First, I wish to congratulate Members of this House for the patriotism that has been demonstrated on this floor in the last few days. I think the American people saw today that we in the House love our country, are committed to its values, and are committed to and respect our men and women in uniform.
I come to this debate, Mr. Speaker, at the end of 10 years of service on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, where stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was one of my top priorities. I applaud the President’s focusing on this issue, and on taking the lead to disarm Saddam Hussein.
It is from the perspective of 10 years on the Intelligence Committee that I rise in opposition to this resolution on national security grounds. The clear and present danger that our country faces is terrorism. I say flat out that unilateral use of force without first exhausting every diplomatic remedy and other remedies and making a case to the American people will be harmful to our war on terrorism.
For the past 13 months, we have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with President Bush to remove the threat of terrorism posed by Al Qaeda. Our work is not done. Osama Bin Laden, Mullah Omar and other Al Qaeda terrorist leaders have not been accounted for. We have unfinished business. We are risking the cooperation that we have from over 60 nations who are sharing their intelligence and helping us in the war on terrorism. We cannot let this coalition unravel.
Others have talked about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Yes, he has chemical weapons, he has biological weapons, and he is trying to get nuclear weapons. There is a threat not only from Iraq, but from other countries of concern in the past.
I want to call to the attention of my colleagues to a letter that was just declassified about Saddam’s use of chemical and biological weapons. The letter refers to a question asked by a Senator to George Tenet, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The question was: "If we initiate an attack and Saddam thought he was threatened, what is the likelihood that in response to our attack that Saddam Hussein would use chemical and biological weapons?" The response was: "Pretty high," if we initiate the attack.
Force protection is our top priority on the Intelligence Committee. We must protect our men and women in uniform. They are courageous. They risk their lives for our freedom, for our country. We cannot put them in harm’s way unless we take every precaution possible to protect them.
So another cost is not only the cost on the war on terrorism, but in the cost of human lives of our young people by making Saddam Hussein the person who determines their fates.
Another cost is to our economy. The markets do not like war. They do not like the uncertainty of war. Our economy is fragile as it is. The President has spoken, in his speech the other night, he talked about rebuilding Iraq’s economy after our invasion. We have problems with our own economy. We must focus on rebuilding our own economy.
So let us do what is proportionate, what is appropriate, which mitigates the risk for our young people.
In addition to the cost in human lives, the cost to our economy and the cost to the war on terrorism, an attack on Iraq has a cost to our budget. This cost can be unlimited. There is no political solution on the ground in Iraq. Let us not be fooled by that. So when we go in the occupation, which is now being called the liberation, could be interminable and the amount of money it costs could be unlimited - $100 -$200 billion, we can only guess.
We will pay any price to protect the American people, but is this the right way to go, when these costs can be avoided?
We respect the judgment of our military leaders. It is a civilian decision to go to war, but our military leaders present us with options on the use of force. These options are supposed to be a last resort.
These costs to the war on terrorism, the lost of life, the cost to our economy, the cost in dollars to our budget, these costs must be answered for.
If we go in, we can certainly show our power to Saddam Hussein. If we resolve this issue diplomatically, we can show our strength as a great country.
Let us show our greatness. Vote no on this resolution.