Centre for Research on Globalisation

Centre de recherche sur la mondialisation



Senator Robert Byrd courageously confronts the Bush Administration. We reproduce his statement published in the NYT as well as the transcript of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he confronts Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.  


Congress Must Resist the Rush to War

by Senator Robert C. Byrd

 New York Times  Op-Ed, 10 October 3002
  globalresearch.ca , 12  October/ octobre 2002

WASHINGTON -- A sudden appetite for war with Iraq seems to have consumed the Bush administration and Congress. The debate that began in the Senate last week is centered not on the fundamental and monumental questions of whether and why the United States should go to war with Iraq, but rather on the mechanics of how best to wordsmith the president's use-of-force resolution in order to give him virtually unchecked authority to commit the nation's military to an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation.

How have we gotten to this low point in the history of Congress? Are we too feeble to resist the demands of a president who is determined to bend the collective will of Congress to his will -- a president who is changing the conventional understanding of the term "self-defense"? And why are we allowing the executive to rush our decision-making right before an election? Congress, under pressure from the executive branch, should not hand away its Constitutional powers. We should not hamstring future Congresses by casting such a shortsighted vote. We owe our country a due deliberation.

I have listened closely to the president. I have questioned the members of his war cabinet. I have searched for that single piece of evidence that would convince me that the president must have in his hands, before the month is out, open-ended Congressional authorization to deliver an unprovoked attack on Iraq. I remain unconvinced. The president's case for an unprovoked attack is circumstantial at best. Saddam Hussein is a threat, but the threat is not so great that we must be stampeded to provide such authority to this president just weeks before an election.

Why are we being hounded into action on a resolution that turns over to President Bush the Congress's Constitutional power to declare war? This resolution would authorize the president to use the military forces of this nation wherever, whenever and however he determines, and for as long as he determines, if he can somehow make a connection to Iraq. It is a blank check for the president to take whatever action he feels "is necessary and appropriate in order to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq." This broad resolution underwrites, promotes and endorses the unprecedented Bush doctrine of preventive war and pre-emptive strikes -- detailed in a recent publication, "National Security Strategy of the United States" -- against any nation that the president, and the president alone, determines to be a threat.

We are at the gravest of moments. Members of Congress must not simply walk away from their Constitutional responsibilities. We are the directly elected representatives of the American people, and the American people expect us to carry out our duty, not simply hand it off to this or any other president. To do so would be to fail the people we represent and to fall woefully short of our sworn oath to support and defend the Constitution.

We may not always be able to avoid war, particularly if it is thrust upon us, but Congress must not attempt to give away the authority to determine when war is to be declared. We must not allow any president to unleash the dogs of war at his own discretion and for an unlimited period of time.

Yet that is what we are being asked to do. The judgment of history will not be kind to us if we take this step.

Members of Congress should take time out and go home to listen to their constituents. We must not yield to this absurd pressure to act now, 27 days before an election that will determine the entire membership of the House of Representatives and that of a third of the Senate. Congress should take the time to hear from the American people, to answer their remaining questions and to put the frenzy of ballot-box politics behind us before we vote. We should hear them well, because while it is Congress that casts the vote, it is the American people who will pay for a war with the lives of their sons and daughters.

Copyright Senator Robert Byrd,  2002.  For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .


Senator Byrd confronts Defense Secretary Rumsfeld

Transcript from the Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing

September 19, 2002

SENATOR BYRD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding these hearings.Mr. Secretary, to your knowledge, did the United States help Iraq to acquire the building blocks of biological weapons during the Iran-Iraq War? Are we, in fact, now facing the possibility of reaping what we have sown?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Certainly not to my knowledge. I have no knowledge of United States companies or government being involved in assisting Iraq develop chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

SENATOR BYRD: Mr. Secretary, let me read to you from the September 23, 2002, Newsweek story. I read this, I read excerpts, because my time is limited."Some Reagan officials even saw Saddam as another Anwar Sadat, capable of making Iraq into a modern secular state, just as Sadat had tried to lift up Egypt before his assassination in 1981.

But Saddam had to be rescued first. The war against Iran was going badly by 1982.""Iran's human-wave attacks threatened to overrun Saddam's armies. Washington decided to give Iraq a helping hand. After Rumsfeld's visit to Baghdad in 1983, U.S. intelligence began supplying the Iraqi dictator with satellite photos showing Iranian deployments."Official documents suggest that America may also have secretly arranged for tanks and other military hardware to be shipped to Iraq in a swap deal: American tanks to Egypt, Egyptian tanks to Iraq."Over the protest of some Pentagon skeptics, the Reagan administration began allowing the Iraqis to buy a! wide variety of 'dual-use,' equipment and materials from American suppliers."According to confidential Commerce Department export control documents obtained by Newsweek, the shopping list included a computerized database for Saddam's Interior Ministry, presumably to help keep track of political opponents, helicopters to help transport Iraqi officials, television cameras for video surveillance applications, chemical analysis equipment for the Iraq Atomic Energy Commission, IAEC, and, most unsettling, numerous shipments of the bacteria, fungi, protozoa to the IAEC. "According to former officials the bacterial cultures could be used to make biological weapons, including anthrax.

