The Emperor Has No Clothes

Posted by: ErikL on 04 November 2003

Robert C. Byrd is a Democratic Senator from West Virginia. The following commentary was delivered on the floor of the U.S. Senate on 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 preemption 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."
Posted on: 04 November 2003 by maxwellspeed
Posted on: 04 November 2003 by Geofiz
That says it all.

Hmmmm, and the Iraqi oil production is supposed to pay for all this (eventually). They are rapidly reaching the "break-even" point given existing oil reserves (better start looking for more out there in the Iraqi wasteland boys). Looks like Britain will be the big loser on this one along with Australia.
Posted on: 05 November 2003 by Mick P
A dictator was removed and the Iraqi's will soon have a say in running their country and oil supplies are guaranteed, so all in all it was the right move.


Posted on: 05 November 2003 by Bruce Woodhouse
MICk, I know these are old arguments and you and I will not agree on this but even your greatly simplified summary may be wrong.

I cannot see democracy (or peace) in the near future for an Iraqi nation riven by ethnic differences, awash with weapons and without any recent experience of the democractic process. I also wonder if oil supplies are really secured-or more accurately at what cost in terms of external military occupation in order to protect them.

Posted on: 05 November 2003 by Mick P
It is far from a perfect solution but at least the Iraqi people have a chance of running their own country. It is down to them to sort out their differences.

If we had not gone in, Saddam would still have been there playing games with the impotent UN.

Not perfect, I agree, but a darn sight better than before.


Posted on: 05 November 2003 by Simon Perry
"all in all it was the right move"

Day in day out Al-Jazeera is showing footage of US troops in occupied Iraq. They are frequently showing troops beating Iraqi civilians(and, I grant you, Baath activists). Do we think this placates anti-western feeling amoung muslim extremists, or do we think it helps to exacerbate it?
In the aftermath of Sept. 11 the USA had the world's sympathy. Instead of harnessing this sympathy, the USA's government has taken the country down a path where it is more isolated and more reviled than ever before.

I think its very sad. The government has let the people down badly.

Posted on: 05 November 2003 by Tarquin Maynard - Portly
Just on a very quick reading

The Troops where greeted with flowers.

The world is rid of a despicable tyrant.

Major combat operations ARE over - the text above misquotes for effect. Sorry, but forces in Iraq are engaged in Operations Other Than War / Peace Support Operations. Pedantic, but the facts.

"Have we forgotten that the most horrific terror attacks in history occurred right here at home" The world does not consist of the USA. The Blitz, Dresden, The Holocaust for example?

So this bloke would rather Saddam still in power, suggest he looks up the fate of the Marsh Arabs, the number of dead in the Iran-Iraq war ( and who did the US back? Guess....) find out what happened at Hallabja ( Clue; involved Nerve Agents (WMD) on his own people, 1800 or so dead.)

And before I go for a coffee, note that the Saudis seem to be clamping down on terrorists of late, and do not seem to have been as hostile to the US as they have been.

Of course, the fact that Uncle Sam has projected a prodigious amount of combat power in order to rid the world of a troublesome leader / regime and they remain in the area has nothing to do with anything....



On the Yellow Brick Road and happy
Posted on: 05 November 2003 by BigH47
Should be a piece of piss to sort out.
Just use the people that sorted out Ireland so well! Frown Roll Eyes
Unfortunately the flowers in Iraq seem to be hiding bombs and rockets now.

Posted on: 06 November 2003 by Tim Jones
Actually, the Americans should (and probably are) using British advice based on our experience in Northern Ireland. There does seem to be a contrast between the UK sector (Basra, etc) and the rest of the US-run country - probably because we have learned so many hard lessons from operating in Ulster.

From the way it behaves in combat the US Army couldn't run the proverbial piss-up. It's a big mistake to confuse the problems that creates with the reasons why we did all this in the first place.

(Gasp as I realise I am with Mick on this one... Eek)

Posted on: 07 November 2003 by matthewr
The Wrap: A worm's eye view

07 November 2003

CORRECTION: This morning's Wrap was not written by Ros Taylor, but Sally Bolton. Apologies for the mistake.

Andrew Brown opens a copy of the New York Post

The autumn mists turn Manhattan romantic. The colours of the city have a wintry beauty anyway, grey, black and brown like a frozen landscape, and the mist softens them and makes the street lights warmer. Wandering, jetlagged, through the streets at ten in the evening and three in the morning simultaneously, I ducked into a sports bar and picked up Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, which brought me the news that this wonderful country has lost the war in Iraq.

Newspapers that don't care about the truth are often much more informative than those which are hampered by scruples. You just have to read them with this fact in mind. The Post's stories two days after a Chinook helicopter had been shot down did not announce that Mr Bush was facing defeat. Instead, they said that "pro-Saddam death squads" (this is how the Iraqi guerrillas are always described by the
Post) had killed another couple of American soldiers and mortared the "coalition's" compound in Baghdad. The leader proclaimed that America could not lose, that its determination to fight was unshakeable, and that President Bush would never wield to the wimps and Democrats who thought we should pull out.

