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The Immortal 23

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What cause could unite a group of twenty-three politicians made up of a possible presidential candidate, the first female senator, the republican senator of Rhode Island, and a president’s younger brother all led by a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan to stand up against the rest of the senate and nation? These brave few were the senators that voted against the authorization to use force in Iraq.

In November of 2001, eight out of ten American citizens supported the war in Afghanistan, according to a poll. Many Americans were caught up in the hype of catching the perpetrators of 9/11. They saw then president, George W. Bush stand atop ruble and proclaim, “and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” The basis of the war in Afghanistan was to capture the people who were responsible for 9/11. Troops entered Afghanistan eager to fight those who caused this tragedy, but as time went on, the reason for fighting the war changed. Soldiers were sent to fight the Taliban who were not proven to be behind the terroristic attack. Soon the war was fought for Afghanistan to become a better country in America’s eyes. In 2010, a new poll recorded that “60% of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting” .

Two years after entering the controversial war in Afghanistan, the United States Senate found itself once again in the midst of a war; this time in Iraq. President Bush believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and posed a threat to the United States. When Iraq refused to agree to a disarmament treaty, America had a reason for war. Although North Korea and Pakistan pose a much greater nuclear threat to America, arguments for the war began. The twenty-three politicians knew that warnings of nuclear weapons from questionable sources was no reason for a war. They fought to keep America’s troops safe. Among those who argued that America was in danger, and ultimately voted for the invasion of Iraq were: Senator Hillary Clinton, John McCain, John Kerry, Arlen Spector, and Joe Biden. Both sides fought for what they believed to be right for America. The senators arguing for the war were just repeating and snowballing what they had heard from speculations from government agencies. The twenty-three were concerned with the lack of evidence behind the reason for entering the war, and the effect it would have on America. Senator Kennedy argued, “It is possible to love America while concluding that is not now wise to go to war” . He said this when 62% looked favorably upon the war in Iraq .

As voting time grew close, Robert Byrd gave a chilling end to his speech against the Iraq war, “Yet this chamber is hauntingly silent. On what is possibly the eve of horrific infliction of death and destruction on the population of the nation of Iraq -- a population, I might add, of which over 50% is under age 15 -- this chamber is silent. On what is possibly only days before we send thousands of our own citizens to face unimagined horrors of chemical and biological warfare -- this chamber is silent. On the eve of what could possibly be a vicious terrorist attack in retaliation for our attack on Iraq, it is business as usual in the United States Senate.
We are truly sleepwalking through history. In my heart of hearts I pray that this great nation and its good and trusting citizens are not in for a rudest of awakenings. . .” . Before the vote was cast, Byrd shouted a last desperate plea to his fellow senators, brandishing the constitution and saying, “Wait! Slow down! Don't rush this through! I plead with the American people. Let your voice be heard.... Let the leadership of this Congress know that you don't want this resolution rammed through this Congress before election day. The life of your son may depend upon it. The life of your daughter may depend on it,” . Byrd was not concerned about his popularity among other senators. He was concerned with the lives that would be lost and changed by such a war.

Despite all this effort, the senators passed the bill, with only twenty-three brave senators to vote against it. Today, 53% of Americans agree that the war in Iraq is a mistake. Even soldiers protest the war. Many entered eager to get back at those responsible for 9/11, but found themselves trying to convert a country into a democratic state.

Today, 4,486 American lives have been lost in Operation Iraqi Freedom. These brave people gave their lives for a cause that the majority of the country does not support. If more people decided to slow down, or investigate more closely the real reasons for ,war like the twenty-three, maybe those soldiers could be with their families today.




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