Mr. KENNEDY. I commend my two colleagues and friends
for framing this issue as it has been framed over the period of these
last hours, and I appreciate the nature of the discussion. I say to my
friend from West Virginia and my friend from Virginia, I hope over the
period of these next several days as we contemplate this issue, going
into next week, the American people will take the time to follow not
only the debate here but to understand what is at stake with the
various resolutions that are going to be coming before us.
I was going to inquire of the Senator from West Virginia. As I understand previous resolutions which have been considered by the Security Council, the only resolution that provided for the use of force was the 1990 resolution, and it was pursuant to that resolution that passed the Security Council where the President then came to the Congress and asked for the Congress' authorization to go to war. I believe when we are talking about resolutions, which was one of the many valid points the Senator was making, on that particular occasion the Security Council authorized the use of force, and then the President came to the Congress to ask for the authorization, and was able to gain the authorization, and the American forces were committed. But that is an entirely different situation, as the Senator pointed out during his exchange with my friend from Virginia.
I intend to oppose the Lieberman-Warner resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. America should not go to war against Iraq unless and until all other reasonable alternatives are exhausted.
Just a year ago, the American people and the Congress rallied behind the President and our Armed Forces as we went to war in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida posed a clear, present and continuing danger. The need to destroy al-Qaida was urgent and undeniable.
In the months that followed September 11, the Bush administration marshaled an impressive international coalition. Today, 90 countries are enlisted in the effort, from providing troops to providing law enforcement, intelligence, and other critical support.
I am concerned that going to war against Iraq before other means are tried will jeopardize the war against terrorism. One year into the battle against al-Qaida, the administration is shifting focus, resources, and energy to Iraq. The change in priority is coming before we have eliminated the threat from al-Qaida, before we know whether Osama bin Laden is dead or alive, and before we know whether the fragile post-Taliban government in Afghanistan will succeed.
No one disputes that America has lasting and important interests in the Persian Gulf, or that Iraq poses a significant challenge to U.S. interests. There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein's regime is a serious danger, that he is a tyrant, and that his pursuit of lethal weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated. He must be disarmed.
Our goal is to achieve this objective in a way that minimizes the risks to our country. We cannot ignore the danger to our young men and women in uniform, to our ally Israel, to regional stability, the international community, and victory against terrorism.
There is clearly a threat from Iraq, and there is clearly a danger, but the administration has not made a convincing case that we face such an imminent threat to our national security that a unilateral, pre- emptive American strike and an immediate war are necessary. Nor has the administration laid out the cost in blood and treasure of this operation.
With all the talk of war, the administration has not explicitly acknowledged, let alone explained to the American people, the immense post-war commitment that will be required to create a stable Iraq.
The President's challenge to the United Nations requires a renewed effort to enforce the will of the international community to disarm Saddam. Resorting to war is not America's only or best course at this juncture. There are realistic alternatives between doing nothing and declaring unilateral or immediate war. War should be a last resort, not the first response.
The Bush administration says America can fight a war in Iraq without undermining our most pressing national security priority -- the war against al-Qaida. But I believe it is inevitable that a war in Iraq without serious international support will weaken our effort to ensure that al-Qaida terrorists can never, never, never threaten American lives again.
Unfortunately, the threat from al-Qaida is still imminent. The Nation's armed forces and law enforcement are on constant high alert. America may have broken up the network in Afghanistan and scattered its operatives across many lands. But we have not broken its will to kill Americans. We know that al-Qaida is still there, and still here in America -- and will do all it can to strike at America's heart and heartland again. But we don't know when, where, or how this may happen.
On March 12, CIA Director Tenet testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that al-Qaida remains "the most immediate and serious threat" to our country, "despite the progress we have made in Afghanistan and in disrupting the network elsewhere."
Even with the Taliban out of power, Afghanistan remains fragile. Security remains tenuous. Warlords still dominate many regions, and 17 people were recently killed in fighting between rival warlords in the northern mountains.
Our reconstruction efforts, which is vital to long-term stability and security, is in doubt and is cause for continuing concern. Some al- Qaida operatives -- no one knows how many -- have faded into the general population.
Terrorist attacks are on the rise. A bomb exploded near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul last week. A car bomb took 26 lives in that city earlier in September.
The U.S. military base in Bagram is under periodic fire.
President Karzai, who has already survived one assassination attempt, is still struggling to solidify his hold on power. And although neighboring Pakistan has been our ally, its stability is far from certain.
It is an open secret in Washington that the Nation's uniformed military leadership is skeptical about the wisdom of war with Iraq. They share the concern that it may adversely affect the ongoing war against al-Qaida and the continuing effort in Afghanistan by draining resources and armed forces already stretched so thin that many Reservists have been called for a second year of duty, and record numbers of service members have been kept on active duty beyond their obligated service.
