Congressman Pascrell was the first to respond to my letter asking whether he would vote for a resolution authorizing war in Iraq. The letter, in its entirety, follows:
Dear Mr. Gage:
Thank you for contacting me regarding the potential invasion of Iraq. I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.
Saddam Hussein is a dangerous dictator who has committed untold human rights atrocities against his own people. He is suspected of trying to develop nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and has not been cooperative with the United Nation's weapons inspectors for over a decade. Hussein clearly represents a serious threat to the interests of the United States and to the stability of the entire Middle East.
Undertaking a military campaign to oust Hussein from office will have serious ramifications for our country and around the world. I am pleased that the President, after much prodding, has consulted with Congress, and that he has gone to the United Nations to make his case.
Congress and the White House are currently working together to draft a final resolution that will have the greatest possible support from Members. The first draft of the resolution was simply too broad, granting the President authority to use force anywhere in the Middle East and requiring no Congressional oversight. There is every indication that the Administration will take our concerns to heart, and adjust accordingly.
Please be assured that I recognize the extraordinary gravity of the situation and am deliberating carefully. When the moment comes, I will vote to safeguard the national security interests of all Americans.
Once again, thank you for sharing your views with me. If I can be of assistance to you in the future, do not hesitate to let me know.
He is "deliberating carefully. Fine. He recognizes the gravity of the situation. Good. When the moment comes he will vote to safeguard the national security interests of all Americans. Sorry, that doesn't answer my questions, because it doesn't mean anything. My questions were:
Knowing what you know today, and if a vote were held today on a resolution authorizing the US to wage a war on Iraq, would you vote in favor of or against that resolution?
Would it make a difference to your vote that the resolution did not require the consent of the UN Security Council before the US could initiate a war?
Both questions call for a yes or no answer, and he weaseled. I'm disappointed. Not surprised, just disappointed.
My response, in its entirety:
Thank you for your email of today's date in which you stated that when the moment comes, you will "vote to safeguard the national security interests of all Americans."
I do not understand what you mean by that. My questions were:
1. Knowing what you know today, and if a vote were held today on a resolution authorizing the US to wage a war on Iraq, would you vote in favor of or against that resolution?
2. Would it make a difference to your vote that the resolution did not require the consent of the UN Security Council before the US could initiate a war?
I'm disappointed that, rather than answer those questions with a simple yes or no, you tried to leave room in your answer for both a vote for such a resolution and a vote against it. And, of course, you did not even mention the UN Security Council in your response. To me, your response implies that you believe that a straightforward answer would anger me and cause me to vote for your adversary.
Quite frankly, unless I can get a much better idea of exactly what your position on this important issue is, I won't have much choice but to vote for your opponent.