they let people say this about the president?

www.salon.com

Not every Democrat has caved to Bush's martial fervor. Rep. Pete Stark makes it stunningly clear why he voted against the Iraq war resolution.

Editor's note: Below is the fiery statement delivered on the floor of the House Wednesday by veteran California Democrat Rep. Pete Stark.

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Oct. 10, 2002 | "Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this resolution (authorizing military force against Iraq). I am deeply troubled that lives may be lost without a meaningful attempt to bring Iraq into compliance with U.N. resolutions through careful and cautious diplomacy.

"The bottom line is I don't trust this president and his advisors.

"Make no mistake, we are voting on a resolution that grants total authority to the president, who wants to invade a sovereign nation without any specific act of provocation. This would authorize the United States to act as the aggressor for the first time in our history. It sets a precedent for our nation -- or any nation -- to exercise brute force anywhere in the world without regard to international law or international consensus.

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"Congress must not walk in lockstep behind a president who has been so callous to proceed without reservation, as if war was of no real consequence.

"You know, three years ago in December, Molly Ivins, an observer of Texas politics, wrote: 'For an upper-class white boy, Bush comes on way too hard. At a guess, to make up for being an upper-class white boy.'

"'Somebody,' she said, 'should be worrying about how all this could affect his handling of future encounters with some Saddam Hussein.' How prophetic, Ms. Ivins.

"Let us not forget that our president -- our commander in chief -- has no experience with, or knowledge of, war. In fact, he admits that he was at best ambivalent about the Vietnam War. He skirted his own military service and then failed to serve out his time in the National Guard. And, he reported years later that at the height of that conflict in 1968 he didn't notice 'any heavy stuff going on.'"

"So we have a president who thinks foreign territory is the opponent's dugout and Kashmir is a sweater.

"What is most unconscionable is that there is not a shred of evidence to justify the certain loss of life. Do the generalized threats and half-truths of this administration give any one of us in Congress the confidence to tell a mother or father or family that the loss of their child or loved one was in the name of a just cause?

"Is the president's need for revenge for the threat once posed to his father enough to justify the death of any American?

"I submit the answer to these questions is no.

"Aside from the wisdom of going to war as Bush wants, I am troubled by who pays for his capricious adventure into world domination. The administration admits to a cost of around $200 billion!

"Now, wealthy individuals won't pay. They've got big tax cuts already. Corporations won't pay. They'll cook the books and move overseas and then send their contributions to the Republicans. Rich kids won't pay. Their daddies will get them deferments as Big George did for George W.

"Well then, who will pay?

"School kids will pay. There'll be no money to keep them from being left behind -- way behind. Seniors will pay. They'll pay big time as the Republicans privatize Social Security and rob the Trust Fund to pay for the capricious war. Medicare will be curtailed and drugs will be more unaffordable. And there won't be any money for a drug benefit because Bush will spend it all on the war.

"Working folks will pay through loss of job security and bargaining rights. Our grandchildren will pay through the degradation of our air and water quality. And the entire nation will pay as Bush continues to destroy civil rights, women's rights and religious freedom in a rush to phony patriotism and to courting the messianic Pharisees of the religious right.

"The questions before the members of this House and to all Americans are immense, but there are clear answers. America is not currently confronted by a genuine, proven, imminent threat from Iraq. The call for war is wrong.

"And what greatly saddens me at this point in our history is my fear that this entire spectacle has not been planned for the well-being of the world, but for the short-term political interest of our president.

"Now, I am also greatly disturbed that many Democratic leaders have also put political calculation ahead of the president's accountability to truth and reason by supporting this resolution. But, I conclude that the only answer is to vote no on the resolution before us."

About the writer:

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., represents the Fremont, Calif., congressional district.

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10 Responses:

  1. soul4rent says:

    I wonder if this representative was this vitriolic about Clinton when he increased out military presence in Somalia, when he sent troops to the Balkans, or when he started lobbing cruise missiles at Afghanistan and North Africa. He had "no experience with, or knowledge of, war". He didn't even pretend to join the service - he openly dodged it. And many of the charges he levels against the "lack of evidence" could equally apply to Clinton's bombing of Afghani and Sudanese targets while he was about to be impeached.

    I'm not a big fan of Bush, but these grandstanding comments sound like they could almost equally apply to Clinton. Aside from sounding like false bravado.

    • bdu says:

      To a certain extent, yes, but Clinton never talked ground invasion either, so it's a bit of a different scale.

      • soul4rent says:

        That's true. Still, this guy's comments seem to say "if we do this on our own we're big bad guys, but if the UN signs off on it, then it's okay." Personally I don't buy the whole "diplomacy first" argument: if diplomacy needs to be tried "first", it seems like we haven't done so before, so what HAVE we been doing these past ten years? Why wasn't diplomacy working when inspectors got blocked and then thrown out?

        I'm not saying war is the answer. I think there's a strong case on both sides of this issue, and I think both sides feel very honestly that they have the real solution. It seems like if anyone's politicizing it, it's this dirtbag rep.

        • ideaspace says:

          Ummm, what the President and the Congress do is, by definition, political. You can't "politicize" it. That'd be like making water wet.

          People should, and will, decide who to vote for by examining the politician's voting record and seeing if it is in accord with their values on any and all issues.

          And yes, if you do something with the consent of International Law you are very different from a nation acting on its own. It's the difference between being a cop and being a vigilante. Perhaps, just maybe, the rest of the world knows something we don't - but in any case, the larger democracy of nations must be preserved.

          Ad hominem attacks don't detract from the essential thrust of either message. Bush's assessment of the threat does not depend on his war record, but neither does Stark's economic argument depend on his being a dirtbag.

