Wes Clark on the Iraq War

March 1, 2007

The Levin Amendment reprised

Filed under: Iraq War Resolution (IWR), Levin Amendment — faithinwes @ 8:22 pm

The Senate’s Forgotten Iraq Choice

By LINCOLN D. CHAFEE

Providence, R.I.

AS the presidential primary campaigns begin in earnest, the Iraq war is overshadowing all other issues, as it did during the midterm elections. Presidential candidates who were in the Senate in October 2002 are particularly under the microscope, as they are being called upon to justify their votes for going to war.

As someone who was in the Senate at the time, I have been struck by the contours of the debate. The situation facing the candidates who cast war votes has, to my surprise, often been presented as a binary one — they could either vote for the war, or not. There was no middle ground.

On the contrary. There was indeed a third way, which Senator James Jeffords, independent of Vermont, hailed at the time as “one of the most important votes we will cast in this process.” And it was opposed by every single senator at the time who now seeks higher office.

A mere 10 hours before the roll was called on the administration-backed Iraq war resolution, the Senate had an opportunity to prevent the current catastrophe in Iraq and to salvage the United States’ international standing. Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, offered a substitute to the war resolution, the Multilateral Use of Force Authorization Act of 2002.

-more

New York Times, 3/1/07

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January 16, 2007

Why Did You Oppose The Iraq War Daddy?

Filed under: Iraq War Resolution (IWR), Strategy — faithinwes @ 12:35 am

Big Tent Democrat on TalkLeft has a conversation with Kevin Drum about preemptive war and vindication.

Kevin Drum asks:

Question: [Re:] the primary critique among the anti-war left, has the Iraq war vindicated them?

Well, my quick answer as to my primary critque of the Iraq Debacle is – for the same reasons Bush pere did not go to Baghdad at the end of Desert Storm. But my long answer relies on the Congressional testimony of General Wesley Clark in September 2002:

GEN. CLARK: I’ve been concerned that the attention on Iraq will distract us from what we’re doing with respect to al Qaeda. . . . I think, as a minimum, that when one opens up another campaign, there is a diversion of effort. The question is whether the diversion of effort is productive or counterproductive. I really — it’s — there are forces operating in both directions at this point. You can make the argument, as General Shalikashvili did, that you want to cut off all sources of supply. Problem with that argument is that Iran really has had closer linkages with the terrorists in the past and still does, apparently, today, than Iraq does. So that leads you to then ask, well, what will be the impact on Iran?

More.

. . . SEN. CLELAND: And if you took out Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party, the secularist party, don’t the . . . Shi’ite Muslims make up a majority of the population in Iraq, and wouldn’t that give Iran a strong hand there, and we ultimately end up creating a Muslim state, even under democratic institutions?GEN. CLARK: Yes, sir. I think that there is a substantial risk in the aftermath of the operation that we could end up with a problem which is more intractable than we have today.

One thing we’re pretty clear on is that Saddam has a very effective police state apparatus. He doesn’t allow challenges to his authority inside that state. When we go in there with a transitional government and a military occupation of some indefinite duration, it’s also very likely that if there is an effective al Qaeda left — and there certainly will be an effective organization of extremists — they will pour into that country because they must compete for the Iraqi people; the Wahabes with the Sunnis, the Shi’as from Iran working with the Shi’a population. So it’s not beyond consideration that we would have a radicalized state, even under a U.S. occupation in the aftermath.

Was General Clark vindicated?

TalkLeft, January 16, 2007 

May 2, 2006

“I went to several Senators, including I think a couple who later ran for office”

Al Franken: And it’s, it’s one thing for somebody who voted for this war saying, you know, ‘You have to assume the President’s telling the truth. You can’t assume a President is lying.’ But then on the other hand, the American people want someone who’s a better BS detector than they are. And, and you know, I think I would have voted for the use of force, because I would’ve believed, I believed Colin Powell. I didn’t have any reason to think that I couldn’t believe Colin Powell. I didn’t have a reason to believe that the administration would be misleading us, and they did.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I didn’t, I didn’t believe it because I went through the Pentagon a few days after 9/11, and the Generals in the Pentagon told me, “Hey sir,” they said, “ These guys have made the decision to invade Iraq.”

