Monday, January 11, 2016

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Congressional debate on January 1991 Gulf War Authorization of Military Force against Iraq Resolution

The following is from the Congressional debate, in January 1991, regarding the Solarz-Michel resolution authorizing use of military force against Iraq.  This AUMF was the Congressional "green light" for President George H.W. Bush to proceed in launching Operation Desert Storm less than a week later.



SOURCE:  Congressional Record, January 11, 1991, Remarks of U.S. Representative Steve Gunderson


Mr. BROOMFIELD. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Wisconsin [Mr. Gunderson].

(Mr. GUNDERSON asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. GUNDERSON. Mr. Speaker, the issues before us today are without question the most difficult of our political career. The outcome of our deliberations will affect the entire world and the lives of thousands of Americans. It is, as well, a vote each of us must carry with us the rest of our lives.

As we begin this debate, let us clearly consider the function and role of our deliberations. Many, in the Congress and the American public believe we are here today to provide the President clear authority on the use of force in the gulf crisis.

Unfortunately, I do not believe that is our role at all. The Congress has two specific and different responsibilities regarding war. The first, is to raise and fund an army. In the last session of Congress, we passed legislation to authorize the commitment of troops to the Persian Gulf. As a part of our appropriation process for fiscal year 1991, we provided open ended funding for the Desert Shield operation. Thus, under both the provisions of the War Powers Act and the Constitution Congress has met its initial responsibilities. In retrospect, I regret that the authority is open ended. We should have set an expiration date before the end of this fiscal year. Our failure to do so runs the risks similar to the results of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution years ago.

The second perception is that we are here today to consider an official declaration of war, believing such action is necessary before the President can use any force in the Persian Gulf. History will show that is not the role of a declaration of war. Five times in American history, the Congress has passed a declaration of war. Each time, military hostilities had been engaged and the President then came to Congress seeking an official declaration of a state of war between two nations. The result of such action is the total breakoff of all diplomatic relations, freezing of all national assets, and the registering of foreign nationals. For any of us who still hope for a diplomatic solution, a declaration of war is the absolute wrong thing to occur at this time.

Thus, I believe, and most constitutional experts believe, the President already has the clear authority under the Constitution and the previous acts of Congress last fall to take any and all actions he deems necessary regarding the use of force. Thus, our role is twofold. First, the Congress and the American people want the Congress to make a statement regarding the use of force. While, this may satisfy our emotional desires, I must say that if Congress desired to reject the presence and use of American troops in the gulf, Congress should have considered such issue first last August when troops were initially deployed or secondly when the President ordered a major buildup last November.

Our second role in considering this issue today is to contribute to the international response to the brutal invasion of Kuwait. In particular, we are considering whether the Congress endorses the provisions of the 12 United Nations resolutions in response to the crises, in particular the authorizing the use of all means to accomplish the withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait after January 15.

In this regard, I am most disappointed by the procedure before us. We in the House will be considering three different resolutions. Indications are that all three might pass, which sends a totally contradictory signal to Saddam Hussein and the world. Second there is serious consideration of whether the Senate will even pass a resolution, and if so by a very narrow margin. The end result of congressional deliberations could be one, not of authorizing force but rather sending the message to Saddam Hussein that America is totally split on our resolve; that he should simply wait us out; and over a period of time Americans will more desperately want their troops home than we want him out of Kuwait.

Earlier this week, I held nine different town meetings in my district. The primary purpose was not only to discuss the Persian Gulf issue with constituents, but more importantly to hear from the families of the troops stationed over in the gulf. No family wants war or the loss of life. No American does. But the families were very clear in making two points: First, either support the troops in the gulf or bring them home. Second, they do not want their loved one still sitting in the gulf a year from now. If we are not going to resolve the crisis, then bring them home as well. Thus, part of our purpose here today must be to determine how we can contribute most positively to a quick and hopefully peaceful resolution of the crisis.

At this point, we must ask ourselves what is the justification for even having American troops in the gulf. And while there are reasons to and not to be there, let us focus today on the reasons for an American presence.

