When Bush went to Congress in September 2002,
seeking "specific statutory authorization" to invade Iraq, he based his case
on what we now know was "fixed" intelligence – a hastily completed National
Intelligence Estimate, which supposedly contained, but did not
– 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.
Of course, practically everyone in Congress already knew that Bush intended
to invade Iraq irrespective of what Saddam had done, was doing, or intended
In Bush's 2002 National Security
Strategy statement, he accused Iraq, Iran, and North Korea of being "rogue
- brutalize their own people and squander their national resources for
the personal gain of the rulers;
- display no regard for international law, threaten their neighbors and
callously violate international treaties to which they are party;
- are determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction, along with other
advanced military technology, to be used as threats or offensively to achieve
the aggressive designs of these regimes;
- sponsor terrorism around the globe; and
- reject basic human values and hate the United States and everything for
which it stands.
Now, hardly any member of the UN Security Council agreed with Bush that Iraq
then constituted a threat to any of its neighbors, much less to
the United States.
Hence, this explicit threat by Bush in his National Security Strategy of 2002
was extremely troubling:
"The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions
to counter a sufficient threat to our national security.
"The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction – and
the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves,
even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack.
"To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the
United States will, if necessary, act preemptively."
On the eve of Bush's preemptive attack on Iraq, former Senate Majority Leader
Robert Byrd tried to get Congress to stop Bush from misusing the highly
conditional authority provided a few months earlier in the Resolution
Authorizing the Use of U.S. Armed Forces Against Iraq.
Byrd had this, inter
alia, 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
"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."
Undeterred, on March 20, 2003, Bush informed Congress that he was exercising
the highly conditional authority Congress had given him because he
had determined 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."
Has Bush been fazed by the horrific results of his – unauthorized by either
Congress or UN Security Council and hence a violation of U.S. and international
law – preemptive attack against an utterly defenseless Iraq?
Apparently not, because he has just released the 2006
National Security Strategy, which contains almost everything scary contained
in the 2002 version, with additions such as this:
"We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran.
"For almost 20 years, the Iranian regime hid many of its key nuclear
efforts from the international community.
"The United States has joined with our EU partners and Russia to pressure
Iran to meet its international obligations and provide objective guarantees
that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes.
"This diplomatic effort must succeed if confrontation is to be avoided."
But, according to the Russians, Iran has met all its international obligations.
And, according to the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency,
Iran has provided objective guarantees – above and beyond those required
by its Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA – that its nuclear program is
for peaceful purposes only.
So, perhaps Sen. Byrd can reprise his speech that an unsanctioned preemptive
attack "appears to be in contravention of international law and the UN Charter."
Besides, Iran may not be "utterly defenseless."