The U.S. Congress has a history of tough talk on Iraq but…
In 1991, the United States Senate voted (53-47) to allow the president to use military force to eject Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Upon completion of that goal, the United Nations voted (UN Resolution 687) that as a condition of cessation of hostilities, Iraq must unconditionally:
- declare fully its weapons of mass destruction programs.
- accept the destruction, removal or rendering harmless “under international supervision” of all “chemical and biological weapons and all stocks of agents”.
- agree not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons or nuclear-weapons-usable material” or any research, development or manufacturing facilities.
- accept the destruction, removal or rendering harmless “under international supervision” of all “ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 KM and related major parts and repair and production facilities.”
- agree to not “use, develop, construct or acquire” any weapons of mass destruction.
- not commit or support terrorism, or allow terrorist organizations to operate in Iraq.
The history of Iraqi cooperation has been frustrating to the United Nations ever since. After Iraq ejected the UN inspectors, claiming they were spying, the Untied States Congress became concerned and passed two important pieces of legislation. The first, Public Law 105-238, (Finding the Government of Iraq in unacceptable and material breach of its international obligations) was passed and then signed by President Clinton on August 14, 1998. It declares:
that the Government of Iraq is in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations. Urges the President to take appropriate action under U.S. law to bring Iraq into compliance with such obligations.
Further, seeing Saddam Hussein as an ongoing threat, the Senate passed the “Iraq Liberation Act of 1998,” encouraging President Clinton to adopt a policy of “regime change” in Iraq.
Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 – Declares that it should be the policy of the United States to seek to remove the Saddam Hussein regime from power in Iraq and to replace it with a democratic government.
After the attacks of Sept 11, Congress went further. Just one week after the event, Congress authorized President Bush to use, “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001“. This became public law 107-40.
One year later, President Bush, sensing the possibility of the need for use of force, asked Congress to use the US military if needed. As a result Congress passed and the President signed public law 107-243. This became law on October 16, 2002 and says in part:
Authorizes the President to use the U.S. armed forces to: (1) defend U.S. national security against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.
And finally, The United Nations Security Council followed suit soon thereafter by unanimously approving “UN Resolution 1441”, by a vote of 15-0. Although resolution 1441 did not specifically sanction the use of military force, it did find that Iraq was and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687 (1991).
Today, the tone has changed dramatically. Despite previous legislation, Congressional Democrats, as well as some Republicans, have voiced concern over military action against Iraq. Last September, three Democrats traveled to Iraq to help prevent war between the United States and Iraq. Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., David Bonior, D-Mich., and James McDermott, D-Wash., described their mission as mainly humanitarian. In a letter to Bush Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Sen. Richard G. Lugar ( R-Ind.) wrote: “There is not consensus on many critical questions” about the use of force in Iraq.
Here are some more quotes about the evils of pursuing military action:
- Al Gore – “After Sept. 11, we had enormous sympathy, good will and support around the world,” Gore said in San Francisco. “We’ve squandered that, and in one year we’ve replaced that with fear, anxiety and uncertainty, not at what the terrorists are going to do but at what we are going to do.”
- Ted Kennedy – “I have come here today to express my view that America should not go to war against Iraq unless and until other reasonable alternatives are exhausted.” “I continue to be convinced that this is the wrong war at the wrong time. The threat from Iraq is not imminent, and it will distract America from the two more immediate threats to our security; the clear and present danger of terrorism and the crisis with North Korea.”
- John Kerry – Regrettably the current Administration failed to take the opportunity to bring this issue to the United Nations two years ago or immediately after September 11th, when we had such unity of spirit with our allies. Indeed, for a time, the Administration’s unilateralism, in effect, elevated Saddam in the eyes of his neighbors to a level he never would have achieved on his own, undermining America’s standing with most of the coalition partners which had joined us in repelling the invasion of Kuwait a decade ago.
- Nancy Pelosi – “I know of no information that the threat is so imminent from Iraq that Congress cannot wait until January to vote on a resolution. “I did not hear anything today that was different about [Hussein’s] capabilities, save a few ’embellishments’.”
Before 2000, we had a Congress that voted like hawks but a president who acted like a dove. After 2000, we have a Congress that debates like a flock of doves while the president acts like the hawk. What changed? The make-up of the Congress hasn’t changed dramatically. It is the Presidency that has changed hands. And with it, Congress’ will has completely reversed. It is almost as if Congress knew President Clinton wouldn’t use the military and therefore were free to be as bellicose as wanted. What a difference a presidential election can make!
THE PUBLIC VIEW