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Senator Jim Jeffords Re: Use of Force Against Iraq

October 8, 2002


Statement of Senator Jim Jeffords, Senate Resolution Authorizing the Use of Force Against Iraq

This is a pivotal moment in our Nation's history. As has happened many times before, when faced with a potential threat to our national security and to the security of our allies, we must carefully evaluate that threat, and decide how best to deal with it. It is imperative that we not make a rash decision that will have lasting consequences for generations to come.

I am very disturbed by President Bush's determination that the threat from Iraq is so severe and so immediate that we must rush to a military solution. I do not see it that way. I have been briefed several times by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, CIA Director Tenet and other top Administration officials. I have discussed this issue with the President. I have heard nothing that convinces me that an immediate preemptive military strike is necessary or that it would further our interests in the long term.

Saddam Hussein's desire to acquire weapons of mass destruction is of grave concern. Based on the information that has been provided to me by this Administration, I believe this threat is best dealt with in the context of the United Nations. The UN must move aggressively to ensure unfettered inspections and bolster its efforts to stop the proliferation of materials that can be used in the production of weapons of mass destruction. I urge the UN Security Council to take immediate and strong action to deal with Iraq and its infractions.

Should Iraq fail to comply with the United Nation resolutions, it is incumbent on the United States to aggressively work with member nations to develop a means to bring Iraq into compliance. But at this time I cannot in good conscience authorize any use of military force against Iraq other than in the context of a UN Security Council effort. If we receive information that the threat is more imminent, or if the United Nations' effort fails, then the President should come back to Congress for consideration of the next step. Providing the President with authorization at this time for unilateral U.S. military action would undercut UN Security Council efforts to disarm Iraq.

We must ensure that any action we take against Iraq does not come at the expense of the health and strength of our nation, or the stability of the international order upon which our economic security depends. I spoke at length on the Senate floor last week about pressing problems that will determine the future strength of our nation - inadequate funding for education, declining access to affordable health care, degradation of our environment, and erosion of pension security for many hard-working Americans.

Mr. President, Saddam Hussein is as bad a dictator as they come. His past actions speak volumes about his true intentions. But is the only solution to this dilemma a military solution? Experience tells us otherwise. Ten years of containment through enforcement of two no-fly zones and UN economic sanctions have prevented Saddam Hussein from rebuilding his military to any significant extent. His military strength remains significantly weaker than when he moved against Kuwait more than a decade ago.

There is much speculation about his weapons of mass destruction program, but no evidence that he has developed a nuclear capability. While there is talk of cooperation between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and I don't doubt that there has been some cooperation, I have not seen any hard evidence of close cooperation. There is, however, a great deal of evidence of Saddam's paranoia and his distrust of all but his closest inner circle. He has wiped out any viable political opposition and tightly holds all the reigns of control. Even if he were to develop a nuclear capability, I have a hard time believing that Saddam Hussein would turn these weapons over to any organization, particularly a terrorist organization, after he has paid so dearly to acquire them.

Our greatest problem, it seems to me, is that we have very little good intelligence on what is going on inside Iraq. We know that Saddam Hussein's intentions are bad, but we don't have a clear picture of what his capabilities actually are. Clearly, we need to get United Nations inspectors on the ground immediately. The inspectors must have unfettered access to all suspected sites in Iraq. This is proving to be a major challenge for the United Nations, but the United Nations is much more likely to succeed if the United States is squarely behind its efforts, and not standing off to the side, secretly hoping that it will fail.

We should give the United Nations the opportunity to step forward and deal with Iraq and its infractions. In my estimation, the United States stands to gain much more if we can work with the United Nations to deliver a multilateral approach to disarming Iraq, even providing military force if necessary. If the United Nations fails to press for the disarmament of Iraq or is blocked in its efforts, then I would expect the President to come back to Congress for further discussion of the alternatives.

In view of this threat from Saddam Hussein, I urge the Congress not to adjourn sine die upon completion of its work this fall, but to be ready to return to session at any time prior to the New Year if further action against Saddam Hussein should become necessary.

Mr. President, we must also work with the United Nations to stop the flow of those materials needed for producing weapons of mass destruction. There is a great deal more that we could do to tighten international non-proliferation regimes. Rather than supporting and empowering international efforts to stop the flow of nuclear materials and force greater transparency in chemical and biological commercial production facilities, the Bush Administration has undercut these efforts and refused to participate in attempts to strengthen existing non-proliferation regimes. For example, last fall, at the Biological Weapons Convention review conference, the Bush Administration scuttled efforts by our closest allies, most notably Great Britain, to strengthen the international biological weapons inspection regime.

The Administration has actively undermined efforts to monitor and verify the existing international moratorium on nuclear weapons testing. Additionally, we should be putting more resources into the Nunn-Lugar program, which has had some success at preventing the export from the former Soviet Union of nuclear weapons materials and scientific know-how. Saddam Hussein is not the only deranged dictator who is willing to deprive his people in order to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

Just think of what progress we could make on non-proliferation if we were to put one fraction of the cost of a war against Saddam Hussein into efforts to prevent the emergence of the next nuclear, chemical or biological threat. Strong efforts at strengthening international non-proliferation regimes would truly enhance our nation's future security.

In our preoccupation with Saddam Hussein, we must not lose sight of potential crises in several other areas of the world. The India-Pakistan nuclear confrontation and the standoff over Kashmir have demanded a great deal of American effort during the past year. We cannot rule out a re-emergence of this nuclear threat. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians continues to claim lives and threaten the stability of the region. Without US prodding and even direct involvement, there is little chance that a peace process could resume there. War with Iraq could have an inflammatory effect upon that situation, and potentially risk the security of Israel was well. A war with Iraq would diminish our focus on bringing stability to Afghanistan, risking a return of anarchy to an area we have just given American lives to stabilize. While Pakistan has stood with us this year, a lessening of US attention to Afghanistan could significantly undercut our influence in Islamabad.

And the larger war on terrorism, our top concern just a few months ago, would take a back seat to a protracted war with Iraq and a major reconstruction effort. Yes, we must worry about Saddam. But we must not do so in a manner that reduces our ability to deal with these other threats.

Mr. President, I fear that this Administration is, perhaps unwittingly, heading us into a miserable cycle of waging wars that isolate our nation internationally and stir up greater hatred of America. This cycle will generate more enemies, while undercutting our support from a broad coalition of allies - coalitions that have proven to be the hallmark of all successful peacemaking efforts in recent years.

We owe it to the American people not to rush into a war, but to work with the institutions that we fought so hard to develop for just this eventuality. If multilateral efforts fail, then the President should come back to Congress for consideration of the next course of action. I cannot support a resolution that puts this nation on a path to war without first exhausting diplomatic efforts. Now is the time to put the international system to work for us, and consider unilateral military action only as a last resort.

ENDS

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