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Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson's Floor Statement Opposing Resolution Authorizing Military Force In Iraq

Washington, DC- Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, delivered the following statement yesterday on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in opposition to the proposed resolution authorizing the President to use military force against Iraq:

"Mr. Speaker, I rise before you today with a high degree of frustration as we consider the grave prospect of authorizing the President to send our uniformed men and women into military action in Iraq.

"I believe I speak for all Members of Congress when I say that I am awed by the moral weight of this decision. We all know that any military action will likely lead to an immediate and substantial loss of human life and have untold implications on the security of our nation in the years to come.

"Mr. Speaker, no one desires to be on the opposite side of our President in times like these, but I regret to tell you that I am unable to support this resolution in its present form. I'd like to add to the record the statement issued by the Congressional Black Caucus outlining specific principles we believe must be addressed before military action should occur:

"We oppose a unilateral first-strike action by the United States without a clearly demonstrated and imminent threat of attack on the United States.

"Only Congress has the authority to declare war.

"Every conceivable diplomatic option must be exhausted.

"A unilateral first strike would undermine the moral authority of the United States, destabilize the Mideast region and undermine the ability of our nation to address unmet domestic priorities.

"Further, any post-strike plan for maintaining stability in the region would be costly and require a long-term commitment."

"Mr. Speaker, I believe the President has failed to address these principles.

"There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein's regime poses a threat to the Iraqi people, to his neighbors in the Middle East, to the United States, and to the world at large with his biological and chemical weapons and his nuclear program. In the face of this legitimate threat, I cannot unequivocally count out future military action.

"However, I strongly believe that the most effective way of combating this menace is by solidifying the support of the international community and acting within the auspices of the United Nations, not by acting unilaterally.

"In the 1990's, we made significant progress in conjunction with our international allies through the United Nations weapons inspection program. This program led to the destruction of 40,000 chemical weapons, 100,000 gallons of chemicals used to manufacture weapons, 48 missiles, 30 warheads and a massive biological weapons facility equipped to produce anthrax.

"Inspections are a proven, non-violent, and internationally-supported method of thwarting Iraq's acquisition of weapons material and technology. What's more, a clear majority - 63 percent - of the American people want us to give inspectors the opportunity to work before we take military action.

"To this end, I am not convinced that giving the President the authority to launch a unilateral, first-strike attack on Iraq is the appropriate course of action at this time.

"While I believe that under international law and under the authority of our own Constitution, the United States must maintain the option to act in its own self-defense, I strongly believe that the Administration has not provided evidence of an imminent threat of attack on the United States that would justify a unilateral strike.

"I also believe that acting alone, without exhausting peaceable diplomatic options, could seriously harm global support for our war on terrorism and distract our own resources from this cause.

"I am disappointed that those who favor this resolution make no mention of the long-term commitment to nation-building that will be necessary in order to maintain stability in the Middle East region following an attack on Iraq. Thus far, this Administration has not made public any plans for our role in Iraq in the years, if not decades, to come after an attack.

"I cannot imagine that any of us believe this Administration and our nation is prepared to orchestrate and assume the entire financial burden of economic reconstruction, democratization and nation-building that will be necessary to stabilize a post-conflict Iraq. Let us not forget that this Congress would have to authorize aid for this long-term task at a time when we are still engaged in the Balkans and have only recently started to help in Afghanistan.

"Furthermore, our nation's economic recovery demands our immediate attention, and I am disturbed by reports that our nation's poverty rate, joblessness, and health care costs continue to rise at the same time personal wealth and retirement savings are being decimated. I fear the prospect of military action in Iraq will further distract our attention from an ominous economic outlook.

"So, before we undertake military operations in Iraq, we must ask ourselves some very basic questions:

"Does a war with Iraq improve our national security?

"Does it allow the United States to make peace through the power of our example?

"Does it allow us to focus on the economic suffering of our own people?

"Mr. Speaker, I believe the answer is a resounding NO. Therefore, I regret that I cannot vote with the President on this resolution."

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Wednesday, October 9, 2002

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