Al Franken: Right.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: This was like, the 20th of September. I said, “They have.” He said, “Oh, yes sir. They’ve already decided.” I went back a couple of months later, and said, “Are they still going to invade Iraq?” This is like, November. Said, “Oh, yes sir. In fact there’s even a plan to- After they finish with Iraq, they’re going to take on Syria and Lebanon. Eventually they’re going to end up in Iran.” This is a whole five-year campaign plan to go from country to country kicking out dictators and taking over and imposing Democracy.

Al Franken: Now I know you’re a Four-Star General, and, and so the guys at the Pentagon would say, “Sir, they’re planning (laughs) to invade Iraq. But how did, how did the Senators on the Intelligence Committee not hear that?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, a lot of them did, because I told a lot of them.

Al Franken: Uh huh. And, and, and did, did they believe you. I mean non-

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: They may have believed me, but you know, there’s a lot of different shades of truth in Washington. And it’s, I mean, I told people about the five-year plan, and people would say, ‘Well you know, yeah, there may be somebody who wrote that, but maybe they won’t do that.’

Al Franken: Right, right, right.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: ‘You know, we’ve got politics to worry about. Can we afford to be on the wrong side of President Bush on this.

Al Franken: Mm hm.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: He’s going to turn the American people against us. Look what happened in 1990.’

Al Franken: Okay, but that’s not, that’s. I understand why. Yeah, anybody who voted against the first Gulf War was, was, was not considered to be on the ticket.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Exactly.

Al Franken: For example.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Exactly.

Al Franken: And so that’s, that can- But that’s not leadership. Is it?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well you know, when you’re in politics, especially if you’re a lifelong politician, you have to make sure you’re also representing the people who follow you. So, there’s a combination of leading and following that’s involved in that. Even the President is, to some extent, a representative of the American people. He’s certainly not the king. He doesn’t dictate. I know he said he’s the decider, but-

Al Franken: (laughs) Yeah.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: But (laughs) in fact, he is supposed to be the Chief Executive Officer representing the American people.

Al Franken: Yeah, I, I, I know, I know, but I’m saying that these Senators- there is a certain point – and boy, at the point when you’re voting to go to war or not – and they didn’t- You know, in fairness I guess, they were told they were voting for peace. They, they were told they were voting so that, that we could go to the UN and, and make the convincing argument to the UN that we would be willing to go into Iraq unilaterally. Therefore, we would have the, the leverage to get the inspectors in.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK
: Well, you know, I went to several Senators, including I think a couple who later ran for office, and, for the Presidency. I said, “Don’t believe him.” (laughs) “He’s made up his mind to go to war. Don’t give him a blank check.”

Al Franken: Mm Hm.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: But they gave him a blank check. I said it on CNN, “You can’t give him a blank check.” And I said it in the testimony that you have to make sure that there’s a resolution. It’s got to be a broad resolution so we can go to the United Nations, but it doesn’t and shouldn’t be a blank check.

Al Franken Show/Air America 5/2/06

April 20, 2006

Ted Kennedy: Those who “served in combat were universally opposed to going”

Filed under: Congress, Iraq War Resolution (IWR) — faithinwes @ 3:56 pm

KING: Why did you vote against?

KENNEDY: Well, I’m on the Armed Services Committee and I was inclined to support the administration when we started the hearings in the Armed Services Committee. And, it was enormously interesting to me that those that had been — that were in the armed forces that had served in combat were universally opposed to going.

I mean we had Wes Clark testify in opposition to going to war at that time. You had General Zinni. You had General (INAUDIBLE). You had General Nash. You had the series of different military officials, a number of whom had been involved in the Gulf I War, others involved in Kosovo and had distinguished records in Vietnam, battle-hardened combat military figures. And, virtually all of them said no, this is not going to work and they virtually identified…

KING: And that’s what moved you?

KENNEDY: And that really was — influenced me to the greatest degree.

Larry King Live,  April 20, 2006

June 26, 2005

Clark and Iraq war resolution

Which Iraq war resolution in the Senate did Clark say he supported? There were five that were proposed: the one that passed 75-25, proposed by Lieberman; the Byrd amendment that would provide a termination date for the use of force authorization, which failed 31-66; the second Byrd amendment that would limit Bush’s authority to Iraq (the Lieberman version mentions a number of terrorist organizations that force was also authorized against), which failed 14-86; the Levin amendment that would limit the authority to destroying or removing WMDs and require a new UN Security Council resolution, which failed 24-75; and the Durbin amendment that would limit the authority to any imminent threat posed by Iraqi WMDs not a continuing threat, which failed 30-70 (see a discussion of these amendments (Google cache)).

