An orator silenced

There will be a million words written across the Web today about Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Seven years ago he rose to the floor of the U.S. Senate and gave one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard. So, I will let him speak to his legacy in his own words:

The Emperor Has No Clothes

by US Senator Robert Byrd
Senate Floor Remarks
October 17, 2003

In 1837, Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen, wrote a wonderful fairy tale which he titled The Emperor's New Clothes. It may be the very first example of the power of political correctness. It is the story of the Ruler of a distant land who was so enamored of his appearance and his clothing that he had a different suit for every hour of the day.

One day two rogues arrived in town, claiming to be gifted weavers. They convinced the Emperor that they could weave the most wonderful cloth, which had a magical property. The clothes were only visible to those who were completely pure in heart and spirit.

The Emperor was impressed and ordered the weavers to begin work immediately. The rogues, who had a deep understanding of human nature, began to feign work on empty looms.

Minister after minister went to view the new clothes and all came back exhorting the beauty of the cloth on the looms even though none of them could see a thing.

Finally, a grand procession was planned for the Emperor to display his new finery. The Emperor went to view his clothes and was shocked to see absolutely nothing, but he pretended to admire the fabulous cloth, inspect the clothes with awe, and, after disrobing, go through the motions of carefully putting on a suit of the new garments.

Under a royal canopy the Emperor appeared to the admiring throng of his people - all of whom cheered and clapped because they all knew the rogue weavers' tale and did not want to be seen as less than pure of heart.

But, the bubble burst when an innocent child loudly exclaimed, for the whole kingdom to hear, that the Emperor had nothing on at all. He had no clothes.

That tale seems to me very like the way this nation was led to war.

We were told that we were threatened by weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but they have not been seen.

We were told that the throngs of Iraqi's would welcome our troops with flowers, but no throngs or flowers appeared.

We were led to believe that Saddam Hussein was connected to the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, but no evidence has ever been produced.

We were told in 16 words that Saddam Hussein tried to buy "yellow cake" from Africa for production of nuclear weapons, but the story has turned into empty air.

We were frightened with visions of mushroom clouds, but they turned out to be only vapors of the mind.

We were told that major combat was over but 101 [as of October 17] Americans have died in combat since that proclamation from the deck of an aircraft carrier by our very own Emperor in his new clothes.

Our emperor says that we are not occupiers, yet we show no inclination to relinquish the country of Iraq to its people.

Those who have dared to expose the nakedness of the Administration's policies in Iraq have been subjected to scorn. Those who have noticed the elephant in the room - that is, the fact that this war was based on falsehoods - have had our patriotism questioned. Those who have spoken aloud the thought shared by hundreds of thousands of military families across this country, that our troops should return quickly and safely from the dangers half a world away, have been accused of cowardice. We have then seen the untruths, the dissembling, the fabrication, the misleading inferences surrounding this rush to war in Iraq wrapped quickly in the flag.

The right to ask questions, debate and dissent is under attack. The drums of war are beaten ever louder in an attempt to drown out those who speak of our predicament in stark terms.

Even in the Senate, our history and tradition of being the world's greatest deliberative body is being snubbed. This huge spending bill has been rushed through this chamber in just one month. There were just three open hearings by the Senate Appropriations Committee on $87 billion, without a single outside witness called to challenge the Administration's line.

Ambassador Bremer went so far as to refuse to return to the Appropriations Committee to answer additional questions because, and I quote: "I don't have time. I'm completely booked, and I have to get back to Baghdad to my duties."

Despite this callous stiff-arm of the Senate and its duties to ask questions in order to represent the American people, few dared to voice their opposition to rushing this bill through these halls of Congress. Perhaps they were intimidated by the false claims that our troops are in immediate need of more funds.

But, the time has come for the sheep-like political correctness which has cowed members of this Senate to come to an end.

The Emperor has no clothes. This entire adventure in Iraq has been based on propaganda and manipulation. Eighty-seven billion dollars is too much to pay for the continuation of a war based on falsehoods.

Taking the nation to war based on misleading rhetoric and hyped intelligence is a travesty and a tragedy. It is the most cynical of all cynical acts. It is dangerous to manipulate the truth. It is dangerous because once having lied, it is difficult to ever be believed again. Having misled the American people and stampeded them to war, this Administration must now attempt to sustain a policy predicated on falsehoods. The president asks for billions from those same citizens who know that they were misled about the need to go to war. We misinformed and insulted our friends and allies, and now this Administration is having more than a little trouble getting help from the international community. It is perilous to mislead.

The single-minded obsession of this Administration to now make sense of the chaos in Iraq, and the continuing propaganda which emanates from the White House painting Iraq as the geographical center of terrorism is distracting our attention from Afghanistan and the 60 other countries in the world where terrorists hide. It is sapping resources which could be used to make us safer from terrorists on our own shores. The body armor for our own citizens still has many, many chinks. Have we forgotten that the most horrific terror attacks in history occurred right here at home! Yet, this Administration turns back money for homeland security, while the president pours billions into security for Iraq. I am powerless to understand or explain such a policy.

