Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) spoke on the House floor today regarding the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. The following is a transcription of his remarks:
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise in support of this resolution because I believe that the threat of force is required if we are to have any hope of disarming Saddam Hussein and removing the threat that he presents to our nation and to the world.
“Just about everybody agrees that Saddam Hussein does in fact pose a threat. The debate seems to be about how large that threat is, how imminent it is and how much it is directed at us. I think the evidence makes it clear that we face a threat.
“I am sympathetic to those who would like to wish away that threat because of the hard choice that we have to face when we realize that we do have a threat against us, but it does not change the facts. Saddam Hussein has a long history of trying to develop the most deadly weapons possible: chemical, biological and nuclear. He was first thwarted in 1981 by Israel, then in 1991 by the Gulf War, and now all evidence points to the fact that he is trying to develop those weapons again. That makes him a threat right off the bat.
“Plus he has a proven propensity for violence, a proven propensity to use those weapons. As bad as we think that Iran and North Korea are, and the Soviet Union was, none of those countries have ever used chemical weapons. They drew the line; Saddam Hussein did not. He crossed over it and used chemical weapons against his own people.
“He also has clearly expressed his disdain for the United States of America ever since the Gulf War, so clearly he is a threat to us.
“The presence of international terrorism changes the nature of this threat. Many have said we have not proven a link to 9/11, we have not proven a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Queda, but there is ample evidence that some degree of connection is there. And there is certainly ample reason that tells us that Saddam Hussein coming together with the international terrorists who oppose us is quite likely and quite possible; and that makes the threat both imminent and to the US because terrorism would enable Saddam Hussein to deliver these weapons through means other than having to develop an intercontinental missile. He could deliver them in any manner of different ways and has shown a certain willingness towards violence and against the US.
“We face a threat. We cannot wish away that threat because of the consequences of acknowledging it. We face that threat, and we must stand up to it, and the threat of force against him is necessary to meet it.
“Now, I want to deal with the preemptive argument because many have said that we are becoming a rogue nation by doing this. And I regret what the president has said about a policy of preemptive strike because I think it has muddied the waters. We do not have to violate international law to go to war with Saddam Hussein. We are in an armistice with Saddam Hussein and Iraq. We went to war with them in 1991. That war was only ended by an armistice, an armistice which everybody knows Saddam Hussein is in violation of. We are clearly within the bounds of international law to use force to enforce that armistice. We do not have to get into a debate about first strikes and preemptive action. We are clearly within the bounds of international law.
“It is also been said that we should work multilaterally. And I completely agree that we should. Again, I regret the approach that the president took earlier this year when stories were leaked about how he could do it without congressional approval, he did not want to go to the U.N., he wanted to do it unilaterally. I think that was a mistake. I think he should have learned from his father’s example when Iraq invaded Kuwait. The first thing that the first George Bush did was to call the U.N. and say let’s work together. We should have taken that approach immediately, but now we are.
“It has been said, how can we give this power to the president who wants to go right over our heads and totally ignore Congress? We’re here talking about it. He is not going over our heads, he is asking us for that support. So that too is not an issue.
“We should act multilaterally. We are. It is my profound hope that we will not go to war, and that Saddam Hussein faced with this threat will allow for the disarmament to happen. But absent this threat, rest assured he will not react in the way that we want him to.
“I also regret that politics has been brought into this. During the time when we were trying to deal with the crises in Kosovo and Bosnia and even Iraq in 1998, I was deeply angered by Republican colleagues who attacked the president’s character as he tried to deal with this threat.
“Mr. Speaker, the criticisms of President Clinton were that in trying to deal with Saddam Hussein, when he finally so thwarted the U.N. inspectors that they were forced to leave because they could not do their job, the criticism was that the president was ‘wagging the dog,’ he was dealing with his personal problems. We undercut our own president at a time when he needed us most. And now when I see Democrats doing the same thing by questioning the president’s motives at a time when we need to come together as a country, I similarly disdain that partisanship.
“There’s plenty of room to disagree here about whether or not we should go to war, we do not need to question the personal motives of our president now anymore than we should have back in 1998 when it was Republicans doing it to Democrats instead of Democrats doing it to Republicans.
“Lastly, I would like to deal with the issue of how this affects the people of Iraq. There has been much criticism of the sanctions regime on Iraq, much criticism of the effect that has had on the Iraqi people. Ironically, that criticism has come from some of the same people who now criticize our threat to use force against Iraq. I think the criticism was this is harming the Iraqi people and doing nothing to Saddam Hussein.
“So if we don’t threaten to use force and back it up if necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein and remove that threat, what are we left with? Do we simply remove the economic sanctions and say it’s okay for Saddam Hussein to make a mockery of international law, to make a mockery of the same multilateralism that we claim to support, to continue to develop weapons of mass destruction that threaten us and the world and simply say that we will do nothing?
“I fully admit that this is a hard choice. Going to war is not easy, but we cannot wish away the threat and pretend that somehow this is simply motivated by personal motivations of the president. There is a clear threat here that we must deal with. I hope the threat of force deals with it; but if the threat does not we must follow through in order to protect ourselves and the world. Thank you.”
For more information on Congressman Adam Smith’s position on the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, please click here: http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/wa09_smith/021009pr.html