The Vote for Gulf War II

The Select Committee on Intelligence has just issued a report [pdf] highly critical of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of October 2002, which served as the basis for the “Congressional Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq.”

Various congresspersons are now saying that if they had known in October 2002 what the Committee has just revealed about the NIE, they would never have voted for the Resolution.

But the Committee’s report reveals that by March of 2003 – as a consequence of the inspections in December, January and February by Chairman Hans Blix of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and/or Director General Mohammed ElBaradei of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency – every congressperson should have known that virtually every assessment in that highly classified October NIE was either suspect or demonstrably wrong.

Now, by law, the constitutional powers of the president to “introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities” are limited, and can only be exercised “pursuant to; (a) a declaration of war, (b) specific statutory authorization, or (c) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”

As both Bushes – Elder and Younger – have discovered, getting “specific statutory authorization” isn’t easy.

UN Security Council Resolution 660 – demanding that Saddam Hussein withdraw his forces from Kuwait and restore peace to the region – had been adopted Aug. 2, 1990, the day Saddam invaded.

Congress didn’t authorize Bush the Elder to subject our military forces in the Persian Gulf region to a United Nations Coalition until Jan. 14, 1991. Possibly because UN Security Council Resolution 678 – which authorized the use of “all necessary means” to force Saddam to withdraw from Kuwait – had not been adopted until a few weeks before.

Now, the emphasis in “all necessary means” is on “necessary,” whether in a U.S. resolution or a UN resolution.

Consequently, before launching U.S. military operations, Congress required Bush the Elder to make available to the speaker of the House of Representatives and the president pro tempore of the Senate his “determination” that the use of force was really “necessary.”

When Saddam quickly agreed to a cease-fire, the neo-crazies around Bush the Elder reckoned they had missed their chance to effect regime change in Iraq.

Consequently, they viewed the tragedy of September 2001, to be a heaven-sent second chance.

So, when Bush the Younger went to Congress in September 2002, seeking “specific statutory authorization” to invade Iraq, he based his case on a just completed highly-classified National Intelligence Estimate, which supposedly contained positive proof that Saddam was reconstructing his nuke and chem-bio programs, with the intention of supplying them to Islamic terrorists for use against us.


“The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.”

But there was a catch.

Before resorting to force, Bush [Younger] had to satisfy Congress that “reliance on peaceful means alone will not adequately protect the national security of the United States.”

That meant Bush the Younger had to give Blix and ElBaradei an opportunity to thoroughly check out Iraq to see if a resort to force was necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein.

By mid-March, the whole world had concluded – as a result of the reports to the Security Council by Blix and ElBaradei – that Saddam had effectively been disarmed since at least 1998 and had made no attempt to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction programs since 1991.

Saddam was not a threat to us, after all.

Hence, it was something of a surprise to us – and should have been absolutely stupefying to congresspersons – when Dubya “determined” on March 19 that no “further diplomatic or other peaceful means will adequately protect the national security of the United States from the continuing threat posed by Iraq.”

As we now know – thanks to the Select Committee – the highly classified October NIE was a crock of wheat smut.

Furthermore, we now realize that every Congressperson privy to that NIE ought to have known that by March 2003.

So, forget their vote on the Resolution. Hold them accountable for their “vote” on Bush’s “determination” that Iraq posed “a continuing threat to the national security of the United States” by “continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations.”

Read more by Gordon Prather

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.