Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Kennedy Replies

[Form response received to an email I sent Patrick Kennedy]

Thank you for your thoughtful correspondence regarding the war in Iraq. There is no greater responsibility for a Member of Congress than voting to initiate war and it was with much deliberation that I arrived at this conclusion. I did not come to my decision easily and I appreciate you taking the time to write to me with your concerns.
I always have been in support of a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the Iraq situation and the strengthening of international protocols designed to prevent further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction among all nations. Unfortunately, in Iraq, a diplomatic solution has proven to be illusory due to Saddam Hussein's continued unwillingness to destroy weapons as called for under the United Nations directives after the 1991 Gulf War. As U.N. Arms Inspector Hans Blix reported, Iraq still would not fully cooperate with inspectors during renewed searches in recent months, even with thousands of American and British troops waiting in Kuwait to add pressure to his government. The possibility of Hussein's government disarming without the presence of those troops would have been zero, and a repeat of inspectors withdrawing from the country because of a lack of cooperation from the Iraqi government, as they did in 1998, was highly probable.
Underscoring the dangers of allowing a dictator like Saddam Hussein to attempt to construct a nuclear program is the current crisis in North Korea. The very fact that North Korea is able to essentially dictate its demands to many in the world community, because it possesses deliverable nuclear weapons, underscores the dangers of allowing unstable and/or aggressive nations to obtain these weapons. Now that the conflict has begun, we need to support the troops that we've asked to undertake this dangerous task. After decades of brutality and repression, Hussein's government certainly won't go away quietly, but the U.S. and U.K. armed forces have the professionalism and military strength that we need. The unprecedented level of technology brought to bear in this conflict has presented the world community with a virtual tidal wave of information and images. We're reminded daily what kinds of sacrifices and suffering war entails. This should emphasize the staggering commitment our troops are making in this effort. 
Military operations aside, there are concerns about diplomacy efforts by the Administration. While military action may not reflect the absolute need for a broad international coalition of nations, the inevitable trillions of dollars that will need to be spent rebuilding Iraq into a Middle East democracy certainly does. As frustrating as the pace with which international diplomacy works can be, that frustration is nothing compared to the overwhelming needs that the people of Iraq are going to have after military operations in that nation cease. The U.N. is capable of undertaking such a massive effort, and I feel that U.S. engagement with the U.N. is absolutely crucial to securing the peace after the war is over.
One of the first orders of business must be the repatriation of refugees who have been displaced by the conflict. Rapid rebuilding of water infrastructure and food distribution networks are also key as is the importance of building a stable government. First and foremost will be both the introduction of peacekeeping forces to prevent large scale hostilities from surfacing between the many rival ethnicities and international police forces. The U.N. and its many affiliated Non-Governmental Organizations with vast experience in this area must be utilized.
War should always be a last option. In this case, Saddam Hussein's willingness to flout U.N. Security Council disarmament directives, even in the face of a massive military build-up to force that disarmament, demonstrated the futility of further pursuit of diplomatic channels to defuse this situation. We now all hope for a quick end to the conflict and Saddam Hussein's regime.
Again, I thank you for your correspondence. I appreciate the opportunity to hear from you on this important issue.
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