Statement ● Foreign Affairs
For Immediate Release: 
March 12, 2003
Contact Info: 
Congressman Steny H. Hoyer
(202) 225 - 3130

I. Introduction: Our Commitment to International Engagement

Sixty years ago, as darkness and destruction gripped the European continent, and as the United States fought to liberate millions there and in the Far East, Winston Churchill delivered a compelling call for unity that continues to ring true today.

"We do not war primarily with races as such," Britain’s Prime Minister said, in an address at Harvard University. "Tyranny is our foe, whatever trappings or disguise it wears, whatever language it speaks, be it external or internal, we must forever be on our guard, ever mobilized, ever vigilant, always ready to spring at its throat."

In that same speech, Churchill recognized the imperative of multilateral organizations in combating tyranny and securing peace. "We have learned from hard experience," he said, "that stronger, more efficient, more rigorous world institutions must be created to preserve peace and to forestall the causes of future wars."

For more than half a century, the United States has heeded those words. We are, and must continue to be, a leading proponent of multilateral institutions and the peaceful resolution of disputes, working to act in concert with all of our allies in the community of shared values. We must strive for a "new world order," as the first President Bush declared, "where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind – peace and security, freedom, and the rule of law."

However, as regards the tyranny and intransigence of Saddam Hussein, and the threat he poses to the civilized world, the United States and the nations of the world that are prepared to defend freedom must not be frozen into inaction by the international community’s inability to marshal anything more than mere words.

Having said that, on the question of Iraqi disarmament, I believe we are justified in using force, if necessary. That is why I supported House Joint Resolution 114 last October 10th, authorizing the President to use military force against Iraq to protect our national security.

And that is why I joined 360 of my House colleagues and a unanimous Senate in supporting the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998, which stated: "It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime."

President Clinton, in signing that Act into law, said: "The United States wants Iraq to rejoin the family of nations as a freedom-loving and law-abiding member."

II. Missed Opportunities to Build an Even Stronger Coalition

Like many Members of Congress, and many Americans, I deeply regret the division in the international community concerning Iraq. As Spain’s Foreign Minister, Ana Palacio, so aptly noted before the U.N. Security Council last Friday, this disagreement is "distracting us from the objective defined by the international community 12 years ago, which was the complete disarmament of the Iraqi regime." More dangerously, she observed, it has given Saddam Hussein an opportunity to manipulate world opinion and try to cast himself somehow as a victim.

Even many supporters of the Administration’s underlying policy toward Iraq – myself included – are troubled by a style or approach to the international community that is at turns dismissive, arrogant and bellicose. As President Theodore Roosevelt would observe: Our stick is enormous and therefore our words can and should be measured and reasoned.

President Bush has not helped his case by failing to mind his own words. In the second presidential debate in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, he told the American people: "If we are an arrogant nation, they will resent us. If we’re a humble nation, but strong, they’ll welcome us." The resentment that we are experiencing today is not the product of humility. It is an unfortunate byproduct of an Administration that has too often ignored that campaign warning.

And, during that same campaign and in the months after it assumed office, the new Administration sent clear messages of an intent to be less engaged in the world and less committed to solving global problems.

In our Declaration of Independence, our forefathers began their articulation of our rationale for acting by observing that "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

The Administration has missed important opportunities to reflect that respect for the opinions of others, and has hectored where it should have worked harder to persuade. Nor did it

do itself any favors early on by abandoning several international treaties and articulating a doctrine of preemption.

Instead of harnessing the great outpouring of support for this nation after the horrific terrorist attacks on September 11th , and leading the international community in a manner that reflected respect for opposing views, the Administration has too often projected its policies in tones that could be understood as self-righteous, smug, and even dogmatic.

America’s preeminence today demands leadership that pro-actively engages other nations in the give-and-take of international affairs; that provides a model of leadership that others seek to emulate; and that employs reason and our moral standing to win the day, as well as the hearts and minds of the peoples of the world.

Let me add emphatically, however, that I do not believe that France or Germany are in any way justified in their actions by the President’s words or actions, or those of his Administration. Indeed, their positions are undermining the objectives sought by the United Nations and give credence to Saddam’s belief that he can delay and avoid the requirements of the very resolutions for which France and Germany voted. And, of course, France and Germany are not alone.

III. The Unavoidable Fact Remains: Hussein’s Defiance Demands Action

However, despite the missed opportunities to build an even stronger "coalition of the willing," it is clear today that Saddam Hussein is not disarming; that he is in material breach of Resolution 1441; and that he must face the "serious consequences," of which the Security Council has so often referenced.

Do any of us believe that "serious consequences" means simply more words and additional resolutions, requesting cooperation with inspectors? If that is what was meant, no national leaders with criminal policies need fear accountability nor response from nations united on behalf of the principles set forth in the U.N. charter.

