Just One Single Seat in the U.S. Senate

This is a “teaching moment” for all those who vote regularly and who consider themselves to be good citizens, but who are, like most Americans, either too busy with jobs and family or too politically blasé to pay close attention to the nitty-gritty of day-to-day political developments.

In my June 7, 2013, column I discussed the seamy details of the Democrats’ brazen theft of a U.S. Senate seat in New Jersey in November 2002.  That was the election in which the Democrat incumbent, Robert Torricelli, dropped out of the race on September 30, just 36 days before the General Election, after it became known that he’d sold his influence for cash and expensive gifts.

Unfortunately for Democrats, New Jersey law prohibited a candidate from withdrawing from a political contest at any time within 51 days of the election.  Torricelli’s withdrawal came 15 days past that deadline, and when Democrats announced their intention to replace Torricelli with former senator Frank Lautenberg, who had retired from the Senate in January 2001, Republicans cried foul.  Of course, Democrats being Democrats, they were not about to let a little thing like an inconvenient state law stand in their way, especially when the balance of power in the U.S. Senate stood at 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and 1 independent.

The Torricelli seat in the Senate was a crucial prize for the Democrats and they would stop at nothing to retain it in the Democrat column.  When the issue was placed before the New Jersey Supreme Court, dominated by Democrats, the court ruled that voters deserved the “broadest possible choice of candidates” and that there was “still time to print and distribute new ballots to absentee voters,” regardless of the deadline imposed by law.  Frank Lautenberg was recruited as an eleventh-hour substitute and a seat that was destined to be won by Torricelli’s Republican challenger, Doug Forrester, found its way back into the Democrat column.

So what is it about a single seat in the U.S. Senate that has the potential of being a life or death issue for every voter?  I mention that episode in New Jersey because it emphasizes the need for disinterested voters… those who would vote the right way if only they knew what was going on… to pay much closer attention to day-to-day developments in the political world.

In the 107th Congress, seated in January 2001, the U.S. Senate was evenly split: 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats, with Vice President Dick Cheney available to cast the tie-breaking vote in the event of a stalemate.  However, on May 24, 2001, Senator Jim Jeffords (R-VT), who served seven terms in the House of Representatives, and who had just been elected to a third term in the Senate, left the Republican Party to become an independent, promising to caucus with Senate Democrats, his ideological soul mates, in exchange for a committee chairmanship.

Since Jeffords was obligated to vote with the Democrats on organizational matters, his departure from the Republican side of the aisle changed the political balance of power in the Senate to 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and one independent.  Tom Daschle suddenly became majority leader, Trent Lott (R-MS) became minority leader, and Robert “KKK” Byrd (D-WV) became chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

So what was at stake at the time that might have been of significant interest to the American people?  The most significant issue in the Senate in the fall of 2002 was the question of whether or not to give President George W. Bush the war powers necessary to participate with NATO forces, enforcing a United Nations mandate to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

Few members of Congress were anxious to see American ground forces engaged in a ground war in the Middle East.  So, under the theory that no dictator can remain a dictator unless his people believe him to be both omnipotent and omniscient, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), under Republican control and chaired by Florida Republican Porter Goss, authorized funds for an “Infowar” offensive against Iraq… the goal being to remove one or both of those advantages from Saddam without the necessity of putting “boots on the ground.”

The “Infowar” offensive authorized by HPSCI, as a supplement to its FY 2003 defense authorization, read, in part, as follows:


The budget request contained $63.9 million in PE65710D8Z for Classified Programs for the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence)…

The Committee notes that information operations (IO) is increasingly becoming a more significant weapon in modern military, and moreover, asymmetric operations…

The Committee is somewhat concerned that insufficient consideration is paid to developing a capability to shape the information sphere for asymmetric operations…  The Committee understands that there has been proposed a concept called Infowar, in which intelligence analysis of the threat Infosphere is coupled with the knowledge management functions of television, and an offensive management plan is developed for execution.  The Committee notes that this concept is different from more traditional IO approaches in that it does not “attack” the threat directly, but rather through the threat’s intended public information consumers.  The Committee believes this is a worthwhile new approach and believes the Intelligence Community should pursue it vigorously.

Therefore, the Committee recommends $73.9 million in PE65710D8Z, an increase of $10.0 Million in Classified Programs-C3I, for the SOFTWAR program.

The “Infowar” offensive authorized for funding under the HPSCI proposal was the brainchild of my longtime friend, Chuck de Caro, an Information Warfare lecturer at the National Defense University, the War College, and other agencies of the defense/intelligence establishment.  The central focus of the SOFTWAR offensive, designed to remove all electronic communications capability from Saddam Hussein, substituting direct U.S. and coalition communications with the Iraqi people, was to be the Aerobureau-One aircraft that Chuck and I and a team of electronic specialists assembled in a Hamilton Aviation hangar at Tucson, Arizona, in March 1990.

Aerobureau-One was the world’s most sophisticated communications aircraft, and its strategic use represented our last and best hope of removing the threat posed by Saddam Hussein without the necessity of committing American ground forces to war in Iraq.

Unfortunately, when the SOFTWAR authorization arrived in the U.S. Senate in early September 2002, at the same time that Robert Torricelli’s reelection chances were about to go up in smoke in New Jersey, and just one year and 14 weeks after “Jumpin’ Jim” Jeffords provided Democrats with a one-vote majority in the U.S. Senate, the Democrat leadership decided that it was far more important for them to have a political issue to use against George W. Bush, who would be running for reelection in 2003 and 2004, than it was to avert a ground war in Iraq.

And while Democrats made impassioned speeches on the floor of the Senate, warning that the Congress could not give George W. Bush the war powers he requested, and demanding that the U.S. and its NATO allies find a “non-violent” means of removing Saddam Hussein from power, they were quietly and treacherously killing the HPSCI “Infowar” authorization in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In early September 2002, Chuck de Caro sought my assistance in getting Senate Democrats to include the HPSCI “Infowar” authorization, a mere $10 million expenditure, in the FY 2003 defense appropriation bill.  de Caro and I worked in the Senate throughout the months of September and October, meeting with senior staff of leading members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the Senate Appropriations Committee, both Democrats and Republicans.

Democratic staffers were highly enthusiastic about the SOFTWAR concept as a stopgap between war and diplomacy, but when the HPSCI proposal was put before their members, that’s as far as it went.  And when Senator Byrd refused to fund the “Infowar” offensive for one single dollar ($1.00), a solution recommended by the staff director of the House intelligence committee, we knew that the move toward armed conflict in Iraq would proceed unabated.

On March 19, 2003, U.S. and coalition forces invaded Iraq.  Since that day, some 4,500 U.S. troops have died and 32,000 have been wounded.  And while Democrats continue to blame the Bush administration for the Iraq War a decade later, it was, in fact, Senate Democrats who killed any chance we had of removing Saddam Hussein through non-violent means.

History books may never reflect that, if Jim Jeffords had not abandoned the Republican Party in May 2001, the Senate would have remained in Republican hands, the “Infowar” offensive authorized by HPSCI would have been fully funded, Saddam Hussein would have been removed through non-violent means, and many thousands of lives would have been saved.  So what was it that made the difference between going to war and not going to war in Iraq?  It was just one single seat in the United States Senate.

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