John Kerry's Statement on Iraq Before the War
One of the people running for President of the United States has been going around the country makingstatements about John Kerry's support for the Iraqi War. This particular candidate never misses an opportunity to let everyone know he was against the war. The following text is long, but if you are trying to get a serious grasp on Senator Kerry's stated position before and after the war, look at the evidence yourself. Don't listen to his rival doing an angry man act.
This is the text of the speech that John Kerry made on the Senate floor.
Mr. President, I thank my good friend from Arizona for his introduction and for his generous comments about the role that Senator Hagel and I have played.
My colleague, Senator Hagel, and I share seats on the Foreign Relations Committee. We have both followed this issue for a long period of time.
Obviously, with respect to an issue that might take Americans to war, we deserve time, and there is no more important debate to be had on the floor of the Senate. It is in the greatest traditions of this institution, and I am proud to take part in that debate now.
This is a debate that should be conducted without regard to parties, to politics, to labels. It is a debate that has to come from the gut of each and every Member, and I am confident that it does. I know for Senator Hagel, Senator McCain, and myself, when we pick up the newspapers and read about the residuals of the Vietnam war, there is a particular sensitivity because I do not think any of us feel a residual with respect to the choices we are making now.
I know for myself back in that period of time, even as I protested the war, I wrote that if my Nation was again threatened and Americans made the decision we needed to defend ourselves, I would be among the first to put on a uniform again and go and do that.
We are facing a very different world today than we have ever faced before. September 11 changed a lot, but other things have changed: Globalization, technology, a smaller planet, the difficulties of radical fundamentalism, the crosscurrents of religion and politics. We are living in an age where the dangers are different and they require a different response, different thinking, and different approaches than we have applied in the past.
Most importantly, it is a time when international institutions must rise to the occasion and seek new authority and a new measure of respect.
In approaching the question of this resolution, I wish the timing were different. I wish for the sake of the country we were not here now at this moment. There are legitimate questions about that timing. But none of the underlying realities of the threat, none of the underlying realities of the choices we face are altered because they are, in fact, the same as they were in 1991 when we discovered those weapons when the teams went in, and in 1998 when the teams were kicked out.
With respect to Saddam Hussein and the threat he presents, we must ask ourselves a simple question: Why? Why is Saddam Hussein pursuing weapons that most nations have agreed to limit or give up? Why is Saddam Hussein guilty of breaking his own cease-fire agreement with the international community? Why is Saddam Hussein attempting to develop nuclear weapons when most nations don't even try, and responsible nations that have them attempt to limit their potential for disaster? Why did Saddam Hussein threaten and provoke? Why does he develop missiles that exceed allowable limits? Why did Saddam Hussein lie and deceive the inspection teams previously? Why did Saddam Hussein not account for all of the weapons of mass destruction which UNSCOM identified? Why is he seeking to develop unmanned airborne vehicles for delivery of biological agents?
Does he do all of these things because he wants to live by international standards of behavior? Because he respects international law? Because he is a nice guy underneath it all and the world should trust him?
It would be naive to the point of grave danger not to believe that, left to his own devices, Saddam Hussein will provoke, misjudge, or stumble into a future, more dangerous confrontation with the civilized world. He has as much as promised it. He has already created a stunning track record of miscalculation. He miscalculated an 8-year war with Iran. He miscalculated the invasion of Kuwait. He miscalculated America's responses to it. He miscalculated the result of setting oil rigs on fire. He miscalculated the impact of sending Scuds into Israel. He miscalculated his own military might. He miscalculated the Arab world's response to his plight. He miscalculated in attempting an assassination of a former President of the United States. And he is miscalculating now America's judgments about his miscalculations.
All those miscalculations are compounded by the rest of history. A brutal, oppressive dictator, guilty of personally murdering and condoning murder and torture, grotesque violence against women, execution of political opponents, a war criminal who used chemical weapons against another nation and, of course, as we know, against his own people, the Kurds. He has diverted funds from the Oil-for-Food program, intended by the international community to go to his own people. He has supported and harbored terrorist groups, particularly radical Palestinian groups such as Abu Nidal, and he has given money to families of suicide murderers in Israel.
