WASHINGTON -- As war apparently draws nearer, anti-war members of Congress led by
Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland outlined their last-ditch bid on Wednesday to
reopen debate on whether the United States should attack Iraq.
Lee's vehicle, the latest in a host of anti-war resolutions that the
leadership of both houses has refused to take up, is the introduction of a
nonbinding resolution that would put the House on record as opposing so-called
wars of pre-emption.
Lee and other anti-war House members admit there isn't much they can do to
stop a war against Iraq, but they plan to hold more press conferences and try
parliamentary maneuvers to force debate on the House and Senate floors.
President Bush's supporters say Congress spoke on the issue in October when
the House voted 296-133 and the Senate 77-23 to authorize the president to use
military force against Iraq. They argue that Saddam Hussein is still refusing
to obey United Nations Resolution 1441 calling for Iraq to disarm.
Calling the president's justification for a pre-emptive attack against
Hussein's regime "a statement of extreme arrogance and illegality," Lee said
at a Capitol press conference that the Bush doctrine "undermines any moral
authority of the United States in seeking peaceful resolution of any conflicts.
One of her co-sponsors, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, was active on two
fronts Wednesday. A lawsuit he and 14 other House members filed in U.S.
District Court in Boston claiming Bush doesn't have the right to go to war
without an express declaration from Congress was reinstated by an appeals
court after a judge had thrown it out.
Last week, Kucinich filed a House "resolution of inquiry," asking that Bush
be required to turn over to the House all 12,000 classified pages of Iraq's
report on its weapons of mass destruction that Hussein's regime gave the
United Nations in December. Last Friday, the administration quietly handed the
report to the House Select Intelligence Committee, and most House members can
see it as long as they keep its contents secret.
It's unclear whether Kucinich can view it, however. He, Rep. Pete Stark, D-
Fremont, and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., have refused to sign the pledge of
confidentiality required of all members if they want to see classified
"I'm checking if I can get access," Kucinich said. "I think the American
people will want to see it."
On Wednesday, the House International Relations Committee sent Kucinich's
resolution to the full House, even though it is a moot point. Leaders made it
clear that any floor debate must be limited to the resolution's specifics and
cannot include a wider debate on Iraq policy.
Lee's proposal, which she introduced with more than a dozen House Democrats
as co-sponsors, joins other bills recently introduced to try to forestall the
move toward war. These include a proposal to repeal October's vote. Among the
co-sponsors are Lee, Stark, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, and Rep. Sam Farr,
Sens. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., have a similar
bill in the Senate.
One member who voted for the resolution in October, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-
Walnut Creek, has introduced a bill calling on Bush to make a full report to
Congress before he launches an attack. And California's two senators, Barbara
Boxer -- who voted against October's resolution -- and Dianne Feinstein -- who
supported it -- put forward a resolution calling for U.N. inspectors to get
more time to complete their work.
Bush has left little doubt that he intends to act against Hussein and feels
fully justified in doing so. "We are determined to confront threats wherever
they arise," he said at his press conference last Thursday. "I will not leave
the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons."
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle