Concerns from Four Years Ago: A Look Back at the Iraq Debate

Four years ago, we in Congress voted to authorize the use of military force against Iraq. I was one of 23 Senators who voted against it and my thoughts expressed then still hold true today:

"Before the United States wages war against Iraq, President Bush and the Congress owe it to the young Americans who face death or injury in that conflict to ensure that every effort has been made to obtain our ends without endangering them. Every ounce of preparation must be taken to ensure a swift and efficient outcome should war become necessary. As another President, Herbert Hoover, once said, 'Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die.' The burden is on our leaders to justify why young men and women need to risk their future now.

"As we consider this war, we must also consider the implications of what we are doing. Saddam Hussein is not the only dictator who oppresses his people, attacks his neighbors, and is developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). North Korea's Kim Jong Il, Libya's Muammar Qaddaffi, Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei, Syria's Bashar al-Asad, and others, all pose threats or have posed threats to American interests. All are known for their human rights abuses."Great uncertainty surrounds the President's post-war strategy. Remember the day the war ends, Iraq becomes our responsibility, our problem. The United States lacks strategic planning for a post-conflict situation ... Our objectives in Iraq have not yet been made clear: is it our goal to occupy Baghdad and if so, for how long? A rush to battle without a strategy to win the peace is folly.

"Haste makes waste, affirms the adage, and in this case, haste means a waste of American lives. We may have an all-volunteer force but they are not mercenaries; they are citizen-soldiers and we owe it to each and every one of them and their families to proceed carefully when endangering their lives. Preparation is not the same as procrastination.

"Constituent opinion in my home state is running strongly against any authorization of the use of force against Iraq. The President and his Administration need to make a clear and compelling case to the American people and to our allies abroad as to why this confrontation is necessary now.

"For that reason, Mr. President, I support efforts to frame a multilateral approach to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. I support action by the United Nations in the form of a resolution calling for unconditional and unfettered inspections in Iraq. Only after we exhaust all of our alternative means should we engage in the use of force, and before then, the President must ensure we have a strategy and plans in place for winning the war and building the peace."

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