I have tried mightily to improve this bill. I twice tried to separate the reconstruction money in this bill, so that those dollars could be considered separately from the military spending. I offered an amendment to force the Administration to craft a plan to get other nations to assist the troops and formulate a plan to get the U.N. in, and the U.S. out, of Iraq. Twice I tried to rid the bill of expansive, flexible authorities that turn this $87 billion into a blank check. The American people should understand that we provide more foreign aid for Iraq in this bill, $20.3 billion, than we provide for the rest of the entire world! I attempted to remove from this bill billions in wasteful programs and divert those funds to better use. But, at every turn, my efforts were thwarted by the vapid argument that we must all support the requests of the Commander in Chief.

I cannot stand by and continue to watch our grandchildren become increasingly burdened by the billions that fly out of the Treasury for a war and a policy based largely on propaganda and prevarication. We are borrowing $87 billion to finance this adventure in Iraq. The president is asking this Senate to pay for this war with increased debt, a debt that will have to be paid by our children and by those same troops that are currently fighting this war. I cannot support outlandish tax cuts that plunge our country into potentially disastrous debt while our troops are fighting and dying in a war that the White House chose to begin.

I cannot support the continuation of a policy that unwisely ties down 150,000 American troops for the foreseeable future, with no end in sight.

I cannot support a president who refuses to authorize the reasonable change in course that would bring traditional allies to our side in Iraq.

I cannot support the politics of zeal and "might makes right" that created the new American arrogance and unilateralism which passes for foreign policy in this Administration.

I cannot support this foolish manifestation of the dangerous and destabilizing doctrine of pre-emption that changes the image of America into that of a reckless bully.

The emperor has no clothes. And, our former allies around the world were the first to loudly observe it.

I shall vote against this bill because I cannot support a policy based on prevarication. I cannot support doling out 87 billion of our hard-earned tax dollars when I have so many doubts about the wisdom of its use.

I began my remarks with a fairy tale. I shall close my remarks with a horror story, in the form of a quote from the book Nuremberg Diaries, written by G.M. Gilbert, in which the author interviews Hermann Goering.

"We got around to the subject of war again, and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

". . . But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.

"There is one difference," I pointed out. "In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."

"Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."


Mr. Byrd of West Virginia always carried a little book in his coat pocket – a copy of the Constitution of the United States of America. In this speech he strongly upheld the authority it gave him. God rest his soul.


Tiny said...

BJ, excellent tribute to one of the greatest statesmen to grace the halls of congress.

Tiny remembers listening to this speech on C-Span. What courage this man displayed to stand in front of the world and deliver an eloquent speech of truth to the entire world. Unfortunately, too few listened and heeded his advice and the truth he delivered.

Senator Byrd was a true, humble, passionate, Southern Gentleman who cared for the people instead of the power of position so prevalent in DC.

Senator Robert Byrd will be sorely missed, as well as the excellent work that he did for the people of the country, both of which he so dearly loved.

Rest in peace with your beloved Erma. You will be sorely missed, and gratefully remembered for your generosity and hard work for the people.

tnlib said...

He was a remarkable man - all the more so considering his harsh and humble beginnings. Would we have a few more like him - or maybe just one more?

bbj said...

Thank you for posting this brilliant speech, BJ.

Ranch Chimp said...

Good Evening Ms.BJ!

Good point's about war's and funding and such Ms.BJ. Frankly I have posted a whole book on fighting these religious battles over these ragheaded pices of trash over and again.I would leave them alone, and if they attacked us .... I would strike back with a missile attack so strong ... in only a week .... you would have no doubt who won the war. As far as Sen. Byrd .... I havent one decent thing to say about the man .... more frankly I put him in the same category as a traitor to this country, and have spoken against his affiliation's with the Ku Klux Klan .... he made himself clear at a young age .... not that he just wanted seperation ....of race's .... he knowingly joined a terror group, with intention's of creating chaos in this country, and by his definition since all 3 of my daughter's are mixed race, they are mongrel's, that sum's it up. And all these passive's two face folk's on the Hill today that praised this old dried up sack of vermin .... are just as much my foe as he. You will not hear anything else from me on these matter's .... this is pathetic. I remember when you even thought I was too harsh on these terrorist's when I called them "flea bearded raghead's" these same people would behead you and your kind without hesitation, if you dont realize it, simply because you exist .... which I am beginning to understand now finally the mindset of many folk's that I didnt understand before, that may think I am harsh. No .... I wont make no apologies for anything I say, or defend any of this hypocritical trash, in our political representation.

Good Day!

Ranch Chimp said...

Another thing Ms.BJ ... it is not difficult to find heart warming word's and classic cliches to come out of any politian's mouth's whether their on the left or the right ... many themselves are attorney's to begin with. The remarkable thing is how blind the masses are and swayed by nice wording.

B.J. said...

Good mronint, Ranch Chimp.

