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[casi] Text of Al Gore's Speech on Iraq

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Friends -

          Following up on Anai Rhoads comments about the lack of coverage for
Al Gore's speech, here is the text of his remarks.

Fred Dettmer

Transcript: Iraq and the War On Terrorism

2:12 PM PST (Remarks as prepared)

By Al Gore


Like all Americans I have been wrestling with the question of what our
country needs to do to defend itself from the kind of intense, focused and
enabled hatred that brought about September 11th, and which at this moment
must be presumed to be gathering force for yet another attack. I'm speaking
today in an effort to recommend a specific course of action for our country
which I believe would be preferable to the course recommended by President
Bush. Specifically, I am deeply concerned that the policy we are presently
following with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our
ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead
the world in this new century.


To begin with, I believe we should focus our efforts first and foremost
against those who attacked us on September 11th and have thus far gotten away
with it. The vast majority of those who sponsored, planned and implemented
the cold blooded murder of more than 3,000 Americans are still at large,
still neither located nor apprehended, much less punished and neutralized. I
do not believe that we should allow ourselves to be distracted from this
urgent task simply because it is proving to be more difficult and lengthy
than predicted. Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump
from one unfinished task to another.

We are perfectly capable of staying the course in our war against Osama Bin
Laden and his terrorist network, while simultaneously taking those steps
necessary to build an international coalition to join us in taking on Saddam
Hussein in a timely fashion.

I don't think that we should allow anything to diminish our focus on avenging
the 3,000 Americans who were murdered and dismantling the network of
terrorists who we know to be responsible for it. The fact that we don't know
where they are should not cause us to focus instead on some other enemy whose
location may be easier to identify.

Nevertheless, President Bush is telling us that the 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 his host
government from power, but instead to shift our focus and concentrate on
immediately launching a new war against Saddam Hussein. And he is proclaiming
a new, uniquely American right to pre-emptively attack whomsoever he may deem
represents a potential future threat.

Moreover, he is demanding in this high political season that Congress
speedily affirm that he has the necessary authority to proceed immediately
against Iraq and for that matter any other nation in the region, regardless
of subsequent developments or circumstances. The timing of this sudden burst
of urgency to take up this cause as America's new top priority, displacing
the war against Osama Bin Laden, was explained by the White House Chief of
Staff in his now well known statement that "from an advertising point of
view, you don't launch a new product line until after labor day."

Nevertheless, Iraq does pose a serious threat to the stability of the Persian
Gulf and we should organize an international coalition to eliminate his
access to weapons of mass destruction. Iraq's search for weapons of mass
destruction has proven impossible to completely deter and we should assume
that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power. Moreover, no
international law can prevent the United States from taking actions to
protect its vital interests, when it is manifestly clear that there is a
choice to be made between law and survival. I believe, however, that such a
choice is not presented in the case of Iraq. Indeed, should we decide to
proceed, that action can be justified within the framework of international
law rather than outside it. In fact, though a new UN resolution may be
helpful in building international consensus, the existing resolutions from
1991 are sufficient from a legal standpoint.

We also need to look at the relationship between our national goal of regime
change in Iraq and our goal of victory in the war against terror. In the case
of Iraq, it would be more difficult for the United States to succeed alone,
but still possible. By contrast, the war against terror manifestly requires
broad and continuous international cooperation. Our ability to secure this
kind of cooperation can be severely damaged by unilateral action against
Iraq. If the Administration has reason to believe otherwise, it ought to
share those reasons with the Congress - - since it is asking Congress to
endorse action that might well impair a more urgent task: continuing to
disrupt and destroy the international terror network.

I was one of the few Democrats in the U.S. Senate who supported the war
resolution in 1991. And I felt betrayed by the first Bush administration's
hasty departure from the battlefield, even as Saddam began to renew his
persecution of the Kurds of the North and the Shiites of the South - - groups
we had encouraged to rise up against Saddam. It is worth noting, however,
that the conditions in 1991 when that resolution was debated in Congress were
very different from the conditions this year as Congress prepares to debate a
new resolution. Then, Saddam had sent his armies across an international
border to invade Kuwait and annex its territory. This year, 11 years later,
there is no such invasion; instead we are prepared to cross an international
border to change the government of Iraq. However justified our proposed
action may be, this change in role nevertheless has consequences for world
opinion and can affect the war against terrorism if we proceed unilaterally.

