They won’t admit it, but four years ago practically
everyone in Congress knew that President Bush intended to invade Iraq irrespective
of what Saddam had done, was doing, or intended to do.
Senator Robert Byrd (D, WV) was one of the few who tried to stop Bush In the
Senate on February 12, 2003, Byrd had this
to say :
"This nation is about to embark upon the first test of a revolutionary doctrine
applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate time.
"The doctrine of preemption – the idea that the United States or any other
nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but
may be threatening in the future – is a radical new twist on the traditional
idea of self-defense.
"It appears to be in contravention of international law and the UN Charter.
"And it is being tested at a time of worldwide terrorism, making many countries
around the globe wonder if they will soon be on our – or some other nation's
– hit list."
On September 14, 2001, Bush had issued a "Declaration
of National Emergency by Reason of Certain Terrorist Attacks," on the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon, and "the continuing and immediate threat of further
attacks on the United States."
The day before Bush had presented draft legislation to Congress that would
have given him
"[T]he authority to use all necessary and appropriate force a) against
those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized,
committed or aided the attacks against the United States that occurred on September
11, 2001; and b) to deter and prevent any future acts of terrorism against the
But Congress refused to give Bush the blanket authority he sought to use force
"to deter and prevent" future acts of terrorism. The use
of force had to be 9/11 related.
Nevertheless, in his 2002
State of the Union Address, Bush charged that Iraq, Iran and North Korea
"[C]onstitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.
By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing
danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to
match their hatred.
"I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril
draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's
most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."
Now, the only true "weapons of mass destruction" are uncontrolled chain-reaction
nuclear-fission devices (aka nukes) like the ones we dropped on Hiroshima and
But, at the time Bush leveled his charge, Iraq, Iran and North Korea were non-nuclear-weapon
state (NNWS) signatories to the Treaty
on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Hence, all their NPT-proscribed
nuclear materials and activities had long been subject to a Safeguards Agreement
with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA had accepted the responsibility
for assuring all other NPT signatories that no NNWS had diverted safeguarded
materials to a military purpose.
In particular, as
Bush spoke, an IAEA team was just completing its annual Safeguards verification
that none of Iraq’s remaining NPT-proscribed materials – low-enriched, natural
and depleted uranium-oxides (yellowcake) – had been diverted to a military purpose.
(All other NPT-proscribed materials had long ago been removed from Iraq and
all facilities capable of modifying the physical or chemical states of NPT-proscribed
materials had been destroyed, under IAEA supervision, pursuant to UN Security
Council Gulf War resolutions.)
So, with respect to Iraq, what was Bush talking about?
Well, in late 2001, the Italian Military Intelligence and Security Service
had informed the CIA that the Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican had reportedly
attempted on a visit to Niger to arrange the purchase of "yellowcake."
Vice President Cheney had immediately asked the CIA to substantiate the report.
So, in February 2002, the CIA sent former Ambassador Joseph
Wilson to Niger to look into it. Wilson's oral report to CIA officials upon
his return resulted in the CIA characterization of the Italian report as being
"of questionable credibility."
That was also the conclusion of the State Department's independent assessment
of March 1, 2002, entitled "Niger:
Sale of Uranium to Iraq is Unlikely [.pdf]."
Nevertheless, that intelligence "of questionable credibility" found its way
into the 2002
National Intelligence Estimate of Iraq's WMD programs, hurriedly constructed
during the summer of 2002 to provide a fig leaf for those Congresspersons inclined
Bush's intended invasion of Iraq.
Bush even included that and other intelligence "of questionable credibility"
in his 2003
State of the Union message.
Now, four years ago, practically everyone in Congress knew that President Bush
intended to invade Iraq irrespective of what Saddam had done, was doing,
or intended to do.
Senator Robert Byrd was one of the few who tried to stop Bush.
Well, it’s four years later, and practically everyone in the rest of the world
– if not Congress – knows what country is next on Bush’s hit list.
And while most Congresspersons busy themselves debating Bush’s intended escalation
of the war in Iraq, Senator Byrd has once again risen
to the occasion [.pdf].
"In the State of the Union Address last night, the President called out
Iran no less than seven times.
"Was this speech the first step in an effort to blame all that has gone
wrong in the Middle East on Iran? Was the focus on Iran during the President’s
address an attempt to link Iran to the war on terrorism, and by extension, start
building a case that our response to the 9/11 attacks must include dealing with
"I fear that the machinery may have already been set in motion which may
ultimately lead to a military attack inside Iran, or perhaps Syria, despite
the opposition of the American people, many in Congress, and even some within
"Today I am introducing a resolution that clearly states that it is Congress,
not the President, that is vested with the ultimate decision on whether to take
this country to war against another country. This resolution is a rejection
of the bankrupt, dangerous, and unconstitutional doctrine of preemption, which
proposes that the President may strike another country before it threatens us.
"If there exists a reckless determination for a new war in the Middle East,
I fear that the attorneys of the Executive Branch are already seeking ways to
tie this war to the use of force resolution for Iraq, or the resolution passed
in response to 9/11.
"But the American people need only be reminded about the untruths of Iraq’s
supposed ties to the 9/11 attacks so see how far the truth can be stretched
in order to achieve the desired outcome.
"If the Executive Branch were to try to prod, stretch, or rewrite the 9/11
or the Iraq use of force resolutions in an outrageous attempt to apply them
to an attack on Iran, Syria, or anywhere else, this resolution is clear: the
Constitution says that Congress, not the President, must make the decision for
war or peace.
"The power to declare war resides in Congress, and it is we – the elected
representatives of the people – who are the "deciders."