Byrd delivered the following remarks as the Senate opened debate on
Senate Joint Resolution 46, a resolution authorizing the President to
use whatever force he deems necessary in Iraq or elsewhere. Listen
to portions of these remarks in .mp3 format.
great Roman historian, Titus Livius, said, "All things will be
clear and distinct to the man who does not hurry; haste is blind and
and improvident," Mr. President. "Blind and improvident."
Congress would be wise to heed those words today, for as sure as the
sun rises in the east, we are embarking on a course of action with regard
to Iraq that, in its haste, is both blind and improvident. We are rushing
into war without fully discussing why, without thoroughly considering
the consequences, or without making any attempt to explore what steps
we might take to avert conflict.
bellicose mood that permeates this White House is unfortunate, all the
moreso because it is clearly motivated by campaign politics. Republicans
are already running attack ads against Democrats on Iraq. Democrats
favor fast approval of a resolution so they can change the subject to
domestic economic problems. (NY Times 9/20/2002)
risking the lives of American troops, all members of Congress – Democrats
and Republicans alike – must overcome the siren song of political polls
and focus strictly on the merits, not the politics, of this most serious
before us today is not only a product of haste; it is also a product
of presidential hubris. This resolution is breathtaking in its scope.
It redefines the nature of defense, and reinterprets the Constitution
to suit the will of the Executive Branch. It would give the President
blanket authority to launch a unilateral preemptive attack on a sovereign
nation that is perceived to be a threat to the United States.
This is an unprecedented and unfounded interpretation of the President's
authority under the Constitution, not to mention the fact that it stands
the charter of the United Nations on its head.
Abraham Lincoln, in a letter to William H. Herndon, stated: "Allow
the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem
it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever
he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose - and
you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any
limit to his power in this respect, after you have given him so much
as you propose. If, to-day, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary
to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could
you stop him? You may say to him, 'I see no probability of the British
invading us' but he will say to you 'be silent; I see it, if you don't.'
provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress,
was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons. Kings had
always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending
generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object.
This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly
oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no
one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But
your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where
kings have always stood."
could speak to us today, what would Lincoln say of the Bush doctrine
concerning preemptive strikes?
In a September
18 report, the Congressional Research Service had this to say about
the preemptive use of military force:
historical record indicates that the United States has never, to date,
engaged in a "preemptive" military attack against another
nation. Nor has the United States ever attacked another nation militarily
prior to its first having been attacked or prior to U.S. citizens
or interests first having been attacked, with the singular exception
of the Spanish-American War. The Spanish-American War is unique in
that the principal goal of United States military action was to compel
Spain to grant Cuba its political independence.
Research Service also noted that the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 "represents
a threat situation which some may argue had elements more parallel to
those presented by Iraq today – but it was resolved without a "preemptive"
military attack by the United States."
I, Section 8, of the Constitution grants Congress the power to declare
war and to call forth the militia "to execute the Laws of the Union,
suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions." Nowhere in the Constitution
is it written that the President has the authority to call forth the
militia to preempt a perceived threat. And yet, the resolution before
the Senate avers that the President "has authority under the
Constitution to take action in order to deter and prevent acts of
international terrorism against the United States, as Congress recognized
in the joint resolution on Authorization for Use of Miliary Force"
following the September 11 terrorist attack. What a cynical twisting
of words! The reality is that Congress, exercising the authority granted
to it under the Constitution, granted the President specific and limited
authority to use force against the perpetrators of the September 11
attack. Nowhere was there an implied recognition of inherent authority
under the Constitution to "deter and prevent" future acts
for a moment of the precedent that this resolution will set, not just
for this President but for future Presidents. From this day forward,
American Presidents will be able to invoke Senate Joint Resolution 46
as justification for launching preemptive military strikes against any
sovereign nations that they perceive to be a threat. Other nations will
be able to hold up the United States as the model to justify their military
adventures. Do you not think that India and Pakistan, China and Taiwan,
Russia and Georgia are closely watching the outcome of this debate?
Do you not think that future adversaries will look to this moment to
rationalize the use of military force to achieve who knows what ends?
a case can be made that Iraq poses such a clear and immediate danger
to the United States that preemptive military action is the only way
to deal with the threat. To be sure, weapons of mass destruction are
a 20th century horror that the Framers of the Constitution
had no way of foreseeing. But they did foresee the frailty of human
nature and the inherent danger of concentrating too much power in one
individual. That is why the Framers bestowed on Congress, not the President,
the power to declare war.
Madison wrote in 1793, "In no part of the constitution is more
wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of
war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department.
Beside the objection to such a mixture to heterogeneous powers, the
trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man...."
has a responsibility to exercise with extreme care the power to declare
war. There is no weightier matter to be considered. A war against Iraq
will affect thousands if not tens of thousands of lives, and perhaps
alter the course of history. It will surely affect the balance of power
in the Middle East. It is not a decision to be taken in haste, under
the glare of election year politics and the pressure of artificial deadlines.