I believe the leader of the free world carries special responsibilities. First, among them is to respond to requests for help when nations either become the victims of or are threatened by blatant naked aggression. The basic tenet of any civilized society must be a respect for an international order built first and foremost on the right of nations to exist.

In this case, our intelligence and that of Saudi Arabia indicated that Saddam Hussein was not about to stop with the blatant invasion of Kuwait. Saudi Arabia asked for our help to prevent further aggression. Kuwait asked for our help to impress upon Hussein the magnitude of world condemnation in hopes of reversing his aggression.

Second, there must be no doubt that Saddam Hussein left to his own wills and public statements, wants to create one great pan-Arab nation. The later implications of such action are obviously to destroy Israel. All Americans must recognize that if such actions were to occur we would go to the defense of our ally. It is by far in the interests of America that we do not allow him to amass either the land or the resources of one great Arab nation and the temptations and threats that would surely follow.

Third, while he does not possess today a nuclear weapon, there is no doubt that he intends to have one in the near future. And we know he possesses the enriched uranium to do so. Is there any doubt among any of us that a man willing to rule by terror and death, willing to use chemical weapons on his own people would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons to accomplish his goals? In this context it becomes especially important for the world community to not allow the creation of one great Arab nation under his rule. It is for these reasons that the Arab League has taken the dramatic steps to oppose his actions diplomatically and commit their resources and troops to oppose the actions of an Arab nation. The major impact of this simply cannot be overstated.

But it does present to us a picture of the new post-cold war world order and the importance of the world's response to this crisis. As dangerous as this crisis is, can anyone even begin to imagine the danger that would loom were this 5 years ago and the Soviet Union were on the other side? Today, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe stand side by side the world community in condemnation to his actions. Second, the crisis has resulted in a division of the Arab world into two factions; the moderate Arab nations and the radical Arab states. Never again will the Middle East geopolitical situation be the same. Likewise, at the end of this crisis there must be little doubt the moderate Arab nations will demand and achieve world cooperation in resolving the longstanding Middle East dispute regarding the Palestinians and the occupied territories. Third, unlike even previous American administrations, the Bush administration has chosen to assist in making the United Nations a viable entity in resolving world crises. If the United Nations response to the Kuwait invasion is successful, we will see a renewed sense of international diplomacy and the reduction of military solutions. The simple fact that the United States and the Soviet Union will no longer be participating in competitive arms sales will prevent the regretable circumstances we find today where we both, along with France, are guilty of selling arms to Iraq that have contributed to today's crisis.

For these and other reasons, I believe most Americans are united in their condemnation of Saddam Hussein and his brutal aggression, rape, murder, and pillaging of Kuwait. Most Americans are united with the world community in the initial defensive measures to defend against further aggression, and to pressure for Hussein's withdrawal from Kuwait. That includes the use of sanctions and other economic tools, the many diplomatic tools of the U.N. and elsewhere, and some use of a military presence.

The question we face today, frankly, is how can we now contribute further to a successful resolution of this conflict at minimum risk to the lives of American citizens and the world community. Mr. Speaker, I have concluded that this is the basic question. Will the threat of force, or the use of force increase or decrease the risk to American lives?

The answer to this question must begin with an assessment of whether or not present actions seem sufficient to accomplish our goals. Such discussion begins with a careful assessment of Saddam Hussein, himself. Unfortunately, it appears the only thing he understands is force. And even more unfortunate, he seems totally willing to allow force to be used against his people as long as it does not bring risk to himself and his power. Thus, the major risk of this congressional debate is that we will only hurt our goals by sending the signal to Hussein that he can wait us out.

