Before the U.S. House of Representatives


Mr. Speaker and fellow Members of the House,

Sixty-six years ago, on March 7, 1936, a brutal dictator who had terrorized his own people and instigated religious and ethnic persecutions on a massive scale, declared his aggressive intent against his neighbors in a stream of gutter writings dating back a decade and a half, and re-armed his country in defiance of solemn treaty obligations. He then flagrantly violated yet another international obligation by militarily re-occupying a portion of his country that had been demilitarized by international agreement.

His democratic neighbors said nothing.

Free men around the world did nothing, except protest weakly. The dictator, who may have been mad but who was certainly no fool, took those empty words of protest as further signs of the free world's weakness and fear.

The League of Nations did nothing.

Nine years – and more than 40 million deaths – later, the price of failing to confront aggression before the bombs started raining down on Europe had become horrendously clear. Hitler had been allowed to turn Europe into a slaughterhouse because free men had failed to stop him before he set loose the greatest war in human history. That the Holocaust was permitted to occur stands as a permanent reproach to the civilized world. Millions of innocents died because the free world lacked the will and the courage to face a brutal dictator's manifestly aggressive intentions, his burgeoning weapons capabilities and his gross violations of international law.

Does this scenario — does this failure to recognize that evil intentions plus destructive capability plus unscrupulous wickedness equals clear and present danger — sound familiar? It should. And not from history books, but from this morning's newspaper.

We are faced today with a situation whose analogies to 1936 seem all too clear. An aggressive dictator has once again willfully and repeatedly defied the basic norms of international law. Having terrorized his own people into submission, Saddam Hussein has re-armed his country and feverishly sought weapons of mass destruction. It is sheer nonsense to suggest that he wants those weapons for anything but aggression. Does any sane person looking at this man’s record over the past two decades imagine that he will be deterred by reason or by moral suasion?

We have spent more than a decade trying without any success to enforce Saddam's pledges to disarm. We have tried diplomacy, sanctions, inspections, establishing no-fly zones — we have run out of options.

In 1980, he attacked Iran and initiated a decade of warfare that killed and wounded over one million people, a conflict that included his use of chemical weapons on Iranian troops. In 1990, he invaded Kuwait and imposed a brutal occupation on that country, laying waste to everything within reach when his forces were finally driven out. He has indiscriminately used chemical weapons on unarmed civilians in his own country, and he has slaughtered any who have opposed him.

Given this record, there can be no doubt that, once armed with weapons of even greater destructive power, he will have little reluctance to use them.

In a world of modern technology, the first strike might well be the last. If those who flew hijacked aircraft into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had nuclear bombs instead of airplanes as weapons, do you doubt they would use them? We'd be mourning 3 million dead instead of 3,000.

Permitted to acquire and deploy even more lethal weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein will use those weapons; and he will use them against us and against our allies. Some of us demand a "smoking gun" before we will approve the use of force. We may well get a "smoking city" like Hiroshima in place of a gun.

He must not be allowed to gain those nuclear capabilities. We cannot afford another re-occupation of the Rhineland — another gross failure to enforce the basic norms of international order — this time, in a world of weapons of mass destruction and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Saddam Hussein must be disarmed because the world simply cannot permit this man to obtain usable weapons of mass destruction.

And if the international community is so feeble as not to see that this man's threat to peace, justice and freedom must be confronted boldly and decisively, then the United States and those allies who stand with us must do the job — for our own safety's sake and in defense of the minimum conditions that make a civilized world possible.

The menace posed by Saddam is undeniable, but we are confronted with an even greater danger. Despite clear and repeated warnings, it appears that much of the world does not understand that we have entered a wholly new and increasingly perilous era, one with new and harsher rules.

Through repeated usage, the term, "Weapons of Mass Destruction," has become almost banal, but the unimaginable destructive power these represent, requires our constant focus and a determination to do what we must to defend ourselves.

The problem is not merely that a murderous tyrant such as Saddam may be in possession of these weapons.

