Last week Republican Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon caused a stir on Capitol Hill when he said he now regrets his vote to authorize military force against Iraq in 2002. At the time only a minority of members of Congress spoke out against that move. One of them was David Wu, who represents the First Congressional District. Here's what Wu said on the House floor on Oct. 9, 2002, before casting his vote against authorization.
We are here today on the most serious of topics, whether to send American men and women to war, and I oppose the resolution to grant the President's unilateral authority to go to war. Make no mistake about it, I would not hesitate to use force if there were sufficient evidence of an imminent threat to the United States, our allies, or our military forces; but in all the briefings that I have attended, in all of my study and research, I have not found sufficient evidence of an imminent threat to us, our allies, or our military. And if there were, the main resolution that we are considering delegates so much war-making power to one person, I believe that if the Founders of this Republic were to read this resolution, they would tremble at the thought that one individual ever in America would have such terrible power in his or her hands no matter how much we trust that person or no matter how much we like that person. That is not the American way, to put so much unilateral power into one person's hands.
The gentleman from South Carolina's (Mr. Spratt) resolution is a much better solution to this problem. It requires the President to take all steps and then to come back after exhausting diplomatic and other means.
I want to also seriously address the new first-strike doctrine which is being advocated by this administration. It is not a preemption doctrine because preemption assumes that there is an imminent danger and that is what we are preempting. This doctrine allows for first strikes even absent imminent danger.
Where will we draw the line? Will we strike next at the other nations of the Axis of Evil? What about Pakistan with a nuclear capacity and known ties to terrorists? Where will other countries draw the line? There are at least half a dozen hot spots around the world where conflicts could be of a conventional or a nuclear nature.
For over 200 years we have rarely been the first to shoot. For over 200 years American Presidents have taken a united America to war. Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, they all made their public case that war was necessary and that there was an imminent threat. The exceptions: President Madison, President Johnson. I do not think that we want to fall into the historic situations in which those two Presidents ultimately found themselves. This first-strike doctrine puts us on the edge of a terrible, terrible precipice.
The vote on this resolution is a foregone conclusion. I think it is a foregone conclusion that we will be at war in January. We are fighting against the second war, the third war, the fourth war, the fifth war. We are trying to cut that chain of wars off as soon as we can. But make no mistake about it, with this first strike, with this first war, we will lose the high moral ground that has taken Americans 200 years to build. We will no longer be in a position through moral suasion or otherwise to be an example to the world, for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. We will not be able to have others stay their hand by the example of us staying ours.
From the Lexington Green to Fort Sumpter, from the submarine campaign in the north Atlantic before our entry into World War I to the Cuban Missile Crisis, American Presidents have been restrained in their use of power.
Let not the innocent 3,000 of September 11 die in vain. If we lash out, if we strike blindly, if we start a series of wars because of September 11, we will have given Osama bin Laden what he wanted. Let us stop as soon as we can.