In their own words

Why Sens. Hillary Clinton, Tom Daschle, Chuck Hagel, Dianne Feinstein and John Kerry voted for Bush's war resolution -- and why Robert Byrd voted against it.


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Salon Staff
October 11, 2002 11:01PM (UTC)

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

Today we are asked whether to give the president of the United States authority to use force in Iraq should diplomatic efforts fail to dismantle Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons and his nuclear program.

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I am honored to represent nearly 19 million New Yorkers, a thoughtful democracy of voices and opinions who make themselves heard on the great issues of our day, especially this one. Many have contacted my office about this resolution, both in support of and in opposition to it, and I am grateful to all who have expressed an opinion.

I also greatly respect the differing opinions within this body. The debate they engender will aid our search for a wise, effective policy. Therefore, on no account should dissent be discouraged or disparaged. It is central to our freedom and to our progress, for on more than one occasion, history has proven our great dissenters to be right.

Now, I believe the facts that have brought us to this fateful vote are not in doubt. Saddam Hussein is a tyrant who has tortured and killed his own people, even his own family members, to maintain his iron grip on power. He used chemical weapons on Iraqi, Kurds and on Iranians, killing over 20 thousand people. Unfortunately, during the 1980's, while he engaged in such horrific activity, he enjoyed the support of the American government, because he had oil and was seen as a counterweight to the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran.

In 1991, Saddam Hussein invaded and occupied Kuwait, losing the support of the United States. The first President Bush assembled a global coalition, including many Arab states, and threw Saddam out after forty-three days of bombing and a hundred hours of ground operations. The U.S.-led coalition then withdrew, leaving the Kurds and the Shiites, who had risen against Saddam Hussein at our urging, to Saddam's revenge.

As a condition for ending the conflict, the United Nations imposed a number of requirements on Iraq, among them disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction, stocks used to make such weapons, and laboratories necessary to do the work. Saddam Hussein agreed, and an inspection system was set up to ensure compliance. And though he repeatedly lied, delayed, and obstructed the inspections work, the inspectors found and destroyed far more weapons of mass destruction capability than were destroyed in the Gulf War, including thousands of chemical weapons, large volumes of chemical and biological stocks, a number of missiles and warheads, a major lab equipped to produce anthrax and other bio-weapons, as well as substantial nuclear facilities.

In 1998, Saddam Hussein pressured the United Nations to lift the sanctions by threatening to stop all cooperation with the inspectors. In an attempt to resolve the situation, the UN, unwisely in my view, agreed to put limits on inspections of designated "sovereign sites" including the so-called presidential palaces, which in reality were huge compounds well suited to hold weapons labs, stocks, and records which Saddam Hussein was required by U.N. resolution to turn over. When Saddam blocked the inspection process, the inspectors left. As a result, President Clinton, with the British and others, ordered an intensive four-day air assault, Operation Desert Fox, on known and suspected weapons of mass destruction sites and other military targets.

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In 1998, the United States also changed its underlying policy toward Iraq from containment to regime change and began to examine options to effect such a change, including support for Iraqi opposition leaders within the country and abroad.

In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of Sept. 11, 2001.

It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.

Now this much is undisputed. The open questions are: What should we do about it? How, when, and with whom?

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Some people favor attacking Saddam Hussein now, with any allies we can muster, in the belief that one more round of weapons inspections would not produce the required disarmament, and that deposing Saddam would be a positive good for the Iraqi people and would create the possibility of a secular democratic state in the Middle East, one which could perhaps move the entire region toward democratic reform.

This view has appeal to some, because it would assure disarmament; because it would right old wrongs after our abandonment of the Shiites and Kurds in 1991, and our support for Saddam Hussein in the 1980's when he was using chemical weapons and terrorizing his people; and because it would give the Iraqi people a chance to build a future in freedom.

However, this course is fraught with danger. We and our NATO allies did not depose Mr. Milosevic, who was responsible for more than a quarter of a million people being killed in the 1990s. Instead, by stopping his aggression in Bosnia and Kosovo, and keeping on the tough sanctions, we created the conditions in which his own people threw him out and led to his being in the dock being tried for war crimes as we speak.

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If we were to attack Iraq now, alone or with few allies, it would set a precedent that could come back to haunt us. In recent days, Russia has talked of an invasion of Georgia to attack Chechen rebels. India has mentioned the possibility of a pre-emptive strike on Pakistan. And what if China were to perceive a threat from Taiwan?

So Mr. President, for all its appeal, a unilateral attack, while it cannot be ruled out, on the present facts is not a good option.

