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Daschle Will Support Senate Resolution Giving Bush War Powers Against Iraq

Aired October 10, 2002 - 10:48   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we need to go to the floor of the Senate. This is where Senate majority leader Tom Daschle is speaking about limiting debate on the resolution to give President Bush war powers against Iraq.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: ... of American military power to remove the threat that he poses.

These questions go directly to who we are as a nation. How we answer them will have a profound consequence for our nation, for our allies, for the war on terror, and perhaps most importantly, for the men and women in our armed forces who could be called to risk their lives because of our decisions.

There is no question that Saddam Hussein is a dangerous man, who has done barbaric things. He has invaded neighbors, supported terrorists, repressed and murdered his own people.

Over the last several months, as the world has sought to calm the violence between Israelis and Palestinians, Iraq has tried to inflame the situation by speaking against the very existence of Israel and encouraging suicide bombers in Gaza and the West Bank.

Saddam Hussein has stockpiled, weaponized and used chemical and biological weapons, and he has made no secret of his desire to acquire nuclear weapons.

He has ignored international agreements and frustrated the efforts of international inspectors and his ambitions today are as unrelenting as they have ever been.

As a condition of the truce that ended the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein agreed to eliminate Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and to abandon all efforts to develop or deliver such weapons. That agreement is spelled out in U.N. Security Council resolution 687.

Iraq has never complied with the resolution. For the first seven years after the Gulf War, it tried to deceive U.N. weapons inspectors, block their access to key sites, and make it impossible for them to do their job.

Finally, in October of 1998, the U.N. was left with no choice, but to withdraw its inspectors from Iraq. As a result, we do not know exactly what is now in Iraq's arsenal. We do know that Iraq has weaponized thousands of gallons of anthrax and other deadly biological agents. We know that Iraq maintains stockpiles of some of the world's deadliest chemical weapons, including VX, sarin, and mustard gas. We know that Iraq is developing deadlier ways to deliver these horrible weapons, including unmanned drones and long-range ballistic missiles. And we know that Saddam Hussein is committed to one day possessing nuclear weapons.

If that should happen, instead of simply bullying the Gulf region, he could dominate it. Instead of threatening only his neighbors, he could become a grave threat to U.S. security and to global security. The threat posed by Saddam Hussein may not be imminent, but it is real, it is growing, and it can not be ignored.

Despite that, like many Americans, I was concerned by the way the administration first proposed to deal with that threat. The president's desire to wage war alone, without the support of our allies and without authorization from Congress, was wrong. Many of us, Democrats and Republicans, made it clear that such unilateralism was not in our nation's best interest.

I now commend the administration for changing its approach and acknowledging the importance of working with our allies. I also commend it for recognizing that under our Constitution, it is Congress that authorizes the use of force and for requesting a resolution providing such authority. And I applaud my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, in the House and in the Senate, for the improvements they have made to the administration's original resolution.

Four changes were especially critical. First, instead of giving the president broad and unfocused authorization to take action in the region, as the administration originally sought, this resolution focuses specifically on the threat posed by Iraq. It no longer authorizes, nor should it be used to justify the use of force against other nations, organizations or individuals that the president may believe threaten peace and stability in the Persian Gulf region. It is a strong and focused response to a specific threat. It is not a template or model for any other situation.

Second, the resolution expresses the deep conviction of this Congress and of the American people that President Bush should continue to work through the United Nations Security Council in order to secure Iraqi compliance with U.N. resolutions. Unfettered inspections may or may not lead to Iraqi disarmament. But whether they succeed or fail the effort we expend in seeking inspections will make it easier for the president to assemble a global coalition against Saddam, should military action eventually be needed.

Third, this resolution makes it clear that before the president can use force in Iraq, he must certify to the Congress that diplomacy has failed, that further diplomatic efforts alone cannot protect America's national security interests, nor can they lead to enforcement of the U.N. Security Council resolutions.

And fourth, this resolution protects the balance of power by requiring the president to comply with the War Powers Act, and to report to Congress at least every 60 days on matters relevant to this resolution. This resolution gives the president the authority he needs to confront the threat posed by Iraq. It is fundamentally different and a better resolution than the one the president sent to us. It is neither a Democratic resolution or a Republican resolution; it is now a statement of American resolve and values.

It is more respectful of our Constitution, more reflective of our understanding that we need to work with our allies in this effort, and more in keeping with our strong belief that force must be a last resort, not a first response.

Because this resolution is improved and because I believe that Saddam Hussein represents a real threat, and because I believe it is important for America to speak with one voice at this critical moment, I will give -- I will vote to give the president the authority he needs, but I respect...

KAGAN: We've been listening to Senate majority leader Tom Daschle on the floor of the Senate as he talks about his support for the resolution that President Bush has been looking for, saying that he commends the president for coming to Congress for support, also commending Congress for making four key changes to the resolution that the Bush administration was looking for.

To talk about some of those changes and how this is a very different resolution, as Tom Daschle said, than the one the president first proposed, let's bring in Kate Snow on Capitol hill -- Kate.

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, you heard the punch line there, if you will, the key sentence at the end, Senator Tom Daschle saying for the first time publicly he's going to vote for the resolution. Not a surprise, but he certainly hasn't said it publicly to this point.

He said the four changes that were made were changes that Democrats wanted. They went back and forth, the white house and Congress, trying to work on some language. Those four changes, one, that it focuses on Iraq, that this resolution is specific to Iraq. Two, that the president should work through the United Nations.

Now this resolution doesn't say he has to go to the U.N. It doesn't tie his hands, if you will, but it recommends that that is course he should take before going ahead and using force, if it comes to that, in Iraq. Number three, that he must certify that diplomacy has failed. He must come to Congress and say, I tried diplomatic means, it's not working. That's why I'm going to use force. And the fourth change that they made was a change that Tom Daschle calls protecting the balance of power between the Congress and the White house, the legislative branch and executive. It requires the president to come back and report to Congress every 60 days.

Senator Daschle is going on in this hiss speech to make other comments about what he wants the president to do now. One of those things, just quickly, Daryn, is to be honest with the American people. He'll say he needs to make it clear that the reason the U.S. is going after Iraq is to get rid of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. And, Daryn, all of this coming as we expect the Senate to vote in the coming days. The house to vote later this afternoon.

KAGAN: All right, Kate Snow on Capitol Hill. Thank you for your help. Thanks. Appreciate that.


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