Down memory lane Part I of II

Having viewed the thousandth MSM “special” on the intelligence briefings prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom (“Rumors” – CNN Presents), DD has elected to stroll down memory lane.

The American Left recaps the minutiae of intelligence under the Bush administration ad nauseum.  Did Saddam seek yellow cake from Niger? Could Saddam’s mobile labs cook noxious chemicals?  Were the aluminum tubes on-spec to separate nuclear fuel?

But in truth, the track to a second Iraq war was liberally greased in 1998 by the Clinton administration. And the “fault” lay with neither William Jefferson Clinton, nor his successor George W. Bush, but with Saddam Hussein, who broke the agreements that stayed our hand in 1991, when the road to Baghdad lay open before 500,000 Coalition troops.

“This bill,” thundered Sen. John Kerry on the Senate Floor, Oct. 7, 1998, “is a clear commitment to a U.S. policy replacing the Saddam Hussein regime with a transition to democracy.  This bill is a statement that America refuses to coexist with a regime which has used chemical weapons on its own citizens and on neighboring countries, which has invaded its neighbors twice without provocation… which has fired ballistic missiles into the cities of three of its neighbors; which is attempting to develop nuclear and biological weapons, and which has brutalized and tyrannized its own citizens for thirty years.”


The bill in question, PL 105-338, was titled the “Iraq Liberation Act of 1998.”  And it was a peculiar piece of legislation for an administration adverse to military solutions.  It stated:

It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.

This used to be called the “Reagan Doctrine,” after President Ronald Reagan, who declared anti-totalitarianism no more a policy preference (as enunciated by John Quincy Adams), but a centerpiece of U.S. security.  


The Reagan administration notoriously funded anti-communist insurgencies around the globe, preserving a modicum of deniability by hiding the expenditures within the budget lines (Afghanistan), or farming them off-budget altogether (as in Iran-Contra).

The Iraq Liberation Act out-Reaganed Reagan.  To begin with, PL 105-338 included a $97 million authorization for military assistance to “democratic opposition organizations.”  Permitted expenditures included a “draw-down of military stores” – i.e., weaponry. The act also authorized U.S. military personnel to train regime opponents of Saddam.

PL 105-338 allocated additional funds to accumulate case evidence “for the purpose of indicting, prosecuting, and imprisoning Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi officials who are responsible for crimes against humanity, genocide, and other criminal violations of international law.”

But most scandalously, these expenditures were completely on-budget.  Now, in the world of diplomacy, it is gauche to subvert a recognized state by military means – but it is unheard of to pre-announce it.  The Iraq Liberation Act was the Reagan Doctrine stripped of even a fig-leaf of deniability.

And strange to say, it was uncontroversial.  The law passed the House of Representatives by 360-to-38.  Democrats approved it 157-to-27, Republicans 202-to-9.  The Senate was more lopsided:  PL 105-338 was passed by UNANIMOUS CONSENT. 

Congress thus passed a bill endorsing expenditures for military action to cause “regime change” in Iraq.  This was not a Declaration of War under the Constitution.  It lacked Presidential presentation, and  Senatorial ratification. 

But less formally, what was it if NOT a declaration of war?  Hostilities toward a specific regime were explicitly announced, military stores appropriated, and mercenaries hired.

A Democratic administration took this step without knowledge of aluminum tubes, yellow cake in Niger, or mobile chemical kitchens.  It did so without the post-millenial council of Richard Clark, Joe Wilson or Valerie Plame. 

Which raises the question:  What did Congress know in 1998 that warranted such extremism?  And when did they know it?
(…to be continued…)

One Response to “Down memory lane Part I of II”

  1. Daily Dispatch » Blog Archive » Down Memory Lane Part II of II Says:

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