After some introductory remarks, Sen. Kennedy said:
The enduring accomplishments of our nation's leaders are those that are
grounded in the fundamental values that gave birth to this great country. As our
Founders so eloquently stated in the preamble to our Constitution, this nation
was founded by "We the People...in Order to form a more perfect Union,
establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,
promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves
and our Posterity." Over the course of two centuries, these ideals inspired
and enabled thirteen tiny quarreling colonies to transform themselves-not just
into the most powerful nation on earth, but also into the "last best hope
of earth." These ideals have been uniquely honored by history and advanced
by each new generation of Americans, often through great sacrifice.
In these uncertain times, it is imperative that our leaders hold true to
those founding ideals and protect the fundamental trust between the government
and the people. Nowhere is this trust more important than between the people and
the President of the United States. As the leader of our country and the voice
of America to the world, our President has the obligation to lead and speak with
truth and integrity if this nation is to continue to reap the blessings of
liberty for ourselves and our posterity.
The citizens of our democracy have a fundamental right to debate and even
doubt the wisdom of a president's policies. And the citizens of our democracy
have a sacred obligation to sound the alarm and shed light on the policies of an
Administration that is leading this country to a perilous place.
I believe that this Administration is indeed leading this country to a
perilous place. It has broken faith with the American people, aided and abetted
by a Congressional majority willing to pursue ideology at any price, even the
price of distorting the truth. On issue after issue, they have moved brazenly to
impose their agenda on America and on the world. They have pursued their goals
at the expense of urgent national and human needs and at the expense of the
truth. America deserves better.
The Administration and the majority in Congress have put the state of our
union at risk, and they do not deserve another term in the White House or in
control of Congress.
I do not make these statements lightly. I make them as an American deeply
concerned about the future of the Republic if the extremist policies of this
By far the most extreme and most dire example of this Administration's
reckless pursuit of its single-minded ideology is in foreign policy. In its
arrogant disrespect for the United Nations and for other peoples in other lands,
this Administration and this Congress have squandered the immense goodwill that
other nations extended to our country after the terrorist attacks of September
11th. And in the process, they made America a lesser and a less respected
Nowhere is the danger to our country and to our founding ideals more evident
than in the decision to go to war in Iraq. Former Treasury Secretary Paul
O'Neill has now revealed what many of us have long suspected. Despite
protestations to the contrary, the President and his senior aides began the
march to war in Iraq in the earliest days of the Administration, long before the
terrorists struck this nation on 9/11.
The examination of the public record and of the statements of President Bush
and his aides reveals that the debate about overthrowing Saddam began long
before the beginning of this Administration. Its roots began thirteen years ago,
during the first Gulf War, when the first President Bush decided not to push on
to Baghdad and oust Saddam.
President Bush and his National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft explained
the reason for that decision in their 1997 book, A World Transformed. They wrote
the following: "Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into
an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing
objectives in midstream... and would have incurred incalculable human and
political costs. . . We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect,
rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it
in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, there
was no viable exit strategy we could see, violating another of our principles. .
. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be
an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land." Those words are eerily
descriptive of our current situation in Iraq.
During the first Gulf War, Paul Wolfowitz was a top advisor to then Secretary
of Defense Dick Cheney, and he disagreed strongly with the decision by the first
President Bush to stop the war after driving Saddam out of Kuwait.
After that war ended, Wolfowitz convened a Pentagon working group to make the
case that regime change in Iraq could easily be achieved by military force. The
Wolfowitz group concluded that "U.S. forces could win unilaterally or with
the aid of a small group of a coalition of forces within 54 days of mid to very
high intensity combat."
Saddam's attempted assassination of President Bush during a visit to Kuwait
in 1993 added fuel to the debate.
After his tenure at the Pentagon, Wolfowitz became Dean of the Johns Hopkins
School of Advanced International Studies and continued to criticize the decision
not to end the reign of Saddam. In 1994 he wrote: "With hindsight, it does
seem like a mistake to have announced, even before the war was over, that we
would not go to Baghdad..."
Wolfowitz's resolve to oust Saddam was unwavering. In 1997, he wrote,
"We will have to confront him sooner or later-and sooner would be
better...Unfortunately, at this point, only the substantial use of military
force could prove that the U.S. is serious and reverse the slow collapse of the
The following year, Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld and 16 others-10 of whom are
now serving in or officially advising the current Bush Administration-wrote
President Clinton, urging him to use military force to remove Saddam. They said,
"The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that
Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the
near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action, as diplomacy
is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his
regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign
That was 1998. President Clinton was in office, and regime change in Iraq did
become the policy of the Clinton Administration-but not by war.