Secondly, in 1991, the first President Bush patiently and skillfully built a
broad international coalition. His task was easier than that confronted his
son, in part because of Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. Nevertheless, every Arab
nation except Jordan supported our military efforts and some of them supplied
troops. Our allies in Europe and Asia supported the coalition without
exception. Yet this year, by contrast, many of our allies in Europe and Asia
are thus far opposed to what President Bush is doing and the few who support
us condition their support on the passage of a new U.N. resolution.

Third, in 1991, a strong United Nations resolution was in place before the
Congressional debate ever began; this year although we have residual
authority based on resolutions dating back to the first war in Iraq, we have
nevertheless begun to seek a new United Nations resolution and have thus far
failed to secure one.

Fourth, 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.

Fifth, President George H. W. Bush purposely waited until after the mid-term
elections of 1990 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. Rather than making efforts
to dispel concern at home an abroad about the role of politics in the timing
of his policy, the President is publicly taunting Democrats with the
political consequences of a "no" vote - - even as the Republican National
Committee runs pre-packaged advertising based on the same theme - - in
keeping with the political strategy clearly described in a White House aide's
misplaced computer disk, which advised Republican operatives that their
principal game plan for success in the election a few weeks away was to
"focus on the war." Vice President Cheney, meanwhile indignantly described
suggestions of political motivation "reprehensible." The following week he
took his discussion of war strategy to the Rush Limbaugh show.

The foreshortening of deliberation in the Congress robs the country of the
time it needs for careful analysis of what may lie before it. Such
consideration is all the more important because of the Administration's
failure thus far to lay out an assessment of how it thinks the course of a
war will run - - even while it has given free run to persons both within and
close to the administration to suggest that this will be an easy conquest.
Neither has the Administration said much to clarify its idea of what is to
follow regime change or of the degree of engagement it is prepared to accept
for the United States in Iraq in the months and years after a regime change
has taken place.

By shifting from his early focus after September 11th on war against
terrorism to war against Iraq, the President has manifestly disposed of the
sympathy, good will and solidarity compiled by America and transformed it
into a sense of deep misgiving and even hostility. In just one year, the
President has somehow squandered the international outpouring of sympathy,
goodwill and solidarity that followed the attacks of September 11th and
converted it into anger and apprehension aimed much more at the United States
than at the terrorist network - - much as we manage to squander in one year's
time the largest budget surpluses in history and convert them into massive
fiscal deficits. He has compounded this by asserting a new doctrine - - of

The doctrine of preemption is based on the idea that in the era of
proliferating WMD, and against the background of a sophisticated terrorist
threat, the United States cannot wait for proof of a fully established mortal
threat, but should rather act at any point to cut that short.

The problem with preemption is that in the first instance it is not needed in
order to give the United States the means to act in its own defense against
terrorism in general or Iraq in particular. But that is a relatively minor
issue compared to the longer-term consequences that can be foreseen for this
doctrine. To begin with, the doctrine is presented in open-ended terms, which
means that if Iraq if the first point of application, it is not necessarily
the last. In fact, the very logic of the concept suggests a string of
military engagements against a succession of sovereign states: Syria, Libya,
North Korea, Iran, etc., wherever the combination exists of an interest in
weapons of mass destruction together with an ongoing role as host to or
participant in terrorist operations. It means also that if the Congress
approves the Iraq resolution just proposed by the Administration it is
simultaneously creating the precedent for preemptive action anywhere, anytime
this or any future president so decides.

The Bush Administration may now be realizing that national and international
cohesion are strategic assets. But it is a lesson long delayed and clearly
not uniformly and consistently accepted by senior members of the cabinet.
>From the outset, the Administration has operated in a manner calculated to
please the portion of its base that occupies the far right, at the expense of
solidarity among Americans and between America and her allies.

On the domestic front, the Administration, having delayed many months before
conceding the need to create an institution outside the White House to manage
homeland defense, has been willing to see progress on the new department held
up, for the sake of an effort to coerce the Congress into stripping civil
service protections from tens of thousands of federal employees.

