19 September 2002
Byliner: Senator Edwards Says Congress Must Be Clear on Iraq
(Op-ed column from The Washington Post on Thursday, 09/19/02) (800)
(This byliner by John Edwards, U.S. Senator (Democrat-North Carolina),
first appeared in The Washington Post September 19 and is in the
public domain. No republication restrictions.)
Congress Must Be Clear
Quick Action Will Ensure that Politics Plays no Part in the Debate
The debate over Iraq is not about politics. It is about national
security. It should be clear that our national security requires
Congress to send a clear message to Iraq and the world: America is
united in its determination to eliminate forever the threat of Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction.
Fast congressional action to reinforce our resolve is more imperative,
not less, in light of Saddam Hussein's recent overture to allow U.N.
inspectors back into Iraq. That is a gambit we have seen before.
Congress needs to act now to make clear to our U.N. allies and to Iraq
that the United States will not stand for the usual half-measures or
Drafting an appropriate resolution that a large majority of Congress
could support should not be difficult. The outlines of such a
resolution are already clear. In fact, the biggest debate right now is
over the politics of "timing."
There's no better way to remove politics from the process than to go
straight to a debate over substance. Quick, bipartisan congressional
action will ensure that politics plays no part in this debate. It will
also strengthen America's hand as we pursue support from the Security
Council and seek to enlist the cooperation of our allies.
The resolution should be strong and unambiguous. It should not be a
blank check for the administration, but neither should it try to
micromanage a war from Capitol Hill. It should spell out the broad
elements of a process that will preserve the legitimacy of American
actions, enhance international consensus and strengthen our global
Here's what I believe the resolution should say. First and foremost,
it should clearly endorse the use of all necessary means to eliminate
the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.
Second, the resolution should call for an effort to rally the
international community under a U.N. Security Council mandate. The
president's speech last week was an important first step, and his
belated diplomatic efforts have already borne fruit. At the same time,
we must not tie our own hands by requiring Security Council action.
Congress should authorize the United States to act with whatever
allies will join us if the Security Council is prevented from
supporting action to enforce the more than 16 resolutions against
Third, Congress should demand that the administration take real steps
to win the peace. The only chance for Iraq to become a democratic,
tolerant state -- and a model for the Arab world -- will be through
sustained American involvement. We will need to help provide security
inside Iraq after Hussein is gone, work with the various Iraqi
opposition groups, reassure Iraq's neighbors about its future
stability and support the Iraqi people as they rebuild their lives.
Congress also should consider authorizing funds now to support such
efforts, rather than waiting for events to force us to act with
Congressional pressure to secure our victory is especially necessary
because of the administration's performance in Afghanistan, where we
have been dangerously slow to help provide security and support
democracy. This is wrong today in Afghanistan, and it will be wrong
tomorrow in Iraq. In fact, the president's silence about any U.S.
commitment to a post-Hussein Iraq was a conspicuous flaw in his speech
last week before the United Nations.
Congress must also make clear that any actions against Iraq are part
of a broader strategy to strengthen American security in the Middle
East. We must do more to support existing nonproliferation and
disarmament programs that can help prevent access to the weapons-grade
materials that tyrants such as Hussein want. We must demand America's
active and continuous involvement in addressing the crisis between
Israel and the Palestinians and in promoting democracy throughout the
Arab world. We must commit to developing a national strategy for
energy security, one that would reduce our reliance on the Middle East
for such critical resources.
Iraq is a grave and growing threat. Hussein has proven his willingness
to act irrationally and brutally against his neighbors and against his
Iraq's destructive capacity has the potential to throw the entire
Middle East into chaos, and it poses a mortal threat to our vital
ally, Israel. Thousands of terrorist operatives around the world would
pay anything to get their hands on Saddam Hussein's arsenal and would
stop at nothing to use it against us. America must act, and Congress
must make clear to Hussein that he faces a united nation.
(The writer is a Democratic senator from North Carolina and a member
of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list