To begin with - to put first things first - I believe we should focus our efforts first and foremost against those who attacked us on September 11th and who have thus far gotten away with it.
…Nevertheless, President Bush is telling us that America’s most urgent requirement of the moment - right now - is not to redouble our efforts against Al Qaeda, not to stabilize the nation of Afghanistan after driving its host government from power, even as Al Qaeda members slip back across the border to set up in Afghanistan again; rather, he is telling us that our most urgent task right now is to shift our focus and concentrate on immediately launching a new war against Saddam Hussein. And the president is proclaiming a new, uniquely American right to preemptively attack whomsoever he may deem represents a potential future threat.
…In the case of Iraq, it would be difficult to go it alone, but it’s theoretically possible to achieve our goals in Iraq unilaterally. Nevertheless, by contrast, the war against terrorism manifestly requires a multilateral approach. It is impossible to succeed against terrorism unless we have secured the continuing, sustained cooperation of many nations. And here’s one of my central points; our ability to secure that kind of multilateral cooperation in the war against terrorism can be severely damaged in the way we go about undertaking unilateral action against Iraq.
…Back in 1991, I was one of a handful of Democrats in the United States Senate to vote in favor of the resolution endorsing the Persian Gulf War… But look at the differences between the resolution that was voted on in 1991 and the one this administration is proposing that the Congress vote on in 2002. The circumstances are really completely different. To review a few of them briefly: in 1991, Iraq had crossed an international border, invaded a neighboring sovereign nation and annexed its territory. Now by contrast in 2002, there has been no such invasion. We are proposing to cross an international border and, however justified it may be, we have to recognize that the difference in the circumstances now compared to what existed in 1991 has profound implications for the way the rest of the world views what we are doing. And that in turn will have implications for our ability to succeed in our war against terrorism.
…In 1991, the first President Bush patiently and skillfully put together a broad international coalition… For whatever reason, every Arab nation, except Jordan… supported our military efforts, was a part of the international coalition, and some of them supplied troops. Our allies in Asia and Europe supported the coalition without exception. This year by contrast, many of our allies in Europe and Asia are thus far openly opposed to what President Bush is doing.
…The coalition assembled in 1991 paid all of the significant costs of the war, while this time, the American taxpayers will be asked to shoulder hundreds of billions of dollars in costs on our own.
…Back in 1991, President George H. W. Bush purposely waited until after the mid-term elections of 1990 in order to push for a vote at the beginning of the new Congress in January of 1991. President George W. Bush, by contrast, is pushing for a vote in this Congress immediately before the election. That in itself is not inherently wrong, but I believe that puts a burden on the shoulders of President Bush to dispel the doubts many have expressed about the role that politics might be playing in the calculations of some in the administration. I have not raised those doubts, but many have. And because they have been raised, this has become a problem for our country’s effort to build a national consensus and an international coalition.
…If we quickly succeed in a war against the weakened and depleted fourth-rate military of Iraq and then quickly abandon that nation, as President Bush has quickly abandoned almost all of Afghanistan after quickly defeating a fifth-rate military power there, then the resulting chaos in the aftermath of a military victory in Iraq could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.
…The absence of any enlightened nation building after World War I led directly to the conditions which made Germany vulnerable to fascism and the rise of Adolph Hitler and made all of Europe vulnerable to his evil designs.