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Commentary

The War Debate

October 09, 2002|JOHN W. WARNER

The purpose of this resolution is to show the resolve of the Congress of the United States. People say: Where is the smoking gun? Let's hope we do not have a smoking gun.

We are faced with the situation of an individual who has extensively utilized in years past--not in the 1990-1991 conflict but in the war with Iran--chemical weapons. He also used those weapons against elements of his own people whom he was trying to repress and subject to his tyrannical regime. So there is a clear history of the use of these weapons. There is now a clear, documented case of open intelligence that he possesses larger stocks, more versatile stocks and the ability to use them.

We must pay due respect to our colleagues who have different views. But the important thing is that the Congress speaks with one voice with our president as he proceeds to address these issues in the United Nations and as he proceeds to engage other nations' leaders to encourage them to accept the same responsibility the United States is prepared to accept in addressing the potential dangers of these weapons of mass destruction which are clearly possessed by Saddam Hussein.

This is, quite literally, a decision to put our nation's sons and daughters in harm's way. It is a decision that must never be taken lightly. It is also a decision we must be willing to make when the security of our nation or our vital national security interests are threatened.

Our republic has sent forth the men and women of our nation in uniform close to 100 times. Some calculations use 80.

[The Constitution] enumerates with specificity the duties and the powers of Congress. One is to declare war. But as I look over those 80-plus times that the men and women of the armed forces have gone forward, only four times in the 200-plus-year history has this Congress ever declared war. We are not declaring war. What we are about to do has the same depth of seriousness and the same depth of consequences to the men and women in the armed forces.

None of us wants to see our men and women in uniform committed to foreign battlefields. None of us seeks a war with Saddam Hussein. War, conflict is the last resort; that the strength and the resolve that we take now is the best way to avoid that conflict.

There are times, again, we must be prepared and willing to resort to the use of force to protect our national security and the people of our great nation and those of our allies. This is one of those times.

The principal purpose of this resolution is to authorize our president to use military force if--if--he deems it necessary to remove the threat to our nation and the world possessed by Saddam Hussein and his growing inventory of weapons of mass destruction, the chemical and biological weapons this evil man already possesses and the nuclear weapons he is racing to acquire.

Clearly, there are risks associated with confronting Iraq. I have enumerated those in some detail. But the risks associated with inaction, to me and to our president, are far greater if we fail to confront this danger now--not tomorrow; now.

Confronting Saddam Hussein now is a logical step, a necessary step, and a mandatory step to rid the world of his potential.

How will we explain to the American people--in the wake of a possible future attack on the United States or U.S. interests, directly by Saddam Hussein or indirectly through surrogate terrorists equipped and directed by him, that we, the Congress, knew Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, that we knew from history that he did use them against others, and that he intended to manufacture and acquire even more and to use these weapons possibly against us and others, and yet the world failed to act timely?

Now the Congress, as a coequal branch of government, must join our president and support the course that he has set. We have to demonstrate a resolve within our nation and internationally that communicates to Saddam Hussein a clear message that enough is enough. You are to be held accountable to the world law and order as enunciated in 16 resolutions--and possibly a 17th--of the United Nations. He has to be convinced that America and international resolve is real, unshakable and enforceable if there is to be a peaceful resolution.

But, if diplomacy fails, we must be prepared to act.

The president is not king. But what is in the Constitution is the president should be commander in chief of the Army and Navy and, indeed, the Air Force and the Marines. At this very moment, while we are in this chamber, Saddam Hussein is firing on our airplanes over Iraq, which have been operating for over a decade, trying to enforce at least one of the resolutions, 688, which precluded him from using force, such as poison gas and biological weapons, against his own people.

What is new? I am urging the administration to try and share more information with the Congress, but I can only speak for myself as to what is new, and that is the biological weaponry. It is an open fact now.

Policies of containment have worked in the past, but with the spread of modern technology, and the clear documentation that this particular evil dictator, Saddam Hussein, has used these weapons against his own people and his adversaries, it is clear and convincing proof to this senator that there is a threat that must be dealt with now--not tomorrow, now.

Hopefully, the United Nations will devise a resolution and live up to its responsibilities. But if it does not, let there be no doubt in the minds of anyone that our nation will act in its own interest to protect its own people and, hopefully, will act with a coalition of allies.

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About This Article

These are excerpts from the remarks Friday by Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), debating a measure that would give President Bush broad authority to launch an attack on Iraq.

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