Unlike many dictators in history, Hussein not only has survived, he has disregarded the non-negotiable terms of his defeat. He has defied and deceived the international community, and acted in a manner that threatens the peace, security and stability of the region and the world.

Can anyone seriously doubt that had Germany or Japan failed to acquiesce in their disarmament after World War II, or actively attempted to rearm themselves, that the United States and its allies would have acted, with force and without hesitation, to stop them?

On April 3, 1991, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 687, which made clear Hussein's post-war obligations. It required Iraq to –

• "unconditionally accept" the destruction, removal or rendering harmless under international supervision of all chemical and biological weapons;

• "unconditionally agree not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons;" and

• "not use, develop, construct or acquire any weapons of mass destruction."

Rather than abide by these terms, however, Hussein has instigated a 12-year game of cat-and-mouse that has seen the Security Council adopt some 16 resolutions noting and condemning his illegal behavior. For example –

Resolution 688 of April 5, 1991, "condemns" repression of Iraq’s civilian population.

Resolution 949 of October 15, 1994, "condemns" Iraq’s military deployments toward Kuwait.

Resolution 1051 of March 27, 1996, requires Iraq to cooperate fully with U.N. and IAEA inspectors and allow immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access.

Resolution 1060 of June 12, 1996, "deplores" Iraq’s refusal to allow access to U.N. inspectors and Iraq’s "clear violations" of previous U.N. resolutions.

Resolution 1115 of June 21, 1997, "condemns repeated refusal of Iraqi authorities to allow access" to inspectors, which constitutes a "clear and flagrant violation" of Resolutions 687, 707, 715, 1060.

Resolution 1134 of October 23, 1997, again "condemns repeated refusal" to allow access and concludes that this constitutes a "flagrant violation."

Resolution 1154 of March 2, 1998, again demands cooperation and notes that any violation would have the "severest of consequences for Iraq." That was five years of violations ago!

Resolution 1194 of September 9, 1998, condemns Iraq's decision of August 5 to suspend cooperation with U.N. and IAEA inspectors. No severe consequences followed.

And Resolution 1205 of November 5, 1998, "condemns" the decision by Iraq of October 31, 1998, to cease cooperation" with U.N. inspectors as a "flagrant violation" of Resolution 687 and other resolutions.

In addition, between June 1991 and January 1998, the President of the Security Council made at least 30 statements regarding Hussein's continuing violations of U.N. resolutions. And these resolutions confirmed Iraq's nuclear research and development; confirmed Iraq's development and retention of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction; condemned Iraq's repression of its civilian population; asserted that Iraq has the highest number of disappeared persons of any country in the world; and stated that Iraq pays for acts of terrorism and adjudicated Iraq a state sponsor of terrorism.

From Resolution 660 – adopted on the day Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990 – to today's continued Iraqi failure to comply with the demands of the international community is a

period of 12 years, seven months, and 10 days [as of March 12]. It is a wasteland of deceit and deception by Hussein, and a period of continued hostile action by Iraq.

IV. The Use of Force Against Hussein Is Not Preemptive

Now, let me briefly address the notion that the proposed military action could be considered a "preemptive strike."

According to the Congressional Research Service, Iraqi air defenses fired at or near fixed radar or allied aircraft enforcing both no-fly zones an estimated 500 times between March 2000 and March 2001. Even since the adoption of Resolution 1441, Iraqi forces have fired more than 200 anti-aircraft shells and more than 100 missiles at U.S. and British warplanes patrolling the southern no-fly zones, according to our military forces.

Given the great fanfare with which the Administration announced the doctrine of preemption, I understand why many believe that it is being employed in this instance. But the facts demonstrate otherwise; Iraq has engaged in hostile action since the end of the Persian Gulf War.

Reaction by force, therefore, is not a preemptive action, but a response to armed breach of legally imposed conditions. It is, further, an enforcement action of those same conditions.

A doctrine of preemptive strike, in my opinion, deserves thoughtful and complete debate before it is adopted. There is a rationale that can be made to support it. But I reject any assertion that exercising an armed initiative against Iraq at this time is the implementation of such a preemptive strike. It would be, as I have said, an action to enforce requirements designed by the U.N. to secure peace and security and, as well, a response to military provocation repeatedly taken by Iraq in contravention of its responsibilities under more than a dozen of the resolutions passed by the Security Council since Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

Hussein’s hostile actions are just another indication of his unwillingness to seize the final opportunity for peace offered by Resolution 1441, which states that: "The Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations." For Saddam Hussein to ignore the Security Council resolutions is bad enough; for the Security Council to ignore them is even more so.

