World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Senator Patrick Leahy - Concerning Iraq


CONTACT: Office of Senator Leahy, 202-224-4242

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy
On The Senate Floor
Concerning Iraq
The Countdown To War
March 13, 2003

Mr. President, last Thursday at his press conference, the President gave his reasons to justify the use of military force to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

The President said again that he has not made up his mind to go to war, but his own advisers are saying that even if Iraq fully complies with UN Security Council Resolution 1441, Saddam Hussein must be removed from power.

The President said his goal is protecting the American people from terrorism, a goal we all share, but he offered no evidence that Iraq had anything to do with the September 11 attacks or any details of Iraq’s links to al Queda.

He offered no new information about the potential costs of a war, either in American and Iraqi lives, or in dollars. Both Republicans and Democrats have urged the President to be more forthcoming with the American people, yet he is apparently ready to send hundreds of thousands of the sons and daughters of American taxpayers into battle without saying anything about the costs and risks.

The President repeatedly spoke of the danger of "doing nothing," as if doing nothing is what those who urge patience and caution – with war only as a last resort – are recommending. In fact, virtually no one is saying that we should do nothing about Saddam Hussein.

Even most of the millions of people who have joined protests and demonstrations against the use of force without UN Security Council authorization, are not saying that the world should ignore the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

Yet that is the President’s answer to those who oppose a preemptive U.S. invasion, and who, contrary to wanting to do nothing, want to give the United Nations more time to try to solve this crisis without war.

The President also failed to address a key concern that divides Americans, that divides us from many of our closest European allies, that divides our allies from each other, and that divides the UN Security Council. That issue is not whether or not Saddam Hussein is a deceptive, despicable, dangerous despot who should be disarmed. There is little if any disagreement about that.

Nor is it whether or not force should ever be used. Most people accept that the United States, like any country, has a right of self defense if faced with an imminent threat. And if the UN inspectors fail to disarm Iraq, force may become the only option.

Most people also agree that a U.S.-led invasion would quickly overwhelm and defeat Iraq’s ill-equipped, demoralized army.

Rather, the President said almost nothing about the concern that by attacking Iraq to enforce Security Council Resolution 1441 without the support of key allies on the UN Security Council, we risk seriously weakening the Security Council’s future effectiveness and our own ability to rally international support – not only to prevent this war and future wars, but to deal with other global threats like terrorism.

And this concern is exacerbated by the increasing resentment of the Administration’s domineering and simplistic "you are either with us or against us" approach, which has already damaged long-standing relationships, both with our neighbors in this hemisphere and our friends across the Atlantic.

The President says that if the Security Council does not support the use of force today, it risks becoming irrelevant. But the President has it backward. The Security Council will not become irrelevant because it refuses to agree with the President of the United States. Rather, the Security Council’s effectiveness is threatened if the United States, the world’s only superpower, ignores the will of key allies on the Security Council regarding the enforcement of a Security Council resolution.

The President was also asked by several members of the press why there is such fervent opposition to his policy among Americans and some of our oldest allies, when only a year and a half ago, after the September 11 attacks, the world was united in sympathy with the United States. He had no answer.

The President should heed the words of former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, who was an architect of the 1991 Gulf War. General Scowcroft has strongly criticized the Administration’s ad hoc approach based on "coalitions of the willing," which he calls "fundamentally, fatally flawed." He said: "As we’ve seen in the debate about Iraq, it’s already given us an image of arrogance and unilateralism, and we’re paying a very high price for that image. If we get to the point where everyone secretly hopes the United States gets a black eye because we're so obnoxious, then we’ll be totally hamstrung in the war on terror. We’ll be like Gulliver with the Lilliputians."

Mr. President, for two hundred years, people of every nationality have looked up to the United States because of our values, our integrity, our tolerance and respect for others. These are the qualities that have set the United States apart. But today, while most countries share our goal of disarming Saddam Hussein, we are being vilified for our arrogance, for our disdain for international law and our intolerance of opposing views.

A distinguished American career diplomat, John Brady Kiesling, echoed General Scowcroft’s concerns about the practical harm done to U.S. interests and influence abroad in a letter he recently wrote to Secretary of State Colin Powell, proffering his resignation as an act of protest about the Administration’s policy toward Iraq.

I suspect Mr. Kiesling’s eloquent and heart-felt explanation of how he reached the difficult decision to give up his career, expresses the feelings and concerns of some other American diplomats who are representing the United States in our embassies and missions around the world. I ask unanimous consent that Mr. Kiesling’s letter to the Secretary be entered in the Record at the conclusion of my remarks.

