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Excerpts from Sen. Kennedy's speech on Iraq

WASHINGTON—In a major address Friday at the Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., became the first leading Democratic senator to strongly criticize President Bush's policy toward Iraq as too eager for war.

Excerpts from Kennedy's speech follow.

"America should not go to war against Iraq unless and until other reasonable alternatives are exhausted."

"I am convinced that President Bush believes genuinely in the course he urges upon us. And let me say with the same plainness, those who agree with that course have an equal obligation to resist any temptation to convert patriotism into politics. It is possible to love America while concluding that it is not now wise to go to war."

"Just one year into the campaign against al-Qaida, the administration is shifting focus, resources and energy to Iraq."

"There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein's regime is a serious danger, that he is a tyrant, and that his pursuit of lethal weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated. He must be disarmed. How can we best achieve this objective in a way that minimizes the risk to our own country? How can we ignore the danger to our young men and women in uniform, to our ally Israel, to regional stability, to the international community, and victory against terrorism?"

"The administration has not made a convincing case that we face such an imminent threat to our national security that a unilateral, pre-emptive American strike and an immediate war are necessary. Nor has the administration laid out the cost in blood and treasure of this operation. ... War should be the last resort, not the first response."

"I believe it is inevitable that a war with Iraq without serious international support will weaken our effort to ensure that al-Qaida terrorists can never, never, never threaten American lives again. Unfortunately, the threat from al-Qaida is still imminent."

"It is an open secret in Washington that the nation's uniformed military leadership is skeptical about the wisdom of war with Iraq. They share the concern that it may adversely affect the ongoing war against al-Qaida and the continuing effort in Afghanistan by draining resources and armed forces already stretched so thin that many Reservists have been called for a second year of duty. ..."

"To succeed in our global war against al-Qaida and terrorism, the United States depends on military, law enforcement, intelligence support from many other nations. ... It is far from clear that these essential relationships will be able to survive the strain of a war with Iraq that comes before the alternatives are tried or without the support of an international coalition. A large, unilateral American war that is widely perceived in the Muslim world as untimely or unjust could worsen, not lessen, the threat of terrorism."

"I have seen no persuasive evidence that Saddam would not be deterred from attacking U.S. interests by America's overwhelming military superiority. I have heard no persuasive evidence that Saddam is on the threshold of acquiring the nuclear weapons he has sought for more than 20 years. And the administration has offered no persuasive evidence that Saddam would transfer chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction to al-Qaida. ..."

"If Saddam's regime and his very survival are threatened ... he may decide he has nothing to lose by using weapons of mass destruction. ..."

"(In Senate testimony) General Hoar said that our military would have to be prepared to fight block by block in Baghdad and that we could lose a battalion of soldiers a day in casualties. `Urban fighting would' he said `look like the last, brutal 15 minutes of the movie `Saving Private Ryan.'"

"Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has announced that instead of his forbearance in the 1991 Gulf War, this time, Israel will respond if attacked ... and possibly with nuclear weapons. This escalation, spiraling out of control, could draw the Arab world into a regional war in which our Arab allies side with Iraq against the United States and against Israel. And that would represent a fundamental threat to Israel, to the region, to the world economy and to international order."

"To maintain the credibility built when (Bush) went to the United Nations, the president must follow the logic of his argument. Before we go to war, we should give the international community the chance to meet the president's challenge to renew its resolve to disarm Saddam Hussein completely and effectively. This makes the resumption of inspections more imperative. ... The Security Council should authorize the use of force if the inspection process is unsatisfactory. ..."

"If Prime Minister Blair is correct in saying that Iraq can launch chemical or biological warheads in 45 minutes, what kind of sense does it make to put our soldiers in the path of that danger without exhausting every reasonable means to disarm Iraq through the United Nations?

"Clearly we must halt Saddam Hussein's quest for weapons of mass destruction. Yes, we may reach the point where our only choice is conflict, with like-minded allies at our side, if not in a multilateral action authorized by the Security Council. But we are not there yet."

"Let me close by recalling the events of an autumn of danger four decades ago, when missiles were discovered in Cuba, missiles more threatening to us than anything Saddam has today. Some in the highest councils of government urged an immediate unilateral strike. Instead,

the United States took its case to the United Nations, won the endorsement of the Organization of American States and brought along even our most skeptical allies. We imposed a blockade, demanded inspection and insisted on the removal of the missiles. ... In 2002, we too can and must be both resolute and measured. In that way, the United States prevailed without war in the greatest confrontation of the Cold War. Now on Iraq, let us build international support, try the United Nations, pursue disarmament before we turn to armed conflict."


(c) 2002, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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