Senator Wyden - Unilateral, Preemptive Attack Prem
Wyden Opposes Iraq Resolution
Unilateral, Preemptive Attack Premature
October 8, 2002
Madam President, I hold the Senate seat of the late Wayne Morse. Senator Morse lost his job in 1968, and many have attributed this loss to his outspoken opposition to the Vietnam war. Yet Wayne Morse's election loss makes his words from that era no less true today.
In a 1966 debate on the role of the United States Senate with respect to the great issues of war and peace, Senator Wayne Morse said:
"This is what the U.S. Senate is for. It is what the Founding Fathers created the Senate to do -- take the long-range view of actions prompted in national councils that may be warped by some strong passion or momentary interest."
It is the long-term interest of our country, Madam President, that Wayne Morse so presciently focused on in 1966 that leads me to outline the following conclusion that I have made with respect to the Iraq resolution.
Madam President, Saddam Hussein is the bad actor here and the United States of America is the good actor. I believe the authorization of a unilateral preemptive military attack based on the information now available will cause much of the world, unfortunately, to lose sight of this reality. This perception in a region wracked by poverty and already marked by a deep mistrust in American foreign policy could foster decades, possibly even centuries of undeserved hatred of our great Nation that will threaten our children and our grandchildren.
Protecting our children and grandchildren after a unilateral, preemptive attack on Iraq will require a staggering financial commitment from our national government. Given the pressing financial needs here at home for public safety, for education, for health, where are the funds going to come from after our nation wins such an engagement with Iraq?
Protecting our children and grandchildren after a unilateral preemptive attack on Iraq will require an American policy of energy independence, especially independence from Middle East oil. We are a long way from there, and on some issues, such as saving energy and the crucial transportation sector, it seems that now we are now going backward.
Protecting our children and grandchildren after a unilateral preemptive attack on Iraq will require a plan for rebuilding confidence among many of the countries that stood with us during the Gulf War conflict, but do not stand with us today. Many of those countries do not believe that diplomatic and other steps have been fully exhausted. If our government can't convince them of that, it is certainly going to be tough to restore faith after a unilateral, preemptive attack.
For many weeks now, I have waited and listened patiently, I believe, for the Administration to make its case for this resolution before the Senate Intelligence Committee, on which I serve. I believed then, as I believe now, that neither partisan politics, nor the pressures of an anxious public, should be factored into a decision of this magnitude.
Instead, I see my duty as an elected representative of the great state of Oregon, to listen, to inquire dispassionately, and make the decision I believe to be in the best interests of Oregon and this great country, and leave the judgment to history and the voters as to whether I made that judgment in the right way.
In approaching the decision about whether to vote to authorize this military option, I laid out some criteria on which to base my decision.
My criteria were: If our security agencies were to provide me with compelling evidence of a significant threat to our domestic security if Hussein's Iraq is not defeated militarily, I would be willing to grant authority for the use of force. But I was unwilling to give my approval for a first-strike, unilateral attack until and unless:
There was assurance under the resolution that, before such an attack, the Administration has exhausted all other reasonable means to accomplish our goals.
Second, I was convinced that it is essential to have a workable plan to contain the situation if Iraq attacks Israel and Israel enters the conflict.
And third, I am concerned that such an attack will not make our nation less safe by setting us back in our war on terrorism.
While the President has made a compelling case -- I believe a sincere one -- regarding the danger posed by Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein, but his argument -- and I say respectfully -- does not meet the criteria I have laid out.
First, I am not convinced that Saddam Hussein currently poses a clear and present threat to the domestic security of our nation. While my service on the Senate Intelligence Committee has left me convinced of Iraq's support of terrorism, suspicious of its ties to al Qaeda, I have seen no evidence, acts, or involvement in the planning or execution of the vicious attacks of 9/11. While Iraq has aided terrorism for many years, there are any number of regimes who have aided terrorism, including some with far more direct links to Osama bin Laden's network of terror.
In this regard, I note the first conclusion in the Central Intelligence Agency's declassified letter to Chairman Bob Graham of Florida, dated October 7 of this year which states that at present, Iraq does not appear to be planning or sponsoring terrorism aimed at the United States.
Yet, had the administration met this threshold test, in my view, it has still not met the rest of what I consider to be prudent criteria. While the President has stated his desire to seek alternative means to accomplish his goals before beginning a military strike, to grant the President the authority to conduct a first-strike war before first witnessing the exhaustion of those efforts is to abdicate the obligations of this body in its most sacred role. The Founding Fathers surely envisioned a more challenging inquiry when granting the Congress the responsibility of authorizing armed conflict.
On my second point, while I am not privy to the administration's war plans, I am of the belief that the administration is not satisfactorily preparing for a potential enlargement of the conflict with Israel or other allies. I am concerned this issue has not been adequately addressed.
I do believe that the Administration needs to outline in further detail how they would address issues with respect to the enlargement of the conflict, and I want to make clear I do not believe that point has been addressed clearly and fully to date. The possibility this conflict would be enlarged with an attack on Iraq to one that involves Israel is one I think needs to be laid out and laid out clearly.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly for my purposes, I reached the conclusion that pursuit of a first-strike war, absent any credible sign that Saddam Hussein is preparing to wage war against our Nation or other nations, will leave this Nation less secure than before. I believe we have to look at greater length at these key questions, and I do not believe that has been done to date.
Saddam Hussein is an extremely dangerous and extremely despicable man. Time and again, he has demonstrated that to his enemies, as well as his own people. He lives in a part of the world where there is no shortage of dangerous and despicable men who pose a threat to the security of the United States. In my service on the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have not seen satisfactory evidence he is any more despicable than the threat presented by Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, for example.
By any calculus, the President's request today to engage this country in a unilateral, preemptive attack on Iraq is premature, and it is why I must oppose this resolution at this time.
Madam President, I yield the floor.