News Releases

After Great Deliberation, Murray Opposes Iraq Resolution

Oct 09 2002

Without a clear challenge to unify behind, America divided for the first time since September 11th

Video of Sen. Murray's Remarks

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)–After weeks of careful consideration, Sen. Patty Murray delivered a 20-minute address on the Senate floor during which she discussed her opposition to the current resolution authorizing war with Iraq.

Murray acknowledged that Saddam Hussein is an evil menace and agreed that disarming Iraq's weapons capability is America's most important objective – and one that could require military action to achieve. But she remained concerned that at this moment, with questions unanswered, with an undefined objective, and without our allies, sending American troops into harm's way was unsupportable.

The text of Sen. Murray's statement follows:

Mr. President, I rise today to address the President's request for authority to begin military action in Iraq. I have to say that I've spent many weeks thinking about this issue and listening.

I've sat across the table from Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor Rice, Governor Ridge, CIA Director Tenet, FBI Director Muller, Secretary of State Powell, and Vice President Cheney. I've listened closely to the President's speeches. And I've listened openly to the many questions my constituents have raised over the past few weeks.

I understand the consequences of war, and I don't shrink from them. My father was among the first to land on Okinawa as a G.I. Growing up, we always knew that our country may need to project force to defend our freedoms. And I know that we have high obligations to the men and women of our Armed Forces who undertake the hard work of securing our freedom. In college, I volunteered at the Seattle Veterans' Hospital. Most of the patients were young men my age who had returned from Vietnam. I carry that experience with me as the first woman on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

So when I look at decisions like this one, I take the time to consider all sides with the full knowledge that this decision will have serious consequences for our country, for our world, and for our future.

This evening, I want to share with my colleagues and with my constituents my thoughts and my decision on this difficult issue. But most of all, I want to share my reasoning because I want everyone to know how I arrived at this conclusion. First, I looked at the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Then, I looked at the many questions that must be considered before our country begins military action. I looked at the President's case, the role of the U.N. and our allies, the impact war could have on the Middle East, and the impact it would have on the War on Terrorism. Finally, I looked at that the context we are being asked to make this decision in -- including our economy and the political climate.

The Threat

Mr. President, let me first address the threat. There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein poses a serious threat to our interests, to his own people, and to the world. Under his rule, Iraq has been an aggressor nation. It has started conflicts with its neighbors. And it has sought to stockpile conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

Over the years, Iraq has worked to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. During 1991 - 1994, despite Iraq's denials, U.N. inspectors discovered and dismantled a large network of nuclear facilities that Iraq was using to develop nuclear weapons. Various reports indicate that Iraq is still actively pursuing nuclear weapons capability. There is no reason to think otherwise.

Beyond nuclear weapons, Iraq has actively pursued biological and chemical weapons. U.N. inspectors have said that Iraq's claims about biological weapons is neither credible nor verifiable. In 1986, Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran, and later, against its own Kurdish population. While weapons inspections have been successful in the past, there have ben no inspections since the end of 1998. There can be no doubt that Iraq has continued to pursue its goal of obtaining weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. President, we know from history and experience that Iraq poses a danger to the region, to our interests, and perhaps to our ourselves. It will continue its aggression and its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

Our Response to this Threat

This leads us to the second set of questions: What should we do about this threat? The President has asked Congress to authorize him to make war on Iraq. The goals of military action have shifted from regime change one day to disarmament to enforcing any number of U.N. resolutions. The list of crimes for which the Administration says Iraq must be held accountable varies widely. They include: attempting to assassinate a former President, holding prisoners after the Gulf War including one American, firing on aircraft enforcing the no-fly zone, seeking weapons of mass destruction, and violating U.N. resolutions.

All of these are serious crimes. Not all of them deserve the same response. Not all of them call for war. Without a clear objective, victory cannot be measured. Indeed, it appears the Administration established a solution -- going to war -- before it defined the problem or the goal.