First, I know you have a good heart and that I have done nothing to deserve your wrath, so I am not taking your comments personally. As to your concern about “disagreement,” I would be a sorry blogger if I didn’t want readers to disagree with me.

If you did nothing in your youth to be ashamed of, go ahead, brother, and throw that first stone.

One thing jumped out at me as I read your two comments:

In my view, prejudice is prejudging an entire group of people on the basis of perceptions about and actions of individuals within that group. So, it strikes me as ironic that you condemn Sen. Byrd for prejudice, but cannot see that you yourself are prejudiced against an entire group of people based on your perceptions about and actions of individuals within that group.

I am honest to a fault, and I see no difference in referring to Afircan-Americans with derisive name-calling and referring to all Muslims as “ragheads” and “flea beards.” I find both repulsive.

Finally, I do not wake up every morning in fear of having my throat cut. FDR displayed infinite wisdom when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

I welcome your visits and your comments. There is a “free and open” marketplace of ideas here, and it makes for good discussion.


Ranch Chimp said...

Thank You for your frank response. Indeed I have done plenty of what would shame most as a kid, and certainly have wrote plenty about it as well. I dont never apologize for what I done, or flip flop on how I feel, whether I am behind bar's or on the street, including robbing the church which I posted about, or jumping a cop which I posted about to, but I feel no shame personally for what I did, only sypathized for my familia having me as a son maybe, or my daughter's having to maybe be ashamed of me, those are all I care about. I have joined controversial organization's that I still to this day support after decade's, and yes ... I have said time and again that "I AM" prejudice on various blog's including my own, so you are accurate.

Have a good day Ms.BJ!

Ranch Chimp said...

Also since we are all frank here, I would like to add .... that I have never in over two year's seen one blog/ blogger when it come's to social or political issue's on the left, right or independent that have not displayed bias or prejudice, according to the definition of prejudice. I mean .... I know and acknowledge that I am. You perhap's would be one of the least prejudice I have seen actually. But myself for instance ... much more prejudice. As a Matter of fact .... I almost feel I have many idea's that are straight in alignment with Sen. Bird as well .... yet I realize how hypocritical that may sound too. But what can I say .... that's me. :)

tnlib said...

This is a comment I left on another blog re Sen. Byrd:

Robert Byrd came out of the coal fields of West Virginia. It wouldn’t be unusual for a young person in that neck of the woods in those impoverished conditions to join the KKK or even the Communist Party. But that was 50 years ago and anyone can change. Think George Wallace. And as a contributor to Crooks and Liars said – most southern politicians changed parties – think Strom Thurmond – but Byrd changed his beliefs.

Another person who changed his beliefs is this South Carolinian who worked for Wallace at one time and who happens to have a hell of a blog.


I will keep saying this until I’m blue in the face: Politicians aren’t perfect nor are they magicians. I’m not going to agree with any of them all the time, so I have to look at the whole picture and see who I agree with the most. Hell, I don’t even agree with me much of the time or I might do something today that I wouldn’t even consider doing a few years from now – and I only have to work with and answer to me.

B.J. said...

RC: We’ve got no problem. I confess a little prejudice when it come to Texans. I sure would hate to think all Texans are represented by some of the scoundrels who have come out of that state. And, I’m not talking about you. You know who I’m talking about. LOL.

B.J. said...

tnlib: Thanks for your comment and the blog link for the former Wallace worker. (I’ve checked out that blog before, and it’s a good one.) You are right: we all change, and sometimes that’s a real blessing! When I was right out of high school and in an apt of my own, my roommate came in one day and announced she had spent 50 cents and joined me up with The Young Republicans of Mississippi – amng them Haley Barbour, Trent Lott and Thad Cochran. I made a change that day – went there and took my name OFF the membership roster, LOL.

Tiny said...

Wow! Lots of activity while Tiny was gone. She's has Muslim friends, since back in the 1970s, who live within spitting distance of the Great Pyramid of Gaza. They are very spiritual people and were crushed when 9-11 happened. Just could not believe people of their race would do such a devastating thing.

She also has American friends who cannot believe Americans would do what they have done to the Islamic people in Itaq and Afghanistan, Viet Nam and other peoples of the world. Same applies to Native Americanc too. How were they treated?

Prejudice is a learned behavior and can be unlearned if one so chooses. Tiny lived in Georgia when Lester Maddox swore to take axe handles to the African American people. Tiny went to school with African people. One of the guys in her classes was of the first freed slave families to settle in the village where she grew up.

It might be a good idea for all of us to remember that we are all cut from the same cosmic cloth and have the same basic needs regardless of our race and/or country of origin.

We are all equal. Each has free choice in every situation. There is a consequence with each choice whether of ill or will. So each person has to answer for their own thoughts, choices, consequences etc.

As the Indians say, "Don't judge me until you have walked a mile in my moccasins. Tiny finds this to be very valuable advice. Prejudice and hate just breeds more prefudice and hate. You can get off that crazy maerry=go-round anytime you shooce. Choice is the operative word/work here.

Try it! You might like it!