The Use of Force:Congress Debates The Issue

January 15, 1991

Following are excerpts from the remarks made by some members of Maryland's congressional during last week's debate on whether to authorize President Bush to use military force in the Persian Gulf.

Rep. Beverly B. Byron, D-6th, in favor of authorizing the use of military force:

I do not know how many Americans truly understand Saddam Hussein's background, his character, his goals, or his logic. He is single-minded in his purpose, ruthless in his actions, and shrewd in determining what course of action will best further his goals. His ultimate goal, gaining power by which he can unite the Arab world, is all that matters. . . . He must be stopped.

. . . Experts can argue about the effectiveness of sanctions, but I cannot find any indication that staying the course and delaying military options will achieve our goals. A vote to stay the course is a vote of hope. Hope that a dictator who continues to threaten the entire world will back down.

Had I any assurances that this would occur, I would not hesitate TC to vote accordingly. Unfortunately, I have no such assurances that Saddam Hussein will back down it we delay military options. My colleagues who urge further patience do so nobly, with the understanding that war should only be a last resort. I, too, believe that war should only be a last resort.

But a vote to authorize force is also a vote of hope. A hope that Saddam Hussein will back down when he sees our resolve and willingness to forcefully deny him what he truly covets. By voting for an authorization of force, I believe I will be best advancing the cause of peace.

Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd, also in favor:

During this period I've been talking non-stop with my constituents, each one of whom has a valuable pearl of wisdom to offer.

One constituent who is opposed to military action is a World War II veteran who lost a brother in that war and whose son served honorably in Vietnam. There was another who voiced her support for using any and all available means to neutralize Saddam Hussein's war-fighting capability.

Others have expressed concern about the notion of extending sanctions indefinitely and what that would mean for our troops in the desert.

Perhaps the most persuasive call that I received, however, was from a member of the National Guard associated with the 290th military police unit, from my district -- poised only a few miles from the Iraqi border. The message that he delivered from his colleagues in the gulf was that they wanted the Congress to support the president.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-5th, opposing an immediate authorization of force:

I do not believe that Saddam Hussein will ever back down if doing so is perceived as backing down to the United States. The threat of force, no matter how credible, will not change this. I therefore do not agree with arguments being made that Saddam Hussein will retreat in the face of an implicit declaration of war by the Congress.

But there may be a chance that Saddam Hussein understands that he cannot win a war with the United States and its United Nations allies. Surely, if he doesn't understand that, he should. And if he does, he may be looking for a way out of this crisis without appearing to back down to the United States.

And if he is, then removing the threat of what the world perceives to be a U.S. deadline, may allow for a diplomatic solution which achieves the same goal -- the full withdrawal of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.

Rep. Tom McMillen, D-4th, in favor of authorizing force:

There is no evidence indicating that sanctions will succeed i [removing Iraq from Kuwait]. Once we extend the deadline, the force of sanctions will be lessened, as Saddam will demobilize his military, conserving his resources and precious spare parts for the next deadline. . . .

The United States does have vital interests in the Persian Gulf. With the engulfing of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein has captured for himself a choke-hold on the world's oil market, dominating almost 70 percent of the world's oil reserves.

Certainly Iraq will be hurt if sanctions are extended, but the economic dislocation to the free world of extending the deadline will be astronomical. The war premium on oil costs the world economy as much as $1 billion a day. Already, it is estimated that the crisis has resulted in $100 billion of damage. Can our fragile economies afford another $100 or $200 billion shock?

Although decisions of war or peace should not be based on economics, as more Pan-Ams go bankrupt, as more people lose their jobs, the citizens of America and the free world will understand the debilitating consequences of not stopping Saddam Hussein.

Rep. Constance A. Morella, R-8th, against an immediate authorization of force:

I believe that the global community has unfairly placed on the United States, and that we have too easily accepted, the principal cost, in terms of both American lives and American dollars, of expelling Iraq from Kuwait.

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