Go to Home Page
 

Key Issues Ethics Issues Congressional Record, Statement by Senatory Mark Hatfield

Congressional Record
Statement by Senator Mark O. Hatfield

Vol. 135 WASHINGTON, WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 2, 1989 No. 107

Congressional Record

Printer Friendly


"Peace through strength is a fallacy..."
Senator Mark O. Hafield (Republican-Oregon)

Mr. HATFIELD addressed the Chair.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon.

Mr. HATFIELD. Mr. President, 23 years have passed since I first arrived in the Senate, a former Govenor who came to Washington determined to extricate American boys from the chaos and confusion into which this country- wrongly in my view- had sent them in Southeast Asia. Those were difficult times for the Nation- and difficult times for me personally.

In the early years, I found myself in a very small minority. We would give our speeches and cast our votes-and every day, more young people were coming home in body bags and wheel chairs.

A couple years later, when the administration began to have problems getting the money it wanted from Congress to prosecute the war, people began to talk about a peace dividend. If we can just win this thing, they would say, there will be a peace dividend for the Nation- money to spend here at home, money which will help wind down the giant war economy. Victory is right around the corner. Light is at the end of the tunnel.

In 1970-before some of the interns now working in my office were even born- I rose on this floor to question this peace dividend idea, to express my doubts about this notion that we would one day begin to rechannel our resources-not away from a strong national defense, but toward a more comprehensive, more human, definition of it. Few people listened-then. People wanted to believe that our massive war spending would one day end. And so- at least for a couple more years- the money kept flowing into the military.

Mr. President, from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War to the Spanish- American War through World War II, through Korea, through Vietnam, and through the cold wars in between: At no time did the spending for military purposes reduce or diminish after those wars. They reached a peak during a war, and then remained at that peak following the war. No build down- only a build up. And no peace dividend, Mr. President. None at all.

And as we entered this decade, the clarion call went out: despite one of the largest and best trained militaries in the world, despite a nuclear arsenal of unprecedented destructive power, we were- somehow- vulnerable. A spending gap is what they called it- and so we began a massive buildup; billions and billions of dollars to catch up. Nevermind that this spending gap was as phoney as the bomber gap of the 1950s and the missile gap of the 1960s- Democrats and Republicans alike dutifully lined up and marched to the drummer of higher military spending.

And so it is that we have gathered here every year since only to play on the margins. Oh, we sound reasonable- and we like to think that we sound responsible. We go to hearings and briefings, we have long debates over this program and that program, this weapon and that weapon, and we cast our votes on amendment after amendment.

But when it comes right down to it, Mr. President, we are only playing on the margins. This Congress- a bipartisan majority of this Congress- has approved $2.2 trilion of the $2.3 trillion requested for defense spending during this decade alone.

We have played on the margins so long, Mr. President, that I am afraid we do not even know what the real issues are anymore. We seem to have lost sight of the fact that many of the programs we have authorized- and are authorizing again here today- are intended for one purpose only; mass destruction.

We seem to have lost sight of the fact that every dollar we spend on bombs and bullets means that we are underfunding programs to meet the Nation's desperate human needs: health care, education, our war on drugs, low income housing, prison construction, AIDS research- all of these things are part of our national defense.

Sometimes, Mr. President, we even lose sight of the margins. Several days ago, the Senate considered an amendment earmarking money for the development of more lethal weapons for our ground troops. More lethal? Even the words have begun to loose their meaning- what is more lethal supposed to mean when some of our troops already carry tactical nuclear weapons on their backs? But nobody else even raised an eyebrow: the vote was 98-1.

I remember, back in 1981, when 10 subcommittees of the Senate Appropriations Committee were forced to make $9.9 billion in cuts from domestic spending- so that defense spending could be increased by $7.4 billion. We can no longer afford to fool ourselves, I said in the full committee markup- but oh, how wrong I was. The Nations's defense budget has almost tripled in the past decade with our bipartisan blessing- and spending to meet the desperate human needs throughout this country has been cut and cut and cut again to pay for it- some 33 percent reduction in the nondefense discretionary programs in the last decade.

Could somebody tell me if there is some secret strategy- some finite figure that we will one day reach and then suddenly be secure? Will we ever have enough?

I do not think so. We are, Mr. President, like the thirsty man in the desert who thinks he sees an oasis ahead- but when he moves closer, it moves too. Further and further- or for us higher and higher. And as his thirst finally kills him, our lust for bigger and better weapons of mass destruction is going to destroy us one day too.

Peace through strength is a fallacy, Mr. President, for peace is not simply the absence of a nuclear holocaust. Peace is not a nation which has seen its teenage suicide rate more than double in the past two decades. Peace is not a nation in which more people die every 2 years of gunshot wounds than died in the entire Vietnam War. Peace is not the town in Pennsylvania which last year was forced to cancel its high school graduation because officials believed that a group of students planned to commit suicide at the ceremony. And peace is not here in Washington- where after leading the nation in murders last year, children are beginning to show the same psychological trauma as children in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Can we really believe that the decisions we have made- and are making- do not have a direct relationship to the violence which plagues our Nation?

I suggest that we consider changing the motto in our coins, Mr. President, It now reads: In God We Trust- but by blindly pursuing the nuclear arms race, by putting the destruction of life over the preservation of life, we have forsaken our trust in God- as E.B. White once put it, we have stolen God's stuff. Our motto ought to be: In Bombs We Trust. That is our national ethic- that is the example we are setting- here, on this floor.