To succeed in our global war against al-Qaida and terrorism, the United States depends on military, law enforcement, and intelligence support from many other nations. We depend on Russia and countries in the former Soviet Union that border Afghanistan for military cooperation. We depend on countries from Portugal to Pakistan to the Philippines for information about al-Qaida's plans and intentions.
Because of these relationships, terrorist plots are being foiled and al-Qaida operatives are being arrested. It is far from clear that these essential relationships will be able to survive the strain of a war with Iraq that comes before the alternatives are tried -- or comes without the support of an international coalition.
A largely unilateral American war that is widely perceived in the Muslim world as untimely or unjust could worsen, not lessen, the threat of terrorism. It could strengthen the ranks of al-Qaida sympathizers and trigger an escalation in terrorist acts. As General Wesley Clark, the former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, told the Senate Armed Services Committee, that kind of war against Iraq, would "super-charge recruiting for al-Qaida."
In a September 10 article, General Clark wrote: "Unilateral U.S. action today would disrupt the war against al-Qaida."
We ignore such wisdom and advice from many of the best of our military at our own peril.
General Joseph Hoar, the former Commander of the Central Command,
advised the Armed Services Committee on September 23 that America's
first and primary effort should be to defeat al-Qaida.
We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction. Our intelligence community is also deeply concerned about the acquisition of such weapons by Iran, North Korea, Libya, Syria and other nations. But information from the intelligence community over the past 6 months does not point to Iraq as an imminent threat to the United States or a major proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.
In public hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March, CIA Director George Tenet described Iraq as a threat but not as proliferator, saying that Saddam Hussein "is determined to thwart UN sanctions, press ahead with weapons of mass destruction, and resurrect the military force he had before the Gulf War." That is unacceptable, but it is also possible that it could be stopped short of war.
In recent weeks, in briefings and in hearings in the Armed Services Committee, I have seen no persuasive evidence that Saddam could not be deterred from attacking U.S. interests by America's overwhelming military superiority.
I have heard no persuasive evidence that Saddam is on the threshold of acquiring the nuclear weapons he has sought for more than 20 years.
The administration has offered no persuasive evidence that Saddam would transfer chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction to al-Qaida or any other terrorist organization. As General Hoar told the members of the Armed Services Committee, a case has not been made to connect al-Qaida and Iraq.
To the contrary, there is no clear and convincing pattern of Iraqi relations with either al-Qaida or the Taliban.
General Clark testified before the Armed Services Committee on September 23 that Iran has had closer ties to terrorism than Iraq. Iran has a nuclear weapons development program, and it already has a missile that can reach Israel.
In August, former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft wrote that there is "scant evidence" linking Saddam Hussein to terrorist organizations, and "even less to the September 11 attacks." He concluded that Saddam would not regard it as in his interest to risk his country or his investment in weapons of mass destruction by transferring them to terrorists who would use them and "leave Baghdad as the return address."
At the present time, we do face a pressing risk of proliferation -- from Russia's stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. America spends only $1 billion a year to safeguard those weapons. Yet the administration is preparing to spend between $100 billion and $200 billion on a war with Iraq.
I do not accept the idea that trying other alternatives is either futile or perilous -- that the risks of waiting are greater than the risks of war. Indeed, by launching a war against Iraq now, before other alternatives are tried in good faith, the United States may well precipitate the very threat that we are intent on preventing -- weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists. If Saddam's regime and his very survival are threatened, then his view of his interests may be profoundly altered. He may decide he has nothing to lose by using weapons of mass destruction himself or by sharing them with terrorists.
Such a war would also pose great risks to our armed forces. Some who advocate military action against Iraq assert that air strikes will do the job quickly and decisively, and that the operation will be complete in 72 hours. But there is no persuasive evidence that air strikes alone over the course of several days will incapacitate Saddam and destroy his weapons of mass destruction. Experts have informed us that we do not have sufficient intelligence about military targets in Iraq. Saddam may well hide his most lethal weapons in mosques, schools and hospitals. If our forces attempt to strike such targets, untold number of Iraqi civilians could be killed.
In the gulf war, many of Saddam's soldiers quickly retreated because they did not believe the invasion of Kuwait was justified. But when Iraq's survival is at stake, it is more likely that they will fight to the end. Saddam and his military may well abandon the desert, retreat to Baghdad, and engage in urban, guerrilla warfare.