I mention these not because they are a cause to go to war in and of themselves, as the President previously suggested, but because they tell a lot about the threat of the weapons of mass destruction and the nature of this man. We should not go to war because these things are in his past, but we should be prepared to go to war because of what they tell us about the future. It is the total of all of these acts that provided the foundation for the world's determination in 1991 at the end of the gulf war that Saddam Hussein must: unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless underinternational supervision of his chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missile delivery systems ..... [and] unconditionally agree not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons or nuclear weapon-usable material.
Saddam Hussein signed that agreement. Saddam Hussein is in office today because of that agreement. It is the only reason he survived in 1991. In 1991, the world collectively made a judgment that this man should not have weapons of mass destruction. And we are here today in the year 2002 with an uninspected 4-year interval during which time we know through intelligence he not only has kept them, but he continues to grow them.
I believe the record of Saddam Hussein's ruthless, reckless breach of international values and standards of behavior which is at the core of the cease-fire agreement, with no reach, no stretch, is cause enough for the world community to hold him accountable by use of force, if necessary. The threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but as I said, it is not new. It has been with us since the end of that war, and particularly in the last 4 years we know after Operation Desert Fox failed to force him to reaccept them, that he has continued to build those weapons.
He has had a free hand for 4 years to reconstitute these weapons, allowing the world, during the interval, to lose the focus we had on weapons of mass destruction and the issue of proliferation.
The Senate worked to urge action in early 1998. I joined with Senator McCain, Senator Hagel, and other Senators, in a resolution urging the President to ``take all necessary and appropriate actions to respond to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end his weapons of mass destruction program.'' That was 1998 that we thought we needed a more serious response.
Later in the year, Congress enacted legislation declaring Iraq in material, unacceptable breach of its disarmament obligations and urging the President to take appropriate action to bring Iraq into compliance. In fact, had we done so, President Bush could well have taken his office, backed by our sense of urgency about holding Saddam Hussein accountable and, with an international United Nations, backed a multilateral stamp of approval record on a clear demand for the disarmament of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. We could have had that and we would not be here debating this today. But the administration missed an opportunity 2 years ago and particularly a year ago after September 11. They regrettably, and even clumsily, complicated their own case. The events of September 11 created new understanding of the terrorist threat and the degree to which every nation is vulnerable.
That understanding enabled the administration to form a broad and impressive coalition against terrorism. Had the administration tried then to capitalize on this unity of spirit to build a coalition to disarm Iraq, we would not be here in the pressing days before an election, late in this year, debating this now. The administration's decision to engage on this issue now, rather than a year ago or earlier, and the manner in which it has engaged, has politicized and complicated the national debate and raised questions about the credibility of their case.
By beginning its public discourse with talk of invasion and regime change, the administration raised doubts about their bona fides on the most legitimate justification for war--that in the post-September 11 world the unrestrained threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein is unacceptable, and his refusal to allow U.N. inspectors to return was in blatant violation of the 1991 cease-fire agreement that left him in power. By casting about in an unfocused, undisciplined, overly public, internal debate for a rationale for war, the administration complicated their case, confused the American public, and compromised America's credibility in the eyes of the world community. By engaging in hasty war talk rather than focusing on the central issue of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the administration placed doubts in the minds of potential allies, particularly in the Middle East, where managing the Arab street is difficult at best.
Against this disarray, it is not surprising that tough questions began to be asked and critics began to emerge.
Indeed over the course of the last 6 weeks some of the strongest and most thoughtful questioning of our Nation's Iraq policy has come from what some observers would say are unlikely sources: Senators like CHUCK HAGEL and DICK LUGAR, former Bush Administration national security experts including Brent Scowcroft and James Baker, and distinguished military voices including General Shalikashvili. They are asking the tough questions which must be answered before--and not after--you commit a nation to a course that may well lead to war. They know from their years of experience, whether on the battlefield as soldiers, in the Senate, or at the highest levels of public diplomacy, that you build the consent of the American people to sustain military confrontation by asking questions, not avoiding them. Criticism and questions do not reflect a lack of patriotism--they demonstrate the strength and core values of our American democracy.
It is love of country, and it is defined by defense of those policies that protect and defend our country.
