Congress’s resolution for war in Iraq
was based on White House falsehoods

In October 2002 Congress rubber-stamped a White House resolution authorizing the president to decide whether or not the U.S. should wage war on Iraq. He had long ago decided to do so, but he needed to scare Congress into agreeing.

     False and misleading statements, mainly about weapons and terrorism, permeated House Joint Resolution 114, the “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.” The House of Representatives approved it by 296 votes to 133 on Oct. 10, 2002, and the Senate, by 77 to 23, the next day. President George W. Bush launched his blitzkrieg against Iraq some five months later. Section 3 of the resolution said:

(a) AUTHORIZATION- The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to--
  (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
  (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.

     Had Congress chosen to look into the allegations through extensive public hearings instead of obediently following the command of the White House, it might have uncovered most of the facts.

     The members should have known the spotted record of presidents for veracity. The news media had in the last year disclosed tape recordings showing that Lyndon B. Johnson himself doubted that North Vietnamese boats had attacked U.S. naval ships in the Gulf of Tonkin on Aug. 4, 1964 -- the excuse that he used to extract the infamous resolution from Congress that launched his escalation of the Vietnam war.

     Below we discuss the (A) constitutional, (B) semantic and logical, and (C) factual faults of H.J.Res. 114. See also, near the end: “The attack on Iraq was planned before Bush Jr. even became president.”

A. CONSTITUTIONAL. The resolution purported to delegate to the president a power reserved to Congress by the Constitution in Article I, Section 8. But the authority to determine whether use of armed force is “necessary and appropriate” (quoting the resolution) “is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature... the executive has no right, in any case to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war” (quoting Madison, “Helvidius” 4, 1793). “... Congress alone is constitutionally invested with the power of changing our condition from peace to war...” (Jefferson, to Congress, 1805). The executive’s role is “nothing more than ... first General and Admiral,” whereas deciding whether to go to war is the legislature’s function (Hamilton, The Federalist, 69, 1788).

     Although Rep. J. Dennis Hastert, the speaker, was officially the author of the resolution, supported by 136 cosponsors, it was actually almost identical with a version sent from the White House ( Congress did not investigate the truth of the statements made in the resolution but accepted dictation from the president, contrary to the principle of the separation of powers.

     Moreover, it was not a function of a president to interpret and enforce resolutions of an international organization. The Constitution never assigned to the president the power to police the world. In the first debate of the 2000 election campaign, George W. Bush seemed to recognize the president’s limitation when he said, “I don’t want to be the world’s policeman.”

B. SEMANTIC AND LOGICAL. H.J.Res. 114 condoned the use of armed forces to “defend.” To “defend” implies to protect oneself against attack. It is exactly the opposite of attack or aggress. The constitutional reservation aside, the resolution did not literally provide for starting a war or for attacking a country. What the president ultimately did was not to defend but to send armed forces to another continent to attack, to aggress, to kill and destroy without provocation.

     The final “Whereas” paragraph said it was in the national security interests of the United States “to restore international peace and security to the Persian Gulf region....” International peace and security could have been restored by a cessation of bombings of Iraq and by President Bush’s renouncing of aggressive ambitions against Iraq. Three other “Whereas” paragraphs of H.J.Res. 114 unreasonably cited 1990 and 1991 resolutions in the UN and Congress pertaining to the Kuwait affair to support allegations about the situation in 2002, implying that force was authorized forever.

     The resolution repeatedly invoked the United Nations to bolster a case for war, ignoring the fact that the UN’s basic purpose was just the opposite: “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” as the first clause of the UN Charter says. Article 1 of the Charter seeks to suppress aggression, not encourage it; Article 2, to prohibit force against the independence of any state, not sanction it.

     Section 2 of H.J.Res. 114 said (1) the Congress supported the efforts by the president to strictly enforce all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq “through the United Nations Security Council.” Yet Section 3 contradictorily supported enforcement by the president of all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq by means of U.S. armed forces -- which, of course, would not be “through the United Nations Security Council.” It was not made clear how the armed forces could “enforce” Security Council resolutions on regarding Iraq, particularly inasmuch as no Security Council resolution then current called for war on Iraq. Section 2 also said (2) the Congress supported action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandon “its strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance” and promptly comply with UN resolutions -- an unreal objective (see C below).

