I love this country and believe in its historic greatness. I don’t know how those Founding Fathers found themselves in Philadelphia in the late 18th century, but they did – and we are incredibly fortunate for it. And I love the symbol of the Gadsden Flag, the coiled rattlesnake against a field of yellow: “Don’t Tread on Me,” it warned our enemies, including (and especially so) the British government in London. This morning a man died who treasured this country and that flag. For those reasons Senator Robert Byrd opposed both wars with Iraq. Here is what he said in the fall of 2002: “For the first time in history of the Republic, the nation is considering a pre-emptive strike against a sovereign state. And I will not be silent.” And on the eve of the second Iraq War, he said: “We proclaim a doctrine of pre-emption, which is understood by few and feared by many. We say that the United States has the right to turn its firepower on any corner of the globe which might be suspect in the war on terrorism. There is no credible evidence to connect Saddam Hussein to 9/11.” I was stunned, and remain in awe, that a president of George W. Bush’s abilities was able to take the attack on 9/11 and up-turn more than two centuries of American doctrine: “Don’t Tread on Me.” We don’t attack, but if you attack, we attack back. We oppose aggression. We are not the aggressors. President Bush and his cohorts, in and out of the government, were able to construct a new doctrine: If we don’t like you or your policies, we attack. If you cause trouble in your region, we attack. If we think you have WMDs, we attack. And millions went for it, hook, line and sinker. Senator Byrd did not. That he was so alone out there makes the general swooning of America to Bush’s war song so frightening: If someone of Bush’s ability can make America forget its most basic, time-honored standards, then imagine what a gifted demagogue could do. It’s one thing to send us off to Afghanistan, the base of those who hit us. Bush was able to then drive the entire country off in an altogether different direction. It’s interesting that he could not woo two people on his charge to Iraq: Robert Byrd and Edward M. Kennedy. Both would say their vote against Bush’s war was the proudest of their careers.
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A tribute to a U.S. Senator who shared my deep American objection to the Iraq war