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Sen. Robert Byrd and the Iraq war

Sen. Robert Byrd’s political career was so long and involved such an enormous evolution in his views – notably on civil rights – that those who write about him in the coming days will be able to paint his life in many different hues and tones.

But it is in the nature of memory that the things public officials did in the time closer to their deaths -- if those things are consequential -- end up having the greatest impact on our memory of their service. In Byrd’s case, it is his stout opposition to granting President George W. Bush a black check to wage the Iraq war that will be long remembered.

To my mind, Bush’s greatest sin was his willingness to use the Democrats’ fear of being called weak on terror to rush through a war resolution committing us to what turned out to be a very long war, for which he did not prepare the country – and for which the administration itself was clearly not prepared. I have never been able to forget how Bush, speaking on the campaign trail in 2002, twisted and distorted the views of those Democrats (and one also should mention brave Republicans such as former Rep. Jim Leach) who urged that we take the time to assemble allies, win unstinting backing of the United Nations, give weapons inspectors time to do their work, and not simply rush off to war.

Here’s what Bush claimed those questioning the war resolution were saying: "I think I'm going to wait for the United Nations to make a decision." Bush went on: "It seems like to me that if you're representing the United States, you ought to be making a decision on what's best for the United States. If I were running for office, I'm not sure how I'd explain to the American people -- say, 'Vote for me, and, oh, by the way, on a matter of national security, I'm going to wait for somebody else to act.' "

At the time, I argued that a “president seeking a unified nation does himself no good by distorting the arguments of others -- or by obliquely accusing them of failing to act in the interests of the United States. After all, the core argument of those who want to build a broad coalition is that doing so is in the national interest.”

Byrd was righteously furious, and was fearless in calling attention to what was wrong with the rush to war on the eve of elections. Here’s part of what he wrote in The New York Times on Oct. 10, 2002:

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....

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.... 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.

And then there was Byrd’s October 2002 speech before the Senate. It will be quoted often in the coming days, but here are just a few paragraphs:

So where does Iraq enter the equation? No one in the Administration has been able to produce any solid evidence linking Iraq to the September 11 attack. Iraq had biological and chemical weapons long before September 11. We knew it then, and we know it now. Iraq has been an enemy of the United States for more than a decade. If Saddam Hussein is such an imminent threat to the United States, why hasn't he attacked us already? The fact that Osama bin Laden attacked the United States does not, de facto, mean that Saddam Hussein is now in a lock and load position and is readying an attack on the United States. In truth, there is nothing in the deluge of Administration rhetoric over Iraq that is of such moment that it would preclude the Senate from setting its own timetable and taking the time for a thorough and informed discussion of this crucial issue.

A U.S. invasion of Iraq that proved successful and which resulted in the overthrow of the government would not be a simple effort. The aftermath of that effort would require a long term occupation. The President has said that he would overthrow Saddam Hussein and establish a new government that would recognize all interest groups in Iraq. This would presumably include the Kurds to the north and the Shiite Muslims to the south. Because the entire military and security apparatus of Iraq would have to be replaced, the U.S. would have to provide interim security throughout the countryside. This kind of nation-building cannot be accomplished with the wave of a wand by some fairy godmother, even one with the full might and power of the world's last remaining superpower behind her.

To follow through on the proposal outlined by the President would require the commitment of a large number of U.S. forces - forces that cannot be used for other missions, such as homeland defense - for an extended period of time. It will take time to confirm that Iraq's programs to develop weapons of mass destruction are well and truly destroyed. It will take time to root out all elements of Saddam Hussein's government, military, and security forces and to build new government and security elements. It will take time to establish a new and legitimate government and to conduct free and fair elections. It will cost billions of dollars to do this as well. And the forces to carry out this mission and to pay for this mission will come from the United States. There can be little question of that. If the rest of the world doesn't want to come with us at the outset, it seems highly unlikely that they would line up for the follow through, even though their own security might be improved by the elimination of a rogue nation's weapons of mass destruction. So, if the Congress authorizes such a mission, we must be prepared for what will follow.

Robert Byrd said difficult things that now seem prophetic, and he said them at a time when it was politically difficult to say them. Politicians in coming generations would do well to revisit his words again and again.

By E.J. Dionne  | June 28, 2010; 11:10 AM ET
Categories:  Dionne  | Tags:  E.J. Dionne  
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Comments

We know what Byrd said about Bush and Iraq. What we never will know is if Hussein would have ever generated nuclear weapons for use by him or some nutty terrorist group. I do know that because of Bush, Hussein will do nothing ever again. Would that be true if Bush had listened to Byrd? America is safer becuase of Bush, not Byrd.

Posted by: JohnnyGee | June 28, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse


Dionne the despicable leftist hack writes a long eulogy of racist Klansman Robert Byrd without ever once mentioning he was was a high Ku Klux Klan officer.

And as for Bob sheets Byrd repending his racism:


"There are white n-ggers. I've seen a lot of white n-ggers in my time"

Robert Byrd, May 2, 2007, live television interview on Fox News Channel


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FIBJt-c2o0

Posted by: screwjob16 | June 28, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

The Afghan war is a Dog. We are spending $100,000,000,000.00 (100 Billion) on a country which has a GDP of $14,000,000,000.00 (14 Billion). It is like buying a $14,000.00 very badly maintained used car for $100,000.00. I would say that the Narco- Kleptocracy of the Karzi brothers et al really got a good deal. They want us there so they can steal more.

