The military threat Iraq posed in the Middle East and Saddam Hussein’s constant support of terrorist and their organizations was a conflict that I had hoped I could have settled without military intervention. My clandestine trip to Baghdad in late 2002 was done with that goal in mind. As most of you know, my initial approach was to confront Saddam Hussein face to face with constructive dialogue in an attempt to defuse the looming war. But my unfortunate accident in Baghdad prevented that from happening. As my colleague Ted Kennedy said September 27, 2002 “We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction." Iraq has been a country at war for the last quarter of a century. They fought a protracted war with their neighbor Iran from 1980 to 1988 and then invaded Kuwait in 1990. After Iraq’s ejection from Kuwait, The United Nations demanded that Iraq dismantle its’ weapons programs of mass destruction. But that did not happen and as Nancy Pelosi eloquently said on Dec 16, 1998 "Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process." Some people prefer not to confront a tyrant, or to look the other way as they terrorize the unfortunate, others prefer to declare their neutrality with the belief that if you do not anger a tyrant he will not bother you or just disappear. But that is not the way it works when you are dealing with rogue nations. Your acquiescence to their hostile acts signals to them that you are a coward that will accept their will. Madeline Albright, Clinton’s Secretary of State stated on Feb 18, 1998, “Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face." President Saddam Hussein did not offer us many alternatives to resolve our issues with his tyranny in the Middle East. It was really not a question at all if he had or would use weapons of mass destruction because our fears had already been realized many times over. Sandy Berger, Clinton’s National Security Adviser stated on Feb. 18, 1998, “He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983." The need to resolve this issue was agreed on across party lines. On Sept. 23, 2002, Al Gore, our former Vice President of the United States stated, "We know that he [Hussein] has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."
A few months later operation “Iraqi Freedom” began. The blitzkrieg war between the armies ended quickly with few deaths. President Bush set the new focus of the operation as the reconstruction phase of rebuilding Iraq that had been torn apart by over 20 years of war. This new phase included the capture or elimination of those who want the carnage of war to continue unabated. Remnants of the old regime, opportunist, and terrorist from other countries continue waging a bloody psychological war against all who are trying to rebuild a better Iraq. Barbaric terror attacks are launched daily against those attempting to help peace or establish a new governing body in Iraq. These attacks are enthusiastically publicized by the news media that has become the de facto or hijacked propaganda arm of the terrorist spreading their messages of evil and aggrandizing them. Margaret Thatcher once said “Democratic nations must try to find ways to starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend.” Her sentiment was correct then and is as equally correct today.
Diabolic terror gangs orchestrate these heinous acts of evil against innocent Iraqis, foreign workers, diplomats, and our soldiers. These acts include the bombing of civilians, hacking off the heads of innocent hostages, blowing up churches, and destroying the infrastructure of Iraq.
As these atrocities spread across Iraq, some nations surrendered to the savagery in Iraq and left the country in shame, capitulating to these thugs and embolden them with a new sense of power. Their capitulation signaled these bloodthirsty thugs that sovereign nations would bow to ruthlessness if brutality were used against their citizens.
Freedom does not come cheap nor do those receiving it always immediately cherish it. Between 1861 and 1865 our country fought a deadly war to give freedom to those held in slavery. Our president then was a Republican named Abraham Lincoln. Half of our nation held him in bitter contempt, but he held strong to his principle that all men should be free and around 600,000 men died over the struggle that ensued from this simple belief. There are no days set aside to commemorate the ultimate sacrifice these noble brave men made to free other men. In fact in most quarters the sacrifice of life made by these soldiers to free men they did not even know is not recognized at all. The civil war tore our country apart not just for the 4 years of the actual war but also for years after. The same thing is happening in Iraq. Many of the freed, side with their previous oppressors than those who liberated them. Why is this? When the yoke of slavery is cast off but the old master still lives down the road, people do not feel free. In a country like Iraq declaring freedom does not feed them, keep them warm or keep them healthy. People who have been oppressed for ages find surviving more important than our noble idea of freedom. We must stay the course in Iraq and not capitulate to the barbarism that infects this wonderful country of culture. I would not want our nation to be held in contempt and ridiculed by the terrorist and thugs who are out to destroy Iraq presently. If we walk away from this with our heads bowed, we have disgraced our men and women who fought so valiantly and won all the battles. This is not a war like Vietnam where 5000 soldiers a year were killed; this is a war where the combat deaths virtually equal the annual murder count of the windy city of Chicago. It is horrible that any soldier should die in a war as divisive and unappreciated as this one, but if we crawl away from this struggle, the next battle with terrorist and international thugs will be that much harder to win because we will have demonstrated how easy it is to divide us and destroy the will of our nation. In confrontations like these there are no ties, there are only those who win and those who walk away in shame. If I am elected we will stay the course.
I am in politics because of the conflict between good and evil, and I believe that in the end good will triumph. These were words uttered by Margaret Thatcher but they amply express my sentiments today.