In our September 23 hearing, General Clark told the Armed Services Committee that we would need a large military force and a plan for urban warfare. General Hoar said that our military would have to be prepared to fight block by block in Baghdad, and that we could lose a battalion of soldiers a day in casualties. Urban fighting would, he said, look like the last brutal 15 minutes of the movie "Saving Private Ryan."
Mr. BYRD. I have listened with great interest to what he is saying.
Does the Senator know -- he is on the Armed Services Committee of the
Senate as I am -- does he know of any plan the administration has in
readiness to deal with any one of these several possible contingencies
in which we may find ourselves if we attempt to launch a unilateral
strike, a unilateral invasion? Does he know of any plan that the
I have heard time and again the administration's surrogates say that the President has no plan on his desk. The distinguished Senator has made reference to a plan. Does he know of any plan that the administration has ready today and, if so, does he not believe the American people ought to know something about that plan? Does he believe the Congress ought to be informed of that plan?
Mr. KENNEDY. The Senator has asked the right question. The answer is that the best information we have is the President has been given alternatives, but the Armed Services Committee has not been given those alternatives, those estimates, the different possibilities that might occur should forces be engaged. No one is looking at a particular kind of military operation, but people want to gather information of the totality of what might be necessary and what might be expected. That certainly has not been shared with the Armed Services Committee.
I repeat, no one has been asking for the details of a military operation. We would not expect it. But the type of issues -- the magnitude, what can be expected within the country, what will be expected from our allies, what will be the reaction from many of those countries that are on the front line of helping the United States in the fight against terrorism and deal with the challenges of al-Qaida -- we have not seen any of those estimates, nor have we seen what the burden would be on the United States in a postwar situation.
We know of the difficulties and challenges in Afghanistan.
We see the tenuousness of that whole regime, the difficulties that we are facing in terms of Pakistan, in terms of its various challenges economic-wise, but we have not received any kind of information about what would be the burden upon the Americans in terms of a postwar period. That is something that should certainly be explained, other than the general figure that it will cost somewhere between $100 billion and $200 billion.
Mr. WARNER. Could I just add a fact here? In August, I became so concerned about the national dialogue on this issue that I took it upon myself to write the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Levin, urging that promptly upon the Congress returning from its August recess period we initiate hearings.
Senator Levin and I worked together on the scheduling of hearings. We talked before the August recess and in due course a hearing schedule was put together. Regrettably, the timing of those hearings has been such that our committee apparently will not have its hearing with the four Chiefs of Services who were to come before the Armed Services Committee.
A second hearing we had tentatively agreed on was having General Franks, the commander in chief of the particular area of operation that is involved, to come before the committee.
So I say to my friend, regrettably, we have not had the opportunity -- I tried in August to get these started, but we just did not complete that hearing schedule.
Mr. KENNEDY. I thank the Senator for his comments, which I think make the point that Senator Byrd and I would make, and that is that we ought to have those hearings prior to the time we give the authorization to go to war. I cannot believe that Senator Levin would not welcome the opportunity to have those hearings mentioned by the Senator before the time we would have the vote on it. The Senator from Virginia makes an excellent point. This Congress has not heard from those who are in the authority. It certainly is not because Senator Levin, who has had a series of hearings, is not willing to have them. I would welcome the fact that we have those hearings, and I am going to suggest it to the chairman of that committee that we do that prior to the time we vote.
Mr. WARNER. We were to have the hearing on General Franks today. Now, the reason it was not held, I leave that to my colleague from Massachusetts to consult with the chairman.
Mr. KENNEDY. We do not need the hearing to have the administration spell out to the American people what will be involved in this whole undertaking. The President can do this. The Secretary of Defense can do it. The general can do it at any time. We do not need the hearing.
These are the questions that the Senator from West Virginia and others have asked on this. We still have not gotten it. The American people have not gotten it. We do not need the hearings just to satisfy ourselves. The American people are entitled to this information certainly if we are going to be going to war.
Mr. BYRD. I understand it is possible the United
States could be lucky if the United States made a unilateral decision
to invade Iraq. We could be lucky, but we might not be.
Does the Senator have any idea, based on his having information from the administration, what is the likelihood we might find ourselves bogged down in the hot sands of the Middle East and our men and women may have to fight a house-to-house, apartment-to-apartment battle in any one of the cities of Iraq? What would be the cost in terms of human life, not only of Iraqis but of our own men and women, if we were faced with a war in which we have to go street by street, avenue by avenue, house by house, floor to floor, to root out the snipers? What would be the cost in American lives?
The distinguished Senator has stated that in this war, Saddam may believe he has nothing to lose by pushing the button and going the final mile, the last way, and making whatever expenditure in human life that flows from that decision. I wonder if the administration, in its planning, has determined at any point that we may be faced with that kind of situation.
