Sen. Edward KennedyAmerica, Iraq and Presidential LeadershipWed Jan 14 14:46:11 200422.214.171.124America, Iraq and Presidential LeadershipRemarks of Edward KennedyMember, United States Senate (D-MA)Washington, D.C., January 14, 2004
http://www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=19556 Thank you General Nash for that generous introduction.General Nash had an impressive career in the U.S. Army. His experience and expertise in conflict prevention and post-war reconstruction from his leadership in the Balkans has greatly assisted the debate on post-war Iraq. I'm grateful to him for his impressive public service, and for joining us today.I'd also like to thank Brian and Alma Hart and Sergeant Peter Damon for coming today. The Hart's son, John, was killed in Iraq this fall on patrol in an unarmored Humvee. Sergeant Damon lost both his arms serving in Iraq. We honor their service and their sacrifice.The enduring accomplishments of our nation's leaders are those that are grounded in the fundamental values that gave birth to this great country. As our Founders so eloquently stated in the preamble to our Constitution, this nation was founded by "We the People...in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." Over the course of two centuries, these ideals inspired and enabled thirteen tiny quarreling colonies to transform themselves-not just into the most powerful nation on earth, but also into the "last, best hope of earth." These ideals have been uniquely honored by history and advanced by each new generation of Americans, often through great sacrifice. In these uncertain times, it is imperative that our leaders hold true to those founding ideals and protect the fundamental trust between the government and the people. Nowhere is this trust more important than between the people and the President of the United States. As the leader of our country and the voice of America to the world, our President has the obligation to lead and speak with truth and integrity if this nation is to continue to reap the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. The citizens of our democracy have a fundamental right to debate and even doubt the wisdom of a president's policies. And the citizens of our democracy have a sacred obligation to sound the alarm and shed light on the policies of an Administration that is leading this country to a perilous place.I believe that this Administration is indeed leading this country to a perilous place. It has broken faith with the American people, aided and abetted by a Congressional majority willing to pursue ideology at any price, even the price of distorting the truth. On issue after issue, they have moved brazenly to impose their agenda on America and on the world. They have pursued their goals at the expense of urgent national and human needs and at the expense of the truth. America deserves better.The Administration and the majority in Congress have put the state of our union at risk, and they do not deserve another term in the White House or in control of Congress.I do not make these statements lightly. I make them as an American deeply concerned about the future of the Republic if the extremist policies of this Administration continue.By far the most extreme and most dire example of this Administration's reckless pursuit of its single-minded ideology is in foreign policy. In its arrogant disrespect for the United Nations and for other peoples in other lands, this Administration and this Congress have squandered the immense goodwill that other nations extended to our country after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. And in the process, they made America a lesser and a less respected land.Nowhere is the danger to our country and to our founding ideals more evident than in the decision to go to war in Iraq. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has now revealed what many of us have long suspected. Despite protestations to the contrary, the President and his senior aides began the march to war in Iraq in the earliest days of the Administration, long before the terrorists struck this nation on 9/11. The examination of the public record and of the statements of President Bush and his aides reveals that the debate about overthrowing Saddam began long before the beginning of this Administration. Its roots began thirteen years ago, during the first Gulf War, when the first President Bush decided not to push on to Baghdad and oust Saddam.President Bush and his National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft explained the reason for that decision in their 1997 book, A World Transformed. They wrote the following: "Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream. . .and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. . . We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, there was no viable exit strategy we could see, violating another of our principles. . . Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land." Those words are eerily descriptive of our current situation in Iraq.During the first Gulf War, Paul Wolfowitz was a top advisor to then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, and he disagreed strongly with the decision by the first President Bush to stop the war after driving Saddam out of Kuwait. After that war ended, Wolfowitz convened a Pentagon working group to make the case that regime change in Iraq could easily be achieved by military force. The Wolfowitz group concluded that "U.S. forces could win unilaterally or with the aid of a small group of a coalition of forces within 54 days of mid to very high intensity combat." Saddam's attempted assassination of President Bush during a visit to Kuwait in 1993 added fuel to the debate.After his tenure at the Pentagon, Wolfowitz became Dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and continued to criticize the decision not to end the reign of Saddam. In 1994 he wrote: "With hindsight, it does seem like a mistake to have announced, even before the war was over, that we would not go to Baghdad..."Wolfowitz's resolve to oust Saddam was unwavering. In 1997, he wrote, "We will have to confront him sooner or later-and sooner would be better...Unfortunately, at this point, only the substantial use of military force could prove that the U.S. is serious and reverse the slow collapse of the international coalition."The following year, Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld and 16 others-10 of whom are now serving in or officially advising the current Bush Administration-wrote President Clinton, urging him to use military force to remove Saddam. They said, "The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action, as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy." That was 1998. President Clinton was in office, and regime change in Iraq did become the policy of the Clinton Administration-but not by war.As soon as the current President Bush took office in 2001, he brought a group of conservatives with him, including Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and others, who had been outspoken advocates for most of the previous decade for the forcible removal of Saddam Hussein. At first, President Bush was publicly silent on the issue. But as Paul O'Neill has told us, the debate was alive and well.I happen to know Paul O'Neill, and I have great respect for him. I worked with him on key issues of job safety and health care when he was at ALCOA in the 1990's. He's a person of great integrity, intelligence, and vision, and he had impressive ideas for improving the quality of health care in the Pittsburgh area. It is easy to understand why he was so concerned by what he heard about Iraq in the Bush Administration.In his "60 Minutes" interview last Sunday, O'Neill said that overthrowing Saddam was on the agenda from Day 1 of the new Administration. O'Neill said, "From the very beginning there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go...It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The President was saying, "Go find me a way to do this."The agenda was clear: find a rationale to end Saddam's regime.But there was resistance to military intervention by those who felt that the existing sanctions on Iraq should be strengthened. Saddam had been contained and his military capabilities had been degraded by the Gulf War and years of U.N. sanctions and inspections. At a press conference a month after the inauguration, Secretary of State Colin Powell said: "We have kept him contained, kept him in his box." The next day, Secretary Powell very clearly stated that Saddam "has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction..."Then, on September 11th, 2001, terrorists attacked us and everything changed. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld immediately began to link Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda and the attacks. According to notes taken by an aide to Rumsfeld on September 11th, the very day of the attacks, the Secretary ordered the military to prepare a response to the attacks. The notes quote Rumsfeld as saying that he wanted the best information fast, to judge whether the information was good enough to hit Saddam and not just Osama bin Laden. "Go massive," the notes quote him as saying. "Sweep it all up. Things related and not."The advocates of war in Iraq desperately sought to make the case that Saddam was linked to 9/11 and Al Qaeda, and that he was on the verge of acquiring a nuclear capability. They created an Office of Special Projects in the Pentagon to analyze the intelligence for war. They bypassed the traditional screening process and put pressure on intelligence officers to produce the desired intelligence and analysis.As the world now knows, Saddam's connection to 9/11 was false. Saddam was an evil dictator. But he was never close to having a nuclear capability. The Administration has found no arsenals of chemical or biological weapons. It has found no persuasive connection to al-Qaeda. All this should have been clear. The Administration should not have looked at the facts with ideological blinders and with a mindless dedication to the results they wanted. A recent report by the Carnegie Endowment concluded that Administration officials systematically misrepresented the threat from Iraq's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs. They also concluded that the intelligence community was unduly influenced by the policymakers' views and intimidating actions, such as Vice President Cheney's repeated visits to CIA headquarters and demands by officials for access to the raw intelligence from which the analysts were working. The report also noted the unusual speed with which the National Intelligence Estimate was written and the high number of dissents in what is designed to be a consensus document.In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, President Bush himself made clear that his highest priority was finding Osama bin Laden. At a press conference on September 17th, 2001, he said that he wanted bin Laden "dead or alive." Three days later, in an address to a Joint Session of Congress, President Bush demanded of the Taliban: "Deliver to the United States authorities all the leaders of al-Qaeda who hide in your land." And Congress cheered. On November 8th, the President told the country, "I have called our military into action to hunt down the members of the al-Qaeda organization who murdered innocent Americans." In doing that, he had the full support of Congress and the nation-and rightly so. Soon after the war began in Afghanistan, however, the President started laying the groundwork in public to shift attention to Iraq. In the Rose Garden on November 26th, he said: "Afghanistan is still just the beginning." Three days later, even before Hamid Karzai had been approved as interim Afghan President, Vice President Cheney publicly began to send signals about attacking Iraq. On November 29th, he said "I don't think it takes a genius to figure out that this guy [Saddam Hussein] is clearly ... a significant potential problem for the region, for the United States, for everybody with interests in the area."On December 12th, the Vice President elaborated further: "If I were Saddam Hussein, I'd be thinking very carefully about the future, and I'd be looking very closely to see what happened to the Taliban in Afghanistan."Prior to the terrorist attacks on September 11th, President Bush's approval rating was only 50%. But with his necessary and swift action in Afghanistan against the Taliban for harboring bin Laden and al-Qaeda, his approval soared to 86%.Soon, Karl Rove joined the public debate, and war with Iraq became all but certain. At a meeting of the Republican National Committee in Los Angeles on January 19th, 2002, Rove made clear that the war on terrorism could be used politically, and that Republicans, as he put it, could "go to the country on this issue."Ten days later, the deal was all but sealed. In his State of the Union Address, President Bush broadened his policy on Afghanistan to other terrorist regimes. He unveiled the "Axis of Evil"-Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Those three words forged the lock-step linkage between the Bush Administration's top political advisers and the Big Three of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz. We lost our previous clear focus on the most imminent threat to our national security-Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terrorist network.What did President Bush say about bin Laden in the State of the Union Address that day? Nothing. What did he say about the Taliban? Nothing.Nothing about bin Laden. One fleeting reference about Al Qaeda. Nothing about the Taliban in that State of the Union Address.Barely four months had passed since the worst terrorist atrocity in American history. Five bin Laden videotapes had been broadcast since September 11th, including one that was aired after bin Laden escaped at the battle of Tora Bora. President Bush devoted 12 paragraphs in his State of the Union Address to Afghanistan, and 29 paragraphs to the global war on terrorism. But he had nothing to say about Bin Laden or al-Qaeda.Why not? Because of an extraordinary policy coup. Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz-the Axis of War-had prevailed. The President was changing the subject to Iraq.In the months that followed, Administration officials began to draw up the war plan and develop a plausible rationale for the war. Richard Haass, Director of Policy Planning at the Department State during this period, said recently that "the agenda was not whether Iraq, but how." Haass said the actual decision to go to war had been made in July 2002. He had questioned the wisdom of war with Iraq at that time, but National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice told him, "Essentially...that decision's been made. Don't waste your breath."It was Vice President Cheney who outlined to the country the case against Iraq that he had undoubtedly been making to President Bush all along. On August 26, 2002, in an address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Vice President argued against UN inspections in Iraq and announced that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, meaning chemical and biological weapons. He also said: "We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we've gotten this from the firsthand testimony of defectors, including Saddam's own son-in-law, who was subsequently murdered at Saddam's direction.
(Cont'd) America, Iraq and Presidential Leadership Sen. Edward Kennedy, Wed Jan 14 14:49
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