WASHINGTON – Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today delivered the following remarks on the Senate Floor in support of S.316, a bill to repeal authorizations for use of military force (AUMFs) against Iraq.
Find a copy of the Chairman’s remarks as delivered below.
“Twenty years ago, in the early, overcast hours of March 19th, 2003—American stealth bombers and Navy cruise missiles hit Baghdad in the first strikes of the Iraq War.
When I think about that war today, I think about the costs.
The costs to the Iraqi people who suffered so terribly, including the families of the hundreds of thousands killed in the insurgency, and the sectarian and ethnic violence that followed the U.S. invasion.
I think of the costs to the brave American service members who answered the call—did not ask whether it was right or wrong, they just answered the call—almost five thousand who made the ultimate sacrifice.
To the tens of thousands more who were wounded.
To the countless sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, friends and loved ones who had to grieve those they lost.
And care for those who came home wounded with scars—both visible and invisible—changed by combat forever.
I think about the financial costs—almost two trillion dollars—that could have gone to rebuilding America’s infrastructure, caring for America’s sick and aging, and educating the next generation.
I also think about the costs to something very close to my heart, which is the cause of freedom and the fight for democratic values.
Our nation—our democracy—as Ronald Reagan said, was a shining city on a hill. An example to the world of something to aspire to.
But the Iraq war undermined our credibility—with our partners and allies, with our enemies, and with millions of American citizens who were against it.
For too many around the world, the Iraq war made a mockery of U.S. support for democracy and freedom.
Today, I proudly remember my vote on the floor of the House of Representatives back in 2002.
Life in America was tense in the wake of 9/11.
Everything we stood for had been attacked on our own soil—just miles from where I still live.
Those of us who resisted the march to war were called naïve, or worse.
But some of us knew what we had to do. We felt the weight of history on our shoulders, and we voted against the war.
I spent a lot of time reviewing the documents available to the members of the House. I saw no clear and present danger, no imminent threat, and above all, no evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
I have a standard, Mr. President. If the cause is right and America needs it, I will send my son and daughter. But if the cause is not right, I will not send my son or daughter, nor will I vote to send anyone else’s sons or daughters into harm’s way.
Two decades later, we have the chance to make history again, but this time for the better.
We have the chance to repeal the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs and honor the legacy of those who fought and those we lost.
To end a war we are no longer waging.
To exercise Congress’ war powers—the most solemn duty of this body.
Because Saddam Hussein has been dead for twenty years, and his regime is gone.
Because the Iraq of 2023 is obviously not the Iraq of 2003.
Because Kuwait has been a secure, sovereign, and committed U.S. partner for over three decades.
And because the threats that these authorizations addressed no longer exist.
The United States is no longer an occupying force.
Iraq is now a strategic partner.
It is time to confront the challenges of the region and of the world together.
Repealing these authorizations is an important step forward.
It removes an irritant in the bilateral relationship, and it cements our partnership.
And it helps Iraq move forward, independent and more integrated with its Arab neighbors.
So, Mr. President, I come to the floor today to support—in the strongest terms possible—the repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force against Iraq once and for all.
Let us mark the 20th anniversary this week of the Iraq war by paying tribute to the Iraqis who have suffered, to the Americans we lost, and to the American families that provided unconditional support for those who served every day for the last 20 years.
We will never forget the sacrifices they made in defense of the values we hold most dear.
Let us honor those values by doing what Congress is supposed to do. When there is a need, it declares war. When that need is over, it is time to end the declaration and the authorization.
That is what we have the power to do today.
With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.”
Remarks have been edited lightly for clarity.