Others argue that we should work through the United Nations and should only resort to force if and when the United Nations Security Council approves it. This too has great appeal for different reasons. The U.N. deserves our support. Whenever possible we should work through it and strengthen it, for it enables the world to share the risks and burdens of global security and when it acts, it confers a legitimacy that increases the likelihood of long-term success. The U.N. can help lead the world into a new era of global cooperation and the United States should support that goal.

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But there are problems with this approach as well. The United Nations is an organization that is still growing and maturing. It often lacks the cohesion to enforce its own mandates. And when Security Council members use the veto, on occasion, for reasons of narrow-minded interests, it cannot act. In Kosovo, the Russians did not approve NATO military action because of political, ethnic, and religious ties to the Serbs. The United States therefore could not obtain a Security Council resolution in favor of the action necessary to stop the dislocation and ethnic cleansing of more than a million Kosovar Albanians. However, most of the world was with us because there was a genuine emergency with thousands dead and a million driven from their homes. As soon as the American-led conflict was over, Russia joined the peacekeeping effort that is still underway.

In the case of Iraq, recent comments indicate that one or two Security Council members might never approve force against Saddam Hussein until he has actually used chemical, biological, or God forbid, nuclear weapons.

So, Mr. President, the question is how do we do our best to both diffuse the real threat that Saddam Hussein poses to his people, to the region, including Israel, to the United States, to the world, and at the same time, work to maximize our international support and strengthen the United Nations?

While there is no perfect approach to this thorny dilemma, and while people of good faith and high intelligence can reach diametrically opposed conclusions, I believe the best course is to go to the U.N. for a strong resolution that scraps the 1998 restrictions on inspections and calls for complete, unlimited inspections with cooperation expected and demanded from Iraq. I know that the administration wants more, including an explicit authorization to use force, but we may not be able to secure that now, perhaps even later. But if we get a clear requirement for unfettered inspections, I believe the authority to use force to enforce that mandate is inherent in the original 1991 U.N. resolution, as President Clinton recognized when he launched Operation Desert Fox in 1998.

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If we get the resolution that President Bush seeks, and if Saddam complies, disarmament can proceed and the threat can be eliminated. Regime change will, of course, take longer but we must still work for it, nurturing all reasonable forces of opposition.

If we get the resolution and Saddam does not comply, then we can attack him with far more support and legitimacy than we would have otherwise.

If we try and fail to get a resolution that simply, but forcefully, calls for Saddam's compliance with unlimited inspections, those who oppose even that will be in an indefensible position. And, we will still have more support and legitimacy than if we insist now on a resolution that includes authorizing military action and other requirements giving some nations superficially legitimate reasons to oppose any Security Council action. They will say we never wanted a resolution at all and that we only support the United Nations when it does exactly what we want.

I believe international support and legitimacy are crucial. After shots are fired and bombs are dropped, not all consequences are predictable. While the military outcome is not in doubt, should we put troops on the ground, there is still the matter of Saddam Hussein's biological and chemical weapons. Today he has maximum incentive not to use them or give them away. If he did either, the world would demand his immediate removal. Once the battle is joined, however, with the outcome certain, he will have maximum incentive to use weapons of mass destruction and to give what he can't use to terrorists who can torment us with them long after he is gone. We cannot be paralyzed by this possibility, but we would be foolish to ignore it. And according to recent reports, the CIA agrees with this analysis. A world united in sharing the risk at least would make this occurrence less likely and more bearable and would be far more likely to share with us the considerable burden of rebuilding a secure and peaceful post-Saddam Iraq.

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President Bush's speech in Cincinnati and the changes in policy that have come forth since the administration began broaching this issue some weeks ago have made my vote easier. Even though the resolution before the Senate is not as strong as I would like in requiring the diplomatic route first and placing highest priority on a simple, clear requirement for unlimited inspections, I will take the president at his word that he will try hard to pass a U.N. resolution and will seek to avoid war, if at all possible.

Because bipartisan support for this resolution makes success in the United Nations more likely, and therefore, war less likely, and because a good faith effort by the United States, even if it fails, will bring more allies and legitimacy to our cause, I have concluded, after careful and serious consideration, that a vote for the resolution best serves the security of our nation. If we were to defeat this resolution or pass it with only a few Democrats, I am concerned that those who want to pretend this problem will go way with delay will oppose any U.N. resolution calling for unrestricted inspections.

This is a very difficult vote. This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make -- any vote that may lead to war should be hard -- but I cast it with conviction.