Writing in the New York Times in early September, I argued that the American people would never accept the legitimacy of this war or give their consent to it unless the administration first presented detailed evidence of the threat of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and proved that it had exhausted all other options to protect our national security. I laid out a series of steps that the administration must take for the legitimacy of our cause and our ultimate success in Iraq--seek the advice and approval of Congress after laying out the evidence and making the case, and work with our allies to seek full enforcement of the existing cease-fire agreement while simultaneously offering Iraq a clear ultimatum: accept rigorous inspections without negotiation or compromise and without condition.
Those of us who have offered questions and criticisms--and there are many in this body and beyond--can take heart in the fact that those questions and those criticisms have had an impact on the debate. They have changed how we may or may not deal with Iraq. The Bush administration began talking about Iraq by suggesting that congressional consultation and authorization for the use of force were not needed. Now they are consulting with Congress and seeking our authorization. The administration began this process walking down a path of unilateralism. Today they acknowledge that while we reserve the right to act alone, it is better to act with allies. The administration which once seemed entirely disengaged from the United Nations ultimately went to the United Nations and began building international consensus to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. The administration began this process suggesting that the United States might well go to war over Saddam Hussein's failure to return Kuwaiti property. Last week the Secretary of State and on Monday night the President made clear we would go to war only to disarm Iraq.
The administration began discussion of Iraq by almost belittling the importance of arms inspections. Today the administration has refocused their aim and made clear we are not in an arbitrary conflict with one of the world's many dictators, but a conflict with a dictator whom the international community left in power only because he agreed not to pursue weapons of mass destruction. That is why arms inspections--and I believe ultimately Saddam's unwillingness to submit to fail-safe inspections--is absolutely critical in building international support for our case to the world.
That is the way in which you make it clear to the world that we are contemplating war not for war's sake, and not to accomplish goals that don't meet international standards or muster with respect to national security, but because weapons inspections may be the ultimate enforcement mechanism, and that may be the way in which we ultimately protect ourselves.
I am pleased that the Bush administration has recognized the wisdom of shifting its approach on Iraq. That shift has made it possible, in my judgment, for the Senate to move forward with greater unity, having asked and begun to answer the questions that best defend our troops and protect our national security. The Senate can now make a determination about this resolution and, in this historic vote, help put our country and the world on a course to begin to answer one fundamental question--not whether to hold Saddam Hussein accountable, but how.
I have said publicly for years that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein pose a real and grave threat to our security and that of our allies in the Persian Gulf region. Saddam Hussein's record bears this out.
I have talked about that record. Iraq never fully accounted for the major gaps and inconsistencies in declarations provided to the inspectors of the pre-Gulf war weapons of mass destruction program, nor did the Iraq regime provide credible proof that it had completely destroyed its weapons and production infrastructure.
He has continually failed to meet the obligations imposed by the international community on Iraq at the end of the Persian Gulf the Iraqi regime provide credible proof war to declare and destroy its weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems and to forego the development of nuclear weapons. during the 7 years of weapons inspections, the Iraqi regime repeatedly frustrated the work of the UNSCOM--Special Commission--inspectors, culminating in 1998 in their ouster. Even during the period of inspections, Iraq never fully accounted for major gaps and inconsistencies in declarations provided to the inspectors of its pre-gulf war WMD programs, nor did the Iraqi regime provide credible proof that it had completely destroyed its weapons stockpiles and production infrastructure.
It is clear that in the 4 years since the UNSCOM inspectors were forced out, Saddam Hussein has continued his quest for weapons of mass destruction. According to intelligence, Iraq has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of the 150 kilometer restriction imposed by the United Nations in the ceasefire resolution. Although Iraq's chemical weapons capability was reduced during the UNSCOM inspections, Iraq has maintained its chemical weapons effort over the last 4 years. Evidence suggests that it has begun renewed production of chemical warfare agents, probably including mustard gas, sarin, cyclosarin, and VX. Intelligence reports show that Iraq has invested more heavily in its biological weapons programs over the 4 years, with the result that all key aspects of this program--R&D, production and weaponization--are active. Most elements of the program are larger and more advanced than they were before the gulf war. Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating agents and is capable of quickly producing and weaponizing a variety of such agents, including anthrax, for delivery on a range of vehicles such as bombs, missiles, aerial sprayers, and covert operatives which could bring them to the United States homeland. Since inspectors left, the Iraqi regime has energized its missile program, probably now consisting of a few dozen Scud-type missiles with ranges of 650 to 900 kilometers that could hit Israel, Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies in the region. In addition, Iraq is developing unmanned aerial vehicles UAVs, capable of delivering chemical and biological warfare agents, which could threaten Iraq's neighbors as well as American forces in the Persian Gulf.