I wonder this further, if the Senator will allow me: Have the American people been asked to face up to that possibility? And, no, the administration will not make its military officers available for one reason or another to accommodate the Senate Armed Forces hearings, but why then do we have to rush in and make a decision before an election that is only 30 days away? Why should the leadership of this Congress not say we are going to go home, we are going to talk to the people, we are going to listen to what they have to say? After all, they are the ones who are going to have to pay the price. We will go home and we will await this fateful, momentous, all-important, vital decision until after the election, and we will come back.
When I was the majority leader of this Senate, I, from time to time, included in the adjournment resolution a provision that allowed me to call the Senate back after discussing it with the minority leader. I was able to call it back. Why should we go home? What is there about this that says we need to make this decision now and go home? I have only heard the feeble excuse: Oh, we have to put it behind us.
Does the Senator believe, with me, that we are not going to put this behind us, even though we vote on this resolution? If we are weak enough to support this resolution, with all due respect to the authors thereof, this is a blank check to the President of the United States, dressed up in the glittering figleaves of "whereases," beautifully flowered whereases. They are pretty, but this is nothing but a blank check. There could be a saving in paper if we wrote it in one sentence, just turn it over lock, stock, and barrel, give it to the President of the United States -- not only this one but also the next one. It is so broad in scope and there is no end to it. It is just open ended.
May I ask my friend from Massachusetts, why shouldn't the leadership of this Congress say that the concerns are so great, the potential is so weighty, that we, the people's representatives, ought to go back and talk to the American people about this? Let's hear from them before we make this final decision.
Why should we have to have our thoughts cluttered up with an election, with the supercharged politics of this atmosphere in which we vote? Why should we be forced to make this decision now? Does the Senator agree with me?
Mr. KENNEDY. The Senator is quite correct in terms of his whole analysis, I believe, of the underlying resolutions that are before the Senate and the fact that we were effectively yielding the decisionmaking power of making war or peace -- effectively unilaterally turning that over just to the decision of the President of the United States, as the Senator pointed out.
The Gephardt-Lieberman-Warner language says they can take unilateral action without a Security Council mandate to defend against a threat posed by Iraq. It talks about the test to defend against the continuing threat from Iraq.
The Senator, in his earlier exchange, points out that language is certainly not even implied in terms of whatever authority the President has to provide for the security of the United States. It would have to be an imminent threat. The Senator had a very strong exchange and made that case effectively.
The test in the Gephardt-Lieberman-Warner Resolution says to defend against the continuing threat from Iraq -- that is the operative word. And in Biden-Lugar it talks about dealing with the threat of Iraq is "so grave" that force should be used. New words, "so grave." The President already said it was a grave situation.
In effect, if that was to be accepted -- the President already said it was a grave situation. It would, in effect, grant unilaterally, without any involvement in the international community, any effort whatsoever to try and bring allies into this, give the authority for the President to go ahead with war, as the President has indicated he may very well do.
Back to the Senator's other question about what the general said September 23. General McInerney believed that 72 hours of bombing would effectively break the spirit and the military capability of Iraq. I will let him speak in his own words (see sidebar).
The conclusion I drew was it would be basically a cleanup operation.
That was not what General Wesley Clark or General Hoar stated. Wesley Clark, the general in Kosovo, and General Hoar, the distinguished marine and central commander in Europe, two very prominent, distinguished, extraordinary military officials worth listening to -- General Clark on that day told the Armed Services Committee that we would need a large military force and a plan for urban warfare.
Those are not my words, not my conclusions. That is what General Clark said would be his estimate of what would be needed. General Hoar said our military would have to be prepared to fight block by block in Baghdad, and we could lose a battalion of soldiers a day in casualties. That is the testimony of General Hoar before the Armed Services Committee. He concluded: The urban fighting would look like the last brutal 15 minutes of the movie "Saving Private Ryan."
One of my colleagues said you can find generals who will say just about anything you want. That is certainly an insult to two of the finest military leaders we have had in recent times, one in the Marine Corps, and the other a very distinguished Army officer.
I agree with what the Senator said. Maybe we will get lucky. If this goes ahead we hope that is the outcome. But the Senator reminds us there are too many instances in the past we have not been lucky; the events went against us and we experienced the loss of enormous numbers of young Americans. We ought to be cautious and guarded, as the Senator has spelled out.
A decade ago, before the Gulf War in 1991, Secretary of State James Baker met with the Iraqis and threatened Hussein with catastrophe if he used weapons of mass destruction. In that war, although Saddam launched 39 Scud missiles at Israel, he did not use the chemical or biological weapons he had.
