Sen. Nelson's on the war resolution
October 8, 2002
Mr. President, I rise today to address the most grave of our constitutional duties: authorizing the sending of our sons and daughters, moms and dads, brothers and sisters, into combat. We must determine whether the situation in Iraq threatens the United States sufficiently enough to send Americans into harm's way and put American lives at risk. I have spoken with citizens from across Florida, and I understand the concerns and reservations many of them have. We must, of course, use force as a last resort. But I remain convinced that the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq poses a clear and increasing danger to the national security interests of the United States. We must disarm its arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, and halt the development of nuclear weapons. Ultimately - one way or another - Saddam must be removed. Our hope is that this threat can be dismantled by means less than the use of force. And discussions at the United Nations continue toward that goal. But if those efforts are not successful, we cannot sit and do nothing while the danger grows. On a regular basis - Saddam's troops fire upon U.S. and British aircraft seeking to enforce the no-fly zones created to protect the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south. These no-fly zones exist to keep Saddam contained and to prevent him from acquiring technologies aimed at further enhancing his military capability. At the conclusion of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 set forth the conditions for peace. The cease-fire conditions required Iraq to unconditionally disarm all weapons of mass destruction, fully declare and disclose all weapons of mass destruction, and not seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Those terms clearly have been violated by Iraq. When a country willfully violates cease-fire terms which end a war, a state of conflict continues to exist. And the regular hostilities endured by coalition pilots in the no-fly zones makes that state of conflict even more acute. Let there be no mistake, Saddam seeks regional hegemony, and control of the oil supply of the Middle East. He associates with known enemies of the United States, has paid compensation to suicide bombers aiming to undermine the peace process in the Middle East, and seeks at every turn to flout international law and the will of the United Nations. His aggressiveness and thirst for war and blood is evident by his own actions and brutality, past and present, against his own people and against his neighbors. It is time now to complete the job left undone in 1991 when we failed to completely disarm and remove Saddam. The longer he remains in power, the longer he delays, obfuscates, and lies - all the while strengthening his arsenal. Weapons of mass destruction must be removed from Saddam Hussein, and the Iraqi people must be liberated from his brutal grip. This is not a fight we can enter alone. We must pursue this cause with as much international support as is possible, and the revised resolution makes this clear. Not only will our efforts in Iraq be more successful with our allies behind us, but the success of our ongoing war on terrorism requires the continued cooperation of as many of out allies -- in Europe, in the Arab world, and elsewhere -- as possible. The President has asked the Congress to authorize the use of American troops in Iraq for these purposes, and he presented his case to the American people Monday night. As it exists now, the Lieberman resolution is not a "blank check" to use U.S. troops. It requires the President to certify that diplomatic and other peaceful means will not adequately protect the national security interests of the United States, or lead to the enforcement of U.N. Security Council Resolutions on Iraq. President Bush was right to address the U.N. on September 12, and to seek broad-based support from the international community. We should let Secretary Powell continue his efforts at getting the strongest possible language in a new U.N. Security Council resolution that clearly spells out the actions Iraq is required to take, and the consequences if it fails to do so. Such a resolution would strengthen the U.S. position, and help us to gain support from Arab states in the region and elsewhere. But we must keep the focus on Saddam Hussein and the resolutions regarding weapons of mass destruction that he has ignored. The Lieberman resolution also requires the President to report regularly to the Congress on ongoing operations in Iraq, and the Administration's plans for the post-Saddam Iraq and ensuing reconstruction. Having detailed plans in place will be crucial to ensure that, after Saddam, Iraq does not disintegrate into a permanent source of instability in the Middle East, which would also pose a serious threat to U.S. national security interests. The current resolution also has improved from earlier drafts because it makes reference to Navy Captain Scott Speicher, the American pilot still missing since the first night of the Gulf War when he was shot down over Iraq. Captain Speicher, who is considered Missing In Action, is the only American among the thousands still unaccounted-for at the hands of Saddam Hussein. I appreciate the work of the Majority Leader to ensure that my request that the resolution make reference to Captain Speicher was honored. It is my hope that our upcoming efforts and actions in Iraq make progress toward resolving the fate of Captain Speicher. This resolution, in my view, asserts the role of the Congress granted by the Constitution and the War Powers Act. We have heard hours of testimony from senior administration officials and outside experts representing many different views on this subject. We have heard hours of both classified and unclassified information. My offices have received thousands of calls, letters and e-mails from Floridians, and I hear their voices and share their concerns. The threat posed by Iraq grows with each passing day. And since Sept. 11, 2001, we cannot wait to protect ourselves against the threats of weapons of mass destruction, regimes hostile to the United States, and their links to terrorism. We must not leave ourselves exposed to an attack, which, after it comes, we will wish we had acted to prevent. I will support the Lieberman-Warner-McCain-Bayh resolution authorizing the President to use force in Iraq, because it is the right thing to do, and is in the vital national security interests of the United States of America. I thank the Chair, and yield the floor.