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Levin Amendement on Iraq - Senator Carl Levin

Senator Carl Levin

Delivered on the Senate Floor

In Support of Levin Amendement on Iraq

Friday, 4 October, 2002

"Mr. President, I rise today to speak in support of my alternative resolution and to explain why I believe it is the right way to go, rather than the White House resolution.

At the outset, it must be noted that, whatever differences there may be among us, the one thing on which we can all agree upon is that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the Middle East. He has used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and against Iran; he has launched invasions of Iran and Kuwait; and for the last eleven years he has defied the will of the entire world as expressed in United Nations Security Council resolutions by refusing to destroy his weapons of mass destruction and prohibited ballistic missiles.

Another point on which I believe there is consensus among the Members of the Senate is the fact that confronting the threat posed by Saddam Hussein could ultimately lead to committing U.S. military forces, including ground forces, into combat and that the vote we take on a resolution relating to Iraq may be the most important vote we make this year.

Whether we commit our forces to attack Iraq as part of a United Nations authorized coalition or whether we go it alone could have immense consequences for our security and for future peace and stability in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East and beyond.

And that's why I am introducing this alternative resolution. The resolution that was agreed between the White House and the House leadership fails to address the two main problems with the original White House discussion draft. Those problems are:

* The White House compromise still specifically authorizes at this time the use of force on a unilateral, "go it alone" basis, that is - without U.N. Security Council authorization; and

* It authorizes the use of force beyond dealing with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

My resolution is consistent with how I think Americans want us to proceed. It emphasizes the importance of dealing with Iraq on a multilateral basis, and withholds judgment at this time on the question of whether the United States should "go it alone" unilaterally against Iraq, should the United Nations fail to act.

What my alternative resolution does is as follows:

1) It urges the U.N. Security Council to adopt promptly a resolution that:

* Demands unconditional access for U.N. inspectors so that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and prohibited ballistic missiles may be destroyed; and

* Within the same U.N. resolution, authorizes the use of necessary and appropriate force by U.N. member states to enforce such resolution in the event Iraq refuses to comply.

2) It also specifically authorizes the use of United States Armed Forces pursuant to that U.N. Security Council resolution if Iraq fails to comply with its terms, provided the President informs the Congress of his determination that the United States has used appropriate diplomatic and other peaceful means to obtain compliance by Iraq with such U.N. resolution.

3) My resolution affirms that, under international law and the U.N. Charter, the United States has at all times the inherent right to use military force in self-defense, affirming the fact that there is no U.N. veto over U.S. military action.

4) My resolution affirms that Congress will not adjourn sine die so that Congress can return to session to consider promptly proposals relative to Iraq if, in the judgment of the President, the U.N. Security Council does not adopt the resolution mentioned earlier.

5) Finally, my resolution provides that the President report to Congress every 60 days on the status of efforts to have the U.N. Security Council adopt such a resolution and, if such a resolution is adopted, to obtain compliance by Iraq with the resolution.

Before I go any further, I want to note how relieved many of us were that the President went to the United Nations and rightfully declared that the Iraqi threat is "exactly the kind of aggressive threat that the United Nations was born to confront." The President reminded the world that Iraqi aggression was stopped after the invasion of Kuwait "by the might of coalition forces and the will of the United Nations." And in calling upon the United Nations to act again, the President committee the U.S. to "work with the U.N. Security Council to meet our common challenge. . . We will work," the President said, "with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions."

In acting in this manner, the President was setting in motion the same process that was used when Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990. At that time, then-President Bush on November 29, 1990, obtained U.N. Security Council authorization for the use of force if Iraqi forces did not withdraw from Kuwait by January 15, 1991. President Bush assembled a coalition of 39 nations that included Arab nations Bahrain, Egypt, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, The United Arab Emirates and Muslim nations Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Morocco, Niger, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and NATO ally Turkey. The Senate and House of Representatives, on a close vote, passed a Joint Resolution authorizing the use of force to achieve implementation of the U.N. Resolution on January 12, 1991, almost 7 weeks after the UN had acted and 3 days prior to the U.N.'s deadline.

The fact that the United States went to and obtained U.N. authorization for the use of force meant that, with very few exceptions, the world was united in support of the United States and against Saddam Hussein. It did not mean that the United States was going to war against an Arab nation - rather it meant that the world community, with the participation of Arab nations, was taking action against Iraq. It did not mean that the United States was going to war against a Muslim nation - it meant that the world community, with the participation of Muslim nations, was going to war against Iraq. It resulted in the sharing of risks and the sharing of costs of the war.

Also importantly, the United Nations, by its approval, gave unquestioned international legitimacy to the U.S.-led military action and the United States, by seeking UN approval, cemented the credibility and relevancy of the United Nations.