Second, we must assess the question of whether sanctions and diplomatic pressure will sufficiently cause the withdrawal from Kuwait. While the sanctions are generally working, the question of their effectiveness is suspect. In a letter, dated January 11 to Congressman Les Aspin, Judge Webster of the Central Intelligence wrote:

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In December, during my appearance before the House Armed Services Committee, I noted that while we can look ahead several months and predict the gradual deterioration of the Iraqi economy, it is more difficult to assess how or when these conditions will cause Saddam to modify his behavior. Our judgement remains that, even if sanctions continue to be enforced for an additional 6 to 12 months, economic hardship alone is unlikely to compel Saddam to retreat from Kuwait or cause regime-threatening popular discontent in Iraq. The economic imapct of sanctions is likely to be increasingly serious, with conspicuous hardships and dislocations. Nevertheless, Saddam currently appears willing to accept even a subsistence economy in a continued attempt to outlast the international resolve to maintain the sanctions, especially if the threat of war recedes significantly. He probably continues to believe that Iraq can endure sanctions longer than the international coalition will hold and hopes that avoiding war will buy him time to negotiate a settlement more favorable to him.

What signal do we send by our actions here today? In light of this assessment our message becomes even more important. This returns us to the question of endorsing the U.N. resolution endorsing all means to accomplish the withdrawal from Kuwait. In so doing, we must carefully consider the implications of such action.

First, I want to emphasize we are not automatically committing the allies to the use of force. Rather, we are sending the signal to Saddam Hussein that the Congress will endorse the possible use of force as one of many means envisioned by the U.N. resolution. If we are dealing with a man who only respects force, then perhaps raising to him the possibility of using force will obtain the peaceful withdrawal by Iraq from Kuwait that we all seek.

It is not new either in history or in recent times that the threat of force was used to keep the peace. The most obvious example is the creation of NATO following World War II. Through the use of this organized threat of force, Europe has now enjoyed the longest period of peace in history. Second, the decision by this Congress and the Reagan administration to upgrade the quality and size of our nuclear forces during the 1980's has resulted in the most comprehensive and dramatic series of arms control treaties ever, resulting for the first time in actual reduction of nuclear weapons on both sides.

Second, I want to emphasize that authorizing the use of force does not automatically mean a major use of force, especially that of troops. More and more I am becoming convinced that the combination of economic and diplomatic efforts plus the possibility or actual use of limited force in the version of target-controlled air strikes is now our best hope to achieve our goals in the region without major risk to American lives. This does not, and in my opinion should not, include a major land offensive. Recent history has shown two occasions where such actions have accomplished our goals. First, our targeted bombing of Libya has resulted in the restoration of civil conduct by Qadhafi. Second, Israel's bombing some years ago of Iraq's nuclear production facility prevented the world from today sitting on the brink of nuclear war. Both actions were limited, targeted, controlled, and accomplished with minimal risk to the lives of our respective military.

Frankly, I prefer a very limited use of such force aimed only at one or more army weapons production facilities. It should be used only to communicate to Saddam Hussein the resolve of the world community to demand his withdrawal. Other experts suggest a more comprehensive air strike aimed at Iraq's air-defense forces--the integrated radar networks, antiaircraft missiles systems, airfields, and perhaps even their electric systems.

I admit the terrible risks of any such use. Yes, there is the possibility of a limited strike evolving into a full-scale war. No one can predict the actual outcomes of such actions. And we all will, and we all must, be ready to bear the burden for such decisions. But Saddam Hussein has a history of miscalculation. And I believe we must again prove to him his miscalculation of world resolve, and unfortunately we may have to threaten or even possibly use force to convince him of this fact.

But I do not believe this man, who lives and thrives on maintaining his own political power, will risk losing that power in the face of a serious threat of force. Second, I do not believe he will actually attack Israel. For by doing so, he will incur a military response from Israel in a magnitude and manner, frankly, the Western World would hesitate to use. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that Israel has the military ability to literally wipe Iraq off the map. He must know better than to run that risk.