Prior to the gulf war, Iraq had an advance nuclear weapons development program. Although UNSCOM and IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors learned much about Iraq's efforts in this area, Iraq has failed to provide complete information on all aspects of its program. Iraq has maintained its nuclear scientists and technicians as well as sufficient dual-use manufacturing capability to support a reconstituted nuclear weapons program. Iraqi defectors who once worked for Iraq's nuclear weapons establishment have reportedly told American officials that acquiring nuclear weapons is a top priority for Saddam Hussein's regime.
According to the CIA's report, all U.S. intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons. There is little question that Saddam Hussein wants to develop nuclear weapons. The more difficult question to answer is when Iraq could actually achieve this goal. That depends on is its ability to acquire weapons-grade fissile material. If Iraq could acquire this material from abroad, the CIA estimates that it could have a nuclear weapon within 1 year.
Absent a foreign supplier, it might be longer. There is no question that Saddam Hussein represents a threat. I have heard even my colleagues who oppose the President's resolution say we have to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. They also say we have to force the inspections. And to force the inspections, you have to be prepared to use force.
So the issue is not over the question of whether or not the threat is real, or whether or not people agree there is a threat. It is over what means we will take, and when, in order to try to eliminate it.
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 has 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 September 11, who among us can say, with any certainty, to anybody, that those 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--then reinvade Kuwait, push the Kurds out, attack Israel, any number of scenarios to try to further his 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 September 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 long-term interests, not just of the United States but of the world, to understand that the dynamic has changed, that we are 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 have said, grow it. These weapons represent an unacceptable threat.
I want to underscore that this administration began this debate with a resolution that granted exceedingly broad authority to the President to use force. I regret that some in the Congress rushed so quickly to support it. I would have opposed it. It gave the President 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, 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 resolutions related to Iraq. None of those resolutions or, for that matter, any of the other Security Council resolutions demanding Iraqi compliance with its international obligations, calls for a regime change.
In recent days, the administration has gone further. They are defining what ``relevant'' U.N. Security Council resolutions mean. When Secretary Powell testified before our committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, on September 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 Congress requested authority to enforce all the resolutions with which Iraq had not complied, the Secretary told the committee:
That's the way the resolution is currently worded, but we all know, I think, that the major problem, the offense, what the President is focused on and the danger to us and to 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 programs are a threat to the United States and the international community. The President said:
Saddam Hussein must disarm himself, or, for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.
This statement left no doubt that the casus belli for the United States will be Iraq's failure to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction.
I would have preferred that the President agree to the approach drafted by Senators Biden and Lugar because that resolution would authorize the use of force for the explicit purpose of disarming Iraq and countering the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
The Biden-Lugar resolution also acknowledges the importance of the President's efforts at the United Nations. It would require the President, before exercising the authority granted in the resolution, to send a determination to Congress that the United States tried to seek a new Security Council resolution or that the threat posed by Iraq's WMD is so great he must act absent a new resolution--a power, incidentally, that the President of the United States always has.
I believe this approach would have provided greater clarity to the American people about the reason for going to war and the specific grant of authority. I think it would have been a better way to do this. But it does not change the bottom line of what we are voting for.
The administration, unwisely, in my view, rejected the Biden-Lugar approach. But, perhaps as a nod to the sponsors, it did agree to a determination requirement on the status of its efforts at the United Nations. That is now embodied in the White House text.