Afghanistan makes the South Vietnamese look like honest boy scouts who didn't steal anything and fought bravely. When this all goes wrong for the United States the Karzis will retire to Paris and London with his billions and bad mouth us for not doing enough while making sure that flood of narcotics continues.

Posted by: seasail | June 28, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Bush greatest sin was using "democrats' fear ..." This is why you hate Bush, Dionne? The fact that your democrats lacked courage is the reason why you continue to bash Bush? Give us a break, Dionne. We all know why you hate Bush: he was a republican president ... that's why you hate him.

Posted by: jpfann | June 28, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

If you think Byrd was prophetic on Iraq - read his opinion from 1999 on spending - ouch! The man was ahead of the pack on spending by 10 bleeping years! Now that is prophetic.

Posted by: notamullethead | June 28, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

How did he vote on the Tonkin Gulf Resolution?

Posted by: rkfoster04 | June 28, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

JohnnyGee - what's in the water or shall I say tea you've been drinking? Ask the
1 million Iraqi citizens who have been killed as a result of that insane political war (a war to bring huge war profits to the likes of Halliburton & Blackwater) whether Hussein was worse than what they have seen over the years. And the Americans killed and maimed - Johnny Gee you aren't very bright

Posted by: utahmink | June 28, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

JohnnyGee - you are cherrypicking points, not looking at all the information. We are safer without Hussein in power, but less safe because of the trillion dollars spent which could have transformed our domestic economy, and less safe because of the chaos in the middle east, and less safe because of the 100s of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis we have killed, and less safe because of our dependence on Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. So did Bush make us safer? He fostered a wide split between Americans - left vs right - and remember, divided we fall. I say Bush made us far more vulnerable because of he an Rove's divisive political policies, which we are still coming to grips with here in the US.

Posted by: msw13 | June 28, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Byrd's comments ahead of the Iraq War only seem prophetic to those who don't know history and to those who bang the drum for continuing war for U.S. forces. They weren't prophetic to many Americans.. both students of history and those of us who had served on active duty in the armed forces - Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Army - during times of other foreign misadventures (e.g., Vietnam).

It was always there. It only required skepticism and analysis to find the truth - ahead of time. As Senator Byrd - and many of the rest of us - did at the time.

Thanks much. HLB

Posted by: HLBeckPE | June 28, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Byrd was equally prophetic about spending. read his opinion from 1999 - ouch! The man was ahead of the pack on spending by 10 bleeping years! Now that is prophetic.

Posted by: notamullethead | June 28, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

But Dionne, why don't you take the analysis a little further. The Democrats, again trying not to appear soft, run on the concept that the Iraq war was the bad war, while Afghanistan is the just war. They universally say the war in Iraq is lost. Made them some good political points at the time. Their problem now is, the Bush Iraq surge works. But they've committed us to the Afghan quagmire- how do you pull out of the war you have said is the necessary and just war? That's what happens you form your opinions strictly for political purposes.

Posted by: termiteavenger | June 28, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

"

We know what Byrd said about Bush and Iraq. What we never will know is if Hussein would have ever generated nuclear weapons for use by him or some nutty terrorist group. I do know that because of Bush, Hussein will do nothing ever again. Would that be true if Bush had listened to Byrd? America is safer becuase of Bush, not Byrd.

Posted by: JohnnyGee | June 28, 2010 11:39 AM"
==============================

Using that convoluted logic, we should take over every country in the world. Who knows, they may try to hurt us one day!! Let's go ahead and take over every country -- we may never know what happens if don't!

Bush's war in Iraq was an abysmal failure, to put it kindly. It has killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of coalition soldiers. It has pitted clan vs. clan, tribe vs. tribe, and brother vs. brother in a country that was actually very stable and safe. It has allowed the infiltration of al-Qaeda forces when before there were NONE.

Not only did the invasion of Iraq make Iraq much closer and more susceptible to influence by neighboring Iran, but it also forced US forces to divert resources and attention away from the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The diversion into Iraq gave them precious time to regroup and to use our invasion of both Iraq and Afghanistan as recruiting propaganda.

Putting all of that aside, did the people of Iraq deserve the death, carnage, and destruction that we brought to them? Freedom and democracy is something that you earn, not something that you just hand to someone. If the people of Iraq were not willing to sacrifice their own blood for their own freedom, then it will be a failure. A forced democracy is an oxymoron. I give it five years after coalition forces leave Iraq before another warlord attempts a coup and takes over.

Any and every Bush apologist has blood on their hands.

Posted by: ClandestineBlaze | June 28, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

==>This kind of nation-building cannot be accomplished with the wave of a wand by some fairy godmother, even one with the full might and power of the world's last remaining superpower behind her. <==

Ideology aside, judging from what has happened, isn't this true?

Posted by: in_starbucks | June 28, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Byrd hated blacks so much that he refused to serve his country in the military in World War II. Robert Byrd the Grand Cyclops in the Ku Klux Klan refused to serve. Byrd would prefer to see Hitler and Hirohito defeat the united states, than to serve in the U.S. military next to a black man.

