October 4, 2002
Excerpts of Speeches Made on Senate Floor
ollowing are excerpts from speeches yesterday by Senators Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, and Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, about the use of force against Iraq, as recorded by The New York Times. Their remarks were addressed to the president pro tem of the Senate.
Titus Livius, one of the greatest of Roman historians, said all things will be clear and distinct to the man who does not hurry. Haste is blind and improvident. Blind and improvident, Mr. President, blind and improvident.
Congress would be wise to heed those words today. For as sure as the sun rises in the east, this country is embarking on a course of action with regard to Iraq that in its haste is both blind and improvident. We are rushing into war without fully discussing why, without thoroughly considering the consequences, or without making any attempt to explore what steps we might take to avert a conflict.
The newly bellicose mood that permeates this White House is unfortunate, all the more so because it is clearly motivated by campaign politics. Republicans are already running attack ads against Democrats on Iraq. Democrats favor fast approval of a resolution so they can change the subject to domestic economic problems.
Before risking the lives, I say to you the people out there who are watching through those electronic lenses, before risking the lives of your sons and daughters, American fighting men and women, all members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, must overcome the siren song of political polls and focus strictly on the merits, not the politics, of this most grave, this most serious undertaking, this most grave, this most serious issue that is before us.
Mr. President, the resolution S.J. Resolution 46, which will be before this Senate, is not only a product of haste, it is also a product of presidential hubris. This resolution is breathtaking, breathtaking in its scope. It redefines the nature of defense. It reinterprets the Constitution to suit the will of the executive branch. This Constitution, which I hold in my hand, is amended without going through the constitutional process of amending this Constitution.
S.J. Resolution 46 would give the president blanket authority to launch a unilateral, pre-emptive attack on a sovereign nation that is perceived to be a threat to the United States. A unilateral, pre-emptive attack on a sovereign nation that is perceived to be a threat to the United States. This is an unprecedented and unfounded interpretation of the president's authority under the Constitution of the United States, not to mention the fact that it stands the Charter of the United Nations on its head.
Representative Abraham Lincoln in a letter to William H. Herndon stated: "Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose. When you allow him to make war at pleasure, study to see if you can fix any limit to his power and disrespect. After you have given him so much as you propose, if today he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him I see no probability of the British invading us. But he would say to you be silent. I see it if you don't."
The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress was dictated as I understand it, said Abraham Lincoln, by the following reason: kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars pretending generally if not always that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions. And they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter and places our president where kings have always stood.
Mr. President, if he could speak to us today, what would Abraham Lincoln say of the Bush doctrine concerning pre-emptive strikes? In a Sept. 18 report the Congressional Research Service had this to say about the pre-emptive use of military force: the historical record indicates that the United States has never to date engaged in a pre-emptive military attack against another nation. Nor has the United States ever attacked another nation militarily prior to its first having been attacked or prior to U.S. citizens or interests first having been attacked, with the singular exception of the Spanish-American War. The Spanish-American War is unique in that the principle goal of United States military action was to compel Spain to grant Cuba its political independence.
The Congressional Research Service also noted that the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 represents a threat situation, which some may argue had elements more parallel to those presented by Iraq today, but it was resolved without a pre-emptive military attack by the United States. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution grants Congress the power to declare war and to call forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions.
Nowhere, nowhere in this Constitution which I hold in my hand, nowhere in the Constitution is it written that the president has the authority to call forth the militia to pre-empt a perceived threat. And yet the resolution which will be before the Senate avers that the president "has authority under the Constitution to take action in order to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States as Congress recognized in the joint resolution, on authorization for use of military force following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack." What a cynical twisting of words. What a cynical twisting of words.
The reality is that Congress, exercising the authority granted to it under the Constitution, granted the president specific and limited authority to use force against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attack. Nowhere, nowhere was an implied recognition of inherent authority under the Constitution to deter and prevent future acts of terrorism. It's not in there. It's not in that Constitution. There's no inference of it. There's no implication of it for that purpose.
