Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the resolution, and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
First, I want to compliment Mr. Kucinich for offering this resolution. We disagree on the President’s policy. My colleague wants to withdraw forces, while I support the ongoing operations in Libya. But Mr. Kucinich is taking seriously this body’s fundamental responsibility to legislate on the use of force.
The President commenced combat operations in Libya to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, a massacre, at the hands of Qaddafi’s forces. There was bipartisan support for this effort, and the President prevented massive loss of life through the decisive use of force.
We don’t have to speculate about that; Qaddafi told the entire world about his plans for Benghazi, to go door-to-door and closet-to-closet to find and eliminate his opponents.
I continue to believe the mission in Libya is relevant and necessary – as does my Chairman and the Speaker -- and is achieving success. Qaddafi’s forces have been driven out of eastern Libya and out of Misrata in the west. High-level defections are on the increase. Demonstrations are once again breaking out in Tripoli, suggesting a weakening of government control. Progress is slower than we’d like, but it is steady.
Efforts to force a withdrawal of forces would reverse this progress and jeopardize the lives of hundreds of thousands of Libyans now benefitting from the NATO operation. And this resolution demands not merely withdrawal; it demands withdrawal within fifteen days!
Think about what a removal in 15 would mean. We would be giving Qaddafi a free hand to maintain control in Libya and continue his campaign against civilians. We would be thumbing our nose at our NATO partners, whose support on the ground has been and continues to be so crucial in Afghanistan.
We would likely threaten the stability of the very Arab nations where democracy has its best hope of success: Egypt and Tunisia, each of which flank Libya and are inevitably affected by its internal developments. And we would send a message to Asad of Syria and dictators everywhere that our support for freedom and humane governance is at best lukewarm and transitory: “Hang in there a few weeks, Mr. Dictator, and we’ll go away.”
And as the families of the victims of Pan Am 103 know better than any of us, a Qaddafi who is unleashed to commit acts of terrorism around the world, will do so with unspeakable barbarity. He might even reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction.
We need to give the President more time to pursue this mission. To do otherwise would be to alienate our allies, damage our regional interests, and, once again, invite a horrible massacre of Libyan civilians.
I urge my colleagues to join me in opposing this resolution.