As soon as the current President Bush took office in 2001, he brought a group
of conservatives with him, including Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and others, who had
been outspoken advocates for most of the previous decade for the forcible
removal of Saddam Hussein.
At first, President Bush was publicly silent on the issue. But as Paul
O'Neill has told us, the debate was alive and well.
I happen to know Paul O'Neill, and I have great respect for him. I worked
with him on key issues of job safety and health care when he was at ALCOA in the
1990's. He's a person of great integrity, intelligence, and vision, and he had
impressive ideas for improving the quality of health care in the Pittsburgh
area. It is easy to understand why he was so concerned by what he heard about
Iraq in the Bush Administration.
In his "60 Minutes" interview last Sunday, O'Neill said that
overthrowing Saddam was on the agenda from Day 1 of the new Administration.
O'Neill said, "From the very beginning there was a conviction that Saddam
Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go...It was all about finding a
way to do it. That was the tone of it. The President was saying, "Go find
me a way to do this."
The agenda was clear: find a rationale to end Saddam's regime.
But there was resistance to military intervention by those who felt that the
existing sanctions on Iraq should be strengthened. Saddam had been contained and
his military capabilities had been degraded by the Gulf War and years of U.N.
sanctions and inspections. At a press conference a month after the inauguration,
Secretary of State Colin Powell said: "We have kept him contained, kept him
in his box." The next day, Secretary Powell very clearly stated that Saddam
"has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of
Then, on September 11th, 2001, terrorists attacked us and everything changed.
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld immediately began to link Saddam Hussein to Al
Qaeda and the attacks. According to notes taken by an aide to Rumsfeld on
September 11th, the very day of the attacks, the Secretary ordered the military
to prepare a response to the attacks. The notes quote Rumsfeld as saying that he
wanted the best information fast, to judge whether the information was good
enough to hit Saddam and not just Osama bin Laden. "Go massive," the
notes quote him as saying. "Sweep it all up. Things related and
The advocates of war in Iraq desperately sought to make the case that Saddam
was linked to 9/11 and Al Qaeda, and that he was on the verge of acquiring a
nuclear capability. They created an Office of Special Projects in the Pentagon
to analyze the intelligence for war. They bypassed the traditional screening
process and put pressure on intelligence officers to produce the desired
intelligence and analysis.
As the world now knows, Saddam's connection to 9/11 was false. Saddam was an
evil dictator. But he was never close to having a nuclear capability. The
Administration has found no arsenals of chemical or biological weapons. It has
found no persuasive connection to al-Qaeda. All this should have been clear. The
Administration should not have looked at the facts with ideological blinders and
with a mindless dedication to the results they wanted.
A recent report by the Carnegie Endowment concluded that Administration
officials systematically misrepresented the threat from Iraq's nuclear,
chemical, and biological weapons programs. They also concluded that the
intelligence community was unduly influenced by the policymakers' views and
intimidating actions, such as Vice President Cheney's repeated visits to CIA
headquarters and demands by officials for access to the raw intelligence from
which the analysts were working. The report also noted the unusual speed with
which the National Intelligence Estimate was written and the high number of
dissents in what is designed to be a consensus document.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, President Bush himself made clear that
his highest priority was finding Osama bin Laden. At a press conference on
September 17th, 2001, he said that he wanted bin Laden "dead or
alive." Three days later, in an address to a Joint Session of Congress,
President Bush demanded of the Taliban: "Deliver to the United States
authorities all the leaders of al-Qaeda who hide in your land." And
Congress cheered. On November 8th, the President told the country, "I have
called our military into action to hunt down the members of the al-Qaeda
organization who murdered innocent Americans." In doing that, he had the
full support of Congress and the nation-and rightly so.
Soon after the war began in Afghanistan, however, the President started
laying the groundwork in public to shift attention to Iraq. In the Rose Garden
on November 26th, he said: "Afghanistan is still just the
Three days later, even before Hamid Karzai had been approved as interim
Afghan President, Vice President Cheney publicly began to send signals about
attacking Iraq. On November 29th, he said "I don't think it takes a genius
to figure out that this guy [Saddam Hussein] is clearly ... a significant
potential problem for the region, for the United States, for everybody with
interests in the area."