On January 28th, Hans Blix, the United Nations chief weapons inspector, reported: "Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace. . . . "

Even last Friday [March 7th], Dr. Blix said: "It is obvious that while the numerous initiatives which are now taken by the Iraqi side . . . can be seen as active or even proactive, these initiatives, three to four months into the new resolution, cannot be said to constitute immediate cooperation, nor do they necessarily cover all areas of relevance."

We have given Saddam Hussein more opportunities to honor his obligations, to disarm and to accept the rule of law than any vanquished aggressor should expect. Where we have continually held out an olive branch of peace, Hussein has brandished a sword of war. I am convinced that more words and threats of "severest consequences" will not deter Hussein; they have and will continue to weaken and ultimately destroy any credibility that the international community still has in confronting terror and international criminality, if their promises of consequences for failure to comply prove empty.

And let there be no doubt concerning Hussein’s crimes. He used mustard gas and attacked civilians during his eight-year war with Iran. He attacked Kurdish villages in Northern Iraq with chemical weapons to punish the Kurds. He invaded Kuwait. He fired missiles at Saudi Arabia and Israel. And he attempted to assassinate our former President.

Yet, like the long line of aggressors who pockmark history, Hussein has preyed on international irresolution. We know that vacillation has often emboldened tyrants and compounded bloodshed and instability.

In the last decade, a vacillating U.N. facilitated genocide in the former Yugoslavia, and the reign of terror perpetrated by Slobodan Milosevic blazed until NATO extinguished it. I am convinced that had NATO failed to act there, one of the centers of terrorism in the world today would be Belgrade.

The failure to take action in the face of genocide has been a prelude to disaster elsewhere: the massacre of more than 500,000 men, women and children in Rwanda in 1994; the deaths of more than 2 million people in the Congo in recent years; and civil strife in the Ivory Coast that has forced 600,000 people to flee their homes.

It is in our best interest, and that of the international community, that we act in concert with our allies, whenever possible. I believe, however, that the United Nations has been too often mired in words and missing in action. It has too often, like Nero, fiddled while humanity suffered. And, it must be said that we can not exempt ourselves from such criticism.

Given all the evidence before us, I do not believe that inaction is moral, safe or consistent with our commitment to a global community of law, peace and security. And thus we are left to answer the most difficult question of all: What do we do next?

The burden of compliance falls on Saddam. In April 1991, Resolution 687 outlined Iraq’s post-war obligations and required Hussein to disarm within 45 days. That was 4,359 days ago. He has still failed to disarm. And now he must suffer the consequences.

The United Nations should act. If it does not, simply waiting for the consequences of that failure is not an acceptable alternative. Thus, the United States and a coalition of its allies – including nearly 20 who have offered military support – must be prepared to use military force to disarm him.

Those who argue against the use of military force are motivated by the best of intentions. We all desire peace. None of us seeks unnecessary suffering. War must always be a last resort. It is a failure of diplomacy and of international civil society. But, at times, history has proved it to be a necessary option.

As President Kennedy recognized in 1963: "The mere absence of war is not peace."

To those who ask "Why Iraq?" and "Why now?" I must respond that the more appropriate question is: If not now, if not after 12 years of persistent defiance and an utter rejection of this final opportunity to disarm, what more can the international community do?

To those who ask: Why do some countries with whom we are allied not feel as strongly as we do about the danger posed by Iraq? The short answer is, we are on the front lines. September 11th has shown that those who hate us regard us as the Great Satan against whom they shall direct their weapons of mass destruction. Our nation and our people are seriously at risk.

Given Saddam Hussein’s chemical and biological weapons capability, given his record of aggression and brutality, and given that we know that a small group of conspirators can use such weapons to wreak havoc, can we wait until tens of thousands of our fellow citizens are killed before acting? Not acting preemptively, but acting pro-actively to enforce requirements designed and stated to achieve "peace and security."

V. Conclusion: We Hope for Peace, But Refuse to Let Hope Ignore History

Without question, if the international community flinches, it countenances Hussein's criminal behavior and emboldens him – as well as other criminal-led states around the world. The cause of peace is not advanced when we rationalize our enemies' dangerous behavior. Neville Chamberlain surely taught that to my father’s generation and to mine.

History has shown time and again that our hope and our desire for peace can, in the end, be even more costly than war.

We hated Hitler. But we waited. And millions died.

We decried Milosevic. But we waited. And tens of thousands died.

We universally condemn Saddam Hussein. But we wait. At what cost? That is the question that confronts the international community today.

In an age where weapons of mass destruction can be concealed in a vial held in one's hand or in a container the size of a suitcase, we cannot overstate the danger that is posed to this

nation and others by a ruthless sociopath bent on deluded notions of grandeur and invincibility like Saddam Hussein.

We hope for peace. But we refuse to permit hope to ignore history. Do any of us believe that "serious consequences" means more words and additional resolutions? Action in the face of defiance is required, and the time to act is close at hand.

Thank you. I would be pleased to answer any questions that you may have.