When it comes to debating campaign finance reform and limits on honorarium, everybody seems eager to talk about ethics in government.

But is there no ethical dimension to the arms race- to our abuse of our natural and human resources, to our waste of scientific genius, to the bankrupting of the Federal Treasury to pay for weapons of mass destruction?

Is there no ethical dimension to our decision, our conscious decision, to add more and more weapons to our stockpiles, while millions of people in our own country have no roof over their heads, when we cannot fund our war on drugs? Is there no ethical dimension to the violent examples we are setting for our children? Is there no ethical dimensions to the definition of national security that we are passing on to the developing nations of the world, where arsenals are now as bloated as the bellies of the Third World's children?

There are those who will point to the INF Treaty, the first arms control agreement between the United States and Soviet Union in 16 years, as if somehow it legitamizes everything. Never mind that these are the same people who spent almost a decade doing everything they could to sabotage arms control negotiations- never believing the Russians would agree to onsite inspection. Their message now to the millions of children of this country who do not get enough to eat, to the millions of children who have not been fully immunized, to the thousands of babies who die each year because their mothers receive no prenatal care, to the 37 million Americans who have no health insurance, their message is: See, it was worth it. These are the same people, Mr. President, who accept the twisted logic which says we must produce nerve gas to negotiate a treaty; which says we must continue nuclear testing to ensure safety. A safe nuclear weapon ? Mr. President, I wish George Orwell could sit in on these debates.

The INF Treaty? Big deal. In the 6 months between the time the INF Treaty was signed here in Washington and the time it was ratified on the floor, the United States and the Soviet Union deployed more nuclear warheads than will be eliminated under the treaty. That is right. We spent and spent and spent, so that the administration could negotiate from strength. For all our money, all our weapons, the only thing we received in return was a tiny little dent in the stockpile we had just created.

And then, in an incredible display of how distorted our frame of reference has become, how low our expectations have sunk, everyone cheered as if it were the end of the nuclear arms race.

To those who may suggest that I am naive, I respond: I have been there. As a young naval officer, I walked through the rubble of Hiroshima- a month after the bomb was dropped. I saw the death- the slow, agonizing pain- and the charred bodies. As we stand here playing on the margins, Mr. President, as we stand here voting 98 to 1 for the development of more lethal weapons, the stench of death haunts me still.

Forty-five years ago, we could legitamately say that we did not know. Now we do. Let me read just a few lines of John Hershey's "Hiroshima."

"He found about 20 men and women on the sandspit. He drove the boat onto the bank and urged them to get aboard. They did not move and he realized that they were too weak to lift themselves. He reached down and took a woman by the hands, but her skin slipped off in huge glovelike pieces.

Then he got into the water and, though a small man, lifted several of the men and women into his boat. Their backs and breasts were clammy, and he remembered uneasily that the great burns he had seen during the day had been like: yellow at first, then red and swollen, with the skin sloughed off, and finally, in the evening, suppurated and smelly.

With the tide risen, his bamboo pole was now too short and he had to paddle most of the way across it. On the other side, at a higher spit, he lifted the slimy living bodies out and carried then up the slope away from the tide. He had to keep consciously repeating to himself: "These are human beings. These are human beings."

" SDI. Asat weapons, the Midgetman, the MX missile, the Stealth bomber, nerve gas, the D-5 missile, the Trident submarine: I will cast my vote against them all. Since 1980, Mr. President, I have given more than 30 speeches during our annual consideration of this bill: 7 against nerve gas production, 5 against underground testing, 3 against ASAT weapons, 3 against the MX misile, 3 against the draft, 2 against SDI- the list goes on and on. But I have felt over the years like I am speaking in a vacuum- we have approved them all. And I speak in a vacuum today- my colleagues will listen politely and then vote for it all.

I will feel that way too- as I have for many years now- when I cast my vote against the final passage of this bill. For I too an playing on the margins.

In the absense of political will- on this floor and across the country- in the absense of the kind of political will we seem to be able to muster when the Department of Defense needs another increase but not when children go hungry, anything more is impossible.

Mr. President, unfortunately we only have had one President of the United States, who in my view, understood national security, national defense. He was a five-star general: Dwight David Eisenhower.

Mr. President, these are his words:
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. * * * This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

This was the man who led the troops. This was the man who led the Allied troops in World War II - he understood war, but he also understood peace.

We are kidding ourselves, Mr. President. Today we are vulnerable. The national defense of this Nation, has left us vulnerable, but not because we lack an arsenal. The vulnerability of this Nation today is that we rank at the bottom of the list in math and science, and that at least 20 million Americans cannot read or write. The vulnerability of our Nation is the deterioration and erosion of our infrastructure, our highways, bridges, airports, our ports. Our vulnerability today is a nonproductive economy, a non-competitive economy. Our vulnerability is the people who are without homes, nutrition, education, health care.

Ultimately the security of the Nation is not found in its materialism. It is found in a spirit. It is found in a strength of heart and mind. It is found in its people- we the people.

We the people are vulnerable today. Let us at least be honest: we are not addressing those vulnerabilities with this bill or any other bill.

Copies available from:
Promoting Enduring Peace
P.O. Box 5103
Woodmont, Connecticut 06460
telephone: (203) 878-1769