Well yesterday I began my look back at the passage of the Iraq War Resolution (IWR) in October 2002. In particular the 28 Democrats in the United States Senate that supported it. I decided it was important to do this because the IWR vote has become the central focus if the left-wing attack on centrist Democrats. It is conventional wisdom in that sector of our party that the yes vote on the IWR was the seminal demonstration that the party had been hijacked by DINO’s, Republican-lite corporatists whose only ambition is to maintain the status quo relationship with corporations who actually ran the country using their monetary influence over subservient politicians. The Democratic Leadership Council(DLC) is considered the organizational manifestation of that hated sector of our party.

Besides the simplistic view of centrist and moderate Democrats that animates this view of the IWR, it simply ignores the actual history surrounding its passage, and requires us to believe that 28 Democratic members of the United States Senate were entirely willing, in fact eager to sacrifice the lives of thousands of American soldiers, and tens of thousands of Iraqis in pursuit of political gain, designed to maintain control of the political system on behalf of the corporate status quo.

Yesterday I described the motivation that animated those Democratic Senators who voted for the IWR. It was clearly the fear that Saddam Hussein had either retained, or was reconstituting his weapons of mass destruction program (WMD). Virtually every floor statement noted this as the animating motivation for their decision. For opponents too, the possibility that Saddam had a WMD capability was a great fear. Some of the great heroes of the left-wing anti war movement, including Paul Wellstone and Russ Feingold, were explicit in their view that Saddam Hussein was dangerous and had to be disarmed. They simply did not agree with the method the Senate was proposing to remedy that situation.

Despite modifications made to the bill at the insistence of Democrats that put some limitiations on President Bush’s actions, these opponents were correct in their fear that President Bush would view the passage of the IWR as a blank check authorization to invade Iraq. Of course it is highly unlikely, given subsequent events demonstrating President Bush’s clear disdain for the constitution and the seperation of powers, that he would have let the defeat of the IWR stop him in his plans. It is clear he believed his position as Commander in Chief gave him all the authority he needed.

SInce this is a new blog I have had very few comments thus far. However I have discussed this topic at length on other blogs, and it is clear left-wing critics will refuse to acknowledge that these Senators were acting for any reason other than self-interest. Despite their total inability to produce a single shred of evidence for their assertions, they continue to insist that the Bush administration’s lies were well known at the time of the IWR vote.

Many will trot out Colin Powell’s testimony, and the subsequent exposure of his lies as evidence. Of course this ignores the fact that Powell’s testimony occurred on February 5, 2003, four months after the IWR vote took place.

Some will trot out Richard Clarke and his revelations from within the administration, and I agree, this is pretty damning evidence against Bush. Problem is of course, that Richard Clarke was employed by the administration until his resignation in January 2003, and his book wasn’t published until 2004.

And some of course will bring up Joseph Wilson and his revelation that Geoorge Bush lied in his State of the Union address on January 2003 regarding Iraqi attemts to acquire nuclear material in Niger…the famous 16 words. Again however, my liberal friends have a problem with dates, as these revelations came out in July 2003 – 10 months after the passage of the IWR.

So while it is very clear that George Bush was lying through his teeth in order to get us into war with Iraq, it is also equally clear that this was not well known in October 2002, by either supporters or opponents of the IWR.

I have also been presented with some very creative conspiracy theories.

The most egregious of these is that the IWR was a conspiracy between the President, the Republicans in Congress, and these 28 willing Democratic participants, to cut short Hans Blix’s efforts to determine whether Saddam Hussein actually had WMD’s. The theory goes that these participants in the conspiracy wanted to go to war, and any evidence that Saddam did not have WMD’s would make that impossible. The IWR and subsequent lies to the U.N. were a plan to speed up the rush to war before Blix had an opportunity to find out the truth.

Of course, as usual, I am not presented with a shred of credible evidence to back this up.

So the next question is, what evidence did these Senators – both pro and anti – base their belief in Saddam’s WMD capability?

First of course, is the fact that Iraq had already used WMD’s many times. In fact there are at least 10 documented instances between 1983 and 1988 of Iraqi use of these weapons. They were used against Iranian soldiers during the Iran-Iraq war, and in perhaps his most despicable attack, Saddam gassed Kurds in Halabja 1988, killing at least 5000 people and injuring another 10,000. Click here for a description of that attack and the long term health affects related to it. Click here for a VERY GRAPHIC description of the attack including photographs

Then of course on August 2, 1990 Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait. The results of that conflict are well known, and as a consequence, Iraq’s WMD program became a subject of the cease-fire resolution passed by the U.N. Security Council in April of 1991.