Posted by: screwjob16 | June 28, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

i like this:

Byrd said, of Bush prancing around in a flight uniform like a little kid and declaring "Mission Accomplished":

“ I do question the motives of a deskbound president who assumes the garb of a warrior for the purposes of a speech."

He aptly defined Bush as phony and knew that like five deferment Cheney, Bush was a coward.

Posted by: jackson641 | June 28, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I remember watching and listening to him (CSPAN) as he addressed an empty Senate chamber late into the night. Excepting for the presiding officer all the rest of his colleagues had long departed with great war dreams on their minds. His words reverberated through the deserted chamber. The great tribulation for our country was not long in coming.

Posted by: flcat | June 28, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

"What we never will know is if Hussein would have ever generated nuclear weapons for use by him or some nutty terrorist group. I do know that because of Bush, Hussein will do nothing ever again".

I'd like to submit this for the 2010 Carly Fiorina Bereft Of Logic scholarship. Because Saddam is dead, we can now assume a degree of doubt in his nuclear ambitions that was not only absent before, but can ignore substantial evidence that suggests he had none. Why? Well, because he's dead! I guess we have to acknowledge the brilliance of Bush's whack-'em-just-in-case policies. He made a big mistake leaving Ghadaffi alive, if you ask me; I mean, he SAYS he gave up his nuclear program, but Saddam said that, too, and his death reveals what a liar he was (or could maybe have been, somewhere down the line). Who knows: if Ghadaffi was hanged, a clandestine nuclear program might emerge from nowhere. And if it didn't, oh well; you just never know. Better safe than sorry.

Yes, thanks to Bush, Saddam is gone and Iraq is a free, prosperous, stable western-oriented democracy. Cheap at double the price. Wasting Saddam was such a good idea, I'm surprised it didn't occur to American leaders earlier. A good thing, too, that he was the only person in Iraq who understood how fission occurs.

You know, logic like that goes a long way toward explaining how the invasion happened in the first place.

Posted by: marknesop | June 28, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

"What we never will know is if Hussein would have ever generated nuclear weapons for use by him or some nutty terrorist group. I do know that because of Bush, Hussein will do nothing ever again".

I'd like to submit this for the 2010 Carly Fiorina Bereft Of Logic scholarship. Because Saddam is dead, we can now assume a degree of doubt in his nuclear ambitions that was not only absent before, but can ignore substantial evidence that suggests he had none. Why? Well, because he's dead! I guess we have to acknowledge the brilliance of Bush's whack-'em-just-in-case policies. He made a big mistake leaving Ghadaffi alive, if you ask me; I mean, he SAYS he gave up his nuclear program, but Saddam said that, too, and his death reveals what a liar he was (or could maybe have been, somewhere down the line). Who knows: if Ghadaffi was hanged, a clandestine nuclear program might emerge from nowhere. And if it didn't, oh well; you just never know. Better safe than sorry.

Yes, thanks to Bush, Saddam is gone and Iraq is a free, prosperous, stable western-oriented democracy. Cheap at double the price. Wasting Saddam was such a good idea, I'm surprised it didn't occur to American leaders earlier. A good thing, too, that he was the only person in Iraq who understood how fission occurs.

You know, logic like that goes a long way toward explaining how the invasion happened in the first place.

Posted by: marknesop | June 28, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Sorry about the double post; I received an error message that informed me it didn't go through the first time.

Posted by: marknesop | June 28, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

We know what Byrd said about Bush and Iraq. What we never will know is if Hussein would have ever generated nuclear weapons for use by him or some nutty terrorist group. I do know that because of Bush, Hussein will do nothing ever again. Would that be true if Bush had listened to Byrd? America is safer becuase of Bush, not Byrd.

Posted by: JohnnyGee
__________________

You sell your country so short. Of course we know Saddam Hussein could not build a true nuclear weapon. Like all organizations, he could have built a nuclear device but not a weapon.

We knew that when we invaded and we know today that he had no infrastructure, no program, no way to secure materials, no knowledge base to build weapons.

Nutty terrorist groups are still out there and perhaps stronger because we ignored Afghanistan and left it a shambles to pursue Iraq.

That was and is a shame.

Posted by: arancia12 | June 28, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

To those who harp on Sen. Byrd's former life in the Klan:

I much prefer a reformed Klansman than an unrepentent Republican - who mirrors a Klansman in every respect. To those who espouse Christian beliefs, remember that God changed Paul's heart on the road to Damacus; perhaps he did the same for Sen. Byrd.

By any means, Sen. Byrd changed his actions for the better; I don't care what remained in his heart.

Posted by: gsross | June 28, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Dionne, Bush never made the Dems fearful; that was their own doing.

Posted by: JohnnyGee:
"You sell your country so short. Of course we know Saddam Hussein could not build a true nuclear weapon. Like all organizations, he could have built a nuclear device but not a weapon."

Yet people seem to forget that it was Democrats more than anybody else who pushed Bush into war because THEY claimed Saddam had WMDs...another truth the Democrats conveniently ignore...or perhaps can't understand.