So the question today, really, is not one of goals, but of strategy. It is not one of authorizing force but rather of sending a message. Thus, I must conclude that 4 days before the U.N. deadline for a peaceful withdrawal from Kuwait, we in the Congress have no choice. A vote to limit or deny the possible use of force will stop neither the President or the United Nations. But it will send the fateful signal to Hussein that if he stalls, he can outlast American resolve and the world alliance against him. Thus, the Congress must stand today with the other 30 nations who have committed troops and arsenal to the gulf. And we must do no less than the United Nations, the world peacekeeping body, has resolved.

In doing so, we contribute yet to a possible peaceful solution. We give new meaning to the diplomatic initiatives of Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar. We give new meaning to the Algerian effort to establish an Arab resolution of the crisis. Frankly, either of these efforts can provide a linkage to resolving the Palestinian issue that we cannot, and should not, do.

Mr. Speaker, I don't want to mislead anyone by saying that all families involved in the gulf support the Solarz-Michel resolution before us. Quite the contrary. But I do want to share two messages which have affected me.

On Christmas Day, a constituent, stationed in the gulf wrote me these words:

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I am a soldier in the United States Army, serving proudly in Operation Desert Shield, somewhere in Saudi Arabia. I'm here because I wanted to be. Things are well here, and our morale is good. However, I am concerned that things back home aren't going right. It concerns me that the Executive Branch has gotten so much power that one man can declare war--if President Bush wants to go for it after January 15th, then we, America, will go to war.
What happened to the division of power? How about democracy? While the President pushes and orders, Congress is meekly sitting by, nodding its head, and doing whatever Congress does, perhaps arguing the legality of burning the flag, and what type of law should or should not be passed. Why don't you, Mr. Congressman, show that Congress still has the power that our founding Fathers intended it to have? Don't let our country go to war unless Congress also approves.
I as a serviceman am proud to fight for what my country feels I should fight for. I am both a single American with one voice and one vote, and a soldier, an instrument of foreign policy. As a soldier, I am here serving my country. As an American citizen, I am writing my elected voice in Congress to express my fear that our democracy is slipping.
American voices need to be heard. It is American lives that are at stake. Mr. Gunderson, please remember that you, too, have a dual role in our democracy, both as a single American citizen like myself, and as a Congressman, elected by the people of Wisconsin as the best person to voice our concerns. To speak and to act in our best interests. Somewhere along the line our great country has gotten off track. One man has become all powerful. Our Congress listens only to corporations that don't vote but do pay for reelection campaigns. And our judicial branch, I'm afraid, is in a state of permanent recess.
Mr. Congressman, I want you to know that I am willing and proud to fight in a war with Iraq, if that is what our country wishes. But our country is made up of several hundred million people, not just a single power hungry man. Before we go to war, please be sure, sir, that war is in America's best interest. By allowing the President alone to make war is to set a very dangerous precedent. Let Congress take back its share of the power, and once again America may be led by the voice of the people, the land of the free, and so on.
Happy holidays from the Kingdom.  [ITALICS ADDED]
Mr. Speaker, this young man and 400,000 others in the gulf are watching this Congress and our actions here today. They are asking for a message. And I believe that message was clearly layed out in another letter I received, this one from the father of a young man in the gulf, when he wrote earlier this year to me:
Now I ask of you a favor. Our son * * * is a soldier in Operation Desert Shield. He understands he is in the Persian Gulf area because he is a soldier and is subject to the orders of his Commander-in-Chief. He is doing the best he can.
On his behalf and that of the other men and women in our Armed Forces please use your considerable influence in Congress to either fully support the Administration or to withdraw all U.S. Forces from the area.
To ask our sons and daughters to risk their real lives, not their political lives, while some in Congress posture and confuse Saddam Hussein is unforgivable.
I urge you and your colleagues in Congress to promptly support the mission of our Armed Forces or get them out now. [ITALICS ADDED]
Mr. Speaker, we each must vote our conscience today and live with the results of our action. But for me, I must pursue the one strategy I believe holds out the best hope for accomplishing our goals with minimal risk to our soldiers. I must stand with the U.N. actions through the Solarz-Michel resolution. And in so doing I only hope to God, that through this action, we might yet achieve peace.
[TIME: 1720]