Levin’s speech cited the testimony of Clark, along with Generals Shalikashvili and Hoar in favor of UNSC resolutions.

Here’s what Clark had to say about which resolution he supported:

Well, what I said in testimony repeatedly was that I believed that Congress should empower the president to go forward with a resolution to the United Nations. But I warned against giving him a blank check. I would never have supported the resolution as it ultimately emerged.

The only amendment or resolution that mentioned the UN was the Levin amendment. He also mentions it by name in this video.

More in general on Clark’s Iraq war stance here.

Clark Blog, June 26, 2005

January 22, 2004

Clark’s congressional testimony “helped crystallize our thinking”

At least some members of Congress say they were swayed by Clark’s nuanced critique before the war. Democratic Representatives Vic Snyder of Arkansas and John Spratt of South Carolina, in a statement provided to the Globe, said Clark’s congressional testimony “helped crystallize our thinking” on an alternative war resolution in the fall of 2002 that would have authorized military action but only with approval from the United Nations or Congress. The resolution failed.

Clark explained the discrepancy in an interview with the Globe this week. He said that when he spoke to Congress, appeared on CNN, and wrote for the Times of London, he held his true feelings back, hamstrung by constraints that ranged from the limitations on his TV contract to a reluctance to criticize Americans in a foreign paper to his efforts to influence Congress with measured speech. Clark also said the post-war absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq further hardened his views.

On the campaign trail, he said, “I’m not testifying in front of Congress. I’m in front of a crowd of people, and they’re pretty angry at the fact that their sons and daughters and their husbands and wives and their families have been sent abroad, disrupted, caused them terrible hardship, and they’re serving in Iraq in a war we didn’t have to fight.”

Clark’s drive for the presidency is in large part fueled by his extensive military resume. Many antiwar voters view him as uniquely qualifed to question Bush’s Iraq policy. And he has evolved into a fervently antiwar candidate, often shouting denunciations of Bush and hinting at conspiracies behind the war.

These days, Clark seems hard-pressed to find any rational explanation for invading Iraq. Asked why the administration would have wanted to, Clark shrugged and said Congress should investigate the White House to produce an answer. He said he had heard “speculation” that the Iraq war had “all been cooked up and passed through to make the president look strong and commanding in front of the American people.”

Boston Globe,  1/22/2004

November 30, 2003

“Least worst choice”

Filed under: Iraq War Resolution (IWR) — faithinwes @ 12:38 am

By William Safire

We have another retired general and another intriguing verb. Wesley Clark, during a debate in Arizona, was criticized by Senator Joe Lieberman for saying at first that he would have voted for the Congressional resolution that authorized the attack on Saddam Hussein’s regime and later saying the opposite.

Clark denied flip-flopping, explaining that he ”would have voted for a resolution that took the problem to the United Nations.” Pressed by the moderator, CNN’s Judy Woodruff, Clark explained, ”At every stage as we walked down through this resolution . . . I took the situation as it was and necked it down to look for the least worst choice.”

-snip

Is this what Clark had in mind? When I queried his campaign, the general was too hoarse to talk to me, but a spokeswoman to whom he whispered his explanation of his reaction to the Congressional resolution had an answer. ”What he meant by necking down was this: at every stage he was faced with an already-made decision, and he reacted to that already-made decision. Necking down means tracking as the decisions evolve and coming up with your reaction. He is saying, ‘Here is my reaction at this stage.’ ”

General Clark was kind enough to draw a diagram of this fascinating process that brings the definition to life with what mathematicians and physicists would find to be graphic clarity, but I am unable to share it with readers because a copy was vouchsafed to me on background. It has nothing to do with hyping a bullet. After close snake-checking, I can report only that the diagram of necking it down looks more like a staircase.

New York Times,  November 30, 2003

November 16, 2003

“The resolution I would have supported is a resolution that required the president to return to the United States Congress before he took any military action”

Filed under: Iraq War Resolution (IWR), Levin Amendment, WMD — faithinwes @ 8:37 pm

A month later you went up to New Hampshire, campaigning for Katrina Swett, a candidate for Congress in the 2nd District, and said this: “Clark endorsed Democratic Katrina Swett in the 2nd District in New Hampshire.” And “He said if she were in Congress this week, he would advise her to vote for the resolution.” And as recently as September of this year, in response to a question of the press, “On balance, I probably would have voted for it.”

This was the resolution that the president asked for, giving him the authority to go to war. And the record’s pretty clear, General, that you were supporting the president.