I'm an old hillbilly at heart, and loved to hear Byrd play the fiddle, but I had no use for his blatant racism. He was abusive with his power at times and was just another racist cracker.

Posted by: flipper49 | June 28, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Well said, gsross. I don't know if I could be so forgiving, but it's much better than the opposite extreme, and speaks well of you.

Posted by: marknesop | June 28, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I love these crazy apologists like Johnny Gee. Straight from the school of sophistry in decision making. "Because we'll never know if Saddam Hussein might have produced nuclear weapons and sold them to rogue elements, therefore we had to attack Iraq." Does any of that retarded foolishness makes sense to anyone with half a brain??? Here's my own take on things: "Since the Saudis might one day fall out of love with the U.S. and might develop nuclear weapons and might then sell them to rogue actors and since most of the 9-11 attackers came from Saudi Arabia along with osama bin Laden, threfore we should attack Saudi Arabia." Excellent argument. If you're a moron.

Posted by: chert | June 28, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

LOL

If Adolf Hitler had been a democrat.....(instead of just a nasty socialist).....

....EJ would be singing his laurels

That a black American would vote for the party of their former masters is amazing

Robert KKK Byrd is on an adjoining spit next to Teddy Kennedy in hell.......

Posted by: georgedixon1 | June 28, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse


Robert "Sheets" Byrd the Klansman voted against both of the the two and only two black men ever to have been confirmed as justices of the U.S. Supreme Court: Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas.

Posted by: screwjob16 | June 28, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse


"...take the time to assemble allies, win unstinting backing of the United Nations, give weapons inspectors time to do their work, and not simply rush off to war."

Yeah that's working out great with the Iranians, isn't it Dionne? I guess once NY or DC is a smoking pile of rubble you'll be in favor of doing something?


Posted by: Jeff08 | June 28, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I like how Dionne tries to take the sins of Congress (ie, rolling over for Bush) and make them the sins of Bush. It's called checks and balances for a reason.

Posted by: msully25 | June 28, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Are you concuring with waiting for the UN? If we wait for them Iran & North Korea will be nuclear and the genocide will be complete in the Rwanda. Presidetn Bush acted and becasue of it, we won a hard fought war, Al Queda was crippled, a genocidal dictator was eliminated, Iraq has a fleging democracy and we are safer. It wasn't easy but in terms of changing the middle east his is a game changer.

Posted by: sarno | June 28, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

At the time, I argued that a “president seeking a unified nation does himself no good by distorting the arguments of others -- or by obliquely accusing them of failing to act in the interests of the United States. After all, the core argument of those who want to build a broad coalition is that doing so is in the national interest.”

Is this critique of presidential rhetoric referring to the debate about going to war in Iraq or the recent health care legislation?

Posted by: rmarion4 | June 28, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

One of the highlights during the Bush presidency was the Senate floor debate over whether to go to war in Iraq. You can read the text of what Byrd said to the chamber, but without the intonation and cadence you miss the full impact of his extemporaneous speech. He spoke fully from the heart, imploring the Senate to slow down in their haste to go to war. He failed.

Most estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths are in the 250,000 range, not counting terrorist, Iraqi army and US military personnel. That is 1/4 million people killed to take Saddam Hussein out of office, a brutal dictator who killed his own people using weapons and poison gas purchased from the United States (Reagan and Bush 1). Rumsfeld was a key broker in these purchases. By the time the US invaded Iraq, the poison gas was destroyed and the nuclear program was abandoned, exactly as Hans Blix was telling the world.

The Iraqi democracy is not strong enough to withstand a new tyrant emerging. The temptation of oil wealth and the real threat posed by Iran, and potential for Kurdish separation are more than enough to destablize Iraq once more. If the Iraqis don't vote a strongman in, one will emerge from the military.

Posted by: LeftGuy | June 28, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Well, Byrd opposed the surge and was dead wrong on that.

Also, Dionne does not want to mention the fact that Byrd opposed the Afghan surge that he and Obama supported.

Typical liberal hypocrisy.

Posted by: bobmoses | June 28, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse


The United States Senate voted 77 to 23 to go to war with Iraq. Joe Biden voted Yes. Hillary Clinton voted Yes.

Posted by: screwjob16 | June 28, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Bush was an idiot, as were all who supported him, including the craven Democrats in Congress who allowed him to pre-emptively invade a poor third world country on flimsy and fraudulent evidence. Bush dropped the Afghanistan ball like a small child who sees a bigger, more colorful ball (Iraq). History will not vindicate Bush, instead he will be reviled forever as the country's worst President.

