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On April 28, 2007 Sen. Dick Durbin attempted to cleanse the blood off his senate suit by admitting that as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee he had been told the opposite of what Bush was telling the Congress and the American people. But, Durbin remained silent. And, as Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote “The cruelest lies are often told in silence.”
Durbin said he “couldn’t believe” how the administration was giving different information to the American people than “the information we had on the Intelligence Committee.” He says “I sat here on the floor of the Senate and listened to this heated debate about invading Iraq and thinking the American people are being misled. They are not being told the truth.”
What did he do about it? Nothing. He kept the information secret until five years into a bloody and disastrous war. He did not fulfill his larger responsibility to stop an illegal war based on lies, deceptions and false information.
Durbin can’t cleanse the blood of his senate suit so easily, but he is not the only one who has some explaining to do. There were sixteen members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who were given the same information as Durbin. They all remained silent. They let the administration lie to the Congress and mislead the American people into a catastrophic war. They let a war begin on false pretenses. A war that has cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqis their lives, destroyed their country and started a civil war. A war that cost thousands of Americans their lives and resulted in fifty thousand causalities of war — more than two hundred thousand if illnesses like post traumatic stress disorder are counted. And, it has cost the American taxpayer more than $400 billion thus far with projected costs of over $1 trillion.
If ever silence was complicity, this is that time. Sixteen elected officials, sworn to uphold the Constitution — a Constitution that gives the Congress the sole power to declare war — knew Bush was lying when he sought the power to go to war and remained silent. They are complicit in Bush’s actions because if they had been honest with the American people and their fellow elected officials the war could have been averted.
Among those sixteen members of the Intelligence Committee was Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and potential Republican candidate Fred Thompson. Can we trust these men to be president?
Edwards has apologized for voting for the war resolution. But now that we know that he was told by the intelligence community that the administration was lying is his apology enough? Doesn’t this raise serious questions about his judgment? Voting for a war when he was told the basis of it was false is not the kind of judgment we need in a commander-in-chief.
Durbin’s revelation raises questions not only about Edwards vote for the war resolution but also whether we can trust him to be honest with the American people. He knew we were being lied to about the most important issue a country can face. He knew his colleagues in the Congress were being lied to about the most important decision the Congress is responsible for — whether to go to war. And what did he do about it? He remained silent. Can we trust someone who remains silent in such circumstances?
Edwards better hope that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was wrong when he said “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
The same questions come up for former Senator Fred Thompson the potential Republican candidate. He has not made any apology for his vote for the war — a vote based on information he knew was false. Indeed, his current view on the war is that it is wrong to set a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq because he believes that the U.S. should leave on “our terms and not al-Qaeda’s.” Talk about bad judgment!
Last week I participated in a dramatic demonstration in the Senate Hart office building. The demonstration had several parts, ending with a ceremonial “Funeral for the Next Soldier.” Two banners were dropped one was a message to Congress about their failure to hold President Bush accountable and their failure to end the war. Now, it seems the sign also applies to their failure to stop the war from starting:
Below is a transcript of Durbin’s statement.
Statement of Sen. Durbin on Inconsistency Between Intelligence Briefings and Bush Administration Statements
Speech on the Senate Floor April 28, 2007
“A few hundred feet away from here in a closed room, carefully guarded, the Intelligence Committee was meeting on a daily basis for top secret briefings about the information we were receiving and the information we had on the Intelligence Committee was not the same information that was being given to the American people. I couldn’t believe it. Members of this administration were in active heated debate over whether aluminum tubes really meant that the Iraqis were developing nuclear weapons some within the administration were saying of course not it is not the same kind of aluminum tube. At the same time members of the administration were telling the American people to be fearful of mushroom shaped clouds. I was angry about it. Frankly, I could not do much about it cause you see, on the Intelligence Committee we’re sworn to secrecy. I could not go outside the door and say the statement made yesterday by the WH is in direct contradiction to classified information that’s being given to this Congress. We can’t do that. We couldn’t make those statements.
“So, in my frustration I sat here on the floor of the Senate and listened to this heated debate about invading Iraq and thinking the American people are being misled. They are not being told the truth. That’s why I twenty-two members of my colleagues in voting no. I did not feel at the time that the American people knew the real facts.
“So what happened, we invaded, turned loose, hundreds if not thousands of people looking for these weapons of mass destruction. Never found one of them. Looked for nuclear weapons, no evidence whatsoever.”