on the 138th Anniversary Celebration of The Nation
Magazine, December 14, 2003, in New York City
older I get, the more I become convinced that
wisdom is enhanced by age, and I think the same
can be said of The Nation magazine. It is more
than a good read. It has become, over the years,
an essential publication and a voice for the loyal
opposition that is needed today as perhaps never
I have been asked to speak about Iraq.
this morning came news of the capture of Saddam
Hussein. That is good news. Despite his fall from
power many months ago, the specter of a possible
return to power had cast a constant shadow over
Iraq and the Iraqi people. I applaud the tenacious
work of the military and intelligence communities
for their success today.
that success does not diminish the challenges
that remain in Iraq, and it certainly does not
tamp the passions inflamed against the United
States throughout the Muslim world by our actions
in Iraq. The capture of Saddam Hussein will not
be the keystone for peace in that volatile region.
This day's news does not lessen the danger that
the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive strike poses
to international peace and stability.
order to bring lasting stability to Iraq, that
nation needs the help of the entire world, not
just America and her fighting needs.
each day passes and as more American soldiers
are killed and wounded in Iraq, I become ever
more convinced that the war in Iraq was the wrong
war at the wrong time in the wrong place for the
wrong reasons. Contrary to the President's rosy
predictions--and the predictions of others in
the Bush Administration--the United States has
not been universally greeted as a liberator in
Iraq. The peace--if one can use the term "peace"
to describe the chronic violence and instability
that define Iraq today--the peace is far from
being won. Iraqi citizens may be glad that Saddam
Hussein is no longer in power, but they appear
to be growing increasingly resentful that the
United States continues to rule their country
at the point of a gun.
a huge price we are now paying for the President's
bullheaded rush to invoke the unwise and unprecedented
doctrine of pre-emption to invade Iraq, an invasion
without provocation, an invasion without the support
of the United Nations or the international community.
would be tragic enough if the casualties of the
Iraq war were confined to the battlefield, but
they are not. The casualties of this war will
have serious repercussions for generations to
come. Truth is one casualty. Despite the best
efforts of the White House to contort the invasion
of Iraq into an extension of the war on terror,
there was never a connection between Saddam Hussein
and September 11. There was never a connection
between Iraq and September 11. Not a single Iraqi
was among the nineteen hijackers of those four
planes. Despite dire warnings from the President,
Saddam Hussein had at his fingertips neither the
means nor the materiel to unleash deadly weapons
of mass destruction on the world. Despite presidential
rhetoric to the contrary, Iraq did not pose a
grave and gathering menace to the security of
the United States. The war in Iraq was nothing
less than a manufactured war. It was a war served
up to a deliberately misled and deluded American
public to suit the neoconservative political agenda
of the Bush White House.
lasting casualty is the international credibility
and reputation of the United States of America.
We have squandered the good will that had rallied
to our side after the attacks of 9/11, attacks
that struck just a few short blocks from where
we sit tonight. At the end of that fateful day,
the world was with us. The French newspaper Le
Monde proclaimed, "We Are All Americans." But
we squandered that good will. We turned our sights
on Iraq and turned our back on the United Nations.
As a result, in some corners of the world, including
some corners of Europe and Great Britain, our
beloved nation is now viewed as the world bully.
and most disheartening to me, Congress allowed
the Constitution to become a casualty of the Bush
doctrine of pre-emptive strikes. Congress allowed
its constitutional authority to declare war to
fall victim to this irresponsible strategy. Just
a little more than a year ago, in October 2002,
the Senate obsequiously handed to the President
the constitutional authority to declare war. It
failed to debate; it failed to question; it failed
to live up to the standards established by the
Framers. Like a whipped dog, the Senate put its
tail between its legs and slunk away into the
shadows, slunk away from its responsibility. Congress--and
I mean both houses--Congress delegated its constitutional
authority to the President and effectively washed
its hands of the fate of Iraq. It is a dark and
despicable mark on the escutcheon of Congress.
roots of this travesty can be traced directly
back to the President's doctrine of pre-emption,
that cockeyed notion that the United States can
pre-emptively attack any nation that for whatever
reason may--may!--appear to pose a threat in the
future. Not only is the doctrine of pre-emption
a radical departure from the traditional doctrine
of self-defense but it is also a destabilizing
influence on world affairs. The Bush doctrine
of pre-emption is a dangerous precedent. The Bush
doctrine of pre-emption is a reckless policy.
The rising tide of anti-Americanism across the
globe is directly attributable to the fear and
distrust engendered by this Bush doctrine of pre-emption.
too many Americans are willing--yes, even eager--to
swallow the Administration line on pre-emption
without examining it, without questioning it,
without challenging it.
God for courageous institutions--like this one--which
are willing to stand up to the tide of popular
convention. I commend The Nation magazine for
filling this vacuum, and I urge you to continue
in your mission, without fear, without constraint,
and with an unyielding commitment to truth.
for better or worse, the United States has embroiled
itself in the future of Iraq. But that does not
mean that we need to continue to be the lone wolf
in Iraq. Unfortunately, the Administration's latest
edict to freeze out the French, German, Russian
and Canadian companies from Iraq gives me little
reason to hope that the President is even remotely
interested in internationalizing the political,
economic and security reconstruction effort. As
a result, the White House continues to feed the
perception throughout the world that Iraq's reconstruction
is a spoil of war. Reconstruction contracts, funded
with $18.6 billion from the American taxpayer,
seemingly have become kickbacks to those countries
which dared not speak out--as Germany, France,
Russia and Canada did speak out--against a policy
of pre-emptive war.
all roads to peace in the Middle East, the path
to stability in Iraq may still face obstacles.
We cannot precisely what those obstacles will
be. But we must demand accountability from the
Bush White House. We must continue to raise questions.
We must continue to seek the truth. We must continue
to speak out against wrongheaded policies and
am reminded of the closing lines from Tennyson's
are not now that strength which in old days...tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we
are-- One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made
weak by time and fate, but strong in will, To
strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
my part, I will continue to speak out, I will
continue to challenge, to question, and never
to yield in defense of the Constitution, the United
States Senate and the American people. For your
part, I hope that The Nation magazine will sail
on, always serving as an advocate for the truth
and an antidote to the tide of imperialism that
threatens to encompass our government. Congratulations
on your remarkable achievements.
Posted: December 24, 2003