GEN. CLARK: Well, I don’t think the record’s clear, that I was supporting the president, Tim. I think the record’s pretty clear in the opposite direction. What I would have supported was taking the problem to the United Nations. I wanted to see the problem of Saddam Hussein taken to the United Nations. Yes, I believe Saddam Hussein was a challenge and a threat but I did not see an imminent threat. I’ve written thousands of words, I’ve spoken dozens of times on CNN and you’ve simply got to pull the whole record out to see this. I even said on the 16th of September on CNN, “Don’t give the president a blank check.”

The resolution I would have supported is a resolution that required the president to return to the United States Congress before he took any military action. I supported a resolution that would have given him leverage with the United Nations but not a resolution that would have authorized war at that time. So I want to make it…

MR. RUSSERT: But you did say, “Our president has emphasized the urgency of eliminating these weapons. I support his efforts.”

GEN. CLARK: I do support the effort to eliminate those weapons and I did then, but I did not see it as a threat that required us to go to war at the time. And I’ve made that very clear, too.

Meet the Press 11/16/03

“Bit by bit, we would have reduced the imminence of any threat”

Filed under: Afghanistan, Iraq War Resolution (IWR), Military Force, Strategy — faithinwes @ 6:49 pm

MR. RUSSERT: Are you suggesting that if you were in charge, you could have liberated Iraq without the loss of a single American soldier?

GEN. CLARK: No, not necessarily. But I would have worked on Iraq a different way. I would have viewed it as a challenge, but not an imminent threat. I would have taken the problem to the United Nations. I would have put pressure through the United Nations on Iraq. I would have worked for robust inspections. I might have kept a force in the region. And, bit by bit, we would have reduced the imminence of any threat that Saddam Hussein might pose. I was one of those, along with Senator Bob Graham, who believed at the outset that this was a distraction. This was a distraction from the more important war against al-Qaeda. And, in fact, it was a distraction, Tim. When we went into Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, CENTCOM was already planning the operation in Iraq. Instead of planning how to get Osama bin Laden, instead of putting the U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan to finish the fight against al-Qaeda and bring back Osama bin Laden, dead or alive, we had our top leadership distracted in preparing what to do about Saddam Hussein. And then, when we could have put the U.S. troops in, we withheld them, because there was uncertainty as to how long we would be in Afghanistan and how soon we might need those troops to go into Iraq.

So we’ve stretched and we’ve accommodated the Afghanistan mission, we’ve done as little as possible. In military terms, it’s been “economy of force.” And the result is today that al-Qaeda and the Taliban are coming back in Afghanistan.

Meet the Press, 11/16/03

October 10, 2002

Senator Clinton: Iraq War Debate, October 10, 2002

Filed under: Iraq War Resolution (IWR), Lieberman Amendment — faithinwes @ 8:40 pm

October 10, 2002
Floor Speech of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
on S.J. Res. 45, A Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq

As Delivered

Today we are asked whether to give the President of the United States authority to use force in Iraq should diplomatic efforts fail to dismantle Saddam Hussein’s chemical and biological weapons and his nuclear program.

I am honored to represent nearly 19 million New Yorkers, a thoughtful democracy of voices and opinions who make themselves heard on the great issues of our day especially this one. Many have contacted my office about this resolution, both in support of and in opposition to it, and I am grateful to all who have expressed an opinion.

I also greatly respect the differing opinions within this body. The debate they engender will aid our search for a wise, effective policy. Therefore, on no account should dissent be discouraged or disparaged. It is central to our freedom and to our progress, for on more than one occasion, history has proven our great dissenters to be right.

Now, I believe the facts that have brought us to this fateful vote are not in doubt. Saddam Hussein is a tyrant who has tortured and killed his own people, even his own family members, to maintain his iron grip on power. He used chemical weapons on Iraqi Kurds and on Iranians, killing over 20 thousand people. Unfortunately, during the 1980’s, while he engaged in such horrific activity, he enjoyed the support of the American government, because he had oil and was seen as a counterweight to the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran.

In 1991, Saddam Hussein invaded and occupied Kuwait, losing the support of the United States. The first President Bush assembled a global coalition, including many Arab states, and threw Saddam out after forty-three days of bombing and a hundred hours of ground operations. The U.S.-led coalition then withdrew, leaving the Kurds and the Shiites, who had risen against Saddam Hussein at our urging, to Saddam’s revenge.

