Sen. George J. Mitchell (D-Maine):

Today the Senate undertakes a solemn constitutional responsibility, to decide whether to commit the nation to war. In this debate, we should focus on the fundamental question before us: What is the wisest course of action for our nation in the Persian Gulf crisis?

In its simplest form, the question is whether Congress will give the president an unlimited blank check to initiate war against Iraq at some unspecified time in the future under circumstances which are not now known and cannot be foreseen. Or whether, while not ruling out the use of force if all other means fail, we will not urge continuation of the policy of concerted international economic and diplomatic pressure.

This is not a debate about whether force should ever be used. No one proposes to rule out the use of force. We cannot and should not rule it out. The question is: Should war be truly a last resort when all other means fail, or should we start with war before other means have been fully and fairly exhausted?

This is not a debate about American objectives in the current crisis. There is broad agreement in the Senate that Iraq must fully and unconditionally withdraw its forces from Kuwait. The issue is how best to achieve that goal.

Most Americans and most members of Congress, myself included, supported the president's initial decision to deploy American forces to Saudi Arabia to deter further Iraqi aggression. We support the president's effort in marshalling international diplomatic pressure, and the most comprehensive embargo in history against Iraq.

I support that policy. I believe it remains the correct policy, even though the president abandoned his own policy before it had time to work.

The change began on November 8th when President Bush announced that he was doubling the number of American troops in the Persian Gulf to 430,000 in order to attain a "credible offensive option."

The president did not consult with Congress about that decision. He did not try to build support for it among the American people. He just did it.

In so doing, President Bush transformed the United States role and its risk in the Persian Gulf crisis.

In effect, the president overnight, with no consultation and no public debate, changed American policy from being part of a collective effort to enforce economic and diplomatic sanctions into a predominantly American effort relying upon the use of American military force.

By definition sanctions require many nations to participate and share the burden. War does not.

Despite the fact that his own policy of international economic sanctions was having a significant effect upon the Iraqi economy, the president, without explanation, abandoned that approach and instead adopted a policy based first and foremost upon the use of American military force.

As a result, this country has been placed on a course toward war.

This has upset the balance of the president's initial policy, the balance between resources and responsibilities, between interests and risks, between patience and strength.

. . . If there is to be war in the Persian Gulf, it should not be a war in which Americans do the fighting and dying while those who benefit from our effort provide token help and urge us on. Yet, as things now stand, that's what it would be . . . . Americans now make up more than three-fourths of the fighting forces in the region. That's wrong and unfair.

. . . War carries with it great costs and high risks, an unknown number of casualties and deaths, billions of dollars spent, a greatly disrupted oil supply and oil price increases, a war possibly widened to Israel, Turkey, or other allies, the possible long-term American occupation of Iraq, increased instability in the Persian Gulf region, long-lasting Arab enmity against the United States, a possible return to isolationism at home.

The grave decision for war is being made prematurely.

. . . Those who advocate continuing the policy of sanctions recognize that it does not guarantee success by January 15th, or any other time certain. It involves a risk. The risk is that the international coalition will fall apart before Iraq leaves Kuwait.

But prematurely abandoning the sanctions and immediately going to war also involves risk. The risk there is foremost in human life. How many people will die? How many young Americans will die? That's a risk, a terrible risk.

Just this morning I heard it said that there may be "only" a few thousand American casualties.

. . . But for the families of those few thousand -- the fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, daughters and sons, the word "only" will have no meaning.

And the truly haunting question, which no one will ever be able to answer will be: Did they die unnecessarily? For if we go to war now, no one will ever know if sanctions would have worked, if given a full and fair chance.

Rep. Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.):

As this debate opens, the United States of America has over 370,000 troops in the gulf area. They are face to face with the troops of a ruthless dictator.

Our troops will be aware of every word we say in this debate. So will the dictator. And the question we have to ask ourselves is this:

When this debate is finished, will the House be seen as a tower of strength -- or as a Tower of Babel?

I speak from the prejudice of being a combat veteran of World War II. Those of our generation know from bloody experience that unchecked aggression against a small nation is a prelude to international disaster . . . . Saddam Hussein not only invaded Kuwait. He occupied, terrorized and murdered civilians, systematically looted, and turned a peaceful nation into a wasteland of horor.

He seeks control over one of the world's vital resources. And he ultimately seeks to make himself the unchallenged anti-Western dictator of the Mideast.

Either we stop him now and stop him permanently or we won't stop him at all.

. . . We are told by some that we must show patience. We must wait for sanctions to work, we must wait six months a year before force is used. We must "stay the course."

My question is this: stay what course?

A course that allows Saddam to know he is free from surprise attack, free from sudden offensive movement for six months or a year or more?

. . . Patience and delay can be virtues when they help bring about military or diplomatic goals. But when patience and delay become foreign policy goals in themselves -- as I fear they have with some of our colleagues -- they are no longer virtues.

I understand principled pacifism . . . . What I cannot understand is a policy that asks us to believe that after six months or a year:

The alliance will still hold.

Our sophisticated equipment will be in better shape than it is now after frying in the desert.

Our troops will have higher morale and better readiness.

Such a policy is not just an uncertain trumpet to the men and women in our armed forces. It is a veritable brass choir of indecision, doubt and confusion.

Patience at any price is not a policy, it is a cop-out.

We will be told by those who want delay that they don't want to risk American lives in combat. Let no one in this chamber or anywhere else lecture me on the horrors of war. I've seen it at its worst! The memory will remain with me for the rest of my life.

It is Saddam Hussein who will be responsible for those who make the supreme sacrifice, and Saddam Hussein alone. If Saddam convinces his neighbors he can survive this crisis, he will become something more than a former hit-man with delusions of grandeur.

He will be someone who has triumphed over a world-wide coalition. And if you seriously think that wouldn't be a sinister event in the history of the 20th century, you're fooling yourself . . . .

Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.):

This is not the speech that I wanted to give . . . . I wanted my first speech {as a member of the Senate} to be about children and education, about health care, and about a credible energy policy and the environment.

I never thought that the first time I would have an opportunity to speak in this chamber the topic would be such a grave topic: life and death, whether or not to go to war, to ask America's men and women, so many of them so young, to risk life and limb, to unleash a tremendous power on a foreign country and faraway people . . . .

Town meeting after town meeting after town meeting, citizens would stand up, quite often a Vietnam vet, point a finger at me and say: "Senator, how many of the senators' children are in the Persian Gulf?"

And I would respond this way. I would say, "I'm a son of a Jewish immigrant from the Soviet Union, and if I believed that Saddam Hussein was a Hitler and that we must go to war to stop him . . . I could accept the loss of life of one of my children, ages 25, 21 and 18 . . . ."

But this is the truth. I could not accept the loss of life of any of our children in the Persian Gulf right now, and that tells me in my gut I do not believe it is time to go to war. I do not believe the administration has made the case to go to war. And if I apply this standard to my children, then I have to apply this standard to everyone's children. I have to apply this standard to all of God's children.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.):

I believe it is late in the day, frankly, too late in the day for the Congress meaningfully to disagree with the president's request and the content of U.N. Resolution 678.

. . . It is my judgment . . . that if the Congress of the United States does not back the president, and the Congress of the United States does not back Resolution 678, then our leadership in the coalition will fail completely, the sanctions will disintegrate, and the coalition will disintegrate . . . .

I personally remain hopeful that war will be avoided. But it seems to me that the best way to avoid a war is to put Iraq squarely on notice . . . that we mean business and we're prepared to fight.