Al Gore protests Bush's War
I've written 50 words on why I think Al Gore's speech is important. I include a link to a transcript of the entire speech and I excerpt some key paragraphs of Gore's critique of Bush's plans for war.
Today (09/23/02) in San Francisco the winner of the 2002 American presidential election, Al Gore, delivered a thought provoking critique of Bush's war. Here is a link to a transcript of the complete speech:
Below is an excerpt of a few of Gore's key points. I realize that many here will find much to criticize in Gore's statement of opposition to Bush's plans for war. Criticism is good. Dismissal of a protest this significant is another matter. I believe that if really you want an anti-war movement you must recognize the necessity of bringing together a diverse coalition opposed to Bush's mad rush to war. I think that Gore's point that the war on Iraq sabotages the war against terrorism is a brilliant way to turn the mind's of mainstream politicians against Bush's rush to war. And Gore is not preaching to the converted, but to the vast numbers of Americans who are confused and uncertain about what should be America's role in the post-9/11 world.
[Below is an excerpt of Gore's speech -- breaks in the text are always between parapraphs and are indicated by ...... ]
Iraq and the War On Terrorism
By Al Gore
Like all Americans I have been wrestling with the question of what our country needs to do to defend itself from the kind of intense, focused and enabled hatred that brought about September 11th, and which at this moment must be presumed to be gathering force for yet another attack. I'm speaking today in an effort to recommend a specific course of action for our country which I believe would be preferable to the course recommended by President Bush. Specifically, I am deeply concerned that the policy we are presently following with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century.
FIRST THING FIRST: WAR ON TERRORISM
To begin with, I believe we should focus our efforts first and foremost against those who attacked us on September 11th and have thus far gotten away with it. The vast majority of those who sponsored, planned and implemented the cold blooded murder of more than 3,000 Americans are still at large, still neither located nor apprehended, much less punished and neutralized. I do not believe that we should allow ourselves to be distracted from this urgent task simply because it is proving to be more difficult and lengthy than predicted. Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump from one unfinished task to another.
Far more damaging, however, is the Administration's attack on fundamental constitutional rights. The idea that an American citizen can be imprisoned without recourse to judicial process or remedies, and that this can be done on the say-so of the President or those acting in his name, is beyond the pale.
Regarding other countries, the Administration's disdain for the views of others is well documented and need not be reviewed here. It is more important to note the consequences of an emerging national strategy that not only celebrates American strengths, but appears to be glorifying the notion of dominance. If what America represents to the world is leadership in a commonwealth of equals, then our friends are legion; if what we represent to the world is empire, then it is our enemies who will be legion.
At this fateful juncture in our history it is vital that we see clearly who are our enemies, and that we deal with them. It is also important, however, that in the process we preserve not only ourselves as individuals, but our nature as a people dedicated to the rule of law.
WHAT CONGRESS SHOULD DO
I believe, therefore, that the resolution that the President has asked Congress to pass is much too broad in the authorities it grants, and needs to be narrowed. The President should be authorized to take action to deal with Saddam Hussein as being in material breach of the terms of the truce and therefore a continuing threat to the security of the region. To this should be added that his continued pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is potentially a threat to the vital interests of the United States. But Congress should also urge the President to make every effort to obtain a fresh demand from the Security Council for prompt, unconditional compliance by Iraq within a definite period of time. If the Council will not provide such language, then other choices remain open, but in any event the President should be urged to take the time to assemble the broadest possible international support for his course of action. Anticipating that the President will still move toward unilateral action, the Congress should establish now what the administration's thinking is regarding the aftermath of a US attack for the purpose of regime change.
Specifically, Congress should establish why the president believes that unilateral action will not severely damage the fight against terrorist networks, and that preparations are in place to deal with the effects of chemical and biological attacks against our allies, our forces in the field, and even the home-front. The resolution should also require commitments from the President that action in Iraq will not be permitted to distract from continuing and improving work to reconstruct Afghanistan, an that the United States will commit to stay the course for the reconstruction of Iraq.
The Congressional resolution should make explicitly clear that authorities for taking these actions are to be presented as derivatives from existing Security Council resolutions and from international law: not requiring any formal new doctrine of pre-emption, which remains to be discussed subsequently in view of its gravity.
Last week President Bush added a troubling new element to this debate by proposing a broad new strategic doctrine that goes far beyond issues related to Iraq and would effect the basic relationship between the United States and the rest of the world community. Article 51 of the United Nations charter recognizes the right of any nation to defend itself, including the right in some circumstances to take pre-emptive actions in order to deal with imminent threats. President Bush now asserts that we will take pre-emptive action even if we take the threat we perceive is not imminent. If other nations assert the same right then the rule of law will quickly be replaced by the reign of fear - any nation that perceives circumstances that could eventually lead to an imminent threat would be justified under this approach in taking military action against another nation. An unspoken part of this new doctrine appears to be that we claim this right for ourselves - and only for ourselves. It is, in that sense, part of a broader strategy to replace ideas like deterrence and containment with what some in the administration "dominance."
This is because President Bush is presenting us with a proposition that contains within itself one of the most fateful decisions in our history: a decision to abandon what we have thought was America's mission in the world - a world in which nations are guided by a common ethic codified in the form of international law -- if we want to survive.
At the same time, the concept of pre-emption is accessible to other countries. There are plenty of potential imitators: India/Pakistan; China/Taiwan; not to forget Israel/Iraq or Israel/Iran. Russia has already cited it in anticipation of a possible military push into Georgia, on grounds that this state has not done enough to block the operations of Chechen rebels. What this doctrine does is to destroy the goal of a world in which states consider themselves subject to law, particularly in the matter of standards for the use of violence against each other. That concept would be displaced by the notion that there is no law but the discretion of the President of the United States.
I believe that we can effectively defend ourselves abroad and at home without dimming our principles. Indeed, I believe that our success in defending ourselves depends precisely on not giving up what we stand for.
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