Think for a moment of a precedent that this resolution will set not just for this president — hear me now, you on the other side of the aisle — not just for this president, but for future presidents. From the day forward American presidents will be able to invoke Senate Joint Resolution 46 as justification for launching pre-emptive military strikes against any sovereign nations that they perceive to be a threat.
You'd better pay attention. You're not always going to have a president of your party in the White House. How will you feel about it then? How will it be then?
Other nations will be able to hold up the United States, hold up the U.S.A. as the model to justify their military adventures. Do you not think, Mr. President, that India and Pakistan, China and Taiwan, Russia and Georgia are closely watching the outcome of this debate? Do you not think that future adversaries will look to this moment to rationalize the use of military force to achieve who knows what ends?
Perhaps a case can be made that Iraq poses such a clear, immediate danger to the United States that pre-emptive military action is the only way to deal with that threat. To be sure, weapons of mass destruction are a 20th century and 21st century horror that the framers of the Constitution had no way of foreseeing. But they did foresee the frailty of human nature. And they saw the inherent danger of concentrating too much power in one individual. They saw that. That is why the framers bestowed on Congress not the president the power to declare war.
As James Madison wrote in 1793, in no part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found than in the clause which confines the question of war or peace to the legislature and not to the executive department. Beside the objection to such a mixture of heterogeneous powers the trust and the temptation, the trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man. That was James Madison. The trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man.
Mr. President, Congress has a responsibility to exercise with extreme care the power to declare war. A war against Iraq will affect thousands if not tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of lives and perhaps alter the course of history. It will surely affect the balance of power in the Middle East. It is not a decision to be taken in haste as we are being pushed today, as we are being stampeded today to act in haste. Put it behind us they say before the election. It will surely affect the balance of power in the Middle East.
It is not a decision to be taken in haste under the glare of election-year politics and the pressure of artificial deadlines. And yet any observers can see that that is exactly, that is precisely what the Senate is proposing to do, the Senate and the House. What a shame. Fie upon the Congress. Fie upon some of the so-called leaders of the Congress for falling into this pit.
Mr. President, the Senate is rushing to vote on whether to declare war on Iraq without pausing to ask why. We don't have time to ask why. We don't have time to get the answers to that question why. Why is war being dealt with not as a last resort but as a first resort? Why is Congress being pressured to act now? As of today, I believe 33 days before a general election when a third of the United States Senate and the entire House of Representatives are in the final highly politicized weeks of election campaign.
Why, as recently as Tuesday, Oct. 1, this past Tuesday, the president said he had not yet made up his mind. As late as last Tuesday he had not yet made up his mind about whether to go to war with Iraq. And yet Congress is being exhorted, is being importuned, is being adjured to give the president open-ended authority now. Give it to him now to exercise whenever he pleases in the event that he decides to invade Iraq. Where are we? Where are our senses?
Why is Congress elbowing past the president to authorize a military campaign that the president may or may not even decide to pursue? Aren't we getting a little ahead of ourselves? The last U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retained some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capability. Intelligence reports also indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons, but has not yet achieved nuclear capability.
It is now October of this year of our Lord 2002. Four years have gone by in which neither this administration nor the previous one felt compelled to invade Iraq to protect against the imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction until today, until now, until 33 days before Election Day. Now we're being asked, now we're being told that we must act immediately. We must put this issue behind us. We must put this question behind us. We must act immediately we are told before adjournment and before the elections. Why the rush? Why the rush?
Is it our precious blood which will spew forth from our feeble veins? No. Those of you who have children, those of you who have grandchildren, those of you who have great-grandchildren should be thinking. It's the precious blood of the men and women who wear the uniform of these United States, that blood may flow in the streets of Iraq.
Yes, we had Sept. 11. But we must not make the mistake of looking at the resolution before us as just another offshoot of the war on terror. We know who was behind the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. We know it was Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorist network. We have dealt with Al Qaeda and with the Taliban government that sheltered it. We have routed them from Afghanistan. We are continuing to pursue them in hiding. So where does Iraq enter into the equation? Where?
No one in the administration has been able to produce any solid evidence linking Iraq to the Sept. 11 attack. Iraq had biological and chemical weapons long before Sept. 11. We knew it then. We helped to give Iraq the building blocks for biological weapons. We know it now. Iraq has been an enemy of the United States for more than a decade. If Saddam Hussein is such an imminent threat to the United States why hasn't he attacked us already?