Our most important goal is disarmament. Given Iraq's history and Saddam's madness, there can be no doubt that the world would be safer if we dismantled Iraq's ability to produce and use weapons of mass destruction. On this goal, the President receives complete support from the American people, the Congress, and the world community. Disarmament of Iraq is, unquestionably, the right thing to do. The means of achieving this goal are up for debate.

The "Pre-Emption" Doctrine

In the past few weeks, the Bush Administration unveiled its new pre-emption doctrine. This marks a shift from our longstanding national policy, and so far, we haven't been told how it applies to the world beyond Iraq. Obviously, if troops or tanks are massing at the border, we have the right to defend ourselves -- but to strike on the basis of suspicion alone is another matter. It's something this Congress and the American people need to fully explore and debate before we endorse the pre-emption doctrine.

Our Allies

The United States is not alone in facing the threat of Saddam Hussein, but unfortunately our government is acting that way. I'm very concerned that a unilateral race to make war on Iraq will weaken the support we need worldwide to win the War on Terrorism.

In the aftermath of September 11th, the international community helped us heal and supported our efforts to respond. Their support has provided critical intelligence key to disrupting international terrorist networks.

But today, our allies are as confused about America's objectives in Iraq as the American people are. Like the American public, our allies woke up one day to find that the Administration was making plans for war. Like the Congress, they were not consulted. Like the American people, they had nothing explained to them. They saw like the rest of us that a course of action had apparently been determined before the reasons were clear.

Recently, the Administration has done a better job working with our allies. Secretary of State Powell is to be commended for his work, but we still have a long way to go. It would greatly benefit the Congress and the American people to know where our allies stand, and what they are willing to help us achieve before we take action.

While we welcome the support of our allies and the United Nations, we do not hand them or anyone else the ultimate power to decide what America's security demands. Only the United States can determine our interests and what steps are required to defend them. That said, before we jump into a fight, we should know who's with us and what we're getting into. Today, we don't.

The U.N.

Another key part of the international response to the Iraqi threat is the United Nations. Efforts at the U.N. have met both with success and failure. To date, our greatest failure has been the ending of weapons inspections in 1998 and the U.N.'s failure to hold Iraq responsible for its obligations. Today, the U.S. is working with our ally Britain to pass a new, tough resolution regarding Iraqi weapons inspections through the U.N. Security Council.

I believe we need a new, strong U.N. resolution that provides for complete transparency of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program. This new resolution must allow inspectors to search all sites without roadblocks. Iraq should know that the U.N. and the international community are serious about enforcing this resolution even with force if necessary.

Implications on Broader Middle East Relations

One of the reasons why U.N. support is critical is because it shapes how other nations will look upon our action in Iraq. There is a difference between going it alone and having the support of a broad coalition. We have a stated goal of working to achieve peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We have strong ties to other states in the region: Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the other gulf states. What action we take and how we take it will have a direct impact on our other stated foreign policy goals of achieving peace in the Middle East, maintaining friendly relations with our allies in the region, and contributing to the stability of the region.

The War on Terrorism

In addition to the impact of war on the Middle East, we must understand how action in Iraq would affect the War on Terrorism. On September 11th last year, we were reminded again of the dangerous world we live in.

After bombing our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and attacking the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, Al Queda pulled off the most horrific crime our nation has ever known. In the aftermath of those tragic events, the President declared war on terrorism. We dispatched our troops to Afghanistan and its neighbors. We worked closely with allies. We even got some help from some unexpected quarters.

Most of the world joined our effort. But there are places where we don't have relations where terrorists hide. And to reach those dark corners, we rely on intermediaries. Today, those intermediaries are providing us with intelligence and information to help in our efforts. We have to ask: Will unilateral action undermine the support we need from other countries in the war on terrorism? The answer to that question should help inform our decision on military action in Iraq.

What happens after we win the war?

Mr. President, if we do take action in Iraq, there is no doubt that our armed forces will prevail. We will win a war with Iraq decisively, and, God willing, we will win it quickly. But what happens after the war? That will have as big an impact on our future peace and security. Will we be obligated to rebuild Iraq? If so, how? Our economy is reeling, our budget is in deficit, and we have no estimate of the cost of rebuilding. And with whom? As New York Times columnist Tom Friedman points out, there's a retail store mentality that suggests to some -- if "you break it, you buy it."