Far more damaging, however, is the Administration's attack on fundamental
constitutional rights. The idea that an American citizen can be imprisoned
without recourse to judicial process or remedies, and that this can be done
on the say-so of the President or those acting in his name, is beyond the

Regarding other countries, the Administration's disdain for the views of
others is well documented and need not be reviewed here. It is more important
to note the consequences of an emerging national strategy that not only
celebrates American strengths, but appears to be glorifying the notion of
dominance. If what America represents to the world is leadership in a
commonwealth of equals, then our friends are legion; if what we represent to
the world is empire, then it is our enemies who will be legion.

At this fateful juncture in our history it is vital that we see clearly who
are our enemies, and that we deal with them. It is also important, however,
that in the process we preserve not only ourselves as individuals, but our
nature as a people dedicated to the rule of law.


Moreover, 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 abandoned Afghanistan after quickly defeating a fifth rate
military there, the resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to
the United States than we presently face from Saddam. We know that he has
stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his

We have no evidence, however, that he has shared any of those weapons with
terrorist group. However, if Iraq came to resemble Afghanistan - - with no
central authority but instead local and regional warlords with porous borders
and infiltrating members of Al Qaeda than these widely dispersed supplies of
weapons of mass destruction might well come into the hands of terrorist

If we end the war in Iraq, the way we ended the war in Afghanistan, we could
easily be worse off than we are today. When Secretary Rumsfield was asked
recently about what our responsibility for restabilizing Iraq would be in an
aftermath of an invasion, he said, "that's for the Iraqis to come together
and decide."

During one of the campaign debates in 2000 when then Governor Bush was asked
if America should engage in any sort of "nation building" in the aftermath of
a war in which we have involved our troops, he stated gave the purist
expression of what is now a Bush doctrine: "I don't think so. I think what we
need to do is convince people who live in the lands they live in to build the
nations. Maybe I'm missing something here. We're going to have a kind of
nation building corps in America? Absolutely not."

The events of the last 85 years provide ample evidence that our approach to
winning the peace that follows war is almost as important as winning the war
itself. The absence of enlightened nation building after World War I led
directly to the conditions which made Germany vulnerable to fascism and the
rise to Adolph Hitler and made all of Europe vulnerable to his evil designs.
By contrast the enlightened vision embodied in the Marshall plan, NATO, and
the other nation building efforts in the aftermath of World War II led
directly to the conditions that fostered prosperity and peace for most the
years since this city gave birth to the United Nations.

Two decades ago, when the Soviet Union claimed the right to launch a
pre-emptive war in Afghanistan, we properly encouraged and then supported the
resistance movement which, a decade later, succeeded in defeating the Soviet
Army's efforts. Unfortunately, when the Russians left, we abandoned the
Afghans and the lack of any coherent nation building program led directly to
the conditions which fostered Al Qaeda terrorist bases and Osama Bin Laden's
plotting against the World Trade Center. Incredibly, after defeating the
Taliban rather easily, and despite pledges from President Bush that we would
never again abandon Afghanistan we have done precisely that. And now the
Taliban and Al Qaeda are quickly moving back to take up residence there
again. A mere two years after we abandoned Afghanistan the first time, Saddam
Hussein invaded Kuwait. Following a brilliant military campaign, the U.S.
abandoned the effort to destroy Saddam's military prematurely and allowed him
to remain in power.

What is a potentially even more serious consequence of this push to begin a
new war as quickly as possible is the damage it can do not just to America's
prospects to winning the war against terrorism but to America's prospects for
continuing the historic leadership we began providing to the world 57 years
ago, right here in this city by the bay.


I believe, therefore, that the resolution that the President has asked
Congress to pass is much too broad in the authorities it grants, and needs to
be narrowed. The President should be authorized to take action to deal with
Saddam Hussein as being in material breach of the terms of the truce and
therefore a continuing threat to the security of the region. To this should
be added that his continued pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is
potentially a threat to the vital interests of the United States. But
Congress should also urge the President to make every effort to obtain a
fresh demand from the Security Council for prompt, unconditional compliance
by Iraq within a definite period of time. If the Council will not provide
such language, then other choices remain open, but in any event the President
should be urged to take the time to assemble the broadest possible
international support for his course of action. Anticipating that the
President will still move toward unilateral action, the Congress should
establish now what the administration's thinking is regarding the aftermath
of a US attack for the purpose of regime change.

Specifically, Congress should establish why the president believes that
unilateral action will not severely damage the fight against terrorist
networks, and that preparations are in place to deal with the effects of
chemical and biological attacks against our allies, our forces in the field,
and even the home-front. The resolution should also require commitments from
the President that action in Iraq will not be permitted to distract from
continuing and improving work to reconstruct Afghanistan, and that the United
States will commit to stay the course for the reconstruction of Iraq.