And perhaps my decision is influenced by my eight years of experience on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue in the White House watching my husband deal with serious challenges to our nation. I want this president, or any future president, to be in the strongest possible position to lead our country in the United Nations or in war. Secondly, I want to insure that Saddam Hussein makes no mistake about our national unity and for our support for the president's efforts to wage America's war against terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. And thirdly, I want the men and women in our Armed Forces to know that if they should be called upon to act against Iraq, our country will stand resolutely behind them.

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My vote is not, however, a vote for any new doctrine of preemption, or for unilateralism, or for the arrogance of American power or purpose -- all of which carry grave dangers for our nation, for the rule of international law and for the peace and security of people throughout the world.

Over 11 years have passed since the U.N. called on Saddam Hussein to rid himself of weapons of mass destruction as a condition of returning to the world community. Time and time again he has frustrated and denied these conditions. This matter cannot be left hanging forever with consequences we would all live to regret. War can yet be avoided, but our responsibility to global security and to the integrity of United Nations resolutions protecting it cannot. I urge the President to spare no effort to secure a clear, unambiguous demand by the United Nations for unlimited inspections.

And finally, on another personal note, I come to this decision from the perspective of a senator from New York who has seen all too closely the consequences of last year's terrible attacks on our nation. In balancing the risks of action versus inaction, I think New Yorkers who have gone through the fires of hell may be more attuned to the risk of not acting. I know that I am. So it is with conviction that I support this resolution as being in the best interests of our nation. A vote for it is not a vote to rush to war; it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our President and we say to him -- use these powers wisely and as a last resort. And it is a vote that says clearly to Saddam Hussein -- this is your last chance -- disarm or be disarmed.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

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We are now engaged in one of the most consequential debates addressed in this chamber in many years. We are confronting the grave issues of war and peace. We are considering how the United States should respond to a murderous dictator who has shown that he will be bound neither by conscience, nor by the laws or principles of civilized nations. And we are contemplating whether, and under what conditions, the Congress should authorize the pre-emptive use of American military power to remove the threat he poses.

These questions go directly to who we are as a nation. How we answer them will have profound consequences -- for our nation, for our allies, for the war on terrorism, and -- perhaps most importantly -- for the men and women in our armed forces who could be called to risk their lives because of our decisions.

There is no question that Saddam Hussein is a dangerous man who has done barbaric things. He has invaded neighbors, supported terrorists, and repressed and murdered his own people. Over the last several months, as the world has sought to calm the violence between Israelis and Palestinians, Iraq has tried to inflame the situation by speaking against the very existence of Israel and encouraging suicide bombers in Gaza and the West Bank.

Saddam Hussein has stockpiled, weaponized, and used chemical and biological weapons. And he has made no secret of his desire to acquire nuclear weapons. He has ignored international agreements and frustrated the efforts of international inspectors, and his ambitions today are as unrelenting as they have ever been.

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As a condition of the truce that ended the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein agreed to eliminate Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and to abandon all efforts to develop or deliver such weapons. That agreement is spelled out in U.N. Security Council Resolution 687. Iraq has never complied with the resolution.

For the first seven years after the Gulf War, it tried to deceive U.N. weapons inspectors, block their access to key sites and make it impossible for them to do their jobs. Finally, in October 1998, the U.N. was left with no choice but to withdraw its inspectors from Iraq. As a result, we do not know exactly what is now in Iraq's arsenal.

We do know, however, that Iraq has weaponized thousands of gallons of anthrax and other deadly biological agents. We know that Iraq maintains stockpiles of some of world's deadliest chemical weapons, including VX, sarin and mustard gas. We know that Iraq is developing deadlier ways to deliver these horrible weapons, including unmanned drones and long-range ballistic missiles. And we know that Saddam Hussein is committed to one day possessing nuclear weapons. If that should happen, instead of simply bullying the Gulf region, he could dominate it. Instead of threatening only his neighbors, he would become a grave threat to US security and to global security. The threat posed by Saddam Hussein may not be imminent. But it is real. It is growing. And it cannot be ignored.

Despite that, like many Americans, I was concerned by the way the administration first proposed to deal with that threat. The seeming desire of this administration to wage war alone -- without the support of our allies and without authorization from Congress -- was wrong.

Many of us -- Democrats and Republicans -- made it clear that such unilateralism was not in the nation's best interests. I commend the president for changing his approach and acknowledging the importance of working with our allies. I also commend him for recognizing that under our Constitution, it is Congress that authorizes the use of force, and for requesting a resolution providing such authority. And I applaud my colleagues -- Democrats and Republicans, in the House and Senate -- for the improvements they have made to the administration's original resolution. Four changes were especially critical:

First: Instead of giving the president broad and unfocused authorization to take action "in the region," as the administration originally sought, this resolution focuses specifically on the threat posed by Iraq. It no longer authorizes -- nor should it be used to try to justify -- the use of force against other nations, organizations or individuals that the president may believe threaten peace and stability in the Persian Gulf region. It is a strong and focused response to a specific threat. It is not a template or model for any other situation.

