Mr. DAYTON. Mr. President, I thank my colleagues from the other side of the aisle for giving us this opportunity to discuss the matters surrounding the Iraq war, a war in which we are still engaged, a war in which Americans are losing their lives and their limbs on an almost daily basis. I am sure my colleagues have attended funerals, as I have in my own State, of brave men who did not return from that war alive. We all know the human cost that has been involved.
A number of us were at Walter Reed Hospital 2 weeks ago for an evening with brave men and women who have lost limbs and health, and in some cases will not ever be able to live fully normal lives because of the terrible devastation wreaked on their bodies by the war in Iraq. So what we are talking about tonight is something of enormous importance, something we should have talked about far more often in the past months and year than we have. I attempted back in the first months of 2003 to get this body to address some of these critical issues, questions about the information we had been provided even though we had voted previously in October of 2002 on this resolution that the President requested the majority of this body authorize, along with the House, to initiate a war at a time of his determination. But in the weeks preceding that I tried in vain, as did some of my colleagues, to ask the majority leader to bring this matter before the Senate, before the American people again. Unfortunately we were not able to. The decision was made not to create the time and the opportunity to do so.
Better late than never. This is much later than it should have been. I look forward to this opportunity in the weeks and months ahead because, as I understood from the Senator from Arizona, who was coordinating the time the Republican caucus used before we were given a chance to reply, that whenever the questions were raised, challenges were raised about the use or the misuse of intelligence information by the President of the United States and by his administration, there would be these occasions to discuss those matters again in the future. If that is the case, then I look forward to those opportunities because those questions should be raised. They have been raised before.
The American people have a right to know the truth, the facts about these matters. Those who have lost sons and daughters over in Iraq, those whose sons and daughters are serving there now, all of us whose lives, whose children, and grandchildren will bear the consequences of these profoundly important decisions that have affected not only the United States and our national security but the stability of the entire world have a right to know the truth.
Let's have these debates and these considerations as frequently as possible and air these matters fully, particularly since the commissions that have been established-the most recent one, by the President himself singlehandedly-are being precluded from addressing many of these issues like the misuse, as has been alleged, of intelligence information by high intelligence officials. That commission will not be allowed to investigate those matters. It will not have the authority to subpoena documents and information, investigating those matters. We will remain in the dark as those of us on the Senate Armed Services Committee on which I serve will remain in the dark despite our requests repeatedly to have that committee investigate these matters under its jurisdiction. At one point the distinguished chairman of that committee, Senator Warner, a man for whom I have the greatest respect, one of the finest of the men and women with whom I have had the privilege of serving in this body over my 3 years, suggested on a Sunday talk show that would be the appropriate purview of the committee and that should be investigated to its determination of the facts and truth and then, from all accounts, was forcefully dissuaded from that position by higher level officials in the administration who did not want that kind of investigation.
So if we can't get the facts because we can't get committees of the Senate to look into these matters, if we can't get the facts because the President's own hand-picked commission is going to be prevented by him from investigating and reviewing these matters, then let's use these occasions here on the Senate floor, even if we are going to be, as the word was used, ambushed by the Republican caucus on these matters. That was reported last week. This was going to be a big surprise last Thursday. It was reported in one of the Hill newspapers and evidently it was decided to postpone it.
Today, after we talked, even at our caucus lunch today, the Democratic caucus lunch at 1 o'clock today, based on the information the Democratic leader received from the majority leader, we were going to finish the resolution of the bill before us and then we were going to turn to another piece of legislation. Lo and behold, we found out literally as members of the Republican caucus took the floor this afternoon that this was going to be the subject for debate.
But so be it. If you want to ambush us on this topic, then do it as frequently as possible so we can present to the American people all the facts, facts they may not receive in any other way.
Let's go back a minute and review the bidding on this whole matter. Let's go back to January of 2002. Mr. Karl Rove, senior adviser to the President, political strategist, was quoted as telling a Republican political gathering that the winning issue for the Republicans in November of 2002, at the midterm election, would be "the war." By that at the time he meant the war against al-Qaida, against the Taliban in Afghanistan. But evidently in June of 2002, according to published reports based on an interview with the chief of staff of the White House, Andrew Card, published in the New York Times on September 7 of 2002, but referring back to a decision that was, according to Mr. Card, made in June of that year, 3 months earlier, to bring the spotlight onto this supposed immediate, desperate, urgent threat to the national security of the United States and the safety of our people by Saddam Hussein and his regime in Iraq, the question was asked of Mr. Card by the reporter, why, then, was there this delay until then right before and then right after Labor Day of 2002, a good 3 months later, to bring this matter to the attention of Congress and to the American people. Mr. Card's answer, and I quote, was, "Well, from a marketing standpoint you don't bring out your new products in August."
