THE CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION (Senate - April 25, 1997)

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Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I supported Senate Executive Resolution 75, a substitute for the resolution of ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention [CWC] offered by Senator Helms. I thank my colleagues Senator Helms, Senator Kyl, and Senator Biden for their hard work over the last several days and their leadership in bringing the Chemical Weapons Treaty debate to the floor.

I also wish to thank Senator Dick Lugar for his support as we prepared for this debate. Senator Lugar's detailed analysis of the many complicated issues of the treaty have been invaluable. Without doubt this treaty is better than when we started.

Mr. President, though new to this body, I am fully aware of the seriousness of the task before us and I appreciate the thorough quality of the debate.

I have studied this treaty and its components. I have reviewed a tremendous amount of associated materials provided me from all quarters.

I, like so many of my colleagues, even at this late moment in the debate, still have outstanding concerns with certain provisions of the Chemical Weapons.

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In the event that a state party or states parties to the convention act contrary to the obligations under Article I . . . I would, consistent with Article XVI of the CWC, and in consultation with the Congress, be prepared to withdraw from the treaty.

Mr. President, I am still not sure that the President will act, or at least act decisively, when the situation warrants because our current track record of taking strong action when other nations violate treaties and agreements with us is not good. Let me cite a few examples of what I mean.

The 1972 AMB Treaty. Recently, the President reaffirmed his commitment to the outmoded ABM treaty in Helsinki. This agreement will limit the ability of this Nation to deploy even a limited national missile defense. Is this wise, given the way the Soviets responded to the initial treaty by continuing to work on a new generation of ICBM's and associated warheads? Was not this treaty ironclad? Apparently not. What did we really do in the face of the violations? Nothing.

The Iran-Iraq war. Iraq, according to a conversation I had with former Secretary of Defense under President Carter Jim Schlesinger, Iraq has been and is a signatory to the Geneva Convention which since after World War I has prohibited the use of chemical weapons, yet in the Iran-Iraq war of the eighties, Iraq used poison gas as a way of stemming the human wave attacks of the Iranians. What was the reaction of the United States and of other Western Powers to this blatant violation of the Geneva Convention? `To avert our gaze' might be a way to put it. Stated another way, we stood by and did nothing even though the war was not one of international proportions.

There are other examples as well: Saddam Hussein chose not to employ his chemical weapons against American troops for one reason only. It was because of the reminder that President Bush provided him, rather than our reliance on a treaty.

Oh yes, that reminder was, according to Secretary Baker, that the United States made it very clear that if Iraq used chemical weapons against United States forces, that the American people will demand vengeance, and that we had the means to achieve it. This is an example of where we were finally willing to do what was necessary.

Mr. President that is my point this evening. We are a superpower. We have the means to achieve the ends required by our national interests should it be required. The question then is whether this treaty achieves those ends, or whether this treaty will create a false sense of security; a phantom security that is provided by others whose interests more often than not conflict with our own. I find it difficult to believe that a rogue state with little means at its disposal would be willing to divest itself of such weapons.

Mr. President, in 1987, former Senator Malcolm Wallop explained in his book how arms control can be a delusion. We might stop and consider this point before we vote because former Senator Wallop also reminds us that Arms control presents four dangers: the falsehood that security is to be found in the promises of adversaries rather than in one's own prudence and preparedness; the falsehood that one should fear inanimate things--weapons--rather than the evil men and regimes who would use them for bad purposes; the falsehood that armaments are militarily valuable only as bargaining chips in the arms control process; and finally, the falsehood that U.S. strategic superiority is both useless and destabilizing to the world. Mr. President, I believe strongly in this Nation. I believe strongly that our strength lies where it has always been, both in the hearts of Americans, and in our own industry. I am not ashamed to admit I would rather be self-reliant because that means our confidence will be placed in Americans, not in some inspector from an international bureaucracy.

I, Mr. President, am not ashamed to admit that I am proud of the military superiority our Nation enjoys, paid for by American taxpayers, and manifested in the men and women of our Armed Forces. They deserve the best equipment, training, and protection this Nation can provide. It troubles me that while we sit here ready to hand over the security for chemical defense that rightfully belongs here, we are allowing the Department of Defense to reduce its chemical defense program. Finally, Mr. President, I am not ashamed to admit that when our adversaries consider chemical weapons we need to send a message just as strong as the message that America sent to Saddam Hussein--we will respond, and we will do so in an overwhelming and devastating manner. That is a message all state parties can understand. We shouldn't wobble, nor shy away from the responsibility to our citizens. People are responsible for the proliferation of chemical weapons, not pieces of paper, and to this end we are woefully overconfident if we think a simple piece of paper will stop the proliferation of chemical weapons.

Mr. President, the question is truly one of vigilance. Are we better off taking care of ourselves, using our own resources, empowering our own intelligence services to keep abreast of the threats abroad? I think so.

I cannot agree with the proposition, that I read in the Washington Post recently, `That standards and values violated are better than no standards or values at all.' America has standards and it certainly has values. We are eliminating our chemical weapons and we must not rely unverifiable and unenforced international norms, which according to former Secretary of Defense Jim Schlesinger `will induce a false sense of security in law-abiding societies.'

Mr. President, in closing I want to leave my colleagues with the words of Senator Wallop: `Unverifiable, unenforceable accords do not promote valuable international norms. The difference is that the former threaten to make arms control a sham--an outcome that can translate into incalculable harm to our Nation and its people.' We should not enter into a treaty which we know at the start will not be honored. This demeans the treaty process and only increases the likelihood that we will fail in our duty to protect the security of this Nation. I thank the chair.