I share the same revulsion that many others have toward Saddam Hussein. We all know that he is brutal and that his regime has terrorized the Iraqi people and the peoples of nearby countries.
But there was a time not so long ago when, despite all of this, we chose to allow him to be our friend. There was a time when we supplied him with chemical weapons and other military technologies.
If our nation really cared about Iraq’s neighbors, we would never have supplied him the military arsenal that we did. And if we really cared about his people we would have done something to alleviate the suffering of the Kurds who, for years, have been brutalized by the Iraqi military. If we cared about the Iraqi people we would have done something to lift the burdens imposed on them by the UN sanctions which, to date, have claimed in excess of an estimated 500,000 Iraqi children.
But the truth is we didn’t really care about any of that suffering.
Madeleine Albright even said that the price of 500,000 dead Iraqi children was worth it.
Now, however, we claim to care.
Now, Saddam Hussein has just become another name on a long list of other tyrants who we once aided and abetted but now oppose. But what to do? In the past, other tyrants we have grown tired of were assassinated, like Jonas Savimbi; or charged with war crimes, like Slobodan Milosevic; or forced from power through US backed uprisings like Mobutu Sese Seko.
President Bush is confronted with the “what to do question.” He appears to be choosing war to get rid of this tyrant and of course he has to justify it. That’s the public relations part of the equation.
The words “Gulf of Tonkin” have echoed around Washington this last month with many people concerned that the Bush Administration is now manufacturing an international crisis in order to launch a pre-emptive military strike against Saddam Hussein.
In 1964 there were some courageous members of this House who knew that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a political ruse being used by the Johnson Administration in order to justify the United States going to war in Vietnam. For their courage to speak out and resist, they suffered a tidal wave of public ridicule.
But we now know that they were right and that the Vietnam War was a monumental mistake that cost the lives of some 60,000 brave young Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese.
And still, we have many Americans and Vietnamese who suffer the health effects of Agent Orange and other toxins faced on the battlefield. And all across the American and European landscape today, veterans still suffer from Gulf War Syndrome and exposure to depleted uranium.
Will we let this President create yet another generation of veterans to whom we break our promises?
I see too many of these veterans sleeping on our streets. The President can see them–too if he would just look. They sleep on the sidewalks, benches, and heating vents just across the street from the White House.
Mr. Chairman, do we give this President the green light to go to war on Iraq based on evidence which many weapons experts believe to be exaggerated? Are we now turning a blind eye to another Gulf of Tonkin type incident? Shouldn’t we trust the legal and diplomatic means of the United Nations?
Do we give the President the green light to go to war on Iraq because it has refused to comply with UN Security Council weapons inspections resolutions? At the same time Israel refuses to comply with UN resolutions with respect to the Occupied Territories.
Do we have different standards for different countries?
Mr. Chairman, if the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Gulf of Tonkin taught us anything, they taught us the dangers of choosing the military option over diplomatic and legal alternatives.
The current terrorist crisis confronting our nation is so much bigger and more complicated than this call for war on Iraq. Should we miscalculate our military actions in Iraq, we could cause many American service men and women to lose their lives. Needless to say, we could also cause untold numbers of Iraqis to be killed or injured. Worse still, instead of solving the current threat of terrorism against us, going to war in Iraq might well make things far worse for us both at home and abroad.
I hope and pray that we choose our options carefully.