Posted by: Chagasman | June 28, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

"America is safer becuase of Bush, not Byrd."
No, actually we're in worse shape than before. I was working in the Senate while the debate over invading Iraq went on; here are the facts:
- Saddam had dismantled his WMD capabilities in the early 1990's. The only reason why he didn't come out and specifically say he didn't have any was because of the shared border with Iran. Anyone rememeber the Iran/Iraq war? The Iraqi gun implacements had to pull back because their weapons were overheating - they couldn't shoot those who wished to martyr themselves fast enough.
- The WMD Bio mobile weapons trailer? DoD stated it was a fertilizer truck, but the GOP kept beating their war drums saying it was for producing bio agents against the US.
- Ties to Al Qaeda? No, Saddam may have been brutal, but he was no fool. He knew that even the appearance of ties to Al Qaeda would be an open invitation to a US invasion.
- Ties to 9/11 attack? No, it was proven that Saddam had nothing to do with it. Again, it would've been an invitation for the US to invade.
- As it turned out, Saddam wished to renew his friendship with the US - that would help prevent a potential invasion from Iran (something that is now taking place on a much less confrontational basis).
So, what did we do as a nation that we said we'd never do (as a nation treasuring freedom and democracy)?
- We executed a pre-emptive strike on a nation that posed no threat;
- We deposed a duly elected head of state (yeah, so it might have been rigged, but apparently the current Iraqi and Afghan administrations haven't changed much); and
- We now practice political assassinations. Saddam's sons, Uday and Kusay, may not have been the nicest people, but they never did anything to us. Yet, the Bush Administration had the military hunt them down and kill them. Apparently so happy with the results, they paraded enlarged photos of the dead bodies through the congress. You have to admit, that pretty macabre.
Just remember, while Senator Byrd was chastizing the Congress for being silent before we entered this conflict, Ashcroft pushed the Patriot Act through. Essentially, those who dared challenge the Administration's decisions were labeled unpatriotic.
Can anyone say "McCarthy-ism"?

Posted by: danak2002 | June 28, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Had Congress paid attention to Byrd’s brilliant advice and oratory prior to the Iraq War then Cheney and the rest of the right wing thugs would not have had such an easy opportunity to commit all their war crimes and disgrace this nation as they did.

Posted by: vztownes | June 28, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

He was the Klansman in the Senate.

Posted by: Mainer1776 | June 28, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Jackson64 wrote, "i like this:

Byrd said, of Bush prancing around in a flight uniform like a little kid and declaring "Mission Accomplished":

“ I do question the motives of a deskbound president who assumes the garb of a warrior for the purposes of a speech."

He aptly defined Bush as phony and knew that like five deferment Cheney, Bush was a coward."

President Bush flew the F-102 Delta Dagger for the Texas Air National Guard. If you knew anything about military aviation you would understand this was a risky business. He may have been a lot of things but coward is not one of them.

What branch of service did Sen Byrd serve in? Oh, that's right...he never served. He had a valid reason though, "I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side... Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds. ”
— Robert C. Byrd, in a letter to Sen. Theodore Bilbo (D-MS), 1944

Who do you credit with being the greater coward. Byrd could not be called one of "The Greatest Generation."

Posted by: Barnacle-Bill | June 28, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

NO, Dionne is wrong: "Politicians in coming generations would do well to revisit his words again and again." It's "Politicians in coming generations would do well to revisit his words again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again."

May the backbone of Sen. Byrd be honored at his time of passing.

Posted by: jeclose | June 28, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

By some convoluted logic you can argue that America will be safer if some no-name pickpocket in Turkey is eliminated. Well never mind the fact that only the negative of the opposite is true. i.e. No one can claim that america is safer with the pickpocket. But for the logically challenged it is one and the same.

That doesn't mean it is worth close to a trillion dollars of our money and multiple thousand U.S. lives, and countless non-U.S. lives in pursuing that goal. That's where all the moronic logic falls way short.

But, again, for people who are logically challenged and challenged in general facts never get in their way of thinking.

This comes quite close to burning down the house to get rid of a spider under the bed.

Posted by: kblgca | June 28, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Byrd deserves great credit for being one of the very few humans capable of changing their beliefs/behavior regarding racial matters. His development from bigotry to tolerance makes him more impressive than someone who was always tolerant across their lifespan.

The hypocrisy of these right-wing posters attempting to smear him in their posts is par for the course. I suspect many of them are the real bigots.

Byrd's strong opposition to Bush's Iraq lies is also an character outstanding trait. Although the media tried to ignore him, I think future historians will view him very well.

Posted by: dougd1 | June 28, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

So what, a lot of other people said the same thing. I am so sick of the deification of political types, like they possess so much wisdom. That said, I'll give the old buzzard credit for occasionally getting it right.

Posted by: Trout1 | June 28, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

An accurate speach. It reminds us we should listen to our elder statesmen even when we disagree. His experiences through a world war, the cold war and 2 very costly wars should have given us pause when he advised we go slower. Fear and arrogance drive that decision to speed to war. It did not turn out as we hoped or we're led to believe. Many now look back and see only that "the surge worked" and those who urged caution before the war failed to back it therefore why listen to them. Iraq is far from a stable country. The deaths and dislocation of the economy almost guarantee that Iraq will be unstable for years to come. Unstable politically moving from ineffectual gov't to gov't. Unstable ecomonically in that sustained growth or recreation of the economic superstructure will be spasmodic for years to come. Such is the legacy of most guerilla wars. Such is the cost of failing to head those who urged greater preperation and caution.

Posted by: kchses1 | June 28, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

There is something I find rather depressing about comments touching upon Byrd's time in the KKK.

These comments suggest that it is impossible for a person to truly change their views. That a person's views and perspective are set in stone and atonement for past views is utterly impossible. To such posters, forgiveness isn't possible... which is remarkabley sad, especially coming from many so-called Christians who seem to forget Jesus' lessons of forgiveness. Not only that, but this stance is extremely hypocritical - how many of you support felons who find god? Why give actual murders a benefit of a doubt but not Byrd?