In the aftermath of September 11th, we must accept that he has been joined by many others of an even more fanatical purpose. Terrorists willing to commit suicide in order to kill large numbers of innocents cannot be stopped by the familiar conventions of deterrence. Their possession of weapons of mass destruction must be equated with a certainty that these will be used against us.

We cannot shield ourselves with hope. We must not guess the world into annihilation.

For those convinced of Saddam's murderous intentions, the debate has centered on whether or not we should focus our efforts on assembling a coalition of friends and allies and seek the enhanced legitimacy that approval by the United Nations might render to our actions.

But I believe that is the wrong debate. We all agree that these are desirable things and that we should do all in our power to secure them. I believe the President and his Administration have done and are doing just that.

But the real question, the one which should occupy us, is one of far greater consequence: On whom does the final responsibility for protecting ourselves rest? Is it ours or do we share it with others? Are decisions regarding our fate to be made in common with others?

I believe there can be only one answer.

We have no choice but to act as a sovereign country prepared to defend ourselves, with our friends and allies if possible, but alone if necessary. There can be no safety if we condition our fate on the cooperation of others – only a hope that all will be well, a hope that eventually must fail.

For more than half a century, whatever safety and security has existed in this world has been there largely because America has been unafraid to act against threats, and to act alone if necessary. The perception that we are resolved to do so has prevented many assaults on that security and continues to do so today.

On many occasions we have been joined in our efforts by our friends and allies and, more rarely, have enjoyed the world's approval. But often we have not, and still we acted.

If we are to have a chance of averting conflict in Iraq, a simple resolve on our part will not be sufficient to the task. For the great danger we face with Saddam is ambiguity.

Saddam has often miscalculated in the past. His flawed judgements have resulted in wars that have killed hundreds of thousands of people.

For that reason, any ambiguity regarding our course of action and our determination to act alone if need be risks yet another miscalculation on his part and a false grant of safety to call our bluff.

Vigorous debate in our deliberations is not only desirable — it is essential. The question before us demands it. But the result of that debate cannot be to condition our actions on the approval of others, for we might wait for an approval that may never come.

We must remember that our debate is not for ourselves alone, and that our audience is not confined to this chamber. The world is watching us. Our allies are watching us. Our enemies are watching us. Saddam is watching us.

They are looking for signs of indecision in our resolve, searching for the fatal sign of weakness that will come from binding ourselves to act only in concert with others. The voice of indecision would cut through any wording in which we might attempt to secret it, however artfully phrased and cleverly contrived we might render it.

We do not have the luxury of pretending not to see the danger confronting us. All of our choices are difficult ones, but our only real option is to act.

Over a century ago, in another conflict, Lincoln said that "we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation."

A century ago, Britain stood majestically at the height of her power. Within 40 years, the knife was at her throat, and she survived only because we were there to rescue her. But there is no one to rescue us.

We cannot entrust our fate to others, for others may never come. If we are not prepared to defend ourselves, and to defend ourselves alone if need be, if we cannot convince the world that we are unshakably resolved to do so, then there can be no security for us, no safety to be purchased, no refuge to be found.

Mr. Speaker, Members of this House,

I rise to support the President. I do so, not simply because he is a good, honest, intelligent man who happens to be the leader of my party. I support the President because he is right — strategically, politically, and morally right. In the autumn years of a long life, I do not intend to see the free world repeat the errors it made when I was a teenager — errors that extracted an unfathomable cost in blood and treasure. I do not believe that my country wants to be a party to appeasement.

Mr. Speaker, Members of this House,

We cannot defend America — we cannot build the world of peace, order, justice and freedom — by hope alone. The statesmen of the 1930s tried to secure the peace by hopes alone — they failed, and the results are with us still. We cannot repeat their failure. We must not. History will not forgive us another failure of imagination and will.

I don't know why God put you here today. I don't know why God put me here today. But we're here to answer one question — What is best for America?

Support our President!


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