From 1991 through 1998, the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) was tasked to find and destroy Iraqi WMD’s. As part of the cease-fire arrangement, the U.N. adopted Security Council Resolution 687 which required that Iraq “unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision,” of all chemical and biological weapons, all ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometers, and associate materials and facilities.” During this time UNSCOM had mixed success in this task. They succesfully destroyed 48 operational long range missiles, 14 conventional missile warheads, 6 operational mobile launchers, 28 operational fixed launch pads, 32 fixed launch pads under construiction, 30 missile chemical warheads, 38,500 filled and empty chemical munitions, 690 tons of chemical weapons agents, more than 3000 tons of precursor chemicals, 426 pieces of chemical weapons production equipment and 91 pieces of related analytical equipment, as well as biological weapons labs, equpment and material.[for a full accounting click here]

Despite this success however, Iraq continued to impair the work of inspectors, by denying access to facilities. A good accounting of these difficulties is chronicled by Barton Gellman for the Washington Post here. The article curiously enough focuses on the efforts of Scott Ritter, who later became an ardent opponent of military action in Iraq, claiming that despite its difficulties UNSCOM had largely incpaciated Iraq from a WMD perspective. However, he has never asserted Iraq was cooperative, and in 2002 there were reasons to take what Ritter was saying with a grain of salt. The key paragraph in this article reads, “UNSCOM soon discovered that Iraq ran shell games within shell games to hide the most deadly and sensitive weapons it was obliged to surrender. By 1994, the panel’s active leads dried up with enormous gaps still remaining in its investigation. If the commission was to complete the work of the war, ridding a regional hegemonist of a biological and chemical arsenal and a nuclear program on the brink of success, its leaders concluded they would have to pierce what Ritter dubbed “the concealment mechanism” of the Baghdad regime.”

FInally in 1998, in an effort to use continued inspections as a bargaining chip to get the U.N. to drop sanctions, Iraq suspended cooperation with UNSCOM and limited theiir monitoring activies. By October 1999 Iraq ended all cooperation with UNSCOM.

No inspector set foot in Iraq between October 1999 and September 2002. In 2002, under continued threat of military action from the U.S., Iraq agreed to a conditional resumption of inspections which was deemed inadequate by the U.N. Finally one month before passage of the IWR Iraq in a letter to the U.N. agreed to resume unfettered inspections (which in reality they had never allowed). A skeptical Congress passed t he IWR anyway in an effort to make manifest the threat of force, which Scott Ritter himself said was the only thing that allowed UNSCOM to have the success it did between 1991 and 1998.

So by 2002 when the Bush Administration decided it wanted to attack Iraq, given past Iraqi use of WMD’s, Iraqi reluctant cooperation with UNSCOM inspectors between 1991 and 1998, Iraqi withdrawl of all cooperation with inspections in 1999, and the fact that no inspector had set foot in Iraq for the four years between 1998 and 2002, the ground was fertile for the Bush administration through the CIA to convince the Congress and the American people that Iraq had retained and was expanding its WMD activities.

The CIA, as early as January 2002 had begun making the case for the existence of Iraqi WMD’s, as the perceived danger was described in progressivley more urgent detail with each intelligence estimate. Tenet, and other CIA representatives briefed Congress in a number of closed door sessions, making the not difficut case that Saddam retained and was expanding his WMD capability.

Finally in October 2002, the CIA released its final National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) related to Iraq. That document described in detail the CIA’s assertions as to Iraq’s WMD capabilities. The report summed these up as follows:

1. Baghdad hides large portions of Iraq’s WMD efforts.

2. Since inspections ended in 1998, Iraq has maintained its chemical weapons effort, energized its missile program, and invested more heavily in biological weapons; most analysts assess Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program

3. Baghdad has begun renewed production of chemical warfare agents, probably including mustard, sarin, cyclosarin, and VX.

4. All key aspects – R&D, production, and weaponization – of Iraq’s offensive BW (biological Weapons) program are active and most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War

5. Iraq maintains a small missile force and several development programs, including for a UAV that most analysts believe probably is intended to deliver biological warfare agents.

While some Senators, particularly Senator Graham of Florida were skeptical that they were receiving all the information the CIA had, and even though he voted against the IWR, Graham was convinced that Saddam did indeed have chemical and biological weapons. The focus of Graham’s skepticism was on the state of Iraq’s nuclear capability.

So, with the history of Iraqi WMD use on its Iranian enemies and on its Kurdish citizens, its reluctant cooperation with weapons inspectors following the 1991 Gulf War, its withdrawl of all cooperation from 1998 through 2002, and the reports of the U.S. Intelligence community asserting a robust WMD program, it is not at all surprising that both those in support and opposed to the IWR were convinced that Iraq did indeed have an active WMD program.

Tomorrow I will take a look at the question of preemptive war. Were Democratic Senators endorsing this concept by their vote? I will also look at whether these Democrats believed they were giving President Bush a free hand to invade Iraq at will, and whether that was their intention as some assert. And finally I will look at the aftermath of the vote. With the realization that Bush adminisration was lying about the existence of WMD’s and the growing assertion by liberals that a yes vote on the IWR was tantamount to unfettered support for the Iraqi War, how have these Senators dealt with the issue? Some, like John Edwards and John Kerry have apologized for their position. Others like Senator Clinton have stood by their vote at the time, but recognize had they known what the actual situation was in realtion to WMD’s they never would have supported the IWR.

Among those that opposed ther IWR but recognized the danger posed by Saddam we have seen some backtracking as well. On a recent appearance on The Daily Show, Lincoln Chaffee for example, claimed he knew there weren’t WMD’s in Iraq when he became the only Republican to vote against it…here

Yet in arguing for an amendment to the IWR that would have required President Bush to come to Congress for specific authority to invade Iraq, Chaffee said the following…

“The Levin substitute upholds the values I have heard in discussions with the people of Rhode Island; it recognizes the benefit of an international coalition in taking on the tremendous challenge of disarming the Iraqi regime.”

Why would Iraq need to be disarmed if they had no weapons…

More tomorrow!