On December 12th, the Vice President elaborated further: "If I were
Saddam Hussein, I'd be thinking very carefully about the future, and I'd be
looking very closely to see what happened to the Taliban in
Prior to the terrorist attacks on September 11th, President Bush's approval
rating was only 50%. But with his necessary and swift action in Afghanistan
against the Taliban for harboring bin Laden and al-Qaeda, his approval soared to
Soon, Karl Rove joined the public debate, and war with Iraq became all but
certain. At a meeting of the Republican National Committee in Los Angeles on
January 19th, 2002, Rove made clear that the war on terrorism could be used
politically, and that Republicans, as he put it, could "go to the country
on this issue."
Ten days later, the deal was all but sealed. In his State of the Union
Address, President Bush broadened his policy on Afghanistan to other terrorist
regimes. He unveiled the "Axis of Evil"-Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.
Those three words forged the lock-step linkage between the Bush Administration's
top political advisers and the Big Three of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz, We
lost our previous clear focus on the most imminent threat to our national
security-Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
What did President Bush say about bin Laden in the State of the Union Address
that day? Nothing.
What did he say about the Taliban? Nothing.
Nothing about bin Laden. One fleeting reference about Al Qaeda. Nothing about
the Taliban in that State of the Union Address.
Barely four months had passed since the worst terrorist atrocity in American
history. Five bin Laden videotapes had been broadcast since September 11th,
including one that was aired after bin Laden escaped at the battle of Tora Bora.
President Bush devoted 12 paragraphs in his State of the Union Address to
Afghanistan, and 29 paragraphs to the global war on terrorism. But he had
nothing to say about Bin Laden or al-Qaeda.
Why not? Because of an extraordinary policy coup. Cheney, Rumsfeld, and
Wolfowitz -- the Axis of War -- had prevailed. The President was changing the
subject to Iraq.
In the months that followed, Administration officials began to draw up the
war plan and develop a plausible rationale for the war. Richard Haass, Director
of Policy Planning at the Department State during this period, said recently
that "the agenda was not whether Iraq, but how." Haass said the actual
decision to go to war had been made in July 2002. He had questioned the wisdom
of war with Iraq at that time, but National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice
told him, "Essentially...that decision's been made. Don't waste your
It was Vice President Cheney who outlined to the country the case against
Iraq that he had undoubtedly been making to President Bush all along. On August
26, 2002, in an address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Vice President
argued against UN inspections in Iraq and announced that Saddam had weapons of
mass destruction, meaning chemical and biological weapons. He also said:
"We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear
weapons. Among other sources, we've gotten this from the firsthand testimony of
defectors, including Saddam's own son-in-law, who was subsequently murdered at
Saddam's direction. Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear
weapons fairly soon." Those were Cheney's words.
It is now plain what was happening: The drumbeat for war was sounding, and it
drowned out those who believed that Iraq posed no imminent threat. On August
29th, just two days after Cheney's speech, President Bush signed off on the war
On September 12th, the President addressed the United Nations and said,
"Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard, and other chemical agents
and has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich
uranium for a nuclear weapon." He told the United Nations that Iraq would
be able to build a nuclear weapon "within a year," if Saddam acquired
President Bush was focusing on Iraq and Saddam, even though one year after
the attack on our country, bin Laden was still nowhere to be found. A sixth bin
Laden tape had been aired, and news reports of the time revealed new military
threats in Afghanistan. U.S. and Afghan military and intelligence officials were
quoted as saying that al-Qaeda had established two main bases inside Pakistan.
An Afghan military intelligence chief said: "al-Qaeda has regrouped,
together with the Taliban, Kashmiri militants, and other radical Islamic
parties, and they are just waiting for the command to start
Despite the obvious al-Qaeda threat in Afghanistan, the White House had now
made Iraq our highest national security priority. The steamroller of war was
moving into high gear. The politics of the timing is obvious. September 2002.
The hotly contested 2002 election campaigns were entering the home stretch.
Control of Congress was clearly at stake. Republicans were still furious over
the conversion of Senator Jim Jeffords that had cost them control of the Senate
in 2001. Election politics prevailed, but they should not have prevailed over
foreign policy and national security.
The decision on Iraq could have been announced earlier. Why time it for
September? As White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card explained on September 7th,
"From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in
That was the bottom line. War in Iraq was a war of choice, not a war of
necessity. It was a product they were methodically rolling out. There was no
imminent threat, no immediate national security imperative, and no compelling
reason for war.