The fact that Osama bin Laden attacked the United States does not de facto mean that Saddam Hussein is now in a lock and load position and is readying an attack on these United States. Slow down. Think. Ask questions. Debate.
In truth, there is nothing in the deluge of administration rhetoric over Iraq that is of such moment that it would preclude the Senate from setting its own timetable and taking the time, taking the time for a thorough and informed discussion of this crucial issue.
As we look and move forward on the issue of Iraq and war with Iraq and the potential of providing the president with military authorization, I hope the body and the members and people across the country and across the world look at the potential of a post-Saddam Iraq.
Senator Kerry of Nebraska, former Senator Kerry of Nebraska and I have worked when he was in the Senate with a group called the Iraqi National Congress, it's an umbrella group of opposition leaders, to try to bring to the forefront opposition groups, bring them together and move forward with the track that once Saddam is out, moving forward with the democracy, with human rights, with individual liberties for the people of Iraq.
And I think a lot of times we get caught too much in the, well, it's not whether we can get Saddam out, it's what are going to be the problems with doing this, and not seeing the upside potential. There's clear downside potential in taking on Saddam Hussein. There's no question about that — potential loss of lives, of our troops, our people, terrorist threats, potential loss of lives in the region, loss of life in Iraq. All of that is unquestionable and undeniable.
It is also unquestionable and undeniable that Saddam Hussein has killed a number of people already. He's gassed his own people. He's attacked Iran. He's gassed Iranian people. He continues to rule by fear. He's killed people within his own cabinet. He's killed people within his own family. This is a man familiar with evil and has exercised it greatly. . . .
As Secretary Henry Kissinger said at a hearing that we had last week, former Secretary Kissinger said, he views that if we go in and deal with Iraq it's going to have a very positive salutary effect on the war on terrorism. It's going to say to a number of countries that we're serious on dealing with terrorists, we're serious that countries that house and support terrorists are our enemies — you're either with us or against us in the war on terrorism.
And if we don't go at Iraq, that our effort in the war on terrorism dwindles down into an intelligence operation. We go at Iraq and it says to countries that support terrorists, there remain six in the world that are as our definition state sponsors of terrorists, you say to those countries: We are serious about terrorism, we're serious about you not supporting terrorism on your own soil.
This is going to be a big statement that we will make. It is with a great deal of difficulty and it's with a great deal of cost. But the option of doing nothing is far worse than the option of doing something and acting now. And the upside potential of our acting and helping allow the Iraqi people their freedom to be able to move forward with a democracy is significant upside potential within that region for liberty and freedom to expand throughout that area.
So while we have this debate on granting military authority to the president, which is going to be a significant debate in this body, and hopefully we'll look at all of the issues, and I think we will. Particularly things like is Saddam Hussein going to be able to get weapons of mass destruction to terrorists and out of the country to attack other people during this period of time.
I hope we'll also look at the downside of not doing something and the upside of helping people pursue freedom and liberty like what is the potential of taking place in Iraq and the democracy there.
I also want to point out to people, a number I don't know that are familiar with this, but Saddam Hussein does not control the whole country. He doesn't control the north of Iraq. He doesn't control the Kurdish region. It was reported a number of Kurdish troops that are there that are outside of his control. He has sporadic control in the south of the country — controls it during the day and then other times he doesn't.
His main control is in the center, in the Baghdad region of the country. This is not a homogenous population, nor is it completely under his authoritarian rule. We're going to be able to work with populations in both the north and the south to pressure and to build pressure in on him in the center of this country when we move forward in addressing and dealing with Saddam Hussein.
It is a big issue. It's a big issue for the country. It's a big issue for the world. It's a big issue for liberty. It's a big issue on dealing with a very militant strain of, a militant politicized strain of Islam in that region and particularly in Iraq that Saddam Hussein seeks to exploit — even though he himself would not be viewing himself as associated with it, he's certainly working to exploit that at this point in time. This is an important argument and discussion for this country and for the world.