Down Memory Lane Part II of II

America did not attack Iraq because “President Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction.”  Hostilities began because Congress, at the President’s request, passed a joint resolution titled “Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq.”  The House passed this resolution October 10, 2002, by 296-to-133; and the Senate, one day later, 77-to-23.

The four-page resolution lists various rationales for hostilities, including Congress’ prior commitment to democratic regime change; Saddam Hussein’s development and use of WMD; and the Ba’athist regime’s record of human rights abuse. 

But the resolution’s foremost reason – the first thing the Congressmen read when they considered it — was none of the above.  The first reason relates to the Operation Desert Storm, and the United Nations Resolutions that terminated it:

[I]n 1990 in response to Iraq’s war of aggression against and illegal occupation of Kuwait, the United States forged a coalition of nations to liberate Kuwait and its people in order to defend the national security of the United States and enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions relating to Iraq…

The resolution continues with a litany of other rationales for force – WMD, human rights abuses, invasions of neighboring countries — culminating in the statement:

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.

In yesterday’s DD, (Down Memory Lane, Part I), we observed that in fall of 1998, Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act, a virtual declaration of war. 

This law did the following:

  • Funded military training for groups seeking to overthrow the Baathist regime;
  • Permitted the transfer of military stores to such groups for that purpose;
  • Officially declared the overthrow of Saddam’s regime, and its replacement with a democratic Iraqi government, the policy of the United States; and
  • Funded the accumulation of evidence against Saddam and his senior officials for a war crimes trial.

It is against this backdrop that law authorizing the “use of force” in 2002 listed the UN Security Council resolutions relating to Operation Desert Storm as its first rationale.
Obviously something happened between the termination of hostilities in that earlier conflict (Feb. 28, 1991) and the signing of the Iraq Liberation Act (Oct. 31, 1998) that inclined a liberal president and a hefty majority in Congress to renew a war-like posture. 

That “something” was not Richard Clark, Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame, Niger yellow cake, mobile chemical kitchens, aluminum tubing, etc.  It was the fact that Saddam Hussein had breached the obligations into which his regime had entered at the end of Desert Storm – obligations which, at the time, were all that stood between him and the fury of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and 500,000 coalition troops.


These breaches were neither occasional, nor minor.  These were recapitulated in fulsome detail in U.S. Public Law 105-235, call the “Iraqi Breach of International Obligations Act,” which passed Congress in August of 1998 (i.e., two months before the regime change resolution.)

P.L. 105-235 names the U.N. resolutions that defined the armistice ending Desert Storm:

[T]he conditions governing the cease fires were specified in United Nations Security Council Resolutions 686 (March 2, 199) and 687 (April 3, 1991).

These resolutions, and their subsequent Security Council iterations, required Iraq:

  • to disclose and destroy its WMD programs;
  • to consent to long-term monitoring of its weapons programs;
  • to respect northern and southern “no fly” zones, where coalition aircraft could fly freely, but where Iraqi military flights were prohibited; and
  • to provide full co-operation to the international bodies monitoring Iraq’s compliance.

PL-235 makes this general statement regarding Iraq’s behavior under U.N. resolutions 686 and 687:

Iraq has consistently fought to hide the full extent of its weapons programs, and has systematically made false declarations to the Security council and to UNSCOM regarding those programs, and has systematically obstructed weapons inspections for seven years.

The law then lists dozens of Iraqi violations, one by one, along with the UN Security Council documents  the define the violations as “material breaches” of the armistice agreement.

Here’s a partial list:

  • June 1991: Iraqi forces fire on International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors;
  • January and February 1992: Iraq blocks the installation of cameras and long-term monitoring equipment;
  • July 5, 1992 – UNSCOM inspectors are blocked from entering Ministry of Agriculture;
  • Winter 1992 – Iraq violates southern no-fly zone; conducts raid on a weapons depot in Kuwaiti territory;
  • June 1993 – Iraq again blocks installation of cameras and monitoring equipment at defense installations;
  • Oct 6, 1994 – Saddam masses 10,000 troops near Kuwaiti border;
  • Apr. 10, 1995 – UNSCOM reports that Iraq has concealed its biological weapons program, failing to account for 17 tons of bio-weapons materials;
  • Aug. 1996 – 30,000 Iraqi troops overrun Irbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan;
  • Dec. 1996 – Iraq prevents UNSCOM from inspecting 1309 Scud missiles;
  • Sept. 13, 1997 – a UNSCOM official is attacked while photographing weapons activities;
  • Nov. 13, 1997 – Iraq expels American UNSCOM inspectors, causing the UN to pull its teams in protest;
  • Jan. 16, 1998 – American-led UNSCOM inspection team withdrawn after Iraqis block inspections three consecutive days;
  • June 24, 1998 – UNSCOM reports that Iraq weaponized the nerve agent VX, in flat contradiction to its statements to international monitors.

PL 105-235 concludes:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America In Congress assembled, That the Government of Iraq is in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations, and therefore the President is urged to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations.

In effect, Congress judged in 1998 that Iraq had broken the armistice.  This was not a controversial conclusion.  It passed the House 407-to-6, and the Senate by “unanimous consent.”

It was this breach of international law that led Congress and President Clinton, two months later, to change U.S. policy toward Saddam Hussein’s Iraq from an internationally monitored armistice to unilateral regime change.  And nearly $100 million of military expenditures were authorized to effect the new policy.

It is a myth of the Left that Operation Iraqi Freedom resulted from the minutiae of intelligence collected and/or analyzed during the presidency of George W. Bush.  Rather, the decision to go to war was based on the findings and actions of Congresses and Presidents dating from 1990.

Nowhere is this more clearly enunciated than in the 2002 “Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq.”  It states:

[I]n December 1991, Congress expressed its sense that it “supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 as being consistent with the Authorization of Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1).”

In plain English:  In 2002. Congress reaffirmed that it had ALREADY approved the Presidential use of force necessary to enforce the terms of the armistice.  That Congress (including Hilary Clinton, John Edward, and John Kerry) not only green-lighted Operation Iraqi Freedom:  it announced that it didn’t need to, having already done so in December of 1991.

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