C. FACTUAL. Sections 2 (2) and 3(1) were based on false premises. In mid September, Iraq had agreed unconditionally to readmit weapons inspectors. They were doing their jobs. As shown below, Iraq in 2002 used no “strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance”: She had eliminated all weapons of mass destruction from her arsenal after the 1991 war. “The continuing threat posed by Iraq” was imaginary.

     The “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002” began with 23 “Whereas” clauses, mostly false or misleading. (We referred to four above and quote nine more below. Comments follow each quotation.)

Whereas the efforts of international weapons inspectors, United States intelligence agencies, and Iraqi defectors led to the discovery that Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical weapons and a large scale biological weapons program, and that Iraq had an advanced nuclear weapons development program that was much closer to producing a nuclear weapon than intelligence reporting had previously indicated; [3rd paragraph.]

FALSE. John Barry in Newsweek (dated March 3, 2003) disclosed that the defector Hussein Kamel, who had been chief of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction for ten years, “told the CIA, British intelligence officers and U.N. inspectors in 1995 that, after the gulf war, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them.” A transcript, subsequently published by Glen Rangwala, a Cambridge University political lecturer (the man who revealed that the “fine” dossier on Iraqi weapons cited by Secretary of State Powell at the UN drew from magazine articles, including a student’s paper on the 1991 war), quoted General Kamel as telling inspectors, “All weapons--biological, chemical, missile, nuclear--were destroyed.... I made the decision to disclose everything so that Iraq could return to normal.” President Bush Jr. had claimed just the opposite in a speech on Oct. 7, 2002 (in Cincinnati), that Kamel had revealed Iraqi build-ups of irregular weapons.

     In September 2002, a report by the Defense Intelligence Agency of the Department of Defense doubted whether Iraq was producing and stockpiling chemical and biological weapons. It said there was “no reliable information” on whether Iraq had or would have chemical weapons, and the size of its biological stockpile was “uncertain” (Warren P. Strobel, San Jose Mercury News and other Knight Ridder newspapers, June 6, 2003).

     No inspectors had ever made any “discovery” of those weapons. On the contrary, the International Atomic Energy Agency had made thousands of inspections in Iraq, repeatedly reporting, “No indication of prohibited materials, equipment or activities was detected during the inspections.”

     Administration officials from Bush Jr. down repeatedly claimed that Iraq had sought to buy African uranium, basing the claim on forged documents. In a secret briefing to senators on Sept. 24, 2002, CIA Director Tenet presented that false information as news (Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker, March 31, 2003), although U.S. intelligence agencies had all known of its phoneyness since February 2002, when the Vice-President’s office sent an envoy to Niger, Africa, to check out the documents. The envoy, a former ambassador to an African country, told the CIA and State Department that they were fake. The State Department’s intelligence arm came to the same conclusion, which was passed to the top of the department, Greg Thielmann, a former official there, recalled. “It was well known throughout the intelligence community that it was a forgery,” said Melvin Goodman, a former CIA analyst. (Nicholas D. Kristof in The New York Times, May 6 and June 13, 2003.)

     The CIA informed the White House on March 9, 2002, that the information had fizzled -- e.g. the documents contained forged signatures of the president of Niger and a minister who had left office years ago -- according to “a senior CIA official”; but Vice President Dick Cheney and some officials on the National Security Council staff and at the Pentagon argued that the president and others should still include the Africa tale in pressing for war, according to “three senior administration officials” (Jonathan S. Landay, Contra Costa Times and other Knight Ridder newspapers, June 13, 2003)

Whereas Iraq, in direct and flagrant violation of the cease-fire, attempted to thwart the efforts of weapons inspectors to identify and destroy Iraq’s weapons inspectors to identify and destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction stockpiles and development capabilities, which finally resulted in the withdrawal of inspectors from Iraq on October 31, 1998; [4th paragraph.]

FALSE. The withdrawal of inspectors had nothing to do with any Iraqi attempt “to thwart the efforts of weapons inspectors....” The (American) chief of UN inspection, Richard Butler, ordered the inspectors withdrawn in anticipation of a series of U.S. bombings of Iraq starting on Dec. 16, 1998

Whereas Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations. [6th paragraph.]

     FALSE. That first clause was based on no evidence and now seems ludicrous, in view of Iraq’s rapid collapse without the firing of a single irregular weapon in her defense. Iraq had been devastated by two wars, some eleven years of sanctions, and years of unauthorized bombings by the U.S. and U.K.