As a condition for ending the conflict, the United Nations imposed a number of requirements on Iraq, among them disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction, stocks used to make such weapons, and laboratories necessary to do the work. Saddam Hussein agreed, and an inspection system was set up to ensure compliance. And though he repeatedly lied, delayed, and obstructed the inspections work, the inspectors found and destroyed far more weapons of mass destruction capability than were destroyed in the Gulf War, including thousands of chemical weapons, large volumes of chemical and biological stocks, a number of missiles and warheads, a major lab equipped to produce anthrax and other bio-weapons, as well as substantial nuclear facilities.

In 1998, Saddam Hussein pressured the United Nations to lift the sanctions by threatening to stop all cooperation with the inspectors. In an attempt to resolve the situation, the UN, unwisely in my view, agreed to put limits on inspections of designated “sovereign sites” including the so-called presidential palaces, which in reality were huge compounds well suited to hold weapons labs, stocks, and records which Saddam Hussein was required by UN resolution to turn over. When Saddam blocked the inspection process, the inspectors left. As a result, President Clinton, with the British and others, ordered an intensive four-day air assault, Operation Desert Fox, on known and suspected weapons of mass destruction sites and other military targets.

In 1998, the United States also changed its underlying policy toward Iraq from containment to regime change and began to examine options to effect such a change, including support for Iraqi opposition leaders within the country and abroad.

In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001.

It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.

Now this much is undisputed. The open questions are: what should we do about it? How, when, and with whom?

Some people favor attacking Saddam Hussein now, with any allies we can muster, in the belief that one more round of weapons inspections would not produce the required disarmament, and that deposing Saddam would be a positive good for the Iraqi people and would create the possibility of a secular democratic state in the Middle East, one which could perhaps move the entire region toward democratic reform.

This view has appeal to some, because it would assure disarmament; because it would right old wrongs after our abandonment of the Shiites and Kurds in 1991, and our support for Saddam Hussein in the 1980’s when he was using chemical weapons and terrorizing his people; and because it would give the Iraqi people a chance to build a future in freedom.

However, this course is fraught with danger. We and our NATO allies did not depose Mr. Milosevic, who was responsible for more than a quarter of a million people being killed in the 1990s. Instead, by stopping his aggression in Bosnia and Kosovo, and keeping on the tough sanctions, we created the conditions in which his own people threw him out and led to his being in the dock being tried for war crimes as we speak.

If we were to attack Iraq now, alone or with few allies, it would set a precedent that could come back to haunt us. In recent days, Russia has talked of an invasion of Georgia to attack Chechen rebels. India has mentioned the possibility of a pre-emptive strike on Pakistan. And what if China were to perceive a threat from Taiwan?

So Mr. President, for all its appeal, a unilateral attack, while it cannot be ruled out, on the present facts is not a good option.

Others argue that we should work through the United Nations and should only resort to force if and when the United Nations Security Council approves it. This too has great appeal for different reasons. The UN deserves our support. Whenever possible we should work through it and strengthen it, for it enables the world to share the risks and burdens of global security and when it acts, it confers a legitimacy that increases the likelihood of long-term success. The UN can help lead the world into a new era of global cooperation and the United States should support that goal.

But there are problems with this approach as well. The United Nations is an organization that is still growing and maturing. It often lacks the cohesion to enforce its own mandates. And when Security Council members use the veto, on occasion, for reasons of narrow-minded interests, it cannot act. In Kosovo, the Russians did not approve NATO military action because of political, ethnic, and religious ties to the Serbs. The United States therefore could not obtain a Security Council resolution in favor of the action necessary to stop the dislocation and ethnic cleansing of more than a million Kosovar Albanians. However, most of the world was with us because there was a genuine emergency with thousands dead and a million driven from their homes. As soon as the American-led conflict was over, Russia joined the peacekeeping effort that is still underway.

In the case of Iraq, recent comments indicate that one or two Security Council members might never approve force against Saddam Hussein until he has actually used chemical, biological, or God forbid, nuclear weapons.

So, Mr. President, the question is how do we do our best to both defuse the real threat that Saddam Hussein poses to his people, to the region, including Israel, to the United States, to the world, and at the same time, work to maximize our international support and strengthen the United Nations?

While there is no perfect approach to this thorny dilemma, and while people of good faith and high intelligence can reach diametrically opposed conclusions, I believe the best course is to go to the UN for a strong resolution that scraps the 1998 restrictions on inspections and calls for complete, unlimited inspections with cooperation expected and demanded from Iraq. I know that the Administration wants more, including an explicit authorization to use force, but we may not be able to secure that now, perhaps even later. But if we get a clear requirement for unfettered inspections, I believe the authority to use force to enforce that mandate is inherent in the original 1991 UN resolution, as President Clinton recognized when he launched Operation Desert Fox in 1998.