And yet any observer can see that that is exactly what the Senate is
proposing to do.
is rushing to vote on whether to declare war on Iraq without pausing
to ask why. Why is war being dealt with not as a last resort but as
a first resort? Why is Congress being pressured to act now, as of today,
33 days before a general election when a third of the Senate and the
entire House of Representatives are in the final, highly politicized,
weeks of election campaigns? As recently as Tuesday (Oct. 1),
the President said he had not yet made up his mind about whether to
go to war with Iraq. And yet Congress is being exhorted to give the
President open-ended authority now, to exercise whenever he pleases,
in the event that he decides to invade Iraq. Why is Congress elbowing
past the President to authorize a military campaign that the President
may or may not even decide to pursue? Aren't we getting ahead of ourselves?
UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident
that Saddam Hussein retained some stockpiles of chemical and biological
weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up
his chemical and biological warfare capability. Intelligence reports
also indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons, but has not yet achieved
nuclear capability. It is now October of 2002. Four years have gone
by in which neither this administration nor the previous one felt compelled
to invade Iraq to protect against the imminent threat of weapons of
mass destruction. Until today. Until 33 days until election day. Now
we are being told that we must act immediately, before adjournment and
before the elections. Why the rush?
had September 11. But we must not make the mistake of looking at the
resolution before us as just another offshoot of the war on terror.
We know who was behind the September 11 attacks on the United States.
We know it was Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network. We
have dealt with al Qaeda and with the Taliban government that sheltered
it – we have routed them from Afghanistan and we are continuing to pursue
them in hiding.
does Iraq enter the equation? No one in the Administration has been
able to produce any solid evidence linking Iraq to the September 11
attack. Iraq had biological and chemical weapons long before September
11. We knew it then, and we know it now. Iraq has been an enemy of the
United States for more than a decade. If Saddam Hussein is such an imminent
threat to the United States, why hasn't he attacked us already? The
fact that Osama bin Laden attacked the United States does not, de facto,
mean that Saddam Hussein is now in a lock and load position and is readying
an attack on the United States. In truth, there is nothing in the deluge
of Administration rhetoric over Iraq that is of such moment that it
would preclude the Senate from setting its own timetable and taking
the time for a thorough and informed discussion of this crucial issue.
is using the Oval Office as a bully pulpit to sound the call to arms,
but it is from Capitol Hill that such orders must flow. The people,
through their elected representatives, must make that decision. It is
here that debate must take place and where the full spectrum of the
public's desires, concerns, and misgivings must be heard. We should
not allow ourselves to be pushed into one course or another in the face
of a full court publicity press from the White House. We have, rather,
a duty to the nation and her sons and daughters to carefully examine
all possible courses of action and to consider the long term consequences
of any decision to act.
separation of powers, Justice Louis Brandeis observed: "the doctrine
of the separation of powers was adopted by the Convention of 1787, not
to promote efficiency but to preclude the exercise of arbitrary power."
(Myers v. United States, 1926)
supports Saddam Hussein. If he were to disappear tomorrow, no one would
shed a tear around the world. I would not. My handkerchief would remain
dry. But the principle of one government deciding to eliminate another
government, using force to do so, and taking that action in spite of
world disapproval, is a very disquieting thing. I am concerned that
it has the effect of destabilizing the world community of nations. I
am concerned that it fosters a climate of suspicion and mistrust in
U.S. relations with other nations. The United States is not a rogue
nation, given to unilateral action in the face of worldwide opprobrium.
I am also
concerned about the consequences of a U.S. invasion of Iraq. It is difficult
to imagine that Saddam Hussein, who has been ruthless in gaining and
staying in power, would give up without a fight. He is a man who has
not shirked from using chemical weapons against his own people. I fear
that he would use everything in his arsenal against an invasion force,
or against an occupation force, up to and including whatever chemical,
biological, or nuclear weapons he might still have. Iraq is not Afghanistan,
impoverished by decades of war, internal strife, and stifling religious
oppression. Though its military forces are much diminished, Iraq has
a strong central command and much greater governmental control over
its forces and its people. It is a large country that has spent years
on a wartime footing, and it still has some wealth.
I think that the Iraqi people would necessarily rise up against Saddam
Hussein in the event of a U.S. invasion, even if there is an undercurrent
of support for his overthrow. The Iraqi people have spent decades living
in fear of Saddam Hussein and his network of informers and security
forces. There has been no positive showing, in the form of riots or
large and active internal opposition groups, that popular sentiment
in Iraq supports a governmental overthrow or the installation of a democratic
or republican form of government. There is no tradition of democracy
in Iraq's long history. There is, however, a natural instinct to favor
the known over the unknown, and in this instance, the U.S. is the unknown
factor. The President and his cabinet have suggested that this would
be a war of relatively short duration. If that is true, which I doubt,
but if it were, why would the Iraqi populace rush out to welcome the
U.S. forces. In a few weeks, they might have to answer to the remnants
of Saddam Hussein's security forces. A prudent Iraqi would just put
his or her head under the bedcovers and not come out until the future
invasion of Iraq that proved successful and which resulted in the overthrow
of the government would not be a simple effort. The aftermath of that
effort would require a long term occupation. The President has said
that he would overthrow Saddam Hussein and establish a new government
that would recognize all interest groups in Iraq. This would presumably
include the Kurds to the north and the Shiite Muslims to the south.