Second: This resolution expresses the deep conviction of this Congress, and of the American people, that President Bush should continue to work through the United Nations Security Council in order to secure Iraqi compliance with U.N. resolutions. Unfettered inspections may or may not lead to Iraqi disarmament. But whether they succeed or fail, the effort we expend in seeking inspections will make it easier for the president to assemble a global coalition against Saddam, should military action eventually be needed.

Third: This resolution makes it clear that, before the president can use force in Iraq, he must certify to the Congress that diplomacy has failed, and that further diplomatic efforts alone cannot protect America's national security interests, nor can they lead to enforcement of the U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Fourth: This resolution protects the balance of power by requiring the president to comply with the War Powers Act and to report to Congress at least every 60 days "on matters relevant to this resolution."

This resolution gives the president the authority he needs to confront the threat posed by Iraq. It is a fundamentally different and better resolution than the one the president sent us. It is neither a Democratic resolution nor a Republican resolution. It is now a statement of American resolve and values.

It is more respectful of our Constitution, more reflective of our understanding that we need to work with our allies in this effort, and more in keeping with our strong belief that force must be a last resort, not a first response.

Because this resolution is improved, because I believe that Saddam Hussein represents a real threat, and because I believe it is important for America to speak with one voice at this critical moment -- I will vote to give the president the authority he needs.

I respect those who reach different conclusions.

For me, the deciding factor is my belief that a united Congress will help the president unite the world. And by uniting the world, we can increase the world's chances of succeeding in this effort, and reduce both the risks and the costs that America may have to bear.

With this resolution, we are giving the president extraordinary authority. How he exercises that authority will determine how successful any action in Iraq might be.

In 1991, by the time the president's father sought congressional support to use force against Iraq, he had secured pledges of military cooperation from nearly 40 nations, and statements of support from scores of others. He had already secured the backing of the United Nations. And he had already developed a clear plan of action.

In assembling that coalition, the legitimacy of our cause was affirmed. Regional stability was maintained. The risk to our soldiers was lessened. America's burden was reduced. And, perhaps most importantly, Iraq was isolated. At this point, we have done none of those things. That is why, unlike in 1991, our vote on this resolution should be seen as the beginning of a process, not the end.

For our efforts in Iraq to succeed, President Bush must continue to consult with Congress and to work hard to build a global coalition. That is not capitulation. It is leadership, and it is essential.

In my view, there are five other crucial steps the administration must take before any final decision on the use of force in Iraq is made.

First and foremost, the president needs to be honest with the American people -- not only about the benefits of action against Iraq, but also about the risks and the costs of such action. We are no longer talking about driving Saddam Hussein back to within his borders. We are talking about driving him from power. That is a much more difficult and complicated goal.

A story in this past Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer suggests that top officials in the administration "have exaggerated the degree of allied support for a war in Iraq." The story goes on to say that others in the administration "are rankled by what they charge is a tendency" by some in the administration "to gloss over the unpleasant realities" of a potential war with Iraq.

A report in yesterday's Washington Post suggests that "an increasing number of intelligence officials, including former and current intelligence agency employees -- are concerned the agency is tailoring its public stance to fit the administration's views."

I do not know whether these reports are accurate. We do know from our own national experience, however, that public support for military action can evaporate quickly if the American people come to believe they have not been given all the facts. If that should happen, no resolution Congress might pass will be able to unify our nation. The American people expect, and success demands, that they be told both the benefits and the risks involved in any action against Iraq.

Second: We need to make it clear to the world that the reason we would use force in Iraq is to remove Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. I would prefer that this goal had been made explicit in this resolution. However, it is clear from this debate that Saddam's weapons of mass destruction are the principal threat to the United States -- and the only threat that would justify the use of United States military force against Iraq. It is the threat that the president cited repeatedly in his speech to the American people Monday night. It may also be the only threat that can rally the world to support our efforts. Therefore, we expect, and success demands, that the administration not lose sight of this essential mission.

Third: we need to prepare for what might happen in Iraq after Saddam Hussein. "Regime change" is an easy expression for a difficult job. One thing we have learned from our action in Afghanistan is that it is easier to topple illegitimate regimes than it is to build legitimate democracies. We will need to do much better in post-Saddam Iraq than the administration has done so far in post-Taliban Afghanistan.

Iraq is riven by religious and ethnic differences and demoralized by a repressive government and crushing poverty. It has no experience with democracy. History tells us that it is not enough merely to hope that well-intentioned leaders will rise to fill the void that the departure of Saddam Hussein would leave. We must help create the conditions under which such a leader can arise and govern.