The President has challenged the United Nations, as he should, and as all of us in the Senate should, to enforce its own resolutions vis-a-vis Iraq. And his administration is now working aggressively with the Perm 5 members on the Security Council to reach a consensus. As he told the American people Monday night:
America wants the U.N. to be an effective organization that helps keep the peace. And that is why we are urging the Security Council to adopt a new resolution setting out tough, immediate requirements. Because of my concerns, and because of the need to understand, with clarity, what this resolution meant, I traveled to New York a week ago. I met with members of the Security Council and came away with a conviction that they will indeed move to enforce, that they understand the need to enforce, if Saddam Hussein does not fulfill his obligation to disarm.
And I believe they made it clear that if the United States operates through the U.N., and through the Security Council, they--all of them--will also bear responsibility for the aftermath of rebuilding Iraq and for the joint efforts to do what we need to do as a consequence of that enforcement.
I talked to Secretary General Kofi Annan at the end of last week and again felt a reiteration of the seriousness with which the United Nations takes this and that they will respond.
If the President arbitrarily walks away from this course of action--without good cause or reason--the legitimacy of any subsequent action by the United States against Iraq will be challenged by the American people and the international community. And I would vigorously oppose the President doing so.
When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security and that of our allies in the Persian Gulf region. I will vote yes because I believe it is the best way to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. And the administration, I believe, is now committed to a recognition that war must be the last option to address this threat, not the first, and that we must act in concert with allies around the globe to make the world's case against Saddam Hussein.
As the President made clear earlier this week, ``Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable.'' It means ``America speaks with one voice.''
Let me be clear, the vote I will give to the President is for one reason and one reason only: To disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, if we cannot accomplish that objective through new, tough weapons inspections in joint concert with our allies.
In giving the President this authority, I expect him to fulfill the commitments he has made to the American people in recent days--to work with the United Nations Security Council to adopt a new resolution setting out tough and immediate inspection requirements, and to act with our allies at our side if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force. If he fails to do so, I will be among the first to speak out.
If we do wind up going to war with Iraq, it is imperative that we do so with others in the international community, unless there is a showing of a grave, imminent--and I emphasize ``imminent''--threat to this country which requires the President to respond in a way that protects our immediate national security needs.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has recognized a similar need to distinguish how we approach this. He has said that he believes we should move in concert with allies, and he has promised his own party that he will not do so otherwise. The administration may not be in the habit of building coalitions, but that is what they need to do. And it is what can be done. If we go it alone without reason, we risk inflaming an entire region, breeding a new generation of terrorists, a new cadre of anti-American zealots, and we will be less secure, not more secure, at the end of the day, even with Saddam Hussein disarmed.
Let there be no doubt or confusion about where we stand on this. I will support a multilateral effort to disarm him by force, if we ever exhaust those other options, as the President has promised, but I will not support a unilateral U.S. war against Iraq unless that threat is imminent and the multilateral effort has not proven possible under any circumstances.
In voting to grant the President the authority, I am not giving him carte blanche to run roughshod over every country that poses or may pose some kind of potential threat to the United States. Every nation has the right to act preemptively, if it faces an imminent and grave threat, for its self-defense under the standards of law. The threat we face today with Iraq does not meet that test yet. I emphasize ``yet.'' Yes, it is grave because of the deadliness of Saddam Hussein's arsenal and the very high probability that he might use these weapons one day if not disarmed. But it is not imminent, and no one in the CIA, no intelligence briefing we have had suggests it is imminent. None of our intelligence reports suggest that he is about to launch an attack.
The argument for going to war against Iraq is rooted in enforcement of the international community's demand that he disarm. It is not rooted in the doctrine of preemption. Nor is the grant of authority in this resolution an acknowledgment that Congress accepts or agrees with the President's new strategic doctrine of preemption. Just the opposite. This resolution clearly limits the authority given to the President to use force in Iraq, and Iraq only, and for the specific purpose of defending the United States against the threat posed by Iraq and enforcing relevant Security Council resolutions.
The definition of purpose circumscribes the authority given to the President to the use of force to disarm Iraq because only Iraq's weapons of mass destruction meet the two criteria laid out in this resolution.
Congressional action on this resolution is not the end of our national debate on how best to disarm Iraq. Nor does it mean we have exhausted all of our peaceful options to achieve this goal. There is much more to be done. The administration must continue its efforts to build support at the United Nations for a new, unfettered, unconditional weapons inspection regime. If we can eliminate the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction through inspections, whenever, wherever, and however we want them, including in palaces--and I am highly skeptical, given the full record, given their past practices, that we can necessarily achieve that--then we have an obligation to try that as the first course of action before we expend American lives in any further effort.