The truth is he wasn't all good and he wasn't all bad, just like most of us though you would never knew it from the stench of arrogant, self-righteousness coming from these comments from people whose only act of public service, if you can call it that, is whining about taxes.

Posted by: cjpotter19 | June 28, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

“ I do question the motives of a deskbound president who assumes the garb of a warrior for the purposes of a speech."

He aptly defined Bush as phony and knew that like five deferment Cheney, Bush was a coward."

Byrd was a narrow-minded bigot. He demonstrated that many times in his life. Bush was no phony and Cheney was the best VP of my lifetime.

I didn't volunteer to go to Vietnam because the democrat president wasn't trying to win the war.


Posted by: groovercg | June 28, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Remember West Virginia in your prayers for
we have lost our Samuel, the last of the judges. He now belongs to the ages.

Posted by: reader76 | June 28, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

So you're saying that Senator Byrd opposed the Iraq War?

I guess it's just a perfect example of the old adage that age does not always confer wisdom.

I suppose that, like Helen Thomas, this is a super-annuated beltway insider the rest of us are better off without.

Posted by: ZZim | June 28, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

No! No, E.J.! What we remember about Byrd in his laters years is that, after he reformed from his KKK days, he talked about WHITE n>>>>rs.

Posted by: chatard | June 28, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Note for JohnnyGee regarding 1st comment at June 28, 2010 11:39:

"I do know that because of Bush, Hussein will do nothing ever again."
------------------------------------

Actually, killing another person is pretty darn cheap. Which is what we did. Unfortunatelyy, for the benefit of not having Mr. Hussein around anymore (things really are good.....right?) we decided to bite off just a smidge more....

And what a good value we received for that investment. Below is all it has cost so far. What a deal!

Human costs

* Total deaths: Between 110,663 and 119,380
* Coalition deaths: 4,712
* U.S. deaths: 4,394
* U.S. wounded: 31,768
* U.S. deaths as a percentage of coalition deaths: 93.25 percent
* Iraqi Security Force deaths: At least 9,451
* Total coalition and ISF deaths: At least 14,163
* Iraqi civilian deaths: Between 96,037 and 104,7542
* Non-Iraqi contractor deaths: At least 463
* Internally displaced persons: 2.6 million
* Refugees: 1.9 million

Financial costs

* Cost of Operation Iraqi Freedom: $748.2 billion
* Projected total cost of veterans’ health care and disability: $422 billion to $717 billion
-------------

But wait....if you call in right now we'll double the offer and include Afghanistan as well!

Posted by: verite | June 28, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Note for JohnnyGee regarding 1st comment at June 28, 2010 11:39:

"I do know that because of Bush, Hussein will do nothing ever again."
------------------------------------

Actually, killing another person is pretty darn cheap. Which is what we did. Unfortunatelyy, for the benefit of not having Mr. Hussein around anymore (things really are good.....right?) we decided to bite off just a smidge more....

And what a good value we received for that investment. Below is all it has cost so far. What a deal!

Human costs

* Total deaths: Between 110,663 and 119,380
* Coalition deaths: 4,712
* U.S. deaths: 4,394
* U.S. wounded: 31,768
* U.S. deaths as a percentage of coalition deaths: 93.25 percent
* Iraqi Security Force deaths: At least 9,451
* Total coalition and ISF deaths: At least 14,163
* Iraqi civilian deaths: Between 96,037 and 104,7542
* Non-Iraqi contractor deaths: At least 463
* Internally displaced persons: 2.6 million
* Refugees: 1.9 million

Financial costs

* Cost of Operation Iraqi Freedom: $748.2 billion
* Projected total cost of veterans’ health care and disability: $422 billion to $717 billion

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/05/iraq_war_ledger.html
-------------

But wait....if you call in right now we'll double the offer and include Afghanistan as well!

Posted by: verite | June 28, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

And yet for all the glorious rhetoric, we became almost unilateraly involved in not one, but two unfunded and poorly thought-out wars. How sad.

Posted by: sober1 | June 28, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

"And why are we allowing the executive to rush our decision-making..."

It's good to see that Byrd was fair enough to complain about 0bama, Reid, Pelosi and the rest of the democratic party leadership to make this complaint about 0bamacare.

Oh wait, he didn't say this about 0bamacare, did he E.J.? I guess when it is the left wing that is "rushing the decision-making process", it isn't really all that bad, is it?

Posted by: Nick_in_Alexandria | June 28, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Sen. Byrd stood up to the monstruous lies and deceits that Bush & Cheney foisted upon the congress and the American people. He was one of a rare few. He saw clearly exactly what Bush & Cheney were up to, and called them on it. His death is a great and honorable loss to the country. Cheney's & Bush's deaths, when Satan calls them and hopefully soon, will be a cause for celebration at the elimination of traitors from our land.

Posted by: MickNamVet | June 28, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

What you have to love is the "tolerant" leftist glorifying a known racist because he is one of them.