In public, the Administration continued to deny that the President had made
the decision to actually go to war. But the election timetable was clearly
driving the marketing of the product. The Administration insisted that Congress
vote to authorize the war before it adjourned for the November elections. Why?
Because the debate in Congress would distract attention from the troubled
economy and the troubled effort to capture bin Laden. The strategy was to focus
on Iraq, and do so in a way that would divide the Congress. And it worked.
To keep the pressure on, President Bush spoke in Cincinnati on Iraq's nuclear
weapons program, just three days before the Congressional vote. He emphasized
the ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda. He emphasized Saddam's access to weapons of
mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons. He said, "If the Iraqi regime
is able to produce or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger
than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. And
if we allow that to happen, a terrible line would be crossed...Saddam Hussein
would be in a position to pass nuclear technology to terrorists."
The scare tactics worked. Congress voted to authorize the use of force in
October 2002. Republicans voted almost unanimously for war, and kept control of
the House in the election in November. Democrats were deeply divided and lost
their majority in the Senate. The Iraq card had been played success fully. The
White House now had control of both houses of Congress as well.
As 2003 began, many in the military and foreign policy communities urged
against a rush to war. United Nations weapons inspectors were in Iraq, searching
for weapons of mass destruction. Saddam appeared to be contained. There was no
evidence that Iraq had been involved in the attacks on September 11th. Many
insisted that bin Laden and Al Qaeda and North Korea were greater threats, but
their concerns were dismissed out of hand.
Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz insisted that Iraq was the issue and that war
against Iraq was the only option, with or without international support. They
convinced the President that the war would be brief, that American forces would
be welcomed as liberators, not occupiers, and that ample intelligence was
available to justify going to war.
The gross abuse of intelligence was on full display in the President's State
of Union address last January, when he spoke the now infamous 16 words
-"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought
significant quantities of uranium from Africa." The President did not say
that U.S. intelligence agencies agreed with this assessment. He simply and
deviously said, "the British government has learned."
As we all now know, that allegation was false. It had already been debunked a
year earlier by the U.S. intelligence community. Yet it was included in the
President's State of the Union Address. Has any other State of the Union Address
ever been so disgraced by such blatant falsehood?
In March 2003, on the basis, of a grossly exaggerated threat and grossly
inadequate post-war planning, and with little international support, the United
States invaded Iraq when we clearly should not have done so.
Major combat operations ended five weeks later. Dressed in a flight suit, the
President flew out to an aircraft carrier and proclaimed "Mission
Accomplished." It was a nice image for the 2004 campaign, until the facts
intruded. The mission was far from accomplished. As the war dragged on and
casualties mounted, the image on the aircraft carrier was ridiculed. The
Administration replaced it with a new image-the President in Baghdad with
cheering troops on Thanksgiving Day. Again, the image-makers stumbled. This
time, the image was of the President holding his policy on Iraq-a turkey.
On a recent visit to Iraq, the writer, Lucian Truscott, a 1969 graduate of
West Point, spoke with an Army colonel in Baghdad. In an op-ed article in the
New York Times last month, he wrote that Army officers spoke of feeling that
"every order they receive is delivered with next November's election in
mind, so there is little doubt at and near the top about who is really being
used for what over here."
There is little doubt as well that the Administration's plan to transfer
sovereignty to the Iraqi people by this summer-and the pressure to hold
elections in Afghanistan at that time-are intended to build momentum for the
November elections in this country as well.
Our troubles in foreign policy today are as clear as they are self-made.
America cannot force its vision of democracy on the Iraqi people on our terms
and on our election timetable.
We cannot simply walk away from the wreckage of a war we never should have
fought, so that President Bush can wage a political campaign based on dubious
boasts of success. Our overarching interest now is in the creation of a new
Iraqi government that has legitimacy in the eyes of its own citizens, so that in
the years ahead, the process of constructing democratic institutions and
creating a stable peace can be completed. The date of Iraq's transition must not
be determined by the date of U.S. elections.
We all agree that the Iraqi people are safer with Saddam behind bars. They no
longer fear that he will ever return to power. But the war in Iraq itself has
not made America safer.
Saddam's evil regime was not an adequate justification for war, and the
Administration did not seriously try to make it one until long after the war
began and all the other plausible justifications had proven false. The threat he
posed was not imminent. The war has made America more hated in the world,
especially in the Islamic world. And it has made our people more vulnerable to
attacks both here and overseas.