Unless we want to risk seeing Iraq go from bad to worse, we must help the Iraqi people rebuild their political and economic institutions after Saddam. That could take many years, and many billions of dollars -- which is another reason we must build a global coalition. The American people expect, and success demands, that we plan for stability, and for economic and political progress in Iraq after Saddam.

Fourth: we need to minimize the chances that any action we may take in Iraq will destabilize the region. Throughout the Persian Gulf, there are extremists who would like nothing more than to transform a confrontation with Iraq into a wider war between the Arab world and Israel, or the Arab world and the West.

What happens if -- by acting in Iraq -- we undermine the government in Jordan, a critical ally and a strategic buffer between Iraq and Israel? What happens if we destabilize Pakistan and empower Islamic fundamentalists? Unlike Iraq, Pakistan already has nuclear weapons -- and the means to deliver them. What happens if that arsenal falls into the hands of al-Qaida or other extremists?

We can tell the Arab world that this is not a fight between their nations and ours. But a far better way to maintain stability in the Gulf is to demonstrate that -- by building a global coalition to confront Saddam. That is why the administration must make every reasonable effort to secure a U.N. resolution, just as we did in 1991. With U.N. support, we can count a number of Arab countries as full allies. Without U.N. support, we can't even count on their air space. We expect, and success demands, that any action we take in Iraq make the region more stable, not less.

Fifth and finally: we cannot allow a war in Iraq to jeopardize the war on terrorism. We are fighting terrorist organizations with global networks; we need partners around the globe. Some -- including the chairman of the president's own Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board -- doubt whether we can count on this continued cooperation in the war on terror if we go to war against Iraq.

I do not know if that is true. I do know, however, that the military, intelligence and political cooperation we receive from nations throughout the world is critical to the war on terrorism. Saddam Hussein may yet target America. Al-Qaida already has.

The American people expect, and our national security demands, that the administration make plans to ensure that any action we take in Iraq does not distract or detract from the war on terror. If they fail to do so, any victory we win in Iraq would come at a terrible cost.

Monday night, in his speech to the nation, the president said: "The situation could hardly get worse for world security and the people of Iraq." Yes, it can.

If the administration attempts to use the authority in this resolution without doing the work that is required before and after military action in Iraq, the situation there -- and elsewhere -- can indeed get worse. We could see more turmoil in the Persian Gulf, not less. We could see more bloodshed in the Middle East, not less. Americans could find themselves more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, not less.

So I stress again, Mr. President: This resolution represents a beginning, not an end. If we are going to make America and the world safer, much more work needs to be done before the force authorized in this document is used.

Some people think it is wrong to ask questions or raise concerns when the president says our national security is at risk. They believe it is an act of disloyalty. I disagree. In America, asking questions is an act of patriotism. For those of us who have been entrusted by our fellow citizens to serve in this Senate, asking questions is more than a privilege. It is a constitutional responsibility.

The American people have serious questions about the course of action this resolution could set us on. Given the gravity of the issues involved, and the far-reaching consequences of this course, it is essential that their questions are answered. I support this resolution. And for the sake of the American people -- especially those who may be called to defend our nation -- I will continue to ask questions.

On one point, however, I have no questions. I believe deeply and absolutely in the courage, the skills, and the devotion of our men and women in uniform. I know that if it becomes necessary for them to stand in harm's way to protect America, they will do so with pride and without hesitation, and they will succeed. They are the finest fighting force the world has ever known.

For their sake -- for the sake of all Americans, and for the world's sake -- we must confront Saddam Hussein. But we must do so in a way that avoids making a dangerous situation even worse.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.

We should not mistake our foreign policy priorities for ideology in a rush to proclaim a new doctrine in world affairs. America must understand that it cannot alone win a war against terrorism. It will require allies, friends and partners.

American leadership in the world will be further defined by our actions in Iraq and the Middle East. What begins in Iraq will not end in Iraq. There will be other Iraqs. There will be continued acts of terrorism, proliferating powers and regional conflicts. If we do it right and lead through the United Nations in concert with our allies, we can set a new standard for American leadership and international cooperation.

The perception of American power is power. And how our power is perceived can either magnify or diminish our influence in the world. The Senate has a constitutional responsibility and an institutional obligation in this effort.