Yet again proving they are ALWAYS to least informed people in any room, these morons no doubt are unaware that in the last decade, the honorable Leftist Byrd was documented on audio and video talking about n*ggers, etc.

You fools, the man never change his spots, but never mind, he is the epitome of the disaster which is our political system, this sad sack spent 50 freaking years enriching family, friends and supporters by steering taxpayer money to them.

Graft at its worst, with the passing of Bryd and Kennedy may the days of these lifelong grafters at the public teat be gone forever.

Posted by: LogicalSC | June 28, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Apparently, most of the Republicans now say the Iraq War was immoral and illegal.
Perhaps the same things could be said about the Afghanistan war ?

Honestly, who will believe anything that Republicans say these days? They seemed to align themselves alongside Bush for the duration, yet now they maybe just want to fit into the 'anti-war' movement by opposing their former stance on Iraq? (To win votes and oust the Democrats???)

More innocent people are dying in Afghanistan and Pakistan in comparison with 'Al-Qaeda' or Taliban being killed.
Drone attacks are immoral and wrong, they are indiscriminate and drones don't have to answer for their crimes in Court...

Let's face it- the whole damn war is immoral. It is not being done out of necessity of security issues or 'implementing democracy'.
It's more for the benefit of the war profiteers...
Halliburton, Kellogg-Brown-Root ,oil companies, private security companies.

And now we find out that Afghanistan has a massive Trillion Dollar wealth of resources, and that could be the next focus of exploitation...

Posted by: RussellWyllie-Youtubecom-GlobalPrison | June 28, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Bush WHO?

The left wing hacks are still having to Bush-bash so they don't have to be accountable for the financial wreck they are putting upon this nation.

Posted by: Revcain777 | June 28, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

What I most remember about Robert Byrd is his decrying it when Republicans, against all Senate conventions, went to SD to campaign against Tom Daschle, then Senate Majority Leader. I don't remember the exact words, but I hear the misery in Senator Byrd's voice when he asked, "Are we dead to all decency?" He knew and loved the Senate; Ted Kennedy was the Lion of the Senate, but Robert Byrd was simply, through and through, a Man of the Senate.

Posted by: MaineWoman | June 28, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Well, Byrd opposed the surge and was dead wrong on that.
Also, Dionne does not want to mention the fact that Byrd opposed the Afghan surge that he and Obama supported.
Typical liberal hypocrisy.

Posted by: bobmoses
_________________________

Well, of course he opposed the surge. Duh! He was opposed to the whole fraudulent Bush/Cheney war in Iraq from the very beginning so of course he opposed the stupid surge. He's not a flaming hypocrite like the entire GOP. He knew what Bush and Cheney were up to and that this was just another right wing war that they were manufacturing to cover up for the fact that Bush and Cheney brought on the 9/11 terrorist attacks on their watch.

Good for Byrd for opposing the whole corrupt, filthy dirty Republican war in Iraq and for calling out future war criminals like Bush and Cheney at the very beginning. RIP.

Posted by: vztownes | June 28, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

@groovercg: You do know what a groover is don't you? And you are full of what a groover is full of...Bush and Cheney did so much damage to this country, its military, its economy, its standing in the world, its social policies, its education system, its science and technology programs that it will take a generation just to get the country back on track.

Byrd said that joining the Klan was the worst decision he ever made. He certainly had a racist past and upbringing, but he managed to transcend most of that bigoted past in his later life. He was not my favorite senator, but his speeches on the pernicious folly of the Iraq invasion and occupation showed that he was not cowed by the repiglican war mongering machine.

Posted by: srw3 | June 28, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

"I guess when it is the left wing that is "rushing the decision-making process", it isn't really all that bad, is it?"

Every once in awhile, if you're patient, a right-wing luminary emerges who makes JohnnyGee look bright and aware. This is such an occasion.

Health-Care Reform actually originated as a concept in 1993, under Clinton. However, it might be unfair to use that as a starting point. So let's stick just with this president. Obama launched his reform effort in March 2009, so it took almost exactly a year to pass. Is that "rushing the decision-making process", do you think? It went "back to the drawing board" so many times that it could have applied for squatter's rights on the drawing board, and the edition that was signed was scarcely recognizable when compared with the original as drafted - all the result of changes and watering-down in an effort to get Republican support. Republicans were solicited time and again to contribute language or ideas, but they settled for vowing to kill it no matter what it said, or to repeal it if it passed.

Just for fun, since it's too late for them now, how many Americans died uninsured during that year, do you suppose? Is that right, do you think? It's all very well to portray it as people looking for a handout, kicking back in those luxurious hospital sheets while honest Republicans sweat to pay for it. But a bit of research would reveal that many - if not most - of those people paid into a policy all their working life, only to have coverage denied when they needed it. While insurance companies' profits went up and up and up.

And even at that, it took a whole year to get reform passed. Try to think for yourself, can't you? Instead of just parroting talking points?

Posted by: marknesop | June 28, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Why do liberal always have their minds in the gutter? Why are liberals so nasty? Grow up. You act like a middle schooler.

BTW, no I don't know what a liberal jerk thinks a groover is.

It's amazing how forgiving democrats are of their icons for their pasts, but are absolutely sure that opponents of their socialist agenda have never changed.

