As part of congressional debate on the authorization for war in the Persian Gulf, Minnesota's DFL Senator Paul Wellstone speaks on his view of not authorizing resolution. This was Wellstone’s first speech on the Senate floor.
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(00:00:00) this is not the speech that I wanted to (00:00:04) give. (00:00:08) I Rise to speak in this chamber for the first time with a very heavy heart. I wanted my first speech to be about. children and education and Healthcare and a credible energy policy and the environment. I never thought That the first time I would have an opportunity. to speak in this chamber The topic would be such a grave topic. Life and death whether or not to go to war. To ask America's men and women so many of them so young to risk life and limb to unleash a tremendous destructive power on a foreign country and a Faraway people. This is the most momentous decision. that any political leader would ever have to make and decide we must and let no one doubt. That the Congress has the responsibility to make this decision. The Constitution is unambiguous on this point Congress declares the war not the (00:01:29) president. (00:01:33) Mr. President I give no ground to any of my colleagues. It my condemnation of Saddam Hussein. It is a Bedrock principle of world order that no country has the right to go in and swallow up another country. And that is why I supported the president's policy at the beginning. A policy that I think the president has abandoned. It was such a successful policy the economic sanctions working rallying the International Community isolating Saddam Hussein and most important of all, I believe the initial policy was well on its way to prove the point that we can respond to aggression. Without the slaughter that modern-day Warfare brings Mass Slaughter. I mean to say just that mr. President. War means death and destruction and there are some in this chamber who may believe that this truth is so obvious that it need not be said I think it needs to be said over and over again. I've observed this debate. And it seems to me that all too often in the theorizing about strategy and politics. This is forgotten what war means in human terms the terrible loss of Life Broken Dreams broken lives broken families. I will tell you something mr. President. The fathers and mothers of young men and women from Minnesota who were now in the Persian Gulf have not forgotten what war means in personal terms, and we must not forget either. Tell meeting after town meeting after town meeting. Citizen would stand up quite often Vietnam vet point the finger at me and say senator how many of the Senators children? Are in the Persian Gulf? How many of the Senators children are in the Persian Gulf and I would respond this way I would say. I'm the son of a Jewish immigrant from the Soviet Union. And if I believe Saddam Hussein was a Hitler and that we must go to war now to stop him. If I believe we must do that for the defense of our country or the defense of this world. I am a citizen in this (00:04:16) world. (00:04:18) Then as much as I could hardly stand the thought I could accept the loss of life of one of my children ages 25 21 and 18. I'd rather it be me, but I could accept the loss of their life. But this is the truth. I could not accept the loss of life of any of our children in the Persian Gulf right now and that tells me that in my gut I do not believe that it's time to go to war. I do not believe the Administration has made this case to go to war and if I apply this standard to my children that I have to apply this standard to everyone's children. I have to apply this standard to all of God's children. President Bush appears to be on the verge of making a terrible mistake that will have tragic consequences for the whole world. Life is so precious. War is an option that you pursue when all other options have been tried. We have not given sanctions a chance. The policies that I am afraid the administration is pursuing the rush to war that I am afraid is so much a part of what is now happening in our country in the world will not create a new order. Mr. President. It will create a New World Disorder. What kind of Victory will it be? What kind of Victory will it be if we unleash forces of fanaticism in the Middle East and the chronically unstable region becomes even more unstable further jeopardizing Israel's security. We're the ones as my colleagues have said so well who will pay the largest part of the price with loss of life. What does it mean? What kind of Victory will it be if we shoulder this responsibility if the Lions fractures and if there is an explosion of anti-American Fury throughout the Arab world accompanied by widespread violence and terrorism. What kind of Victory will that be? What kind of Victory will it be? If are already fragile economy is fractured. Whatever happened to the war on poverty the war against drugs the war against illiteracy the war to make sure that our citizens do not go without adequate health care, whatever happened to the war against the poison of the air and the land and the water what kind of Victory will it be if we're so paralyzed economically that we cannot deal with any of these pressing domestic needs and what kind of Victory will it be if our country our country I love dearly is torn apart again torn apart again. And what kind of Victory will it be if tens of thousands of people died in the Persian Gulf? So many of them and I need to stake this point carefully because I mean no disrespect so many of them disproportionately men and women of color low and moderate-income. What kind of Victory will this be? Some causes are worth fighting for Some causes are worth fighting for this cause is not worth fighting for right now. We must stay the course with economic sanctions. Continue the pressure continue the squeeze move forward on the Diplomatic front and mr. President. We must not we must not rush to war. Very large and long-term interest of our country and the world are at stake in the decision that we are about to make and our options are not simply war or peace moment. I very much resent any discussion that suggest that anybody who says is I'm saying today that we must not rush to war is in any way shape or form talking about appeasement. Negotiations are not appeasement. Every Diplomat knows this. Our options are not simply war or peace and we have an opportunity to stay the course with sanctions and we have an opportunity in the International Community to show that there's a new way to respond to aggression where conflicts can be resolved without resorting to war. It is too early to give up on that approach. It is. the mark of a great nation That it has the patience. And the conviction to pursue its highest goals. we stand on the brink of (00:09:40) catastrophe (00:09:42) if we allow domestic politics. Self-imposed deadlines or military logistics to rush us into a war that no one wants and a war that even in Victory will so severely damaged our national interests an agenda for war has been laid out its time. To develop an agenda for peace. I Leave You mr. President with a wonderful Hebrew word Tycoon. It means to understand and to heal. And to transform the world. Thank you very much.