Federalist Paper No. 63 specifically notes the responsibilities of the United States Senate in foreign affairs as follows, and I quote: "An attention to the judgment of other nations is important to every government for two reasons. The one is that independently of the merits of any particular plan or measure, it is desirable on many and various accounts, that it should appear to other nations as the offspring of a wise and honorable policy. The second is that in doubtful cases, particularly where the national councils may be warped by some strong passion or momentary interest, the presumed or known opinion of the impartial world may be the best guide that can always be followed. What has not America lost by her want of character with foreign nations? And how many errors and follies would she not have avoided if the justice and propriety of her measures had in every instance been previously tried by the light in which they would probably appear to the unbiased part of mankind?"

Remarkable words.

The resolution before us today should be tried in that same light as The Federalist Papers points out. The original resolution proposed by the Bush administration, S. J. Resolution 45, would have been a setback for this institution. It did not reflect the best democratic traditions of either congressional executive relations or the conduct of American foreign policy. S. J. Resolution 46, sponsored by Senators Lieberman, Warner, McCain and Bayh, is a far more responsible and accountable document than the one we started with three weeks ago ...

S.J. Resolution 46 narrows the authorization for the use of force to all relevant U.N. resolutions regarding Iraq and to defending our national interests against the threats posed by Iraq. It includes support for U.S. diplomatic efforts at the United Nations; a requirement that before taking action, the president formally determines that diplomatic or other peaceful means will not be adequate in meeting our objectives; reference to the war powers resolution requirements in periodic reports to Congress that includes those actions described in the section of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, regarding assistance and support for Iraq upon replacement of Saddam Hussein.

This resolution recognizes Congress as a co-equal partner in dealing with the threat from Saddam Hussein's Iraq. If disarmament in Iraq requires the use of force, we need to consider carefully the implications and consequences of our actions.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

I have come to the floor to state that, after much deliberation, I have decided to vote for the resolution introduced by Senators Lieberman, Warner, Bayh and McCain.

In two prior floor statements, I have expressed my views. Rather than repeat them here, I ask unanimous consent to include them in the Record right after these remarks.

I serve as the senior senator from California, representing 35 million people. That is a formidable task. People have weighed in by the tens of thousands. If I were just to cast a representative vote based on those who have voiced their opinions with my office -- and with no other factors -- I would have to vote against this resolution.

But as a member of the Intelligence Committee, as someone who has read and discussed and studied the history of Iraq, the record of obfuscation and the terror Saddam Hussein has sown, one comes to the conclusion that he remains a consequential threat.

Although the ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida are tenuous, there should be no question that his entire government is forged and held together by terror: The terror of secret police in station wagons on street corners watching; the terror forged through assassinations and brutal murders of anyone who disagrees with him; and yes, even of his own family members.

While the distance between the United States and Iraq is great, Saddam Hussein's ability to use his chemical and biological weapons against us is not constrained by geography -- it can be accomplished in a number of different ways -- which is what makes this threat so real and persuasive.

I supported the Levin Amendment, which authorized use of force pursuant to U.N. Security Council action, because it was the strongest resolution supporting a multilateral effort.

And, I believe a multilateral effort, through the United Nations, provides a strong moral imprimatur and as such is preferable to America's taking preemptive action that could have consequences tomorrow and years after that -- consequences we cannot imagine or even begin to understand today.

The original resolution sent to Congress by the president would have authorized a broad and sweeping use of force whenever or wherever he deemed necessary -- literally any place on earth.

It would have authorized the newly promulgated national security strategy of unilateral preemptive use of force in the defense of the nation in the war on terror. The resolution before us does not grant such a sweeping use of force. Rather, the use of force is confined to Iraq and targeted toward forcing Iraq to comply with 16 Security Council resolutions passed in the wake of the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Most importantly, I believe the Lieberman resolution becomes a catalyst to encourage prompt, forceful and effective action by the United Nations to compel this long-sought-after and much-evaded disarmament of weapons of mass destruction.

Disarming Iraq under Saddam Hussein is necessary and vital to the safety and security of America, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East -- let there be no doubt about this. But the decision to cast this vote does not come lightly. I continue to have serious concerns that there are those in the administration who would seek to use this authorization for a unilateral, preemptive attack against Iraq.

I believe this would be a terrible mistake.

But I am reassured by statements made by the president in his address to the United Nations on Sept. 12, which conveyed a major shift in the administration's approach -- turning away from a preemptive strategy and, instead, engaging and challenging the U.N. Security Council to compel Iraq's disarmament and back this with force.

I deeply believe that it is vital for the U.N. Security Council to approve a new, robust resolution requiring full and unconditional access to search for and destroy all weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately, the Security Council has not yet taken this action. Nor do we, at this time, know if they will.

If one believes Iraq is a real threat, and I do, and if the United Nations fails to act, then the only alternative is military action led by the United States.