By far the most serious consequence of the unjustified and unnecessary war in
Iraq is that it made the war on terrorism harder to win. We knocked al-Qaeda
down in the war in Afghanistan, but we let it regroup by going to war in
For nearly three weeks, our nation was recently on higher terrorist alert
again. And certain places will continue to be on high alert for the foreseeable
future. As Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said so ominously in announcing
the recent alert: "al-Qaeda's continued desire to carry out attacks against
our homeland are perhaps greater now than at any point since September
Eleven times in the two years since 9/11, al-Qaeda attacked Americans in
other parts of the world and other innocent civilians. War with Iraq has given
al-Qaeda a new recruiting program for terrorists. For each new group of
terrorist recruits, the pool is growing of others ready to support them and
As another dangerous consequence of the war, our Army is over-stretched,
over-stressed, and over-extended. Nearly 3,500 of our servicemen and women have
been killed or wounded. By the end of 2004, eight of our ten active Army
divisions will have been deployed for at least a year in the Middle East in
support of Afghanistan or Iraq. The Army is offering re-enlistment bonuses of
$10,000 to soldiers in Iraq, but many are turning the money down and turning a
new tour of duty down. Members of the National Guard and Reserve are being kept
on active duty and away from their families, jobs, and communities for over a
Al-Qaeda and the Taliban fighters who support them are stepping up their
terrorist campaign in Afghanistan, launching more and more attacks against
military personnel and civilians alike. The warlords are jeopardizing the
stability of the country. They make their money from the drug trade, which is
now booming again. International humanitarian assistance workers, once
considered immune from violence, are now targets of a new Afghan insurgency.
In all these ways, we are reaping the poison fruit of our misguided and
arrogant foreign policy. The Administration capitalized on the fear created by
9/11 and put a spin on the intelligence and a spin on the truth to justify a war
that could well become one of the worst blunders in more than two centuries of
American foreign policy. We did not have to go to war. Alternatives were
working. War must be a last resort. And this war never should have happened.
We all care deeply about national security. We all care deeply about national
defense. We take immense pride in the ability and dedication of the men and
women in our armed forces and in the Reserves and the National Guard. The
President should never have sent them in harm's way in Iraq for ideological
reasons and on a timetable based on the marketing of a political product.
We know the high price we have also had to pay-in our credibility with the
international community-in the loss of life-in the individual tragedies of loved
ones left behind in communities here at home-in the billions of dollars that
should have been spent on jobs and housing and health care and education and
civil rights and the environment and a dozen other clear priorities, and should
not have been spent on a misguided war in Iraq.
The Administration is breathtakingly arrogant. Its leaders are convinced they
know what is in America's interest, but they refuse to debate it honestly. After
repeatedly linking Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden in his
justification for war, the President now admits there was no such link. Paul
Wolfowitz admitted in an interview that the Administration settled for
"bureaucratic reasons" on weapons of mass destruction because it was
"the one reason everyone could agree on."
The Administration is vindictive and mean-spirited. When Ambassador Joseph
Wilson publicly challenged the Administration for wrongly claiming that Iraq had
purchased uranium from Niger for its nuclear weapons program, the Administration
retaliated against his wife, potentially endangering her life and her
President Bush and his advisers should have presented their case honestly, so
that Congress and the American people could have engaged in the debate our
democracy is owed, above all, on the issue of war and peace.
That is what democracy means, and it is the great strength of the checks and
balances under the Constitution that has served us so well for so long.
President Bush said it all when a television reporter asked him whether
Saddam actually had weapons of mass destruction, or whether there was only the
possibility that he might acquire them. President Bush answered, "So what's
the difference?" The difference, Mr. President, is whether you go to war or
No President of the United States should employ misguided ideology and
distortion of the truth to take the nation to war. In doing so, the President
broke the basic bond of trust between government and the people. If Congress and
the American people knew the whole truth, America would never have gone to
To remain silent when we feel so strongly would be irresponsible. It would
betray the fundamental ideals for which our troops are sacrificing their lives
on battlefields half a world away. No President who does that to this land we
love deserves to be re-elected.
At our best, America is a great and generous country, ever looking forward,
ever seeking a better nation for our people and a better world for peoples
everywhere. I'm optimistic that these high ideals will be respected and
reaffirmed by the American people in November. The election cannot come too
Thank you very much.