     In seeking to impute to her a danger to the United States, a nation twelve times as populous, the White House writer had engaged in what psychologists call projection. It was the U.S. that posed a continuing threat to the national security of Iraq and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region, and it was the U.S. that remained in material and unacceptable breach of her international obligation by threatening and using force against the “territorial integrity” and “political independence” of Iraq, in violation of Article 2 of the United Nations Charter. The weapons whopper was answered earlier.

     As for harboring terrorist organizations endangering the U.S.: there never had been -- nor has there been since -- a fragment of credible evidence for that allegation. Three Los Angeles Times reporters told of recent interviews (Nov. 4, 2002) in which leading investigative magistrates, prosecutors, police, and intelligence officials who had been fighting Osama bin Laden’s terror network all denied that it had any tie to Iraq. In fact, they worried that an invasion of Iraq would worsen the threat of radical Islamic terrorism worldwide. (Bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco that followed the invasion of March 19, 2003, tended to bear out that prophecy.) Congress could have found out the truth if it had investigated.

     BBC News further debunked the allegation, reporting, “There are no current links between the Iraqi regime and the al-Qaeda network, according to an official British intelligence report seen by BBC News” (Feb. 5, 2003). The report, a leaked, classified document, said that there had been contact between the two in the past but that mistrust and incompatible ideologies prevented any relationship.

Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction against other nations and its own people. [8th paragraph.]

MISLEADING AND HYPOCRITICAL. The “current” regime was the same one that waged a war with Iran (1980-88) in which gas was used by both sides, contrary to international law. But Iraq endangered no nation after the 1991 war over Kuwait, in which Iraq used no “weapons of mass destruction.”

     The phrase “its own people” is an allusion to the common allegation that Saddam Hussein murdered Kurdish Iraqi citizens with gas in 1988. The Reagan-Bush team, then in office, issued no condemnation. A classified report from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency blamed Iranian gas for the civilian deaths, which occurred in the course of battle, according to Stephen C. Pelletiere in The New York Times (Jan. 31, 2003). At the time of the gas incident, he was the CIA’s senior political analyst on Iraq, and he investigated it. He wrote that both sides fought with gas in a battle at the Iraqi town of Halabja but that the Kurds died from a cyanide-based gas, possessed by Iran and not Iraq.

     A fact that the Bush Jr. White House ignored was that the U.S. had supported Saddam Hussein in his conflict with Iran and gave him chemical and biological materials. Another is that the U.S., having demonstrated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki her “capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction,” had begun planning nuclear attacks on seven nations. Inasmuch as five of them had no nuclear weapons, Bush Jr. was violating the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, under which nuclear nations pledged (1) not to A-bomb non-nuclear nations and (2) to work to eliminate all nuclear weapons.

Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its continuing hostility toward, and willingness to attack, the United States, including by attempting in 1993 to assassinate former President Bush and by firing on many thousands of occasions on United States and Coalition Armed Forces engaged in enforcing the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council; [9th paragraph.]

FALSE AND MISLEADING. That allegation of “continuing hostility toward, and willingness to attack the United States” shows more projection. The U.S. had demonstrated hostility toward and willingness to attack Iraq, by attacking her in 1991, 1993, 1996, and 1998-2002. The 1993 bombing, which killed eight civilians, was ordered by President Clinton supposedly as retribution for Saddam Hussein's attempt to kill George Bush Sr. in Kuwait two months earlier. Although Bush Jr. would talk about "the guy who tried to kill my dad," the tale was probably untrue. Seymour Hersh debunked it in The New Yorker ("A Case Not Closed," Nov. 1, 1993): Kuwaiti police arrested 17 Iraqis and Kuwaitis, claimed to find a bomb in a car from Iraq, and said one Iraqi "confessed" to plotting an assassination. But other prisoners said police had beaten them, no evidence linked Iraqi's leaders to such a plot, and Bush was never at risk; yet Clinton took the opportunity to improve his political standing by acting tough.

     U.S. and “Coalition” forces were not attacked but were continually attacking Iraq with bombs. If foreign bombers invaded the U.S., would U.S. forces not try to defend against them? The attackers were not engaged in enforcing the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council: The so-called no-fly zones that they claimed to be enforcing had never been authorized by the United Nations and served as an excuse for aggression, contrary to U.S. treaty obligations and international law.

Whereas members of Al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq; [10th paragraph.]

FALSE. Known by whom? Not by anyone in any intelligence service who was quoted by any news medium. And how many “members” were there -- two, three, more?

