Madam Speaker, it is written that governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, and that when any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government.
Madam Speaker, this eternal statement from the Declaration of Independence clearly states the United States' right to self-determination. We used this natural right to break away from Great Britain.
Last week Kosovo unilaterally declared itself an independent and sovereign state, and the announcement has ushered violence in the region and opposition from the country it broke from, Serbia. Following Kosovo's declaration of independence, the United States was one of the first world powers to grant official recognition to the self-declared independent Kosovo. Since then, several other countries have followed. Of course, not everyone agrees that Kosovo may unilaterally declare its independence from Serbia. Certainly Serbia objects.
At the same time, Russia, China and Spain have shared their strong opposition to the declaration. Each of these countries is struggling with its own separatist communities. They are afraid that Kosovo's unilateral declaration will encourage secessionist groups in their own country to rebel and declare themselves independent and sovereign states.
When we start meddling in the internal affairs of international nations like Serbia, consequences are sure to follow. Let me be clear, I am not talking about a people rising up and overthrowing a civil government, but a people separating themselves from a civil government and forming a new nation.
The question is, do all peoples have this right of separation, and does the United States support that? What position will the United States take as other peoples may decide self-determination, separation and independence? By recognizing Kosovo, the United States is setting a precedent, and it needs to take that position very seriously, because there are consequences.
Is the United States willing to offer recognition to the Basque and Catalan people of Spain if they declare independence or to Chechnya if they break away from Russia? Or how about Tibet if they decide to leave China? Separatist communities across the world are interpreting the actions of the United States in Kosovo to suggest that America supports movements of self-determination.
A columnist for an African newspaper recently wrote a newspaper article titled ``Kosovo--the precedent that will enflame Africa.'' This journalist predicts that the Kosovo recognition will ignite a revival of secessionist groups across the African continent. Will the United States be prepared to deal with that if it happens? And what will we do? Will we send troops? Will we send aid to these movements?
We've even got folks from the State of Montana here in the United States saying they are going to secede from the Union if the Supreme Court rules a certain way on gun ownership. Is self-determination allowed in Montana?
Looking at our country's history, it is pretty clear that the right of self-determination of a people is expensive,and it has costs. If it weren't for the courage and self-determination of our country's founders, we would still be a colony of Great Britain.
But the United States has been inconsistent on the right of self-determination. For example, in the 1860s, the United States rejected this self-determination here at home. More than 650,000 Americans were killed during the War Between the States when the South claimed the right of self-determination and the North went to war to prevent it and to prevent southern independence.
Independence is a serious and volatile matter. Thomas Jefferson said, ``What country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time that the people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take up arms.'' These are strong words from the author of the Declaration of Independence.
Is this statement U.S. policy? It may very well be the case that the United States' position in Kosovo will encourage more turmoil throughout the world. What will the United States do then? Is the United States going to choose to either fully support or fully oppose the right to self-determination for other peoples? Or is the United States going to continue down its path of inconsistent foreign policy on self-determination?
People with aspirations of independence all over the world are watching the United States and trying to interpret what our foreign policy is. They need to know what our position is on independence, and the American public needs to know where we stand on independence for other peoples.
And that's just the way it is.