Posted by: groovercg | June 28, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

What a life! A copy of the Constitution in his pocket and all that poetry in his head,a wonderful musician plus standing against the American War in Iraq! Thank you, Senator Byrd!

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | June 28, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

What a life! A hood on his head and a white sheet on his body. He was a great community organizer for the KKK, serving as a kleagle who recruited members for $10 a hooded head. What a life! Writing 3 years after he "resigned" the KKK that the KKK was needed then more than ever and longing for the revival of the klan. What a life! Saying that he would never serve his country in a foxhole next to a black man. He despised "race mongers" and thought they were a throwback to "the black jungle." He voted against and filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act, while the majority of Republicans voted for it. What a life!

Anyone with any intellectual honesty knows that if he were a Republican the MSM would say very little about his life other than his racist past. I'm glad he changed. I hope it was sincere.

Posted by: groovercg | June 28, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Byrd was honest about the Iraq war, instead of lying to the entire nation to justify American blood for oil. The war propagandists knew they were lying to the American people. Current liars Palin and North know that they are using war to deceive and gain political points.

Posted by: revbookburn | June 28, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

The Senate is showing the same spinelessness in the face of unsubstantiated jingoism on the issue of Iran and its "weapons of mass destruction".

Posted by: politbureau | June 28, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

I like how Dionne tries to take the sins of Congress (ie, rolling over for Bush) and make them the sins of Bush. It's called checks and balances for a reason.

Posted by: msully25

==========================================

No kidding. So it's Bush's fault that Congress didn't resist and that both the Democrats and the media were sensitive to the assertion that they didn't have the best interest of the country at heart.

Man, like Mike Myers, Bush must have graduated from Evil School.

Posted by: bbface21 | June 28, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

"Byrd was honest about the Iraq war, instead of lying to the entire nation to justify American blood for oil. The war propagandists knew they were lying to the American people. Current liars Palin and North know that they are using war to deceive and gain political points.

Posted by: revbookburn

Who lied? I know that liberal definition of "lie" does not meet reality, but this is a pathetic denial of word meanings?

Posted by: groovercg | June 28, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

I am a Republican and I despise that miserable little liar we had as a President under George W. Bush. Byrd had the courage to speak out against him but so many other Democrats were complete cowards and never challenged the garbage that Bush/Cheney were putting out.

2 trillion dollars, hundreds of thousands of dead and ultimately, the Iraq War gave us Obama.

Posted by: wj03412000 | June 28, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

JohnnyGee is an insane illogical clown. Even he himself doesn't believe the trash he writes.

Posted by: wj03412000 | June 28, 2010 9:43 PM | Report abuse

How did he vote on the Tonkin Gulf Resolution?

Posted by: rkfoster04
-------------------------------

He voted in favor of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which he later called "a mistake" and "a sin." Only Morse and Gruening opposed.

How it is possible that we made the same "mistake" again and sinned again is what I cannot understand.

And we will never know until and unless documents are declassified and the Congress fesses up. We do know that some who voted for the invasion, as it were, did not read all the relevant material.

As for the rest of us, I know no one who was not utterly certain that Iraq had no WMDs after having watched Powell's sell-out at the UN.

Posted by: farnaz_mansouri2 | June 28, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, EJ Dionne, for the recent history lesson while lesser individuals endeavor to poison Senator Byrd's memory with 50-year old mistakes Byrd confessed to and made amends for decades before his death.

Rest in Peace, Good Senator Byrd.

Posted by: binkynh | June 28, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

George W Bush. War criminal.
Robert Byrd. Blew the whistle.
We weren't listening.
RIP Mr. Senator.

Posted by: bertram2 | June 28, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse

The Bush lovers are so proud of the invasion and occupation of an impotent Iraq, and say nothing of their timidness in pursuing an invasion of the real threat, North Korea and Iran. So let's get over it. You all know that the US did not invade Iraq for our safety. Although most of the Bush lovers still think there are WMD in Irag. It was for the oil and because Saddam tried to kill daddy!

Posted by: crudblue | June 28, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Robert Byrd said difficult things that now seem prophetic, and he said them at a time when it was politically difficult to say them.

There is nothing prophetic about what Byrd said. It was as clear as day light for a lot of us which was nearly half of the nation. The second point is on the mark.

Posted by: lohengrin | June 28, 2010 10:58 PM | Report abuse

If your beloved Democrats are so principled and morally superior why didn’t they vote their conscience regardless of the election year consequences?

Your Monday morning quarterback argument is very weak!

Posted by: dcn1 | June 28, 2010 11:51 PM | Report abuse

"Although most of the Bush lovers still think there are WMD in Irag."

Most people, governments, and intelligence services believed there were WMDs in Iraq. Do you deny that? If you do, you are grossly ignorant.

Posted by: groovercg | June 29, 2010 12:15 AM | Report abuse

groovercg, you should have signed your sorry behind up when Nixon was elected then.

Posted by: Gutavo | June 29, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

"groovercg, you should have signed your sorry behind up when Nixon was elected then."

Posted by: Gutavo

Nixon didn't try to win it either. By the time he came into office the situation was too far gone. BTW, what's with liberals obsession with people's behinds. That's creepy.

Posted by: groovercg | June 29, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

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