It has been just over two years since Congress took its fateful vote to authorize President George W. Bush to invade Iraq. This came despite the fact that such an invasion was a clear violation of the United Nations Charter, which, as a formal treaty signed and ratified by the United States, is -- according to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution -- to be treated as supreme law.
Since that time, as of this writing, over 1100 Americans have been killed and 7500 wounded. Most estimates indicate that at least 20,000 Iraqis have been killed, more than two-thirds of them civilians, and more than 40,000 have been injured. The war has thus far cost the American taxpayer over $150 billion.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi insurgency is growing, with no end of the fighting in sight. Throughout the Islamic world, anti-Americanism and support for radical Islamist groups is also growing as a direct result of the U.S. invasion and occupation.
It is not just the Bush Administration which is at fault for this disaster. Blame must also be shared by the U.S. Congress, which made it possible for President Bush’s war plans to go forward.
It is important to look back at what the resolution passed by the House and Senate in October of 2002 actually said:
Among other things, the resolution claimed that “members of al-Qaida . . . are known to be in Iraq” and that “the President and Congress are determined to continue to take all appropriate actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations.”
In reality, as many of us argued at the time of the vote, there has been absolutely no credible evidence presented to suggest that Saddam Hussein allowed Al-Qaida to operate in Iraq or that his regime in any way aided the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Indeed, despite exhaustive searches of Iraqi government files and interrogations of Iraqi officials and captured Al-Qaida leaders, the CIA and other intelligence agencies have concluded that no such links ever existed.
The resolution also falsely accused Iraq of “continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability” and of “actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability.”
As a large number of arms control experts, former UN inspectors and others -- myself included -- argued at the time of the vote, the evidence strongly suggested that Iraq no longer had any chemical or biological weapons capability and that Iraq had similarly ceased its efforts to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Indeed, no such weapons or weapons programs have been discovered and the U.S. government’s Iraq Survey Group, after months of exhaustive investigations, concluded in their report earlier this month that the weapons had apparently all been destroyed and the programs had been dismantled more than a decade earlier.
The resolution goes on to claim that “the risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States . . . or provide them to international terrorists who would do so… combine to justify action by the United States to defend itself.”
In other words, those members of the House and Senate who supported this resolution believed, or claimed to believe, that an impoverished Third World country, which had eliminated its stockpiles of banned weapons, destroyed its medium and long-range missiles, and eliminated its WMD programs more than a decade earlier, and had been suffering under the strictest international sanctions in world history for more than a dozen years, somehow threatened the national security of a superpower located more than 10,000 miles away. Furthermore, these members of Congress believed, or claimed to believe, that this supposed threat was so great that the United States had no choice but to launch an invasion of that country, overthrow its government, and place its people under military occupation in the name of self-defense.
It is important to remember that both John Kerry and John Edwards were among those who voted in support of this resolution. It boggles the mind that the Democratic Party would actually nominate, as their presidential and vice-presidential candidates, two senators who were either stupid enough to actually believe this or dishonest enough to claim it was true anyway.
As a result, whether it is a President Bush or a President Kerry who governs over the next four years, there is a real risk that he will try to convince Congress to authorize the invasion of additional countries under similarly false pretenses. Already, both presidential nominees have been making exaggerated claims regarding the supposed military threat emanating from Iran and from Syria due to these countries’ alleged links to terrorists and their supposed biological, chemical and nuclear capabilities. Bush and Kerry have also both threatened the use of military force.
Though we may not have much of a choice in the presidential race, we can still use our vote this November 2 to defeat those members of Congress seeking re-election who supported the resolution.
If the majority of those who supported the resolution are re-elected, it will show that the American people don’t mind being misled into an illegal and disastrous war. As a result, these members of Congress will think that they can get away with authorizing another such invasion. However, if most of them are defeated, it could provide an important deterrent against Congress authorizing such invasions in the future.
Of particular importance is preventing the re-election of the eighteen senators who will be facing voters for the first time since they cast their votes in favor of the resolution two years ago.
Some argue that, despite their vote, the pro-war Democrats should be re-elected anyway and that only pro-war Republicans should be targeted for defeat. However, deceiving the American public in order to prosecute an illegal and immoral war which has resulted in such devastating consequences must not be tolerated, regardless of political party affiliation.
The following is the list of senators who are seeking re-election this year who supported the resolution authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq:
Evan Bayh (Democrat Indiana)
Robert Bennett (Republican Utah)
Christopher Bond (Republican Missouri)
Sam Brownback (Republican Kansas)
Jim Bunning (Republican Kentucky)
Michael Crapo (Republican Idaho)
Thomas Daschle (Democrat South Dakota)
Christopher Dodd (Democrat Connecticut)
Byron Dorgan (Democrat North Dakota)
Chuck Grassley (Republican Iowa)
Judd Gregg (Republican New Hampshire)
Blanche Lincoln (Democrat Arkansas)
John McCain (Republican Arizona)
Harry Reid (Democrat Nevada)
Charles Schumer (Democrat New York)
Richard Shelby (Republican Alabama)
Arlen Specter (Republican Pennsylvania)
George Voinovich (Republican Ohio)
Let’s send a clear message that making such false claims and supporting the invasion of a far-away country that was no threat to us will not be tolerated.
Stephen Zunes is a professor of Politics and chair of the Peace & Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco and is the author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism.