The 2002 resolution for which Hillary Clinton and a majority of her congressional colleagues voted gave the president the authority to go to war in Iraq.
It was not, as it has often disingenuously been misrepresented, a congressional declaration of war or a directive to the president to launch an invasion. But, seriously now folks, who are we kidding here?
Hillary Clinton should have known better; the majority of her congressional colleagues who voted along with her to support the resolution should have known better.
As a matter of fact, they all did know better. Yet, they did it anyway.
Although acknowledging that the vote for the resolution could "lead to war," Hillary Clinton insisted that vote for the resolution was not a vote "for" the war, and said that she expected the White House to push for "complete, unlimited inspections" and that she did not view her support for the measure as "a vote for any new doctrine of pre-emption or for unilateralism."
Right! And she also still believed, are we to suppose, that it is the Tooth Fairy who leaves money under children's pillows in exchange of their baby teeth.
Hillary knew better (link), yet, out of domestic political calculation perhaps (what she thought was better politically for herself - not for the country), she still did the wrong thing! At least the members of the GOP who voted for the resolution voted in favor of something they sincerely believed in (some of them did). That's the problem with politicians: Hillary, no doubt, like many of her colleagues, was afraid of how a vote against the resolution would be exploited by her political opponents. Also, she thought maybe that she could have it both ways. Be for it and against it. Or, like, senator Kerry lamely put it during his 2004 presidential campaign (on a different unrelated matter) "vote for it before voting against it."
Voting for that resolution, under the political climate of the time, could only mean one thing and one thing only. Many, many good people in America knew what it meant at the time and what it would lead to. The congressmen and women who voted for it KNEW what they were really voting for. How could they not? And what if they didn’t; is that really the kind of clueless men and women we want representing us in congress?
Where was the hurry? Where was the need for that resolution? There was certainly no clear and imminent danger justifying the need for such a resolution. The response of the Democrats should have been clear-cut. Missouri Representative Willard Van Diver's simple common sense in his self-deprecating 1899 speech comes to mind: "I come from a country that raises corn and cotton, cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I'm from Missouri, and you have got to show me." Just two simple words: SHOW ME! Allow for the continuation of "complete, unlimited inspections." Show me "probable cause." What happened instead is that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was forced to order all U.N. inspectors to evacuate Iraq, after George W. Bush, using his new powers given to him by congress, eventually issued a final ultimatum for Saddam Hussein to step down or face war. (Clearly not what the resolution was supposed to be about.)
Not only was it a mistake for this country and for the world, but it was also a political mistake for those who voted for it -- a mistake for which they have paid direly. (Remember Kerry's disastrous campaign, as his political opponents gleefully pointed out, again and again, at how he and his fellow Democrats "had the same information" they had and how they had voted just as they did "in support of the war.")
While in the Senate, all Republicans (except Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island) voted for the passage of the resolution. The vote was sharply divided among Democrats, with 29 voting for the measure and 21 against.
(In the House, six Republicans, among which, Ron Paul of Texas, joined 126 Democrats in voting against the resolution.)
This is a link to Ron Paul speech on the floor of the house on 8 October 2002: link
And here is Representative Dennis Kucinich statement before the House on October 3, 2002: link
Famously, among those who were against the resolution was Senator Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, who attempted to mount a filibuster but was cut off on a 75 to 25 vote.
Senator Byrd argued that the resolution - AS EVERYBODY KNEW - amounted to a "blank check" for the White House.
"This is the Tonkin Gulf resolution all over again," the senator said. "Let us stop, look and listen. Let us not give this president or any president unchecked power. Remember the Constitution."
After the election in 2004, former Senator John Edwards wrote an op-ed piece for The Washington Post in which he acknowledged his vote for the resolution and called it a mistake; the first sentence was: "I was wrong."
Senator Barack Obama, was not in the Senate yet in 2002, but as an Illinois state legislator, he is among those who spoke out publicly against the invasion of Iraq before it even began. This is part of a speech he delivered on 26 October 2002 at an anti-war rally in Chicago:
... I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.
I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.
I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.
So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president today. You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.
You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure that the UN inspectors can do their work, and that we vigorously enforce a non-proliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.
You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.
You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesn’t simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.
Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair.
Now, Hillary Clinton's rationale for her vote in 2002 authorizing the use of force against Iraq (a pleasant Newspeak euphemism for "go to war with Iraq") is that she was misled by President Bush, that he lied about WMD but that she believed him.
I am not so sure.
Her speech on the floor of the Senate on October 10, 2002 (link), make it clear that she had a much better understanding of what was really going on, and that she understood that "some people favor[ed] attacking" Iraq because, I quote, "deposing Saddam...would create the possibility of a secular democratic state in the Middle East, one which could perhaps move the entire region toward democratic reform."
One may agree with such kind of interventionism in a sovereign nation’s internal affairs. Or not. Personally, I don’t.
There is a name for this. It's called regime change. Or "nation building."
This is the kind of ambitions promoted by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC).
On September 20, 2001, (nine days after the September 11, 2001 attacks) the PNAC had sent a letter to President George W. Bush, advocating "a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq" "...even if evidence [did] not link Iraq directly to the attack".
In September 2000, the PNAC had released a report titled "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces, and Resources for a New Century." Specifically citing the Persian Gulf, the report notes that "the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein. Over the long term, Iran may well prove as large a threat to U.S. interests in the Gulf as Iraq has."
What's wrong about this picture, what's so terribly wrong about it, is not whether or not conducting regime changes throughout the globe is the right thing (ethically or geopolitically) to do for the US, it's not the exhortations of the PNAC or the recommendations of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq - a more recent group staffed entirely by PNAC members (this is a free country, anyone is entitled to their own opinion), and it is not what people are saying now about "the flaws in the conception and horrendously bad execution" of the "liberation" of Iraq, or the "incompetence of the Bush administration," or whether or not the "surge" is working.
What's wrong with this picture is that, for better or for worse, what Hillary Clinton alluded to in her speech (the creation of "the possibility of a secular democratic state in the Middle East"), what the PNAC envisioned (regime change, or "a substantial American force presence in the Gulf"), are NOT what H.J.Res. 114 spoke of: This is not the mandate this president was given to execute. It is not what congress was told. It is not what the American people were told at the onset of the invasion. What America was told was that Saddam Hussein's possession or imminent development of nuclear and biological weapons and his purported ties to al-Qaeda made his regime a "grave and growing" threat to the United States and the world community.
The rest is history:
No such weapons were found. In January 2005, the Iraq Survey Group concluded that Iraq had ended its WMD programs in 1991 and had no WMD at the time of the invasion; although some misplaced or abandoned remnants of pre-1991 production were found, U.S. government spokespeople confirmed that these were not the weapons for which the U.S. "went to war".
Similarly, alleged links between Iraq and al-Qaeda were called into question during the lead up to the war, and were largely discredited by an October 21, 2004 report from U.S. Senator Carl Levin, which was later corroborated by an April 2006 report from the Defense Department’s inspector general. These reports further alleged that Bush Administration officials, particularly former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith, manipulated evidence to support links between al-Qaeda and Iraq.
No weapons were found, but the harm is done, or – depending on one’s viewpoint - it is a “mission accomplished”: Part A of the PNAC’s grand vision for the Persian Gulf is now realized! The occupation of Iraq is a fait accompli. On March 2007, Hillary Clinton stated in an interview with the New York Times that if elected president, she would keep a reduced military force in Iraq to fight Al Qaeda, deter Iranian aggression, protect the Kurds and support the Iraqi military.
Hillary Clinton and her fellow democrats, who voted with her in support of H.J.Res. 114, claimed that they were duped.
Perhaps it was so. Everyone makes mistakes.
A bigger question, then, might be who has been duping whom, here, and to what degree were people really duped?
And what about all those who voted against the war?
How did they find the wherewithal to avoid being duped when Hillary didn’t?
Posted by Tom Bombadil on 1/03/2008