About two sentences later he indicated also the President was on vacation in August. So, instead, we were all, I think, startled-this Senator was certainly surprised to hear from the Vice President, Vice President Cheney, at two conventions of former men and women of the armed services in the last week of August of 2002, where he spoke to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and he announced, "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction."
The President himself then elaborated on these claims time and time again. He conjured up the most serious of threats to this country. On September 26 of 2002, at the time when this body was being pressured to rush to a vote about authorizing a war in Iraq, the President, after meeting with Members of Congress on that date, said:
The danger to our country is grave. The danger to our country is growing. The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons. . . .The regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, and with fissile material, could build one within a year.
He continued on that day to say:
The dangers we face will only worsen from month to month and from year to year. To ignore these threats is to encourage them. When they have fully materialized, it may be too late to protect ourselves and our friends and our allies. By then the Iraqi dictator would have the means to terrorize and dominate the region. Each passing day could be the one on which the Iraqi regime gives anthrax or VX or someday a nuclear weapon to a terrorist ally.
On October 7, just 4 days before the October 11 vote in the Senate on the war resolution, the President said:
We know that Iraq and the al-Qaida terrorist network share a common enemy-the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al-Qaida have had high-level contacts that go back a decade.
We've learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaida members in bombmaking and poisons and deadly gases. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints.
He also elaborated on claims of Iraq's nuclear weapons program when he said on October 7 of that year:
The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his "nuclear mujahideen"-his holy warriors. If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly-enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year.
At that time, 4 days thereafter, the Senate voted historically and, I believe, having voted against that resolution, erroneously to authorize the war with the determination of the President-on a resolution which I believed and still believe is unconstitutional, was premature and, which has ultimately turned out to be the case, unfounded.
These assertions continued during the fall and then into the new year. Of course, Secretary of State Colin Powell went before the United Nations and stated that there were thousands of tons of these strains of botulism, of nerve gas agents, of botox, and other substances that were of such enormous quantities that they would have been easily identified by satellite surveillance or by the United Nations weapons inspectors then in Iraq, though at the time none had been found.
The Vice President again on March 16, just before the eve of the decision by the President to invade Iraq, leveled a serious new allegation that Hussein already had nuclear weapons. He said, "We know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons," and "We believe he has in fact reconstituted nuclear weapons."
Subsequent events, of course, have proven all of those assertions to be almost totally incorrect.
Thank God. When United States and British forces invaded Iraq just a few days later, there were no chemical or biological or nuclear weapons used against them. None were found on the battlefield unused or in caches hidden and ready for use or even those weapons materials anywhere in Iraq, as the chief weapons inspector, David Kay, has now indicated in his public statements. He said to our Senate Armed Services Committee that he does not believe they will be found. But the more important fact, the irrefutable fact, is that they did not exist to be used against our Armed Forces. I am grateful for that. But that was the overriding premise-at least I know from a number of my colleagues on this side of the aisle-the overriding factor in their decision to support the resolution in October.
Under the United Nations charter, under international law, the only justification legally for invading another country, for launching a preemptive attack against another country, starting war against another country, is either an actual attack itself or the imminent danger or threat of an attack against a country.
It was certainly on that assertion by the administration repeatedly that Members of Congress were persuaded to support the resolution in October. It was that assertion that was made by the President himself and others leading up to and even in the speech the President gave to the Nation the night he authorized that invasion of forces.
In his State of the Union Address, he made assertions that Iraq had sought to buy uranium in Africa to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program. It was not until July 7 of 2003-almost 6 months later, or over 5 months later-that the administration acknowledged for the first time that the President should not have made that statement even though the reports were they knew conclusively as early as March. Some allegations are that they knew even prior to the time, or at the time of that statement, that that was not substantiated, or, in fact in March, a report even said it was false.
There are other statements that have been made by former CIA intelligence officials, reports made by investigative reporters that refer to information that was available to the administration at the time these various assertions were made that were contrary to facts as they were being reported.