          • soul4rent says:

            Ummm, what the President and the Congress do is, by definition, political. You can't "politicize" it. That'd be like making water wet.

            OK fine, let me rephrase. If anyone is making this into "an election year issue", it's him.

            Better?

            And yes, if you do something with the consent of International Law you are very different from a nation acting on its own. It's the difference between being a cop and being a vigilante.

            But it has no meaning if the law is unwilling or unable to uphold the moral statues behind the laws. If cops decided to stop enforcing laws, vigilantism wouldn't seem so outlandish and barbaric. When the UN is unwilling or unable to enforce its own treaties and resolutions upon member countries or no, don't be surprised when nations take matters into their own hands.

            Perhaps, just maybe, the rest of the world knows something we don't - but in any case, the larger democracy of nations must be preserved.

            And if this "democracy of nations" decides Iraq should be reduced to desert, its population scattered across the region, what then? Does the power of a "democracy of nations" include the power to destroy a government? By saying the US does not possess this mandate (an idea I don't necessary disagree with), people seem to be saying the UN does. I disagree with that.

            Ad hominem attacks don't detract from the essential thrust of either message. Bush's assessment of the threat does not depend on his war record, but neither does Stark's economic argument depend on his being a dirtbag.

            Indeed. I simply wonder if the representative was this vociferous when Clinton was committing defense resources to places like Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Sudan, Egypt and Chad. That stuff cost money too, and I think its melodramatic and factually incorrect to suggest that somehow, "children and seniors will get left behind", when for every dollar spent on defense, two and a half dollars are spent on services like education and healthcare.

            • ideaspace says:

              What's wrong with making a political issue an election year issue? What else could be a election year issue? That's what I don't understand about people getting all huffy about "politicizing" the debate. My question isn't directed at you, more at the imprecise language used to discuss and accuse.

              Unfortunately, the real trouble with vigilantes is that they are the ones who decide, on their own, that the cops aren't doing their jobs. If you don't work within the system, then you can't expect anyone to work within the system. Just because you feel justified, it doesn't make you right. To return it to the macro-world, if the U.S. is justified in defying the U.N., then so is Iraq. If Iraq feels the U.N. is not doing their job, not guaranteeing them their release from sanctions, not protecting them from the bullies, then they can kick out anyone they like. Obviously, I don't think that's correct. I'd like to see the United States set a higher standard. Great power, great responsiblity. Smiles all around.

              The United Nations will one day be as the United States. We don't think of it this way, but the states are all tiny countries that have agreed to abide by majority decision. If Arkansas doesn't want to go along with the Federal Governement, it's out of luck. That's democracy. If the U.S. wants to spread democracy, it has to practice democracy.

              And I think it's relevant because in Kosovo, etc. the U.S. was not alone, did not shoulder the entire burden, did not go in unasked and did not meet this kind of resistance both internally and externally. In other U.N. missions we were cops on the beat, responding to a call, part of a team. Now we're hotshot detectives who can't play by the rules.

              And this isn't a movie.

              Political debates are melodramatic, and politicians are hypocritical, and I agree with you utterly on everything substantive. My comments are all asides and trifles and underinformed, but perhaps overly hair-splitting. I mean, we're not going to settle this debate for all mankind here in this forum.

              "Quick! Mr. President! Log onto LiveJournal, they've done it! They've solved everything!"
              "My god... get me Putin on the phone now, he's got hear about this."
              "There will be peace in our time."
              "Yes, and justice. It's a good thing we've got those LiveJournal folk in our corner."

              • soul4rent says:

                To a certain extent, I too agree with you. I don't really see anything wrong with political parties using the for/against vote record on this issue in campaign ads. My point was, the people who were really "politicizing" the debate are the same people who say that's a bad thing.

                On the vigilantism issue, you're right that just because you feel justified doesn't make you right, but just because you aren't justified doesn't make it not right. I mean, if the government is unwilling or unable to enforce laws, I don't think anyone would roll over for criminals because Lennie Briscoe isn't on the case; after all, they're not enforcing the vigilantism laws along with the rest of 'em.

                I don't think, however, the UN will become to the world states what the US federal government is to the United States. Not without some Teddy Roosevelt/Abraham Lincoln type who will hold member nations to task when the violate treaties, sanctions and resolutions. The fact that Syria and China are on the Human Rights Commission is laughable and anyone who has half a brain knows it, except, of course, for the people who actually run it. That China has any position of authority in the UN while the UN Declaration of Human Rights is the longest running joke in the PRC is itself a joke, and until someone steps up to things like this, the UN will be a joke and member nations will defy its rulings. As do places like China, Syria, Russia, Iraq, Mozambique, and yes the US. I think Bush was right in that, if they let this slide, they risk becoming irrelevant in world politics.

                And no, contrary to popular opinion, the opinions expressed in LiveJournal almost never solve anything. Still, its fun to bitch.

  2. linoleumcp says:

    This would authorize the United States to act as the aggressor for the first time in our history.

    * Declaration of war signed against Great Britain by President Madison, June 18, 1812 resulting in the invasion of Canada on July 17th.
    * April 25, 1898, Congress passes war resolution against Spain. Hostilities begin on the first of May when a Spanish fleet in Manila Harbor is destroyed.

    • To be fair, the British were kidnapping and enslaving United States citizens. And the whole "invading Canada" thing was all a misunderstanding. We were trying to liberate them and somebody forgot to tell them that. Honest mistake, really.

      As far as the Spanish-American War goes, they (probably) sunk our battleship.

  3. anti_pathy says:

    Save your essays for Poly Sci class, kids! Or perhaps the sfgoth junkies list....
    I just wanted to say yay for Pete Stark. Finally a congressman with balls.