OCTOBER 19, 2000:Commissioner Kerrey Called for the Removal of Saddam in Response to Cole Bombing

When former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D.-Neb.) questioned National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice about the Bush Administration’s reaction to the U.S.S. Cole bombing before the 9/11 Commission, Dr. Rice reminded the senator of, among other things, a speech he gave regarding the proper action for the U.S. to take in response to the bombing. His suggested response to the bombing was to take out Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

The following is an excerpted transcript of the speech regarding the U.S.S. Cole bombing given by Sen. Kerrey on October 19, 2000. In the Congressional Record, the speech is given the title: “IRAQ.”


Mr. KERREY. Mr. President, at Pier 12 in the Norfolk Navy Base, along with the Presiding Officer in Norfolk, VA, I joined 10,000 others to mourn and to pay our respects to the families of 17 U.S. Navy sailors who were killed or who are missing following the explosion that ripped into the portside of U.S.S. Cole as she was preparing to set anchor in the Yemen Port of Aden.

It was one week ago today at fifteen past midnight that a routine port call became a violent killing of 17 Americans, the wounding of 34 more, and the disabling of a billion dollar destroyer??¢â???¬ ¦

While we await the results of a combined U.S.-Yemeni effort to find out who was responsible for this attack, let me challenge the idea that the attack on the Cole was a pure act of terrorism or criminal action. In my opinion it is not. In my opinion, it is a part of a military strategy designed to defeat the United States as we attempt to accomplish a serious and vital mission.

This is the third in a series of violent attacks on the United States dating back to the car bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia at 10 pm, on Tuesday, June 25, 1996, that killed 19 United States Air Force Airmen and wounded hundreds more. The second attack occurred on August 7, 1998, when U.S. Embassies in Dar es-Salam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya were bombed. These attacks wounded more than 5,000 and killed 224, including twelve Americans who were killed in the Nairobi blast.

I believe all three of these incidents should be considered as connected to our containment policy against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The Cole was heading for the Persian Gulf to enforce an embargo that was authorized by the United Nations Security Council following the end of the Gulf War in 1991??¢â???¬ ¦

Contrary to popular belief, the military strategy to deal with Iraq did not end with the February 28, 1991, ceasefire. It has continued ever since with considerable cost and risk to U.S. forces. In addition to the embargo, the United States and British pilots have maintained no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq designed to protect the Kurds and Shia from becoming victims of Saddam Hussein’s wrath. The purpose of both the embargo and the no-fly zones is to “contain” Iraq so that Saddam Hussein does not become a threat in the region again.

Unfortunately, this containment object was doomed from the beginning. And while we have begun to change our policy from containment to replacement of the dictator, change has been too slow. The slowness and uncertainty of change has increased the risk for every military person who receives orders to carry out some part of the containment mission.

There are three reasons to abandon the containment policy and aggressively pursue the replacement of Saddam Hussein with a democratically elected government. First, it has not worked; Saddam Hussein has violated the spirit and intent of UN Security Council Resolutions. Second, he is a growing threat to our allies in the region. Third, he is a growing threat to the liberty and freedom of 20 million people living in Iraq.

As to the first reason, under the terms of paragraph Eight (8) of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 which passed on April 3, 1991, Iraq accepted the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless of its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons program. Under the terms of paragraph Nine (9), Iraq was to submit to the Secretary-General “within fifteen days of the adoption of the present resolution, a declaration of the locations, amounts and types of all items specified in paragraph 8 and agree to urgent, on-site inspection” as specified in the resolution.

From the get-go, Saddam Hussein began to violate this resolution. Over the past decade, he has slowly but surely moved to a point where today no weapons inspectors are allowed inside his country. As a consequence, he has been able to re-build much of his previous capability and is once again able to harass his neighbors. All knowledgeable observers view Iraq’s threat to the region as becoming larger not smaller.

As to the third reason–his treatment of his own people–there is no worse violator of human rights than Saddam Hussein. The people of Iraq are terrorized almost constantly into compliance with his policies. His jails are among the worst in the world. His appeal for ending sanctions on account of the damage the embargo is doing to his people rings hollow as the food and medicine purchased under the Oil-for-Food Program goes undistributed. Desperately needed supplies sitting in Iraqi warehouses while construction continues on lavish new palaces demonstrates that Saddam Hussein has no real interest in the welfare of his people. Rather, he maintains their misery as means to make political points.

If these reasons do not persuade, consider what happened in the other two cases when the United States was attacked. In 1996 we sent an FBI team to Saudia Arabia to investigate Khobar Towers. The investigation led to improving security on other embassies but no other action was taken. In time we have forgotten Khobar. In 1998 following the attack on our embassies in East Africa we sent Tomahawk missiles to bomb a chemical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, and Osama Bin Laden’s training compound in Afghanistan. Neither had the decisive impact we sought and may–in the case of Sudan–have been counterproductive.

For all these reasons, I hope we will direct the anger and desire for vengeance we feel away from Yemen and towards Saddam Hussein. I hope we will begin to plan a military strategy with our allies that will lead to his removal and replacement with a democratically elected government. This would allow us to end our northern and southern no-fly zone operations, remove our forces from Saudi Arabia, and cease the naval patrols of the Persian Gulf. I can think of no more fitting tribute to the 17 sailors lost on-board the Cole than completing our mission and helping the Iraqi people achieve freedom and democracy.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.