October 10, 2002

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Hometown interview—

Senator DeWine’s views on Iraq

While United States Senator Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) was in town on Sunday afternoon, the Yellow Springs News was able to ask a few questions about his views on the current situation regarding Iraq:

YS News: Are you able to define any more clearly your position on the war in Iraq?

Senator DeWine: I continue to study the issue and continue briefings through the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. The resolution is in front of us, but the language in the Senate is not yet finalized. There are amendments still to be made, but I can’t tell you how I’ll vote on the final resolution.

These are very difficult choices, and it’s a difficult situation for this country right now. Inspectors have been [trying to assess Saddam’s military capabilities] for four years while Saddam has only had more time to increase his nuclear and biological weapons capabilities. This is all published news . . .

We know what he’s done in the past; he’s a ruthless killer with no concern for human life. We know what we’re dealing with. As he continues to develop more weapons, the threat to the entire Mideast area increases. If Saddam has viable nuclear weapons capabilities, that’s a scary thing.

There are many variables in determining how quickly he’ll reach that capability.

I commend the President on bringing the issue back on the front burner and for talking to the U.N. We need to enforce our resolutions. We need to get inspectors back in and create a tougher inspections regime.

It’s important to debate the timing of the resolution that would give the President the authority to engage Iraq in a war in the future. It’s clear to the American people the dangers of war. No one can predict what will happen, but there are certain possibilities.

One, Saddam has an arsenal of biological and chemical weapons he could unleash on our troops. Two, because we’ve increased our threat, he is more likely to use his weapons of mass destruction. He could engage us in war on our own territory with biological attacks on U.S. citizens anywhere in the country. And three, we have to assume he’d launch Scud missiles against Israel with biological and chemical weapons attached. What will Israel’s reaction be? We have to assume they would retaliate, but then what would other countries in the area do? What about Syria? How will they react?

That doesn’t even get to the issue of what is left of Iraq after the war is over. What does Saddam do when he’s coming down from power? It’s not an easy thing to do to [reorganize a war torn country]. We have to assume in the immediate aftermath that there would be ethnic killings, and that’s a difficult situation to try to stop.

It’s important that we slowly ratchet up the pressure on Saddam. We can’t let this go on forever.

YS News: Are you committed to being in accord with the U.N. before the U.S. makes a decision?

Senator DeWine: It’s preferable and helpful to have the support of the U.N. . . . [though] we just can’t be held hostage to the U.N.’s decision. But we need to try to work with them.

The goal is to put in place a tough weapons inspection regime; merely letting inspectors back in is not enough. As the Senate continues discussions, so will the U.S. be discussing with other nations.

YS News: Are you concerned about the erosion of Congress’s power to declare war?

Senator DeWine: Congress has at times given the President the authority to take military action, for instance during Eisenhower’s presidency and the Gulf of Tonkin resolution during Vietnam.

No one doubts that if Kennedy hadn’t been successful in getting the Soviets to back down during the Cuban missile crisis that a pre-emptive strike could have taken place, even without Congress’s approval. In a situation of emergency, the President has to act.

But in this case, it’s not an emergency; it’s almost an academic question.

I think we need a broadly written resolution. People in the constituency are saying Iraq is a clear and present danger. No one knows for sure. We know his past, we have an idea of his weapons profile, but we don’t know what he’ll do in the future with them. Will he strike against us here? Will he hand off weapons to terrorists?

We do know if he gets nuclear weapons it will change the balance of power in the Middle East; it will be a fundamentally different Middle East.

YS News: Can you comment on the status of the Homeland Security bill?

Senator DeWine: It’s important that we pass the Homeland Security bill and give the President more flexibility. But we need to keep in mind that fixing intelligence is more important than the Homeland Security bill.

We need better coordination of the CIA and FBI and better information dissemination. As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I believe we need to make a fundamental change in the intelligence community. The director of the CIA needs more power; George Tenet needs wider control of the budget. The FBI needs to update its computers. The CIA needs to recruit more language people, those who speak Farsi and Arabic, etc.

My concern is just to pass the Homeland Security bill. The question isn’t whether to do something or not. We must do something. The question is do we give the President the authority to start a war.

The Senator also quickly commented on the type of response his office had been receiving from the public in recent months.

Senator DeWine: “We’ve been receiving letters and phone calls from an overwhelming majority who are against the war in Iraq. It appears people are largely against going to war with Iraq.


—Lauren Heaton