Thursday, May 14, 2009

Can't anybody remember what that ding-dong Iraq War resolution said?

Congress on October 16, 2002, passed Public Law 107-243, which is titled Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. Yes, it's written in legaleze because it a legal enactment. But it requires two conditions to be met before the President is authorized to go to war with Iraq: that there is no other way to deal with Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" (the WMD we now know to have been non-existent), and that there is a connection between Iraq and Al'Qaida (a link we now know to have been non-existent).

The WMD threat was the thing that the Republicans and the Cheney-Bush White House hyped most, especially the (non-existent) nuclear weapons program. But Cheney especially kept falsely asserting that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qa'ida. And that was connected to the WMD hype by the idea that Saddam would give a nuclear weapon or mega-death anthrax or something to a terrorist group. Then, of course, there were the plywood Drones of Death that Bush claimed Saddam might just fly over to drop deadly diseases on us.

But the basics are that Congress set two conditions for war: the WMDs and the Saddam/Al Qa'ida connection. The prowar agitators and most of the Beltway Village (overlapping groups, of course) mostly hyped the WMD threat.

But today, here's Josh Marshall writing in Bigger than the both of us TPM 05/14/09:

Next you have a flurry of claims that a key motive behind the push to torture was to elicit 'confessions' about an alliance between Saddam Hussein and al Qaida, which was of course the key predicate for the invasion of Iraq.
Now, I guess we might comma-dance over the meaning of "key predicate". But the actual act of Congress authorizing war should be something to which we keep paying attention in that regard because the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war, not the President. And in the actual series of events and claims leading up to the invasion in March, 2003, it was the WMD claims that predominated in the prowar propaganda. Along with the requisite rhetoric about how the current enemy is the new Hitler, Munich analogies, and promises to bring the blessings of democracy and improved women's rights to the people we were about to start killing. But it was the WMD claims that were most prominent.

That lack of focus on the conditions in that Congressional resolution in discussions about the Iraq War is something that's been bugging me for years. Our sad excuse for a press corps could only manage to bring it up in terms of horse-races and partisan gotcha: Look at all those Big Dems who voted to go to war! And most of the Democrats, for some reason that I am still unable to fathom, refused to make the point that they voted for war only if those two conditions were met. Neither of which were met in reality. Democratic fecklessness in such situations is a continuing marvel of nature.

Here's the actual wording of the Congressional war resolution:

(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

(2) acting pursuant to this joint resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorist and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
Since a lot of Republicans assume they can just define legal terms to mean whatever fits the Party line at the moment, I'll cite the still-Republican John Dean from his 2004 book Worse Than Watergate:

To avoid having to return to Congress for more debate on Iraq, Bush had pushed for and received authority to launch a war without further advance notice to Congress. Never before had Congress so trusted a president with this authority. But in granting this unprecedented authorization, Congress insisted that certain conditions be established as existing and that the president submit a formal determination, assuring the Congress that, in fact, these conditions were present. Specifically (and here I am summarizing technical wording; the actual language [is in section 3(b) (1) and (2) of PL 107-243]), Congress wanted a formal determination submitted to it either before using force or within forty-eight hours of having done so, stating that the president had found that (1) further diplomatic means alone would not resolve the "continuing threat" (meaning WMD) and (2) the military action was part of the overall response to terrorism, including dealing wtih those involved in "the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001." In short, Congress insisted that there be evidence of two points that were the centerpirce of Bush's argument for the war. [my emphasis]

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