Because the entire military and security apparatus of Iraq would have
to be replaced, the U.S. would have to provide interim security throughout
the countryside. This kind of nation-building cannot be accomplished
with the wave of a wand by some fairy godmother, even one with the full
might and power of the world's last remaining superpower behind her.
through on the proposal outlined by the President would require the
commitment of a large number of U.S. forces forces that cannot be
used for other missions, such as homeland defense for an extended
period of time. It will take time to confirm that Iraq's programs to
develop weapons of mass destruction are well and truly destroyed. It
will take time to root out all elements of Saddam Hussein's government,
military, and security forces and to build new government and security
elements. It will take time to establish a new and legitimate government
and to conduct free and fair elections. It will cost billions of dollars
to do this as well. And the forces to carry out this mission and to
pay for this mission will come from the United States. There can be
little question of that. If the rest of the world doesn't want to come
with us at the outset, it seems highly unlikely that they would line
up for the follow through, even though their own security might be improved
by the elimination of a rogue nation's weapons of mass destruction.
So, if the Congress authorizes such a mission, we must be prepared for
what will follow.
Budget Office has already made some estimations regarding the cost of
a possible war with Iraq. In a September 30 report, CBO estimates that
the incremental costs – the costs that would be incurred above those
budgeted for routine operations – would be between $9 billion to $13
billion a month, depending on the actual force size deployed. Prosecuting
a war would cost between $6 billion and $9 billion a month. Since the
length of the war cannot be predicted, CBO could give no total battle
estimate. After hostilities end, the cost to return U.S. forces to their
home bases would range between $5 billion and $7 billion, according
to CBO. And the incremental cost of an occupation following combat operations
varies from about $1 billion to $4 billion a month. This estimate does
not include any cost of rebuilding or humanitarian assistance. That
is a steep price to pay in dollars, but dollars are only a part of the
are many formulas to calculate cost in the form of dollars, but it is
much more difficult to calculate cost in the form of deaths. Iraq may
be a weaker nation militarily than it was during the Persian Gulf war,
but its leader is no less determined and his weapons are no less lethal.
During the Persian Gulf War, the United States was able to convince
Saddam Hussein that the use of weapons of mass destruction would result
in his being toppled from power. This time around, the object of an
invasion of Iraq is to topple Saddam Hussein, so he has no reason to
surrounding the wisdom of declaring war on Iraq are many and serious.
The answers are too few and too glib. This is no way to embark on war.
The Senate must address these questions before acting on this kind of
sweeping use of force resolution. We don't need more rhetoric. We don't
need more campaign slogans or fund raising letters. We need – the American
people need – information and informed debate.
we rush into war, we should focus on those things that pose the most
direct threat to us those facilities and weapons that form the body
of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program. The United Nations is
the proper forum to deal with the inspection of these facilities, and
the destruction of any weapons discovered. If United Nations inspectors
can enter the country, inspect those facilities and mark for destruction
the ones that truly belong to a weapons program, then Iraq can be declawed
without unnecessary risk or loss of life. That would be the best answer
for Iraq, for the United States, and for the world. But if Iraq again
chooses to interfere with such an ongoing and admittedly intrusive inspection
regime, then and only then should the United States, with the support
of the world, take stronger measures.
what Congress did in 1991, before the Persian Gulf War. The United States
at that time gave the United Nations the lead in demanding that Iraq
withdraw from Kuwait. The U.S. took the time to build a coalition of
partners. When Iraq failed to heed the UN, then and only then did Congress
authorize the use of force. That is the order in which the steps to
war should be taken.
wants to protect our nation and our people. To do that in the most effective
way possible, we should avail ourselves of every opportunity to minimize
the number of troops we put at risk. Seeking once again to allow the
United Nations inspection regime to peacefully seek and destroy the
facilities and equipment employed in the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction
program would be the least costly and most effective way of reducing
the risk to our nation, provided that it is backed up by a credible
threat of force if Iraq once again attempts to thwart the inspections.
We can take a measured, stepped approach that would still leave open
the possibility of a ground invasion if that should become necessary,
but there is no need to take that step now.
restraint. President Bush gave the United Nations the opening to deal
effectively with the threat posed by Iraq. The UN embraced his exhortation
and is working to develop a new, tougher inspection regime with firm
deadlines and swift and sure accountability. Let us be convinced that
a reinvigorated inspection regime cannot work before we move to any
next step, and let us if we must employ force, employ the most precise
and limited use of force necessary to get the job done.
guard against the perils of haste, lest the Senate fall prey to the
dangers of taking action that is both blind and improvident.
C. Byrd represents West Virginia in the United States Senate.