The linkage to al-Qaida, between Iraq and al-Qaida, is one that I certainly can say from my own direct experience, being involved in probably two dozen top secret briefings in the fall of 2002 and early 2003 with members of the administration, that was something that was repeated, was raised in a most speculative way from other intelligence sources.
Then it is reported in June of 2003, after all this has been underway, according to the New York Times, two high officials of al-Qaida now in U.S. custody told interrogators, told them before the war in fact, that the organization did not work with Mr. Hussein. Several intelligence officials said no evidence of cooperation had been found in Iraq.
It caused the CIA Director, George Tenet, to state that:
"it was not at all clear there was any coordination or joint activities," a CIA source told the Washington Post.
An article in the Baltimore Sun went on to say:
Last fall, in a classified assessment of Iraq, the CIA said the only thing that might induce Mr. Hussein to give weapons to terrorists was an American invasion. But month after month, unconstrained by mere facts, the president trumpeted a danger that his own intelligence officials dismissed.
Yes, there are very serious questions and a most profoundly serious matter reflecting on the veracity of the President of the United States and his officials at the highest levels. The debate should be undertaken here and the American people should have a right to all the facts but they will not get them.
One of the most disgusting ploys tonight has been to blame President Clinton and Senate Democrats during the 1990s for the supposed curtailment of our Nation's military preparedness and its intelligence operations. Some people are masters at this kind of slander.
In 2002, there were Republican campaign commercials that put Senator Max Cleland, a Democratic Senator from Georgia, upon the television screen next to pictures of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, claiming that all three of them were enemies of the national security of the United States.
Senator Cleland was a triple amputee and sat in this chair next to me during my first 2 years of the Senate, the most amazing demonstration of human courage I have ever heard. I could scarcely imagine a man who lost three limbs serving in the military in Vietnam, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who had voted for every single dollar of President Bush's requested military increases for military spending, for homeland security, every dollar, being smeared as an enemy of this Nation along with Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
Here they go again, smearing President Clinton and even Senator JOHN KERRY. I heard President Clinton attacked by colleagues across the aisle from the day I joined the Senate Armed Services Committee in January of 2001 for supposed military weaknesses. That continued up until the military that President Clinton commanded for 8 years routed the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan 10 months later. Now he is accused of emasculating the Intelligence Agency, causing the failures to prevent September 11, 2001, and the failures to inform us properly about the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Unfortunately, we cannot find out who is and who is not responsible for whatever failures occurred. We cannot find out because President Bush has blocked the 9/11 Commission access to the information that bipartisan group of distinguished Americans has been requesting for months from the administration.
We will not get to the truth about who misused intelligence information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq because the President refused to appoint an independent commission, refused to grant them subpoena powers, and refused to authorize them to investigate the use of intelligence information by himself and his administration.
If the former administration is the one that is so culpable and if the current administration is so blameless, why wouldn't this administration want those two commissions to have access to all relevant information? Why would this administration block the 9/11 information that its cochairman, former Republican Governor of New Jersey, Thomas Kean, has requested for months on behalf of his Commission? Why won't the President allow his own handpicked Commission to assess the misinformation about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that was provided to Congress and to the American people to investigate all the questions about that colossal misrepresentation of the truth as we later discovered it to be?
Those are critical questions that affect the future safety of our country and our citizens, whatever flaws existed before September 11, whatever errors were made after September 11, whatever mistakes, whatever lack of communication, whatever misre- porting, misunderstanding, misrepresenting, exaggerating, or improper influencing of information, whatever or wherever it occurred, which weakened our national security, must know what that was in order to prevent it from ever happening again.
That imperative should transcend partisan politics. It should transcend Presidential reelections. It should transcend any consideration except for the safety of this country and of the American people.
If my colleagues on the other side of the aisle want to strengthen our national security, as I know they do-as we all do, because we are Americans first, and we are partisans after that-then I ask them to join us in insisting that the President unshackle those two commissions. Let them find the truth, the whole truth, whatever it might be, wherever it is, whoever it helps, whoever it hinders, so that we can know what we must do to ensure that the horrors of 9/11 never, ever occur again, and to ensure that the serious misinformation about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which influenced Members of this body to support a resolution to authorize the President to start a war against that country-to make sure that kind of misinformation used to justify a war to the American people never, ever happens again.
So, yes, let's debate these matters as frequently as possible. Let's get out all of the facts. And then let's let the American people decide.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.