Ironically, this authorization of use of force may well prompt the Security Council to act. Because if they do not, the United Nations becomes a paper tiger unable to enforce its mandates and unwilling to meet the challenge of this new day of danger.

For the past 11 years, Saddam Hussein has prevaricated, manipulated, deceived and violated every agreement he has made to disarm. If the past is prologue, this record means that arms inspections, alone, will not force disarmament. The great danger is a nuclear one. If Saddam Hussein achieves nuclear capability, the risk increases exponentially and the balance of power shifts radically in a deeply menacing way.

As I said on this floor in earlier remarks, I believe that Saddam Hussein rules by terror and has squirreled away stores of biological and chemical weapons. He has used them on Kurdish villages and in his invasion of Iran. Evidence indicates that he is engaged in developing nuclear weapons. However, today the best authorities I could find indicate he does not yet have nuclear capability. But this is only a question of time.

And we cannot let Saddam Hussein become a nuclear power.

And, so, it is my intention to vote yes on the resolution before us.

I do so with the hope that the United Nations will rise to the challenge and with the trust that the administration forge a coalition rather than go it alone.

And I do so with the fervent prayer that it will not be necessary to place America's fighting forces or innocent civilians anywhere in harm's way.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

The reason for going to war, if we must fight, is not because Saddam Hussein has failed to deliver Gulf War prisoners or Kuwaiti property. As much as we decry the way he's treated his people, regime change alone is not a sufficient reason for going to war, as desirable as it is to change the regime. Regime change has been an American policy under the Clinton administration, and it is the current policy. I support the policy.

But regime change, in and of itself, is not sufficient justification for going to war, particularly unilaterally, unless regime change is the only way to disarm Iraq of the weapons of mass destruction pursuant to the United Nations resolution. As bad as he is, Saddam Hussein the dictator is not the cause of war. Saddam Hussein sitting in Baghdad with an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction is a different matter.

In the wake of Sept. 11, who among us can say with any certainty to anybody that the weapons might not be used against our troops or against allies in the region? Who can say that this master of miscalculation will not develop a weapon of mass destruction even greater, a nuclear weapon, than reinvade Kuwait, push the Kurds out, attack Israel, any number of scenarios to try to further the ambitions to be the pan-Arab leader or simply to confront in the region and once again miscalculate the response, to believe he is stronger because he has those weapons?

And while the administration has failed to provide any direct link between Iraq and the events of Sept. 11, can we afford to ignore the possibility that Saddam Hussein might accidentally, as well as purposely, allow those weapons to slide off to one group or other in a region where weapons are the currency of trade?

How do we leave that to chance? That is why the enforcement mechanism through the United Nations and the reality of the potential of the use of force is so critical to achieve the protection of the long-term interests, not just of the United States, but of the world, to understand that the dynamic has changed, that we're living in a different status today, that we cannot sit by and be as complacent or even negligent about weapons of mass destruction and proliferation as we have been in the past.

The Iraqi regime's record over the decade leaves little doubt that Saddam Hussein wants to retain his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, and obviously, as we've said, grow it. These weapons represent an unacceptable threat.

I want to underscore this administration began this debate with a resolution that granted exceedingly broad authority to the president to use force, and I regret that some in the Congress rush so quickly to support it. I would have opposed it. It gave the authority to use force not only to enforce all of the U.N. resolutions as a cause of war, but also to produce regime change in Iraq and to restore international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region.

It made no mention of the president's efforts at the United Nations or the need to build multilateral support for whatever course of action we ultimately would take.

I am pleased that our pressure and the questions we have asked and the criticisms that have been raised publicly, that the debate in our democracy has pushed this administration to adopt important changes, both in language, as well as in the promises that they make. The revised White House text which we will vote on limits the grant of authority to the president to the use of force only with respect to Iraq. It does not empower him to use force throughout the Persian Gulf region.

It authorizes the president to use armed forces to defend the national security of the United States, a power most of us believe he already has under the Constitution as commander in chief. And it empowers him to enforce all relevant Security Council relations related to Iraq. Now none of those resolutions, or for that matter any of the other Security Council resolutions, demand Iraqi compliance with its international obligations and call for a regime change.

In recent days, the administration has gone further. They are defining what relevant U.N. Council resolutions mean. When Secretary Powell testified before our committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, on Sept. 26, he was asked what specific U.N. Security Council resolutions the United States would go to war to enforce. His response was clear. The resolutions dealing with weapons of mass destruction and the disarmament of Iraq.

In fact, when asked about compliance with other U.N. resolutions which do not deal with weapons of mass destruction, the secretary said, "The president has not linked authority to go to war to any of those elements."

