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Congressman Capuano's Remarks on the Floor of the US House of Representatives regarding Iraq

[Congressman Capuano's remarks can be found in the Congressional Record on October 9, 2002, page H7380.]

"Mr. Speaker,"

"Over the last 6 weeks, the President has changed long-standing policy that prohibits a unilateral American first strike and has argued that his new policy should be imposed upon Iraq."

"President Bush, to his credit, has decided to include Congress in this process and to seek international support for his positions, although he will not wait for such support to enforce his new policy."

"The process is important, but it is not the most important aspect of his efforts. For me, the most important question in this entire matter is what happens after Saddam Hussein is dethroned. Forty years ago we amended our policies to state that America will no longer allow long-range nuclear weapons to be installed in our hemisphere, a precise policy that applied only to Cuba at that time. "

"Twenty years ago we amended our policy to state that America will not allow foreign leaders to enrich themselves by using their governmental structure to ship illegal drugs into America. Again, a precise policy which applied only to Panama at the time. Although the President has changed some of his arguments, there do seem to be three constant points that he uses."

"Number one, Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Number two, Iraq has supported terrorists even if the link to al Qaeda cannot be proven. Number three, Iraq has a history of aggression and brutality against its own people and against its neighbors. We all agree on all of those points. They are not subject to debate. Based on constant repetition of these factors, we must conclude these are the criteria America will use to implement our new unilateral strike policy. But is this reaction to Iraq's threat comparable to previous reactions to such threats? Is it clear and precise? Who else violates this new policy and, therefore, who would be next to have our new policy implemented against them?"

"Let us start with Iran. They have weapons of mass destruction. Iran has certainly supported terrorists and does so today. In fact, many people believe that this country, Iran, now is home to more al Qaeda members than any other country in the world. Finally, Iran has a history of aggression and brutality against its own people and its neighbors. When do we attack Iran?"

"What about China? They certainly have very powerful weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. They are the leading sellers of both weapons of mass destruction and, more importantly, the industrial means to produce such weapons around the world. They have ignored all calls to withdraw from Tibet or to treat Tibetans fairly. They brutalize the Falun Gong. They brutalize Christians. They threaten Taiwan and the peace in of all of Asia. When do we attack China?"

"When do we attack the Sudan? When do we attack North Korea? When do we attack Russia itself?"

"Each of these countries meets all of the criteria the President is now using to say we should attack Iraq unilaterally."

"Most Americans want Saddam Hussein gone. So do I. Most Americans want the United States to remain the strongest Nation in the world. So do I. But most Americans also want the United States of America to continue to be the world's moral leader while we accomplish both of these goals."

"President Bush's unclear, imprecise new policy in support of a unilateral force first strike does not do it."

"Not long ago another American stated, 'Our purpose is peace. The United States intends no rashness and seeks no wider war. We seek the full and effective restoration of international agreements.' This House reacted by voting, 'The United States is prepared as the President determines to take all necessary steps including the use of armed forces.'"

"I am sure some of you recognize these words from the 1963 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that led to the Vietnam debacle. We all know the results of that resolution. We all know that this House had to repeal this resolution 6 years later."

"This resolution before us tonight uses virtually the same language and grants the President comparable authority to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. But I think our actions here today may actually prove to be more dangerous because we base them on a new policy of unilateral first strike. At a minimum, the President needs to refine his new policy before we implement. Until we do so, America must adhere to the long-standing policies in existence now. Those policies require international agreement on war and peace, and they require war to be the last alternative, not the first."

"As of today, the United States, and we know it, has not exhausted our peaceful options; and by tomorrow when we vote on this, we will have set America and the world on a new course that has not yet been fully thought out or debated. We owe it to ourselves and to our children to go slow."

"Others have cited history as well. Let me be clear, no one has forgotten September 11. Everyone wants to avoid another such incident. But no one has divine insight as how to best accomplish that goal. Let me ask those who have cited World War II and to remind them that when Iraq did try to expand its borders, the world did react. This Congress reacted, unlike Europe in the 1930's. The comparison is not valid."

"If necessary there will be plenty of time to wage war against Iraq, and I may support it. But if an unnecessary war is waged, we risk forfeiting America's well-deserved reputation as humanity's best hope for a long-lasting worldwide peace."

"Mr. Speaker, I urge this Congress to vote 'no' on this resolution. "