If we get the resolution that President Bush seeks, and if Saddam complies, disarmament can proceed and the threat can be eliminated. Regime change will, of course, take longer but we must still work for it, nurturing all reasonable forces of opposition.

If we get the resolution and Saddam does not comply, then we can attack him with far more support and legitimacy than we would have otherwise.

If we try and fail to get a resolution that simply, but forcefully, calls for Saddam’s compliance with unlimited inspections, those who oppose even that will be in an indefensible position. And, we will still have more support and legitimacy than if we insist now on a resolution that includes authorizing military action and other requirements giving some nations superficially legitimate reasons to oppose any Security Council action. They will say we never wanted a resolution at all and that we only support the United Nations when it does exactly what we want.

I believe international support and legitimacy are crucial. After shots are fired and bombs are dropped, not all consequences are predictable. While the military outcome is not in doubt, should we put troops on the ground, there is still the matter of Saddam Hussein’s biological and chemical weapons. Today he has maximum incentive not to use them or give them away. If he did either, the world would demand his immediate removal. Once the battle is joined, however, with the outcome certain, he will have maximum incentive to use weapons of mass destruction and to give what he can’t use to terrorists who can torment us with them long after he is gone. We cannot be paralyzed by this possibility, but we would be foolish to ignore it. And according to recent reports, the CIA agrees with this analysis. A world united in sharing the risk at least would make this occurrence less likely and more bearable and would be far more likely to share with us the considerable burden of rebuilding a secure and peaceful post-Saddam Iraq.

President Bush’s speech in Cincinnati and the changes in policy that have come forth since the Administration began broaching this issue some weeks ago have made my vote easier. Even though the resolution before the Senate is not as strong as I would like in requiring the diplomatic route first and placing highest priority on a simple, clear requirement for unlimited inspections, I will take the President at his word that he will try hard to pass a UN resolution and will seek to avoid war, if at all possible.

Because bipartisan support for this resolution makes success in the United Nations more likely, and therefore, war less likely, and because a good faith effort by the United States, even if it fails, will bring more allies and legitimacy to our cause, I have concluded, after careful and serious consideration, that a vote for the resolution best serves the security of our nation. If we were to defeat this resolution or pass it with only a few Democrats, I am concerned that those who want to pretend this problem will go way with delay will oppose any UN resolution calling for unrestricted inspections.

This is a very difficult vote. This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make — any vote that may lead to war should be hard — but I cast it with conviction.

And perhaps my decision is influenced by my eight years of experience on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue in the White House watching my husband deal with serious challenges to our nation. I want this President, or any future President, to be in the strongest possible position to lead our country in the United Nations or in war. Secondly, I want to insure that Saddam Hussein makes no mistake about our national unity and for our support for the President’s efforts to wage America’s war against terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. And thirdly, I want the men and women in our Armed Forces to know that if they should be called upon to act against Iraq, our country will stand resolutely behind them.

My vote is not, however, a vote for any new doctrine of pre-emption, or for uni-lateralism, or for the arrogance of American power or purpose — all of which carry grave dangers for our nation, for the rule of international law and for the peace and security of people throughout the world.

Over eleven years have passed since the UN called on Saddam Hussein to rid himself of weapons of mass destruction as a condition of returning to the world community. Time and time again he has frustrated and denied these conditions. This matter cannot be left hanging forever with consequences we would all live to regret. War can yet be avoided, but our responsibility to global security and to the integrity of United Nations resolutions protecting it cannot. I urge the President to spare no effort to secure a clear, unambiguous demand by the United Nations for unlimited inspections.

And finally, on another personal note, I come to this decision from the perspective of a Senator from New York who has seen all too closely the consequences of last year’s terrible attacks on our nation. In balancing the risks of action versus inaction, I think New Yorkers who have gone through the fires of hell may be more attuned to the risk of not acting. I know that I am.

So it is with conviction that I support this resolution as being in the best interests of our nation. A vote for it is not a vote to rush to war; it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our President and we say to him – use these powers wisely and as a last resort. And it is a vote that says clearly to Saddam Hussein – this is your last chance – disarm or be disarmed.

Thank you, Mr. President.

clinton.senate.gov

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