Thank you for contacting me about U.S. intervention in Iraq.
On March 19, 2003, President Bush ordered United States and coalition forces to initiate Operation Iraqi Freedom. Three weeks later, on April 9, the regime fell and American troops were selcomed into Baghdad.
The threat to our national security from Iraq could not have been more apparent and is best illustrated by the range of unanswered questions about that country's program to develop weapons of mass destruction. Even after conducting exhaustive inspections over a period of seven years, U.N. investigators could not account for 31,600 chemical munitions, 500 mustard gas bombs, and 4,000 tons of chemical weapons precursors. Inspectors were unable to account for any of Iraq's biological agents or the delivery systems needed to weaponize the agents. Following the collapse of the inspection regime in 1998, Iraq accelerated efforts to acquire these weapons.
Iraq repeatedly demonstrated a resolve to develop deadly weapons of mass destruction, and, more horrifyingly, to use them. Saddam Hussein murdered 5,000 of his own citizens in Halabja, and injured 10,000 more, in a gas attack. 20,000 Iranians died terrible deaths in clouds of mustard gas and nerve agents. In breach of U.N. imposed sanctions, Iraq continued to develop long-range missiles that expand the threat that these toxins posed to the world community. The British Government estimated that Iraq could possess missiles capable of reaching the Bosphorous Straits within five years.
Perhaps in different hands the deadly arsenal possessed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq would have been less of an imminent threat. Iraq demonstrated an unabated hatred of the United States and a willingness to sacrifice and murder its citizens in the interests of the ruling clique. Efforts to shoot down American aircraft in the Northern and Southern no-flight zones made it increasingly likely that an unexpected event could lead to the use of these mass casualty weapons against our citizens. Inaction in the face of this threat was irresponsible and invited disaster. The National Security Strategy of the United States calls for preemtive action, if necessary, to forestall or prevent hostile acts by adversaries, and the lessons of September 11, 2001 make clear the relevance of this stragegy.
U.S. action was necessitated by the failure of the United nations to address the growing threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime. President Bush gave the U.N. full opportunity toa ct decisively to address Iraqi defiance of 16 Security Council resolutions. In November 002, the United nations Security COuncil passed Resolution 1441, giving Iraq a final opportunity to "comply with its disarmament obligatoins" or "face serious consequences." The resolution required complete disarmament and full cooperation with the U.N. Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In a country the size of California, it was impossible for the inspectors to reasonably locate and destroy weapons of mass destruction without full cooperation from the regime. After four months of inspections, it became clear that Iraq was intent on thwarting the will of the international community.
The reluctance of several members of the Security Council to support a further resolution to authorize the use of force to effect the "serious consequences" the Council had articulated four months earlier indicated an unwillingness to shoulder the burdens of international leadership. Diplomatic alternatives to conflict can be exhausted. After seventeen resolutions and more than a decade of debate, the very relevance of the United Nations was called into question by the refusal of other council members to confront their obligations and acknowlege Baghdad's breach of Resolution 1441.
On October 10, 2002, I voted in support of H. J. Res 114, which authorize the President to use force to defend U.S. national security against the threat posed by Iraq and to enforce all relevant U.N. resolutions regarding Iraq. Enactment of this resolutions granted the President the constitutional authority to initiate military action in Iraq, whith or without the support of the United nations Security Council. Lack of endorsement by the Security Council did not mean that the decision to use force was unilateral. More than forty nations joined with the United States in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, which toppled the regime in three weeks.
Our attention now must turn to assisting the Iraqi people in rebuilding their country and recovering from decades of tyranny. The Fisical year 2003 Emergency Wartime Supplemental provides an initial $2.5 billion for reconstruction activities in Iraq, in addition to more tha $500 million already provided by USAID, but this will only be the first installment of an extensive reconstruction effort. The United States must continue to play a central role in the post-war era and should not devolve its responsibilities to institutions that hve not demonstrated a capacity to act for the benefit of the people of Iraq. The united nations will play a role in reconstruction, but should not seek to direct the evolution of Iraq after having failed its people through inaction. It is essential for the Security Council to lift sanctions on the export of Iraqi oil, as the hard currency from oil sales is urgently bneeded to begin comprehensive reconstruction acrivities. This relief should not be held hostage by petty disputes among other members of the Security Council, for such inaction would only compound the harm to the Iraqi people.
Rebuilding the civil society requires that former regime leaders be held accountable for ar crimes and other atrocities. In Fiscal Year 2002, the State Department contributed $4 million to an Iraq War Crimes Commission, if the U.N. elects to establish such a tribunal. Iraqis charged with war crimes committed against U.S. forces should be tried through U.S. military tribunals.
Another important element of building a civil society is ensuring that minority rights are protected in the establishment of a new government. Iraqis should be free to select their own leaders, but we cannot accept the formation of a non-representative government dominated by a religious sect or fringe party. We must also be aware of other regional threats to stability in Iraq. The governments of both Syria and Iran have been warned against interfering with internal Iraqi affairs or harboring elements of the Ba'athist regime. I expect that both countries will take seriously these warnings and reevaluate their position in the post-Saddam era.
Thank you again for your thoughts on thise important issue and best regards.
George R. nethercutt, JR.
Representative in Congress.