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Byrd: Rush to War Ignores U.S. Constitution

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 799 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... RUSH TO WAR IGNORES U.S. CONSTITUTION Senate Remarks
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 8, 2002
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      Senate Remarks By Senator Robert Byrd
      Senior Senator from the State of West Virginia
      October 3, 2002

      For more information:
      (202) 224-3904


      Senator 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.


      The great Roman historian, Titus Livius, said, " All things will be clear
      and distinct to the man who does not hurry; haste is blind and improvident."

      "Blind 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

      The newly 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)

      Before 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 issue.

      The resolution 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.

      Representative 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.'

      "The 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

      If he 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:

      "The 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

      The Congressional 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." 

      Article 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 of terrorism.

      Think 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?

      Perhaps 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.

      As James 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...."

      Congress 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

      The Senate 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?

      The last 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?

      Yes, we 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

      So where 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.

      The President 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. 

      As to 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)

      No one 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. 

      Nor do 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 became clear.

      A U.S. 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.

      To follow 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.

      The Congressional 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 equation.

      There 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 exercise restraint. 

      The questions 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. 

      Before 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.

      This is 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.

      Everyone 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. 

      I urge 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. 

      Let us guard against the perils of haste, lest the Senate fall prey to the
      dangers of taking action that is both blind and improvident.


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