Specter Urges No Action In Gulf Before Congress Votes
He says there is still 'time to pursue alternatives'
By Candy Crowley/CNN
WASHINGTON (Feb. 16) -- Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) has written a
letter to President Bill Clinton urging him not to take action in the gulf until Congress has considered a resolution to approve the use of force against Iraq.
The Clinton Administration has said it is hopeful of congressional
support for any action should it become necessary. The Senate delayed a vote on the resolution last Thursday until it reconvenes next week following the President's day recess.
This is the text of Specter's letter:
"Dear Mr. President:
"I strongly urge you not to take military action against Iraq until
Congress has an opportunity to consider a resolution to authorize the use of force.
"Bomber and missile strikes constitute acts of war. Only Congress has the constitutional prerogative to authorize war. The Congress spoke loudly last week by not speaking at all. It is not too long to wait until next week for Congress to consider and vote on this issue.
"Our national experience in Vietnam is a relatively recent reminder that public and congressional support are indispensable to successful military involvement. I am glad to note you plan to address the nation tomorrow night. I held five town meetings last Monday and Friday, and can tell you that my constituents are very uneasy about air and missile strikes. There are concerns about inflicting casualties on innocent Iraqis, about potential terrorist reprisals, and the possibilities of expanding the conflict.
"There is general agreement that Saddam Hussein is an intolerable menace and cannot be allowed to threaten the world with weapons of mass destruction. But are there near-term alternatives such as a blockade to tighten the noose on his oil exports? Or can our allies be persuaded to tighten economic sanctions if they will not join us on the use of force?
"I compliment Secretary Cohen and Secretary Albright, but their visits have not produced the coalition which was formed for the successful prosecution of the 1991 Gulf War. Have you considered personal meetings with the leaders of France, Russia, China, Germany, Egypt, etc.?
"There has been unanimity in our congressional discussions to support the men and women of our military forces. But that unanimity does not extend to giving the president a blank check when the Constitution calls for independent congressional action to decide whether to involve the United States in a war.
"There is yet time to pursue alternatives. Diplomacy and other sanctions short of war should be given every chance to work.