Senator Byrd delivered these remarks on the Senate floor on June 5, 2003.
With each passing day, the questions surrounding Iraq’s missing weapons of mass destruction take on added urgency. Where are the massive stockpiles of VX, mustard, and other nerve agents that we were told Iraq was hoarding? Where are the thousands of liters of botulinim toxin? Wasn’t it the looming threat to America posed by these weapons that propelled the United States into war with Iraq? Isn’t this the reason American military personnel were called upon to risk their lives in combat?
On March 17, in his final speech to the American people before ordering the invasion of Iraq, President Bush took one last opportunity to bolster his case for war. The centerpiece of his argument was the same message he brought to the United Nations months before, and the same message he hammered home at every opportunity in the intervening months, namely that Saddam Hussein had failed to destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and thus presented an imminent danger to the American people. “Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised,” the President said.
Now, nearly two months after the fall of Baghdad, the United States has yet to find any physical evidence of those lethal weapons. Could they be buried underground or are they somehow camouflaged in plain sight? Were they destroyed before the war? Have they been shipped out of the country? Do they actually exist? The questions are mounting. What started weeks ago as a restless murmur throughout Iraq has intensified into a worldwide cacophony of confusion.
The fundamental question that is nagging at many is this: How reliable were the claims of this President and key members of his Administration that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction posed a clear and imminent threat to the United States, such a grave threat that immediate war was the only recourse?
Lawmakers, who were assured before the war that weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq, and many of whom voted to give this Administration a sweeping grant of authority to wage war based upon those assurances, have been placed in the uncomfortable position of wondering if they were misled. The media is ratcheting up the demand for answers: Could it be that the intelligence was wrong, or could it be that the facts were manipulated? These are very serious and grave questions, and they require immediate answers. We cannot – – and must not – – brush such questions aside. We owe the people of this country an answer. Every member of this body ought to be demanding answers.
I am encouraged that the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees are planning to investigate the credibility of the intelligence that was used to build the case for war against Iraq. We need a thorough, open, gloves-off investigation of this matter and we need it quickly. The credibility of the President and his Administration hangs in the balance. We must not trifle with the people’s trust by foot-dragging.