How will the Iraqis get back on their feet? Iraq's leadership has led its people through two decades of misery. The people of Iraq have paid a terrible price for Saddam Hussein's military campaigns. What promises is the international community prepared to make to help restore the health of the Iraqi people. What promise is implicit in a unilateral attack? If we must disarm Iraq by force, we will, but we cannot achieve the peace through occupation alone. It costs money, energy and time. And like building anything else, it's better as a shared responsibility than a solo effort. Again, the answers to these questions should not be the only factors in play as we make decisions on how to protect our security interests, but they are not insignificant, and they have not been answered.

We don't have a clear policy. We don't have a clear path to implementing that policy. We don't yet know what level of assistance we're going to get from our allies and the broader international community. We haven't factored in all of the implications this may have on our other foreign policy objectives. We haven't factored in all of the implications this may have on our economy. Not having a well-defined policy or proper preparations for contingencies that may result from whatever action we take is a dangerous situation on the eve of the war the Administration says we must have.

The Political Climate

So with all of these unanswered questions, how did we get here today? The Administration has said, it wants a vote on this resolution -- quote -- before the election. In this debate, many here in Congress and many of our citizens are asking: What is special about November 5 in deciding this question?

The question of war should not be placed in the context of trying to influence the outcome of an election. And surely, that cannot be the case today. The question is too grave for that to be the motivation -- even for that to be a motivation. The question of war should be placed squarely in the context of what is the right policy to achieve our nation's security goals.

The Resolution

With all of these questions in mind, I look to the resolution that's before us. Does this resolution address the questions this nation must answer in order to succeed? Does it clearly articulate a policy objective? What course of action does it sanction in our nation's pursuit of that goal?

While this resolution is a marked improvement over the President's original proposal, S J Res 46 does not provide the information and the objectives needed at this time. It is overly broad in defining the objectives of military action.

After considering the threat, the costs, and the unanswered questions, I have reached a decision. I will vote against the underlying resolution. I will vote against going to war at this time.

I am committed to fighting and winning the war on terrorism, including eliminating Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. I support wholeheartedly our men and women in uniform. I admire their heroism. And I will continue to do all I can to provide them with the resources they need for whatever mission they are asked to carry out on our behalf.

Today we are being told we have no choice that we have to grant the president war-making authority immediately without knowing the ultimate goal or the ultimate cost and without knowing whether we're going it alone.

It may well be that someday our country needs to take military action in Iraq, but the decision right now to give the president this broad authority without focusing it narrowly on weapons of mass destruction, without the support of our allies, without defining the costs to our country today and tomorrow, is not something I can support given what we know today.

The constituents I hear from want to know: Why are we racing to take this action right now alone with so many questions unanswered? The Administration could answer those questions with clear, compelling facts and goals, but so far we haven't heard them.

We're being asked to endorse a policy that hasn't been thought out and one that could have dramatic consequences for our citizens and our future.

While we may need to take action in Iraq down the road, today I cannot support sending our men and women into harm's way on an ill-defined, solo mission with so many critical questions unanswered.

If in the coming weeks or months, we learn that Saddam's capabilities are more advanced than we now realize or if Saddam defies U.N. resolutions we will certainly have the right to take appropriate action.

Looking back over the past year, it's clear that we can respond to September 11th several ways. We can act out of fear -- casting aside our principles -- and taking action without sufficient planning. Or we can stick to our principles and draw strength from them in tough times. That's the course I advocate today.

In closing, let me be clear: despite my reservations today I will always stand with and support those who serve our country wherever and whenever their commander in chief sends them. If American troops are called to fight in Iraq, I will stand with the President and I will support our troops not only during the conflict but afterward.

The international community -- and those who would do us harm -- need to know without exception that while we may have our disagreements before military action, once our troops are on the ground, we're all on the same side.