The State Department also approved the shipment of 1.5 million atropine injectors for use against the effects of chemical weapons but the Pentagon blocked the sale."The helicopters, some American officials later surmised, were used to spray poison gas on the Kurds. The United States almost certainly knew ! from its own satellite imagery that Saddam was using chemical weapons against Iranian troops."When Saddam bombed Kurdish rebels and civilians with a lethal cocktail of mustard gas, sarin, tabun and VX in 1988, the Reagan administration first blamed Iran before acknowledging, under pressure from congressional Democrats, that the culprit were Saddam's own forces. There was only token official protest at the time. Saddam's men were unfazed.An Iraqi audiotape later captured by the Kurds records Saddam's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as Ali Chemical, talking to his fellow officers about gassing the Kurds. 'Who is going to say anything?' he asks, 'the international community? F-blank them! '"Now can this possibly be true? We already knew that Saddam was dangerous man at the time. I realize that you were not in public office at the time, but you were dispatched to Iraq by President Reagan to talk about the need to improve relations between Iraq and the U.S.Let me ask you again: T! o your knowledge did the United States help Iraq to acquire the building blocks of biological weapons during the Iran-Iraq war? Are we, in fact, now facing the possibility of reaping what we have sown?The Washington Post reported this morning that the United States is stepping away from efforts to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention. I'll have a question on that later.Let me ask you again: Did the United States help Iraq to acquire the building blocks of biological weapons during the Iran-Iraq War? Are we, in fact, now facing the possibility of reaping what we have sown?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I have not read the article. As you suggest, I was, for a period in late '83 and early '84, asked by President Reagan to serve as Middle East envoy after the Marines -- 241 Marines were killed in Beirut .As part of my responsibilities I did visit Baghdad. I did meet with Mr. Tariq Aziz. And I did meet with Saddam Hussein and spent some time visiting with them about the war they were engaged in with Iran. At the time our concern, of course, was Syria and Syria's role in Lebanon and Lebanon's role in the Middle East and the terrorist acts that were taking  place.As a private citizen I was assisting only for a period of months. I have never heard anything like what you've read, I have no knowledge of it whatsoever, and I doubt it.

SENATOR BYRD: You doubt what?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The questions you posed as to whether the United States of America assisted Iraq with the elements that you listed in your reading of Newsweek and that we could conceivably now be reaping what we've sown.  I think--I doubt both.

SENATOR BYRD: Are you surprised that this is what I've said? Are you surprised at this story in Newsweek?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I guess I'm at an age and circumstance in life where I'm no longer surprised about what I hear in the newspapers.

SENATOR BYRD: That's not the question. I'm of that age, too. Somewhat older than you, but how about that story I've read?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I see stories all the time that are flat wrong. I just don't know. All I can say...

SENATOR BYRD: How about this story? This story? How about this story, specifically?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: As I say, I have not read it, I listened carefully to what you said and I doubt it

SENATOR BYRD: All right. Now the Washington Post reported this morning that the United States is stepping away from efforts to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention. Are we not sending exactly the wrong signal to the world, at exactly the wrong time?  Doesn't this damage our credibility in the international community at the very time that we are seeking their support to neutralize the threat of Iraq's biological weapons program? If we supplied, as the Newsweek article said, if we supplied the building blocks for germ and chemical warfare to this madman in the first place, this psychopath, how do we look to the world to be backing away from this effort to control it at this point?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Senator, I think it would be a shame to leave this committee and the people listening with the impression that the United States assisted Iraq with chemical or biological weapons in the 1980s. I just do not believe that's the case.

SENATOR BYRD: Well, are you saying that the Newsweek article is inaccurate?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I'm saying precisely what I said, that I didn't read the Newsweek article, but that I doubt its accurate.