Mr. President, while I was disappointed by the President’s remarks last week, the Bush Administration and the Pakistani Government should be commended for the capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, one of al Queda’s top leaders who was reportedly the mastermind of the September 11 attacks. Whether others within al Queda will quickly fill Mr. Mohammed’s shoes remains to be seen, but the fact that the U.S. government, and other governments, are methodically tracking these people down sends an important message and should give some comfort to the American people.

This is encouraging, and let us hope that soon we can celebrate the capture of Osama bin Laden. Tracking down al Queda should be our highest priority.

But the world is increasingly apprehensive as the United States appears to be marching inexorably towards war with Iraq. Today, there are more than 250,000 American men and women in uniform in the Persian Gulf, preparing for the order to enter Iraq, and we hear that a decision to launch an attack must be made within a matter of days because it is too costly to keep so many troops deployed overseas.

In other words, now that we have spent billions of dollars to ship all those soldiers over there, we need to use them "because we cannot back down now," as I have heard some people say. Mr. President, it would be hard to think of a worse reason to rush to war than that.

We should not back down. Saddam Hussein must be disarmed. Doing nothing, and I agree with the President about this, would mean that the United Nations is unwilling to enforce its own resolutions concerning perhaps the most serious threat the world faces today – the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. That would be unacceptable. The UN Security Council ordered Iraq to fully disclose its weapons of mass destruction, and Iraq has not done so.

And I agree with those who say that the only reason Saddam Hussein is even grudgingly cooperating with the UN inspectors and destroying Iraqi missiles is because of the build up of U.S. troops on Iraq’s border. I have commended the President for refocusing the world’s attention on Saddam Hussein’s failure to disarm. I also recognize that the time may come when the use of force to enforce the UN Security Council resolution is the only option.

But are proposals to give the UN inspectors more time unreasonable, when it could solidify support for the use of force if that becomes the only option?

Despite the President’s assertion that Iraq poses an imminent threat to the United States, that assertion begs credulity when the UN inspectors are making some progress and a quarter of a million American soldiers are poised to invade. Absent a credible, imminent threat, a decision to enforce Resolution 1441 should only be made by the Security Council, if it becomes clear that the inspectors cannot do the job, not by the United States or any other government alone.

The President says war is a last resort. If he feels that way, why do he and his advisers want so desperately to short circuit the inspections process? Why is he so anxious to spend billions of dollars to buy the cooperation of friends who do not yet believe war is necessary? Why is he so unconcerned about the predictable, hostile reaction of the Muslim world to the occupation of Iraq, perhaps for years, by a U.S. military "government"? Why is the President so determined to run roughshod over our traditional alliances and partnerships, which have served us well and whose support we need both today and in the future?

I cannot pretend to understand the thinking of those in the Administration who for months or even longer have seemed possessed with a kind of messianic zeal in favor of war. A preemptive war against Iraq without a declaration of war by Congress or the UN Security Council’s support, may be easy to win, but it could violate international law and cause lasting damage to our alliances and to our ability to obtain the cooperation of other nations in meeting so many other global challenges.

Just recently, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge warned that a war with Iraq could bring more threats and more terrorist attacks within the United States. The CIA Director has testified that Saddam Hussein is more likely to use chemical or biological weapons if he is attacked. Yet we are marching ahead as if these warnings do not matter.

I have said before that this war is not inevitable, and I still believe it can be avoided. But I fear that the President, despite opposition among the American people, in the UN, and around the world, is no longer listening to anyone except those within his inner circle who are eager to fight. I hope the Iraqi Government comes to its senses. I hope we do not walk away from the United Nations. I hope we do not decide that just because our troops are there we cannot afford to wait.

I yield the floor.

# # # # #

"The Diplomat's Goodbye"

The Washington Post

Outlook Section

Sunday, March 9, 2003

[Letters of resignation, particularly those from State Department diplomats to their superiors, are not ordinarily a forum for disagreements about the course of American foreign policy. The following letter of resignation, written by career diplomat John Brady Kiesling to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, is unusual for its content and length. Kiesling, 45, served in several U.S. embassies before his most recent post in Athens. He shared a 1994 award from the American Foreign Service Association for "constructive dissent" after he and 12 others signed a letter of protest over the lack of U.S. intervention in the conflict in Bosnia.]

February 27, 2003

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I am writing you to submit my resignation from the Foreign Service of the United States and from my position as Political Counselor in U.S. Embassy Athens, effective March 7. I do so with a heavy heart.

