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Talk of War Against Iraq

October 9, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


KWAME HOLMAN: With a final vote anticipated in the House of Representatives tomorrow, members have been streaming to the floor to speak on the issue of Iraq and the use-of-force resolution. Many have expressed how difficult, how intensely personal their vote is.

REP. PAUL KANJORSKI: Today I rise with a heavy heart because the decision to go to war is the greatest vote a member of Congress can make.

REP. TERRY EVERTT; It’s a decision that must be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration.

REP. TIM ROEMER: And this resolution that we debate in this chamber today and will vote on tomorrow is one of the most difficult, heart- stabbing, gut-wrenching votes that you can cast.

KWAME HOLMAN: Iowa Democrat Leonard Boswell supports the use-of-force resolution. A 20-year army veteran, Boswell told the story of leaving home for his second tour of duty in Vietnam.

REP. LEONARD BOSWELL: The night before I was to leave, my little daughter, who now has a teenaged child, came out to the yard where my wife and I were sitting and kind of having a quiet moment as the sun was going down; said, “Daddy, don’t go.” So I said, “Sweetheart, I’m a soldier. I have to go.” She said, “Please, don’t go. I’m afraid.” Now think about this. Your own child: “I’m afraid you may not come back.” I understand that this is one of the most serious things we deal with.

KWAME HOLMAN: Most emotional was California Republican Randy “Duke” Cunningham. A highly decorated Navy pilot during the Vietnam War, Cunningham flew 300 missions before his plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.

REP. RANDY “DUKE” CUNNINGHAM: Mr. Speaker, my eyes tear even 30 years later from friends that I saw die in combat. This is no simple thing. My mother was rushed to a hospital when she learned that I was shot down. I know the horrors brought on the men and women that we will ask to go to war. But I also know the heartache and the pain of the families that are left behind, and I would say to my colleagues, “Do we want to subject them to the horrors of war in our own country?” That’s why I have this resolve. I think it’s highly probable that that would happen if we don’t act. And I ask my colleagues, don’t let that happen. I yield back.

KWAME HOLMAN: An hour later, Cunningham returned to the floor to finish his statement.

REP. RANDY “DUKE” CUNNINGHAM: This vote rips my heart out. But yet, being on the Intelligence Committee and the Defense Committee, I would tell my friends of the… that disagree, I believe with every fiber in my heart that it’s necessary to give the President the flexibility to stop not only terrorists, but Saddam Hussein, because I believe that threat will reach the shores of the United States, and I thank the gentleman.

KWAME HOLMAN: But New York Democrat Nydia Velasquez argued the President simply has not made the case to send young men and women off to war.

REP. NYDIA VELAZQUEZ: Before we vote to send them to war, we must be able to look in the eyes of the mothers and fathers whose sons and daughters have died for us, and tell them that their sacrifice was worth it. I could not do that today in good conscience, and that is why I will vote no.

KWAME HOLMAN: And Texas Democrat Silvestre Reyes, a Vietnam veteran himself, said he would vote no.

REP. SILVESTRE REYES: I oppose this resolution because I think that the case has not been made. I do not take giving my support for war lightly, as neither do my colleagues on both sides of the isle. But each one of us has to wrestle with his or her own conscience.

KWAME HOLMAN: On the floor of the Senate, Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold wondered if the President even is able to make a case to go to war.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: Mr. President, the relentless attempt to link 9/11 and the issue of Iraq has disappointed me for months, culminating in the President’s singularly unpersuasive attempt in Cincinnati to interweave 9/11 and Iraq, to make the American people believe that there are no important differences between the perpetrators of 9/11 and Iraq. Mr. President, I believe it is dangerous for the world and especially dangerous for us to take the tragedy of 9/11 and the word “terrorism,” and all its powerful emotion, and then too easily apply them to many other situations. I think the President has got to do better. He has to do better than the shoddy piecing together of flimsy evidence that contradicts the very briefings we have received from various agencies, Mr. President.

KWAME HOLMAN: Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison followed Feingold to the floor.

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: Some fear that our new national security strategy is too bold. A bold defense does not cause calamities to occur, but a lack of action will. It is not our defense strategy that will provoke attacks on the United States. Rather, it is when we fail to act or fail to lead that our enemies strike. It is when they think we have become soft and complacent that they will kill innocent Americans again. It is our responsibility to give the President the authorization he needs. The question of whether the security of the United States is threatened has been answered. The answer is yes.

KWAME HOLMAN: By late this afternoon, a number of Senators were trying to schedule time to speak on the Iraq issue.

SEN. JOHN KERRY: Mr. President, I would ask that the Senator from Arizona be recognized, after which I be recognized, following the Senator from Nebraska. Then I think is the Senator from Connecticut.

KWAME HOLMAN: The Senate will vote tomorrow to end debate, although 30 more hours would remain– still not enough, according to West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, who wants to take the issue into next week.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD: I’m asking that in this peculiar, unique situation involving so much of the country’s treasure in blood and in dollars, I’m asking that the Senators join with me in putting off this decision.

KWAME HOLMAN: But Majority Leader Tom Daschle said he hopes to wrap up Senate debate by Saturday.