Whereas Iraq’s demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, the risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide them to international terrorists who would do so, and the extreme magnitude of harm that would result to the United States and its citizens from such an attack, combine to justify action by the United States to defend itself; [13th paragraph.]

FALSE AND MISLEADING. The Iraq of 2002 had demonstrated nothing of the sort. The idea of a surprise attack against the United States by a debilitated little country in Asia should have been treated with suspicion. No credible evidence existed that Iraq had any “weapons of mass destruction” whatever, let alone any interest in providing them to “international terrorists.” It was a convoluted effort to justify international aggression (in violation of the United Nations Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact) by calling it “defense.” Imagine how far a defendant in a murder trial would get in pleading self-defense -- “The Smiths would have shot us”-- after he had spent months planning to break into the Smiths’ house and shoot them.

Whereas the United States is determined to prosecute the war on terrorism and Iraq’s ongoing support for international terrorist groups combined with its development of weapons of mass destruction in direct violation of its obligations under the 1991 cease-fire and other United Nations Security Council resolutions make clear that it is in the national security interests of the United States and in furtherance of the war on terrorism that all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions be enforced, including through the use of force if necessary; [19th paragraph.]

FALSE AND MISLEADING. “The war on terrorism” is a popular phrase without legal significance. The congressional resolution of Sept. 14, 2001, purported to authorize the president to fight any nations, organizations, or persons if he determined that they aided the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks or harbored anyone who aided them. No one could rationally determine that Iraq had anything to do with the events of Sept. 11; there was no evidence whatsoever for that finding. (We assume for argument’s sake that a resolution turning over Congress’s war power to the president could be constitutional.) The falsehood about development of weapons of mass destruction was addressed earlier. No current Security Council resolution called for war or could be enforced by war. Bush et al. would often invoke the United Nations to support war, the exact opposite of the UN’s function: seeking peace. Once they found that the UN would not be perverted, they had no more use for it.

Whereas the President has authority under the Constitution to take action in order to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States, as Congress recognized in the joint resolution on Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40); [22nd paragraph.]

FALSE. There is nothing in the Constitution authorizing a president “to take action in order to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States.” Nor can such power be inferred if the action entails use of military force, for the decision to use military force is the exclusive province of Congress. Neither the measure referred to above (adopted on September 14, 2000, as S.J.Res. 23) nor H.J.Res. 114 cited any provision of the Constitution to back up the statement.

     The statement implies that the president would know just what action to take to deter and prevent acts of terrorism. The underlying assumption is that the action would be aggressive war. There are indications that aggressive war, far from preventing terrorism, encourages it.

In September 2002 two exposes appeared that might have derailed the war express, had Congress cared to look into them. A story headed “Bush planned Iraq ‘regime change’ before becoming President” appeared in the Sunday Herald, Glasgow, Scotland (9-15-02) followed by “The president’s real goal in Iraq” by Jay Bookman in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution (9-29-02). Both found a blueprint for Bush’s foreign policy in a 2000 report by the Project for the New American Century titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses.” These are excerpts from the latter:

... This [impending war] is not really about Iraq. It is not about weapons of mass destruction, or terrorism, or Saddam.... This war ... is intended to mark the official emergence of the United States as a full-fledged global empire ... the culmination of a plan 10 years or more in the making, carried out by those who believe the United States must seize the opportunity for global domination, even if it means becoming the ‘American imperialists’ that our enemies always claimed we were....

    Having conquered Iraq, the United States will create permanent military bases in that country from which to dominate the Middle East, including neighboring Iran.... Part of it’s laid out in the National Security Strategy ... released Sept. 20..... The president’s report lays out a newly aggressive military and foreign policy, embracing pre-emptive attack against perceived enemies....

     In essence, it lays out a plan for permanent U.S. military and economic domination of every region on the globe, unfettered by international treaty or concern....

     Back in 2000 they clearly identified Iran, Iraq and North Korea as primary short-term targets, well before President Bush tagged them as the Axis of Evil.

     The Sunday Herald article noted that the 2000 report had placed Syria and Libya among the targets and marked China for ultimate “regime change.” Since the conquest of Iraq, Bush and subordinates have been making veiled threats against Syria, Iran, and North Korea.

     Will Congress be fooled again?

July 4, 2003 • WAR and LAW League (WALL)
P.O. Box 42-7237, San Francisco, CA 94142 • •