The baggage of my upbringing included a felt obligation to give something back to my country. Service as a U.S. diplomat was a dream job. I was paid to understand foreign languages and cultures, to seek out diplomats, politicians, scholars and journalists, and to persuade them that U.S. interests and theirs fundamentally coincided. My faith in my country and its values was the most powerful weapon in my diplomatic arsenal.

It is inevitable that during twenty years with the State Department I would become more sophisticated and cynical about the narrow and selfish bureaucratic motives that sometimes shaped our policies. Human nature is what it is, and I was rewarded and promoted for understanding human nature. But until this Administration it had been possible to believe that by upholding the policies of my president I was also upholding the interests of the American people and the world. I believe it no longer.

The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America's most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security.

The sacrifice of global interests to domestic politics and to bureaucratic self-interest is nothing new, and it is certainly not a uniquely American problem. Still, we have not seen such systematic distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American opinion, since the war in Vietnam. The September 11 tragedy left us stronger than before, rallying around us a vast international coalition to cooperate for the first time in a systematic way against the threat of terrorism. But rather than take credit for those successes and build on them, this Administration has chosen to make terrorism a domestic political tool, enlisting a scattered and largely defeated Al Qaeda as its bureaucratic ally. We spread disproportionate terror and confusion in the public mind, arbitrarily linking the unrelated problems of terrorism and Iraq. The result, and perhaps the motive, is to justify a vast misallocation of shrinking public wealth to the military and to weaken the safegua! rds that protect American citizens from the heavy hand of government. September 11 did not do as much damage to the fabric of American society as we seem determined to do to ourselves. Is the Russia of the late Romanovs really our model, a selfish, superstitious empire thrashing toward self-destruction in the name of a doomed status quo?

We should ask ourselves why we have failed to persuade more of the world that a war with Iraq is necessary. We have over the past two years done too much to assert to our world partners that narrow and mercenary U.S. interests override the cherished values of our partners. Even where our aims were not in question, our consistency is at issue. The model of Afghanistan is little comfort to allies wondering on what basis we plan to rebuild the Middle East, and in whose image and interests. Have we indeed become blind, as Russia is blind in Chechnya, as Israel is blind in the Occupied Territories, to our own advice, that overwhelming military power is not the answer to terrorism? After the shambles of post-war Iraq joins the shambles in Grozny and Ramallah, it will be a brave foreigner who forms ranks with Micronesia to follow where we lead.

We have a coalition still, a good one. The loyalty of many of our friends is impressive, a tribute to American moral capital built up over a century. But our closest allies are persuaded less that war is justified than that it would be perilous to allow the U.S. to drift into complete solipsism. Loyalty should be reciprocal. Why does our President condone the swaggering and contemptuous approach to our friends and allies this Administration is fostering, including among its most senior officials. Has oderint dum metuant [Ed. note: Latin for "Let them hate so long as they fear," thought to be a favorite saying of Caligula] really become our motto?

I urge you to listen to America's friends around the world. Even here in Greece, purported hotbed of European anti-Americanism, we have more and closer friends than the American newspaper reader can possibly imagine. Even when they complain about American arrogance, Greeks know that the world is a difficult and dangerous place, and they want a strong international system, with the U.S. and EU in close partnership. When our friends are afraid of us rather than for us, it is time to worry. And now they are afraid. Who will tell them convincingly that the United States is as it was, a beacon of liberty, security and justice for the planet?

Mr. Secretary, I have enormous respect for your character and ability. You have preserved more international credibility for us than our policy deserves, and salvaged something positive from the excesses of an ideological and self-serving Administration. But your loyalty to the President goes too far. We are straining beyond its limits an international system we built with such toil and treasure, a web of laws, treaties, organizations and shared values that sets limits on our foes far more effectively than it ever constrained America's ability to defend its interests.

I am resigning because I have tried and failed to reconcile my conscience with my ability to represent the current U.S. Administration. I have confidence that our democratic process is ultimately self-correcting, and hope that in a small way I can contribute from outside to shaping policies that better serve the security and prosperity of the American people and the world we share.

# # # # #

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Rohingya Muslims Massacred: Restrictions On Aid Put 1000s At Risk

Amnesty: The Myanmar authorities’ restrictions on international aid in Rakhine state is putting tens of thousands of lives at risk in a region where mainly Rohingya people are already suffering horrific abuses from a disproportionate military campaign. More>>


Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>


Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>


  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC