SOME MEMBERS OF CONGRESS stretched rhetorical gymnastics to its limit when they explained why they opposed President Bush's resolution authorizing the use of force on Iraq, just before they went ahead and voted in favor of it. In these excerpts, they argue persuasively against their own final decision. You be the judge on whether they are reluctant warriors or just politically fearful peaceniks.




“If we were to attack Iraq now, alone or with few allies, it would set a precedent that could come back to haunt us. In recent days, Russia has talked of an invasion of Georgia to attack Chechen rebels. India has mentioned the possibility of a pre-emptive strike on Pakistan. And what if China were to perceive a threat from Taiwan? So, Mr. President, for all its appeal, a unilateral attack, while it cannot be ruled out, on the present facts is not a good option . . . The U.N. deserves our support. Whenever possible we should work through it and strengthen it, for it enables the world to share the risks and burdens of global security . . . The best course is to go to the U.N. for a strong resolution that scraps the 1998 restrictions on inspections and calls for complete, unlimited inspections with cooperation expected and demanded from Iraq. I know that the administration wants more, including an explicit authorization to use force, but we may not be able to secure that now, perhaps even later.”

–from Senate floor speech,

October 10, 2002, the day of the vote



“I strongly support the substitute [motion], which emphasizes action by the U.N. and the international community. It outlines the importance of working with a coalition and, before American lives are placed at risk, exhausting all other options through diplomacy and unfettered inspections. We should do all we can to secure a Security Council endorsement for an invasion of Iraq, and possibly to avoid a war by forcing Saddam to abide by the U.N. requirements for disarmament. War must always be a last resort.”

–from statement “Regarding the War With Iraq,”

October 10


“[President Bush] has not yet made the case to the American people that the United States may have to solve this problem alone or with relatively few people, nor has he told us of the sacrifices that such a course of action will involve.”

–from Senate floor speech, October 10



[commenting on a U.S. intelligence report refuting that Iraq poses an imminent threat]:

“Many of us have said from the beginning that we have not seen any intelligence information that would give us any conclusive evidence to suggest that the threat was imminent. I think this public report now bears that conclusion out.”

–aired on NPR's All Things Considered,



[after listing the various transgressions and dangers of Saddam Hussein]:

“This is not sufficient reason to pre-emptively attack another sovereign nation — for the first time in this nation's history — without first being provoked by an attack against our homeland, our people or our interests. It is not a sufficient reason to put our servicemen and -women in harm's way when there are real, viable options, short of war, left on the table . . . The question becomes, Is use of force a first option or a last resort? In my view, it should be a last resort. In my view, the U.S., working with the international community, should do all it can to disarm Iraq before jumping to military force as an option.”

–from statement “Politicization of the Debate on Iraq,” September 25



“I think we have to recognize that when we are authorizing the use of force, and if the president takes the authorization and is not successful in going to the United Nations to get a coalition, that we will be establishing a precedent, which may have ramifications far into the future to some point in time when the United States may not be the superpower, and is very much significantly in control of the destiny of the world . . . with our great military power.”

aired on PBS's The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer, October 7

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