempt to ward off a possible
pre-emptive strike from a newly belligerent United States, which
claims the right to hit where it wants.
In fact, there is little to constrain this President. Congress,
in what will go down in history as its most unfortunate act, handed
away its power to declare war for the foreseeable future and empowered
this President to wage war at will. As if that were not bad enough,
members of Congress are reluctant to ask questions that are begging
to be asked. How long will we occupy Iraq? We have already heard
disputes on the number of troops that will be needed to retain order.
What is the truth? How costly will the occupation and rebuilding
be? No one has given a straight answer. How will we afford this
long-term, massive commitment, fight terrorism at home, address
a serious crisis in domestic healthcare, afford behemoth military
spending and give away billions in tax cuts amid a deficit that
has climbed to more than $340 billion for this year alone? If the
President’s tax cut passes it will be $400 billion. We cower in
the shadows while false statements proliferate. We accept soft answers
and shaky explanations because to demand the truth is hard, or unpopular,
or may be politically costly.
Ron Maxwell, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Senator Robert
Byrd on the set of Gods and Generals.
I contend that through it all, the people know. The American people
unfortunately are used to political shading, spin and the usual
chicanery they hear from public officials. They patiently tolerate
it up to a point. But there is a line. It may seem to be drawn in
invisible ink for a time, but eventually it will appear in dark
colors, tinged with anger. When it comes to shedding American blood
– when it comes to wreaking havoc on civilians, on innocent
men, women and children, callous dissembling is not acceptable.
Nothing is worth that kind of lie – not oil, not revenge, not
re-election, not somebody’s grand pipe dream of a democratic domino
theory. And mark my words, the calculated intimidation that we see
so often of late by the “powers that be” will only keep the loyal
opposition quiet for just so long. Because eventually, like it always
does, the truth will emerge. And when it does, this house of cards,
built of deceit, will fall.