American success in the Persian Gulf war was enhanced by the creation of an international coalition. Our coalition partners picked up the overwhelming burden of the cost of that war. It is imperative that the administration continue to work to multilateralize the current effort against Iraq. If the administration's initiatives at the United Nations are real and sincere, other nations are more likely to invest, to stand behind our efforts to force Iraq to disarm, be it through a new, rigorous, no-nonsense program of inspection, or if necessary, through the use of force. That is the best way to proceed.
The United States, without question, has the military power to enter this conflict unilaterally. But we do need friends. We need logistical support such as bases, command and control centers, overflight rights from allies in the region. And most importantly, we need to be able to successfully wage the war on terror simultaneously. That war on terror depends more than anything else on the sharing of intelligence. That sharing of intelligence depends more than anything else on the cooperation of countries in the region. If we disrupt that, we could disrupt the possibilities of the capacity of that war to be most effectively waged.
I believe the support from the region will come only if they are convinced of the credibility of our arguments and the legitimacy of our mission. The United Nations never has veto power over any measure the United States needs to take to protect our national security. But it is in our interest to try to act with our allies, if at all possible. And that should be because the burden of eliminating the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction should not be ours alone. It should not be the American people's alone.
If in the end these efforts fail, and if in the end we are at war, we will have an obligation, ultimately, to the Iraqi people with whom we are not at war. This is a war against a regime, mostly one man. So other nations in the region and all of us will need to help create an Iraq that is a place and a force for stability and openness in the region. That effort is going to be long term, costly, and not without difficulty, given Iraq's ethnic and religious divisions and history of domestic turbulence. In Afghanistan, the administration has given more lipservice than resources to the rebuilding effort. We cannot allow that to happen in Iraq, and we must be prepared to stay the course over however many years it takes to do it right.
The challenge is great: An administration which made nation building a dirty word needs to develop a comprehensive, Marshall-type plan, if it will meet the challenge. The President needs to give the American people a fairer and fuller, clearer understanding of the magnitude and long-term financial cost of that effort.
The international community's support will be critical because we will not be able to rebuild Iraq singlehandedly. We will lack the credibility and the expertise and the capacity.
It is clear the Senate is about to give the President the authority he has requested sometime in the next days. Whether the President will have to use that authority depends ultimately on Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein has a choice: He can continue to defy the international community, or he can fulfill his longstanding obligations to disarm. He is the person who has brought the world to this brink of confrontation.
He is the dictator who can end the stalemate simply by following the terms of the agreement which left him in power.
By standing with the President, Congress would demonstrate our Nation is united in its determination to take away that arsenal, and we are affirming the President's right and responsibility to keep the American people safe. One of the lessons I learned from fighting in a very different war, at a different time, is we need the consent of the American people for our mission to be legitimate and sustainable. I do know what it means, as does Senator Hagel, to fight in a war where that consent is lost, where allies are in short supply, where conditions are hostile, and the mission is ill-defined.
That is why I believe so strongly before one American soldier steps foot on Iraqi soil, the American people must understand completely its urgency. They need to know we put our country in the position of ultimate strength and that we have no options, short of war, to eliminate a threat we could not tolerate.
I believe the work we have begun in this Senate, by offering questions, and not blind acquiescence, has helped put our Nation on a responsible course. It has succeeded, certainly, in putting Saddam Hussein on notice that he will be held accountable; but it also has put the administration on notice we will hold them accountable for the means by which we do this.
It is through constant questioning we will stay the course, and that is a course that will ultimately defend our troops and protect our national security.
President Kennedy faced a similar difficult challenge in the days of the Cuban missile crisis. He decided not to proceed, I might add, preemptively. He decided to show the evidence and proceeded through the international institutions. He said at the time:
The path we have chosen is full of hazards, as all paths are ..... The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.
So I believe the Senate will make it clear, and the country will make it clear, that we will not be blackmailed or extorted by these weapons, and we will not permit the United Nations--an institution we have worked hard to nurture and create--to simply be ignored by this dictator.
I yield the floor.