President Bush has now gone to the United Nations, as his father did before him, and laid out the issues with the following words:

"All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequences? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant? The United States helped found the United Nations. We want the United Nations to be effective, and respectful, and successful. We want the resolutions of the world's most important multilateral body to be enforced. And right now those resolutions are being unilaterally subverted by the Iraqi regime. Our partnership of nations can meet the test before us, by making clear what we now expect of the Iraqi regime."

The test for the United Nations was laid out clearly by President Bush. Negotiations are going on now among the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. We all pray that they will meet the test and that is why my resolution specifically urges the Security Council to adopt promptly a resolution that:

"demands that Iraq provide immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access of the United Nations weapons inspectors so that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons-usable material, ballistic missiles with a range in excess of 150 kilometers, and related facilities are destroyed, removed, or rendered harmless; and authorizes the use of necessary and appropriate military force by member states of the United Nations to enforce such resolution in the event that the Government of Iraq refuses to comply."

Congress has a test to face as well. That test, in my view, is to support the President's request to the United Nations and not to do anything that will undermine the effort to get the United Nations to do what the President requested that they do and that they should do.

In other words, if Congress endorses the use of force even in the absence of a U.N. authorization, it enables the members of the Security Council to take a pass on the use of force. They can avoid taking a tough position on the basis that the United States will act no matter what the U.N. does. I want the U.N. to be relevant and credible. I want the U.N. to succeed. I do not want the U.N. to be relegated to humanitarian and disaster relief and other tasks that are useful to international peace and security but not essential. I believe that, if done wisely, we can unite not only the Congress, but ultimately the world community, on a course of action that we all seek - the elimination of Saddam Hussein's ability to threaten the world with weapons of mass destruction.

In other words, our focus should be on uniting the world and not dividing it. Let me say that again, as I strongly believe that the test for Congress is to help the President lead and unite the world and not to divide it.

The resolution to which the White House agreed supports the use of military force with or without the support of the world community. In addition to letting the members of the U.N. Security Council off the hook, the adoption of that type of resolution tells the world that the United States is ready to act unilaterally - to "go it alone" - and the United States Congress isn't even willing to wait to see if the United Nations will act to follow the President's request and unite the world to enforce its resolutions before deciding we'll go it alone.

Moreover, by not limiting the authorization for the use of force to the destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, the House resolution endorses the use of force for regime change and for a host of other purposes such as a return of Kuwaiti archives. That language separates us from the one nation that has been our most trusted and faithful ally, Great Britain. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw have made clear on numerous occasions that Great Britain's willingness to go to war with Iraq is to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Why on earth would we want to divorce ourselves from Great Britain? Even if we abandoned the effort to unify the world, why would we emphasize the only apparent difference we have with Great Britain?

But the most important question, in my belief, is whether we decide to go it alone at this time without the support of the world community. In my view, a "go it alone" approach, where we attack Iraq without the support and participation of the world community would entail serious risks and could have serious consequences for U.S. interests in the Middle East and around the world.

It makes a difference when deciding to use force if our use of force is unilateral or if it has the support of the world community.

* If we go it alone, would we be able to secure the use of airbases, ports and supply bases and overflight rights in the region that are important to the success of a military operation against Saddam Hussein?

* If we go it alone, would there be a reduction in the broad international support for the war on terrorism, including the law enforcement, financial, and intelligence cooperation that is so essential?

* If we go it alone, would that destabilize an already volatile region - undermine governments like Jordan and Pakistan - and possibly end up with a radical regime in Pakistan, a country that has nuclear weapons?

* If we go it alone without U.N. authority, would Saddam Hussein or his military commanders be more likely to use weapons of mass destruction against other nations in the region and against U.S. military forces in response than would be the case if he faced a U.N.-authorized coalition, particularly if it included a number of Muslim nations as the Coalition did during the Gulf War?

* If we go it alone, would other nations use our action as a precedent for threatening unilateral military action against their neighbors in the future?

* If we go it alone, would we be undercutting efforts to get other countries to help us with the expensive, lengthy task of stabilizing Iraq after Saddam is removed?

By seeking a U.N. Security Council resolution that would authorize U.N. member states to use force if Iraq does not comply with its terms, we aren't giving the United Nations a veto. Rather, we are getting the strength and international credibility and legitimacy, should military force be needed. My resolution is clear about the fact that we are not giving the U.N. a veto; we are just seeking the world community's support before deciding whether to go it alone.

This is a similar approach to what Prime Minister Tony Blair said recently in an interview with David Frost. Prime Minister Blair is quoted as saying, "I do not think that the U.N. will avoid the issue; but if they do, then we'll see at that time."