When asked why the resolution sent by the president to the Congress requesting authority to enforce all the resolutions with which they had not complied, the secretary told the committee: "That's the way the resolution is currently worded. But we all know that the major problem, the offense, what the president is focused on and the danger to us and the world, are the weapons of mass destruction."

In his speech on Monday night, President Bush confirmed what Secretary Powell told the committee. In the clearest presentation to date, the president laid out a strong, comprehensive and compelling argument why Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction program is a threat to the United States and the international community.

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.

The Moving Finger writes; and having writ,
Moves on; nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

So said the Persian poet Omar Khayyam in the 11th century. So say I today. The Senate has made clear its intent on the Iraq resolution. The outcome is certain; the ending has been scripted. The Senate will vote, and the Iraq resolution will pass.

I continue to believe that the Senate, in following this preordained course of action, will be doing a grave disservice to this nation and to the Constitution on which it was founded. In the newly published National Security Strategy of the United States -- the document in which the president outlines the unprecedented policy of preemptive deterrence which the Iraq resolution will implement -- he asserts that the Constitution has served us well, as though it were some dusty relic of the past that needs to be eulogized before it is retired. He is wrong. The Constitution is no more dated in the principles it established than is the Bible. The Constitution continues to serve us well, if only we will take the time to heed it.

I am deeply disappointed that the Senate is not heeding the imperatives of the Constitution and is instead poised to hand off to the president the exclusive power of Congress to determine matters of war and peace.

I do not, in my heart of hearts, believe that this is what the American people expect of the Senate. I have heard from tens of thousands of Americans -- people from all across this country of ours -- who have urged me to keep up the fight. I am only one senator from a small state, yet in the past week I have received nearly 20,000 telephone calls and nearly 50,000 e-mails supporting my position.

I want all of those people across America who took the time to contact me to know how their words have heartened me and sustained me in my efforts to turn the tide of opinion in the Senate. They are my heroes, and I will never forget the remarkable courage and patriotism that reverberated in the fervor of their messages.

As the apostle Paul said, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." There are Americans all across this country who have joined in spirit with me and a small band of like-minded senators in fighting the good fight. We could stay here on the floor and continue to fight, and it is certainly a fight worth the effort. But there is also a point at which it becomes time to accept reality and to regroup. It is clear that we have lost the battle in the Senate, but we have not yet lost the war.

The next front is the White House, and I urge all those people who are following this debate, and who have encouraged me in my efforts, to turn their attention to the president. Call him, write him, e-mail him. Urge him to heed the Constitution and not short-circuit it by exercising the broad grant of authority that the Iraq resolution provides.

The president has said on many occasions that he has not yet made up his mind to go to war. When he does make up his mind -- if he does -- then he should come back to Congress and seek formal authorization. Let him use this Iraq resolution as leverage with the United Nations, if that is what he wants it for, but when it comes time for the United States to undertake military action, let him come back to the Congress for authorization.

I continue to have faith in our system of government. I continue to have faith in the basic values that shaped this nation. Those values do not include striking first against other nations. Those values do not include using our position as the strongest and most formidable nation in the world to bully and intimidate other nations. Those values do not include putting other nations on an enemies list so that we can justify preemptive military action.

Were I not to believe in the inherent ability of the Constitution to withstand the folly of such actions as the Senate is about to take, I would not stop fighting. I would fight with every fiber of my body, every ounce of my energy, with every parliamentary tool at my disposal. But I do believe that the Constitution will weather this storm. The Senate will weather the storm as well, but I only hope that when this tempest passes, senators will reflect on the ramifications of what they have done and understand the damage that has been inflicted on the Constitution.

In this debate, the American people seem to have a better understanding of the Constitution than those who are elected to represent them. Perhaps it is that their understanding of the Constitution is not filtered through the prism of election year politics. For whatever reason, I believe that the American people have a better understanding of what the Senate is about to do, a greater respect for the inherent powers of the Constitution, and a greater comprehension of the far-reaching consequences of this resolution than do most of their leaders.

I thank my colleagues who have allowed me to express at length my reasons for opposing this resolution. I thank those senators who have stood with me, supported me, and encouraged me. I thank those senators who have engaged in thoughtful debate with me. I do not believe that the Senate has given enough time or enough consideration to the question of handing the president unchecked authority to usurp the Constitution and declare war on Iraq. But I accept the futility of continuing to fight on this front.

I say to the people of America, to those who have encouraged me and others to uphold the principles of the Constitution, keep up the fight. Keep fighting for what is right. Let your voices be heard. I will always listen to you, and I hope that the president will begin to listen to you. May God bless you in your endeavors.


Salon Staff

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