If Saddam's regime and survival are threatened today, he will have nothing to lose, and may use everything at his disposal. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has announced that instead of its forbearance in the 1991 Gulf War, this time Israel will respond if attacked. If weapons of mass destruction land on Israeli soil, killing innocent civilians, the experts I have consulted believe Israel will retaliate, and possibly with nuclear weapons.
This escalation, spiraling out of control, could draw the Arab world into a regional war in which our Arab allies side with Iraq, against the United States and against Israel. And that would represent a fundamental threat to Israel, to the region, and to the world community.
Nor can we rule out the possibility that Saddam would assault American forces with chemical or biological weapons. Despite advances in protecting our troops, we do not yet have the capability to safeguard all of them.
The members of our armed forces are serving our country with great distinction. Nearly 70,000 Reservists and National Guardsmen have been mobilized for the war against terrorism. The Pentagon has also been forced to retain 22,000 service members involuntarily, due to critical shortages of pilots, intelligence specialists, and security personnel. This number is almost as high as in the Gulf War, in which 29,000 service members were involuntarily retained.
In the Gulf War, no service members were recalled for longer than a year. Today, an additional 11,000 Reservists have been mobilized for a second year -- that is today.
If we embark upon a premature or unilateral military campaign against Iraq, or a campaign only with Britain, our forces will have to serve in even greater numbers, for longer periods, and with graver risks. Our forces will be stretched even thinner.
War should be the last resort. If in the end we have to take that course, the burden should be shared with allies -- and that is less likely if war becomes an immediate response.
Even with the major technological gains demonstrated in Afghanistan, the logistics of such a war would be extraordinarily challenging if we could not marshal a genuine coalition of regional and international allies.
President Bush made the right decision on September 12 when he expressed America's willingness to work with the United Nations to prevent Iraq from using chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. The President's address to the General Assembly challenging the United Nations to enforce its long list of Security Council resolutions on Iraq was powerful -- and for many of us, it was persuasive.
But to maintain the credibility he built when he went to the UN, the President must follow the logic of his own argument.
Before we go to war, we should give the international community a
credible opportunity to meet the President's challenge -- to renew its
resolve to disarm Saddam Hussein completely and effectively. This makes
the resumption of inspections more imperative and perhaps more likely
than at any time since they ended in 1998.
So this should be the first aim of our policy -- to get UN inspectors back into Iraq without conditions. I hope the Security Council will approve a new resolution requiring the Government of Iraq to accept unlimited and unconditional inspections and the destruction of any weapons of mass destruction.
The Security Council resolution should set a short timetable for the resumption of inspections. It should also require the head of the UN inspection team to report to the Security Council at frequent intervals. No delaying tactics should be tolerated -- and if they occur, Saddam should know that he will lose his last chance to avoid war.
The Security Council Resolution should authorize the use of force, if the inspection process in unsatisfactory. And there should be no doubt in Baghdad that the United States Congress will strongly support the determination of the international community and President Bush to disarm Saddam.
The return of inspectors with unfettered access and the ability to destroy what they find not only could remove any weapons of mass destruction from Saddam's arsenal. They could also be more effective than an immediate or unilateral war in ensuring that these deadly weapons would not fall into the hands of terrorists.
The 7 years of inspections that took place until 1998 succeeded in virtually eliminating Saddam's ability to develop a nuclear weapon in Iraq during that period. Even with Iraq's obstructions, those inspections resulted in the demolition of large quantities of chemical and biological weapons. By the time the inspectors were forced out of the country in 1998, they had accomplished far more disarmament than the Gulf War achieved. Before going to war again, we should do all we can, to resume the inspections now -- and set a non-negotiable demand of no obstruction, no delay, no more weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
What can be gained here is success -- and in the event of failure, greater credibility for an armed response, greater international support, and the prospect of victory with less loss of American life.
So what is to be lost by pursuing this policy before Congress authorizes sending young Americans into another and in this case perhaps unnecessary war?
Even the case against Saddam is, in important respects, a case against immediate or unilateral war. If Prime Minister Blair is correct in saying that Iraq can launch chemical or biological warheads in 45 minutes, what kind of sense does it make to put our soldiers in the path of that danger without exhausting every reasonable means to disarm Iraq through the United Nations?
Clearly, we must halt Saddam Hussein's quest for weapons of mass destruction. Yes, we may reach the point where our only choice is conflict -- with like-minded allies at our side, if not, in a multilateral action authorized by the Security Council. But we are not there yet.
The stakes are too high if we do the wrong thing. We have the opportunity now, in Congress, to do the right thing, and it is our responsibility to do it.
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