THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Today I'm joined by
leaders of the House and the Senate from both political parties to show
our unity of purpose in confronting a gathering threat to the security
of America and to the future of peace.
I want to thank in particular Speaker Hastert, and Leader Gephardt,
Leader Lott, for the tremendous work in building bipartisan support on
this vital issue. I also want to thank Senators Warner, Lieberman,
McCain, and Bayh for introducing this resolution which we've agreed to
on the floor of the Senate this morning.
The text of our bipartisan resolution is clear and it is strong.
The statement of support from the Congress will show to friend and
enemy alike the resolve of the United States. In Baghdad, the regime
will know that full compliance with all U.N. Security demands is the
only choice, and that time remaining for that choice is limited.
On its present course, the Iraqi regime is a threat of unique
urgency. We know the treacherous history of the regime. It has waged
a war against its neighbors; it has sponsored and sheltered terrorists;
it has developed weapons of mass death; it has used them against
innocent men, women and children. We know the designs of the Iraqi
regime. In defiance of pledges to the U.N., it has stockpiled
biological and chemical weapons. It is rebuilding the facilities used
to make those weapons.
U.N. inspectors believe that Iraq could have produce enough
biological and chemical agent to kill millions of people. The regime
has the scientists and facilities to build nuclear weapons, and is
seeking the materials needed to do so.
We know the methods of this regime. They buy time with hollow
promises. They move incriminating evidence to stay ahead of
inspectors. They concede just enough to escape -- to escape
punishment, and then violate every pledge when the attention of the
world is turned away.
We also know the nature of Iraq's dictator. On his orders,
opponents have been decapitated and their heads displayed outside their
homes. Women have been systematically raped as a method of
intimidation. Political prisoners are made to watch their own children
being tortured. The dictator is a student of Stalin, using murder as a
tool of terror and control within his own cabinet, within his own army,
even within his own family. We will not leave the future of peace and
the security of America in the hands of this cruel and dangerous man.
None of us here today desire to see military conflict, because we
know the awful nature of war. Our country values life, and never seeks
war unless it is essential to security and to justice. America's
leadership and willingness to use force, confirmed by the Congress, is
the best way to ensure compliance and avoid conflict. Saddam must
disarm, period. If, however, he chooses to do otherwise, if he
persists in his defiance, the use of force may become unavoidable.
The course of action may bring many sacrifices. Yet delay,
indecision and inaction could lead to a massive and sudden horror. By
timely and resolute action, we can defend ourselves and shape a
peaceful future. Together with the Congress, I will do everything
necessary to protect and defend our country.
In accepting this responsibility, we also serve the interests and
the hopes of the Iraqi people. They are a great and gifted people,
with an ancient and admirable culture, and they would not choose to be
ruled by violence and terror. The people of Iraq are the daily victims
of Saddam Hussein's oppression. They will be the first to benefit when
the world's demands are met. Americans believe all men and women
deserve to be free. And as we saw in the fall of the Taliban, men and
women celebrate freedom's arrival.
The United States will work with other nations. We'll work with
other nations to bring Saddam to account. We'll work with other
nations to help the Iraqi people form a just government and a unified
country. And should force be required, the United States will help
rebuild a liberated Iraq.
Countering Iraq's threat is also a central commitment on the war on
terror. We know Saddam Hussein has longstanding and ongoing ties to
international terrorists. With the support and shelter of a regime,
terror groups become far more lethal. Aided by a terrorist network, an
outlaw regime can launch attacks while concealing its involvement.
Even a dictator is not suicidal, but he can make use of men who are.
We must confront both terror cells and terror states, because they are
different faces of the same evil.
I brought this issue to the attention of the world, and many, many
countries share our determination to confront this threat. We're not
alone. The issue is now before the United States Congress. This
debate will be closely watched by the American people, and this debate
will be remembered in history. We didn't ask for this challenge as a
country, but we will face it, and we will face it together.
As the vote nears, I urge all members of Congress to consider this
resolution with the greatest of care. The choice before them could not
be more consequential. I'm confident that members of both parties will
I appreciate members of Congress who are willing to address you
all, starting with the Speaker of the House, Denny Hastert.
SPEAKER HASTERT: Thank you, Mr. President. This is a bipartisan
agreement. The White House deserves credit for working with
Republicans and Democrats to achieve this historic resolution. The
resolution does not tie the President's hands, it gives him flexibility
he needs to get the job done. This resolution does not require the
President to get United Nations approval before proceeding. It
supports the President's effort to work with the United Nations, but it
doesn't require him to seek U.N. approval first. If the President
determines that he has to act unilaterally to protect American people,
he can, and he has the ability to do that.
I think the bottom line for all of us here is, we've been through
this process, we've been through September 11th. We visited Ground
Zero. We've been at the Pentagon the day after. And we don't want
that type of tragedy to happen in this country again. And we will do
everything in our power to prevent it from happening again.
REPRESENTATIVE GEPHARDT: Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying
that the most important issue the President and the Congress ever
address is that of life and death. The first responsibility of our
government is to protect the security of our nation and our citizens.
In our view, Iraq's use and continuing development of weapons of
mass destruction, combined with efforts of terrorists to acquire such
weapons, pose a unique and dangerous threat to our national security.
Many of us believe that we need to deal with this threat diplomatically
if we can, militarily if we must.
Every member of Congress must make their own decision on the level
of threat posed by Iraq and what to do to respond to that threat. I've
said many times to my caucus that each member should be guided by his
or her own conscience, free from others trying to politicize the issue
or questioning others' motives.