SENATOR BYRD: I'll be glad to send you up a copy.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: But that I was not in government at that time, except as a special envoy for a period of months. So one ought not to rely on me as the best source as to what happened in that mid-'80s period that you were describing.I will say one other thing. On two occasions I believe when you read that article, you mentioned the IAEC, which as I recall is the International Atomic Energy Commission, and mentioned that if some of the things that you were talking about were provided to them, which I found quite confusing to be honest.With respect to the Biological Weapons Convention, I was not aware that the United States government had taken a position with respect to it. It's not surprising because it's a matter for the Department of State, not the Department of Defense.  If in fact they have indicated, as The Washington Post reports, that they are not going to move forward with a -- I believe it's an enforcement regime, it's not my place to discuss the admini! stration's position when I don't know what it is.But I can tell you, from a personal standpoint, my recollection is that the biological convention never, never was anticipated that there would even be thought of to have an enforcement regime. And that an enforcement regime on something like that, where there are a lot of countries involved who are on the terrorist list who were participants in that convention, that the United States has, over a period of administrations, believed that it would not be a good idea, because the United States would be a net loser from an enforcement regime.But that is not the administration's position. I just don't know what the administration's position is.

SENATOR LEVIN: We're going to have to leave it there, because you're way over.

SENATOR BYRD: This is a very important question.

SENATOR LEVIN: It is indeed, and you're over time. I agree with you on the importance, but you're way over time, sir.

SENATOR BYRD: I know I'm over time, but are we going to leave this in question out there dangling?

SENATOR LEVIN: One last question.

SENATOR BYRD: I ask unanimous consent that I may have an additional five minutes.

SENATOR LEVIN: No, I'm afraid you can't do that. If you could just do one last--well, wait a minute, ask unanimous consent, I can't stop you from doing that.


SENATOR BYRD: Mr. Chairman?

SENATOR LEVIN: Just one last question. Would that be all right so you could wind that up?  Senator Byrd, if you could just take one additional question.

SENATOR BYRD: I've never -- I've been in this Congress 50 years. I've never objected to another senator having a few additional minutes. Now Mr. Chairman, I think that the secretary should have a copy of this report, this story that -- from Newsweek that I've been querying him about. I think he has a right to look at that.

SENATOR LEVIN: Could somebody take that out to the secretary?

SENATOR BYRD: Now, while that's being given to the Secretary, Mr. Secretary, I think we're put into an extremely bad position before the world today if we're going to walk away from an international effort to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention against germ warfare, advising its allies that the U.S. wants to delay further discussions until 2006. Especially in the light of the Newsweek story; I think we bear some responsibility.

SENATOR INHOFE: Mr. Chairman I ask for a point of order.

SENATOR LEVIN: Can we just have this be the last question, if you would just go along with us please, Senator Inhofe?

SENATOR INHOFE: I'll only say though, in all respect to the Senator from West Virginia, we have a number of senators here. We have a limited time of six minutes each, and we're entitled to have our six minutes. That should be a short question if it's the last question.

SENATOR LEVIN: If we could just make that the last question and answer, I would appreciate it. The chair would appreciate the cooperation of all senators.  Secretary Rumsfeld, could you answer that question please?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I'll do my best. Senator, I just in glancing at this, and I hesitate to do this because I have not read it carefully.But it says here that, ``According to confidential Commerce Department export control documents obtained by Newsweek, the shopping list included.'' It did not say that there were deliveries of these things. It said that Iran -- Iraq asked for these things. It talks about a shopping list.Second, in listing these things, it says that they wanted television cameras for video surveillance applications, chemical analysis equipment for the Iraq Atomic Energy Commission, the IAEC -- and that may very well be the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission, which would be -- mean that my earlier comment would not be correct, because I thought it was the International Atomic Energy Commission. But this seems to indicate it's the Iraq Commerce Commission.

SENATOR BYRD: Mr. Chairman, may I say to my friend from Oklahoma, I'm amazed that he himself wouldn't yield me time for this important question. I would do the same for him.Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask...

SENATOR CLELAND: I yield my five minutes, Senator.

SENATOR BYRD: I thank the distinguished senator.  Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask the Secretary -- and I don't just like to ask him -- I asked him to review Pentagon records to see if the Newsweek article is true or not. Will the Secretary do that?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It appears that they're Department of Commerce records, as opposed to Pentagon. But I can certainly ask that the Department of Commerce and, to the extent that it's relevant, the Department of State, look into it and see if we can't determine the accuracy or inaccuracy of some aspects of this. Yes, sir.

SENATOR LEVIN: And we go one step further than that. I think the request is that the Defense Department search its records. Will you do that?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: We'll be happy to search ours, but this refers to the Commerce Department.

SENATOR LEVIN: We will ask the State Department and the Commerce Department to do the same thing.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: We'd be happy to.

SENATOR LEVIN: And we will also ask the Intelligence Committee to stage a briefing for all of us on that issue, so that Senator Byrd's question...

SENATOR BYRD: Mr. Chairman, I thank the chairman.

SENATOR LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator.

SENATOR BYRD: I thank the Secretary.


SENATOR LEVIN: Senator Byrd, we will ask Senator Graham and Senator Shelby to hold a briefing on that subject, because it is a very important subject.

SENATOR BYRD: I thank the chairman.

 Copyright US Senate  2002.  For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .

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