In his testimony before the Armed Services Committee on September 23rd, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Shalikashvili addressed the issue of acting pursuant to a UN Security Council Resolution that authorizes the use of force in the following fashion:

"I am convinced that such a resolution would, in fact, be a powerful tool, and I say that for a number of reasons. "First of all, we need to impress upon Saddam Hussein that he's not just facing the United States, but that he's facing the will of the majority of the world. We must also ensure that we have made it possible for as many of our friends and allies to join us. Some of them privately tell us they would do so, but that it's difficult for political, internal reasons, whatever, very difficult to do so without the United Nations having spoken on the issue. Some of them believe deeply that you should go to war only ñ unless you're directly attacked - that you should go to war only with the sanction of the United Nations. Others just have that in their culture.

"Finally, I think it's important from a security point of view, because every time we undermine the credibility of the United Nations, we are probably hurting ourselves more than anyone else. We are a global Nation with global interests. And undermining the credibility of the United Nations does very little to help provide stability and security and safety to the rest of the world. . ."

General Shalikashvili ended by stating that "So I see nothing but value added for the United States to try our very best to get that kind of a resolution."

General Clark, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, who testified at the same hearing, echoed the views of General Shalikashvili and added "we need to be certain we really are working through the United Nations in an effort to strengthen the institution in this process and not simply checking a block."

Those two former senior commanders were concerned, of course, not only with the diplomatic and political aspects of working through the United Nations, but also with the practical impact that not going through the United Nations would have on the actual conduct of a war.

General Joseph Hoar, former Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command, the command with responsibility for the Middle East region, including Iraq, testified that:

"And the Arab countries, while they are supporting us in private, have a serious problem in convincing their populations that this is the right thing to do. And so I believe that we have to give them top cover, as well, and we will do that with the United Nations.

"On an operational level, I would just point out this, that, for example, if you can't bring Saudi Arabia into the coalition to be able to use, at a minimum, air space, but, ideally air bases as well, the complications associated with carrying out a military campaign will grow exponentially. "We need them. We need a broad base. We need it for the political reasons as well as the military reasons that we all understand. It will make the whole job a great deal easier. And, in the long run, as Wes (General Clark) said, in our relationship with these countries in the future, it will expedite and ease our ability to do business after the military campaign is over."

General Hoar's testimony points out the practical problems that result if we are using military force against Iraq without United Nations authorization. The Saudi Foreign Minister has stated that if there was a Security Council Resolution backing military action, all United Nations members would have to honor it. But he made clear that Saudi Arabia remained opposed in principle to a unilateral attack by the United States. The inability to use Saudi airspace - no less Saudi air bases - would be a major impediment to the use of military force against Iraq.

The position of European allies need to be considered as well. As the Washington Post reported last Monday, a senior European official responding to the United States going it alone, said "A lot of Europeans would feel they'd been put in an intolerable position." For those who would agree to participate militarily, "it would be less a coalition of the willing than of the dragooned."

It is very important that we carefully consider both the short-term and long-term effects of unilateral action by the United States.

That is why my alternative - The Multilateral Use of Force Authorization Act of 2002 - provides for the use of force pursuant to a subsequent UN Security Council resolution that authorizes UN member states to use force. It withholds judgment at this time on the question of whether the United States should go it alone, unilaterally against Iraq.

Mr. President, if we authorize the use of force on a go it alone basis at the same time that we are seeking U.N. support, we would send the wrong message to the United Nations. Telling the United nations that, if you don't enforce your resolutions, we will, not only sends an inconsistent message; it lets the United Nations off the hook.

Mr. President, we should seek to unite the world against Saddam Hussein and not divide it.

The best chance of forcing Saddam Hussein's compliance is when Saddam Hussein looks down the barrel of a gun and sees the world at the other end and not just the United States.

And so our focus should be on securing a United Nations resolution that:

* Can unite the world;

* Has the best chance of forcing compliance;

* Reduces the risk to our forces and to our interests throughout the world;

* Avoids to the maximum extent the negative consequences if force is required, including the loss of cooperation in the war on terrorism;

* Has the best chance of isolating Saddam Hussein rather than isolating the United States.

This resolution doesn't determine that we won't go alone if the United Nations does not promptly act to authorize force. It withholds judgment on that very different and difficult issue. It does provide that the President can convene us quickly to authorize going it alone should the U.N. fail to act.

Mr. President, the vote we take today may have significant consequences for our children and our grandchildren. I believe our security is enhanced when we seek to enhance the authority and credibility of the United Nations and when, if military force is required, it is done with support of the world community."

ENDS

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