In response to the President's desire for congressional support
and, in keeping with our constitutional responsibilities, I have worked
to draft a resolution that reflects the views of a large bipartisan
segment of Congress. My underlying goal in this process has been to
ensure that Iraq is disarmed, and to lessen the likelihood that weapons
of mass destruction can be passed to terrorists.
Over the past several days, I have solicited views from all the
members of my caucus and have negotiated with the administration to
secure a number of important improvements that reflect these views.
These improvements include: support for and prioritization of U.S.
diplomatic efforts at the United Nations; limitations on the scope of
the authorization; presidential determinations to Congress before our
Armed Forces may be used against Iraq. These include assurances by the
President that he has exhausted diplomatic means to address this
threat, and that any military action against Iraq will not undermine
our ongoing efforts in the war against terrorism. Regular consultations
with, and reporting to Congress on the administration's efforts to
address this threat and post-conflict contingencies in Iraq.
You all know that we have a lot of differences on many issues. We
disagree on many domestic issues. But this is the most important thing
that we do. This should not be about politics. We have to do what is
right for the security of our nation and the safety of all Americans.
We're about to begin a great debate in the United States Congress.
Part of the majesty of our democratic achievement of a democratic
governance is that on issues of war and peace, life and death, we have
entrusted those decisions not just to the President, but to the
Congress as a co-equal branch of this government. We now take that
solemn obligation, and I believe that when the debate is finished, we
will have discharged that responsibility in the highest tradition of
this country and our great people.
SENATOR WARNER: Mr. President, colleagues, America has always led
in the cause of freedom. And now, in this century, this resolution
marks, I think, the most significant step in fulfilling America's
history in carrying out our responsibilities.
Mr. President, to you, and to Prime Minister Blair who has joined
you, great, great gratitude is owed not only by the people of the
United States, but by the people of the world, for your efforts to
bring to the forefront this issue, and to put it squarely on the United
Nations to fulfill their responsibilities, and to call upon the
Congress for their support.
We do that here today, Mr. President. And I'm very privileged to
stand here with leaders -- Senator Lott, Senator Lieberman, Senator
McCain -- that led the '91 effort in that resolution. Mr. President,
we delivered for your father. We will deliver for you. And I predict,
while the vote was a margin of five in '91, it will be a stronger
bipartisan margin this time.
And as the Congress closed the ranks behind that historic debate in
'91, so will the Congress close its ranks such that this nation can
speak with one voice, the Congress and our President united. Thank
SENATOR LIEBERMAN: There is no more fateful, important, or
difficult responsibility that the Constitution gives members of
Congress than to decide when, whether, and how to authorize the
President as Commander-in-Chief to go to war. Mr. President, in your
eloquent, powerful, and convincing statement this morning, you have
reminded us, and I believe the American people, about why this is such
I have felt for more than a decade now that every additional day
that Saddam Hussein is in power in Iraq is an additional day of danger
for the Iraqi people, for his neighbors in the region, particularly for
the people and military of the United States of America, and indeed for
the people of the world. And that is why I am grateful for the
opportunity to stand with my colleagues from both parties, and both
Houses, and with you, Mr. President, in offering this resolution to
authorize you to take military action to protect the region and the
world from Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and to enforce the resolutions
that are relevant of the United Nations.
There are those who say that this represents hurried or precipitous
action, that we should give Saddam and the Iraqi government another
chance. The record shows that for the last 10 years, we have tried
-- the world has tried -- in just about every way -- diplomatic,
economic and otherwise, except military, in the end -- to convince
Saddam Hussein to live by the rules of international law and
civilization. They've not worked.
The moment of truth has arrived. For Saddam Hussein, this is his
last chance, and the best chance for the international community to
come together behind the rule of law, and to show that resolutions of
the United Nations are worth more than the paper that they are written
I am truly hopeful that the broad bipartisan support that I see
here today behind you, Mr. President, as our Commander-in-Chief, will
strengthen the work of your Secretary of State and your administration
at the United Nations. I am convinced, as impressive as this group is
here today, though there will be a serious debate ahead in both Houses
of Congress, and amendments will certainly be offered in the Senate
-- as is the right and responsibility of those who disagree with this
amendment -- that in the end, those who disagree with this
resolution -- in the end, this resolution will pass in the Senate
with a very large, bipartisan majority.
And that, today, is the best hope for a stronger America and for a
life for the American people that is safer.
Thank you, Mr. President.
SENATOR MCCAIN: I'd like to thank the President for his leadership
in addressing a challenge that many of us believe should have been
addressed at least four years ago. I'd like to thank Speaker Hastert,
Leader Gephardt, Senator Lott for their leadership and the efforts
they've made to bring this issue to the Congress and to the American
I'd like to also thank my friends, Senator Lieberman, Senator
Warner, and Senator Bayh. Because of their efforts, there's now
identical resolutions in both Houses of Congress. They will be
debated, they will be discussed, and I believe the American people and
the Congress will be enlightened, educated, and better off for having a
debate that I know will be respectful of the views of all members of
The Constitution of the United States designates the President of
the United States as Commander-in-Chief. The Congress of the United
States plays a role, and I believe that this process we are about to
embark on is the appropriate role that Congress should carry out its
responsibilities. But at the end of the day, the final, most serious
responsibility of sending young American men and women into harm's way
rests with the President of the United States. And I am convinced that
an overwhelming, significant majority of both Houses of Congress,
speaking for their constituents, will provide the President of the
United States with the endorsement and the support that he needs, if
necessary, as a last resort, to preserve America's security by a regime
change in Iraq. I thank him for his leadership.