Obviously,the announcement, in a rabidly conservative paper, that America will never pull out, and is happy to bear the costs of an indefinitely long colonial war, has exactly the same information content as a vote of confidence in a football manager. I had no idea that things were really that bad.

The retreat will not be accomplished gracefully. That's the second thing to learn from the paper. Nor will it leave a rejoicing and liberated nation behind. I read the next morning that "pro-Saddam death squads" had killed another British soldier; that the Turks had decided not to deploy any troops in Iraq after all; and even the Spanish are withdrawing almost all their diplomats. Then there was an op-ed, by someone called Ralph Peters, explaining how the Americans should react to this.

"If the populace [of Falluja] continues to harbour our enemies and the enemies of a healthy Iraqi state, we need to impose strict martial law. Instead of lavishing more development funds on the city - bribes that aren't working - we need to cut back on electricity, ration water, restrict access to the city, and organise food distribution through a ration card system. And we need to occupy the city so thickly that the inhabitants can't step out of their front doors without bumping into an American soldier.

"Don't worry about alienating the already alienated. Make an example of them. Then see how other cities respond."

Mr Peters, we learn from the "plug hole" at the bottom of the piece, is the author of a book called "Beyond Baghdad: postmodern war and peace." He is such a clever man that he knows that defeat is impossible even if the Iraqis do fail to respond to his policies: "We should take a lesson from the Romans and the Britons before us and recognise the value of punitive expeditions. Should the Iraqis fail themselves in the end, our current expedition may prove to have been a very expensive - but still worthwhile - punitive expedition."

Note that "Iraqis failing themselves" is Post- speak for the guerrillas driving the Americans out of Iraq, rather as the North Vietnamese failed themselves in 1975, and the American colonists failed themselves in 1786. This is not an intuitive idea, even to Post readers, so Mr Peters has to spell it out: "Such an outcome wouldn't mean that we had failed, but that the Iraqis had failed themselves."

"Exemplary punishment may be out of fashion", he concludes. "But it's one of the most enduringly effective tools of statecraft. Where you cannot be loved, be feared. Indeed, a classic punitive expedition may prove to be the perfect model for Syria."

As usual, the thing that is really frightening about this is not its undoubted wickedness, though it is worth noting, in the spirit of George Orwell, how atrocity is dressed up in pompous phrases - "enduringly effective tools of statecraft" . It is the arrogance and the blind stupidity and the assumption that the little people will never be able to strike back, no matter what is done to them, and that smashing up the Middle East will have no consequences in the USA.

To read this in New York, of all places, brings a chill that has nothing to do with the autumn, but maybe something to do with a fall.

Ralph Peter's column

See here for more like this.
Posted on: 07 November 2003 by Tarquin Maynard - Portly
Punitive expedition?

Why not invade the country, depose the Regime and, er, oh.....



On the Yellow Brick Road and happy
Posted on: 07 November 2003 by ErikL
Luckily, only die-hard Howard Stern fans take the NY Post seriously.

An interesting story on NPR this morning mentioned that 100,000+ US government contractors are in Iraq. Actually the government doesn't keep a tally, nor do they keep a tally of their deaths. There's also zero transparency of the contracts these behemoth outsourcing firms have with GW & Co. Like I said- interesting.

Anyhow, close friends of my parents have a 19-year-old daughter in the Sunni Triangle. I'm hoping this kid's never in convoys, helicopters, or Baghdad. I don't know her but I don't want her dead.

On a more uplifting note, NPR also ran a story on an NGO having much success in Iraq, rebuilding schools, hospitals, etc. Their trick is not identifying itself with the US, not driving specially marked vehicles, and extending a caring hand. Hey- that sound just a little bit like the UN! Regardless, it was nice to hear that someone's doing well there.
Posted on: 07 November 2003 by Phil Barry
And let's not forget that the newest strategy from the Administration is 'Iraqization' - said to be modelled on that great success, Vietnamization. And let's not foget where W and Cheney were during the Viet Nam war....

Bobbie Byrd, unfortunately, may go down as the Cicero of the US. Was Augustus as mediocre as W is?


Posted on: 07 November 2003 by Mitch
Sen. Byrd vowed never to fight "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."

The ex-Klansman later filibustered the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act for more than 14 hours. He also opposed the nominations of the Supreme Court's two black justices, liberal Thurgood Marshall and conservative Clarence Thomas.
Posted on: 07 November 2003 by Mike Sae
If Byrd really said that, does that mean the most reasoned voice in this tirade is Hermann Goering!?!
Posted on: 07 November 2003 by ErikL
Unfortunately, Byrd was probably representing West Virgina accurately in the statements and actions cited by Mitch.
Posted on: 08 November 2003 by Phil Barry
Bobbie Byrd has changed significantly since his younger days. The filibuster against Thomas was a righteous one.

Remember, Hugo Black turned out to be one of the most effective crusaders for individual liberty our Supreme Court has ever had as a member - and he was a KKK member before he joined the Senate. Not sure that Byrd was, though.