The Congressional resolution should make explicitly clear that authorities
for taking these actions are to be presented as derivatives from existing
Security Council resolutions and from international law: not requiring any
formal new doctrine of pre-emption, which remains to be discussed
subsequently in view of its gravity.


Last week President Bush added a troubling new element to this debate by
proposing a broad new strategic doctrine that goes far beyond issues related
to Iraq and would effect the basic relationship between the United States and
the rest of the world community. Article 51 of the United Nations charter
recognizes the right of any nation to defend itself, including the right in
some circumstances to take pre-emptive actions in order to deal with imminent
threats. President Bush now asserts that we will take pre-emptive action even
if we take the threat we perceive is not imminent. If other nations assert
the same right then the rule of law will quickly be replaced by the reign of
fear - - any nation that perceives circumstances that could eventually lead
to an imminent threat would be justified under this approach in taking
military action against another nation. An unspoken part of this new doctrine
appears to be that we claim this right for ourselves - - and only for
ourselves. It is, in that sense, part of a broader strategy to replace ideas
like deterrence and containment with what some in the administration

This is because President Bush is presenting us with a proposition that
contains within itself one of the most fateful decisions in our history: a
decision to abandon what we have thought was America's mission in the world -
- a world in which nations are guided by a common ethic codified in the form
of international law - - if we want to survive.


We have faced such a choice once before, at the end of the second World War.
At that moment, America's power in comparison to the rest of the world was if
anything greater than it is now, and the temptation was clearly to use that
power to assure ourselves that there would be no competitor and no threat to
our security for the foreseeable future. The choice we made, however, was to
become a co-founder of what we now think of as the post-war era, based on the
concepts of collective security and defense, manifested first of all in the
United Nations. Through all the dangerous years that followed, when we
understood that the defense of freedom required the readiness to put the
existence of the nation itself into the balance, we never abandoned our
belief that what we were struggling to achieve was not bounded by our own
physical security, but extended to the unmet hopes of humankind. The issue
before us is whether we now face circumstances so dire and so novel that we
must choose one objective over the other.

So it is reasonable to conclude that we face a problem that is severe,
chronic, and likely to become worse over time.

But is a general doctrine of pre-emption necessary in order to deal with this
problem? With respect to weapons of mass destruction, the answer is clearly
not. The Clinton Administration launched a massive series of air strikes
against Iraq for the state purpose of setting back his capacity to pursue
weapons of mass destruction. There was no perceived need for new doctrine or
new authorities to do so. The limiting factor was the state of our knowledge
concerning the whereabouts of some assets, and a concern for limiting
consequences to the civilian populace, which in some instances might well
have suffered greatly.

Does Saddam Hussein present an imminent threat, and if he did would the
United States be free to act without international permission? If he presents
an imminent threat we would be free to act under generally accepted
understandings of article 51 of the UN Charter which reserves for member
states the right to act in self-defense.

If Saddam Hussein does not present an imminent threat, then is it justifiable
for the Administration to be seeking by every means to precipitate a
confrontation, to find a cause for war, and to attack? There is a case to be
made that further delay only works to Saddam Hussein's advantage, and that
the clock should be seen to have been running on the issue of compliance for
a decade: therefore not needing to be reset again to the starting point. But
to the extent that we have any concern for international support, whether for
its political or material value, hurrying the process will be costly. Even
those who now agree that Saddam Hussein must go, may divide deeply over the
wisdom of presenting the United States as impatient for war.

At the same time, the concept of pre-emption is accessible to other
countries. There are plenty of potential imitators: India/Pakistan;
China/Taiwan; not to forget Israel/Iraq or Israel/Iran. Russia has already
cited it in anticipation of a possible military push into Georgia, on grounds
that this state has not done enough to block the operations of Chechen
rebels. What this doctrine does is to destroy the goal of a world in which
states consider themselves subject to law, particularly in the matter of
standards for the use of violence against each other. That concept would be
displaced by the notion that there is no law but the discretion of the
President of the United States.

I believe that we can effectively defend ourselves abroad and at home without
dimming our principles. Indeed, I believe that our success in defending
ourselves depends precisely on not giving up what we stand for.

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