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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Keeping Track of One Lie

The President, the Vice President, and the media keep pretending that the October 10, 2002 congressional resolution potentially authorizing the use of force in Iraq was a clear vote "for war." This makes it seem as if John Kerry and John Edwards supported the war -- even though Kerry explicitly argued against war on March 18, 2003, which was the day before the President started "major combat operations."

I encourage everyone to read it yourself, but the resolution clearly states that the President would use force when diplomacy and other peaceful means to disarm Iraq have failed:
In connection with the exercise of the authority granted in subsection (a) to use force the President shall, prior to such exercise or as soon thereafter as may be feasible, but no later than 48 hours after exercising such authority, make available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his determination that--
(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq...
Obviously, neither Kerry nor Edwards were making a declaration of war in October. The President, upon receipt of the resolution from Congress, said that the resolution would help "the cause of peace" and that he hoped "the use of force will not become necessary." Was he lying?

As Matt Yglesias notes, Congress was voting for coercive diplomacy. An anonymous Defense Department Senior official made this very clear on March 24, 2003, days after "major combat operations" had begun and the administration was asking for more money to finance the war. A reporter asked this question:
Q: Yeah, I'm not understanding. Explain the difference between coercive diplomacy and major conflict phase....

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Oh, it's very simple. Coercive diplomacy was when they [US military forces] were all out there and we were still working with the U.N. and telling Saddam to come to his senses. Major conflict is what you've been seeing on television [since the war began].
Simple, eh? As former Secretary of Defense William Perry explained in 1994, the US effectively used this strategy against Iraq in the past:
Our response to Iraq's recent moves in the Persian Gulf provides another example of the importance of backing up our diplomacy with ready forces. When our vital interests are threatened, and preventive diplomacy fails, we must be prepared to move to coercive diplomacy -- a credible threat to use military force.

Our rapid dispatch of forces to the Persian Gulf was an outstanding example of coercive diplomacy. The powerful air, naval, and ground force we quickly assembled in the area made our threat to respond with force credible. That deterred Saddam and helped avoid another war. It also convinced the Gulf states that we were serious about the security of the region.
Let me offer a little refresher course about the political context surrounding the October 10 vote in Congress.

This was the President of the USA on October 1, 2002, speaking to members of Congress:
THE PRESIDENT: Of course, I haven't made up my mind we're going to war with Iraq. I've made up my mind we need to disarm the man.
And this is from a Presidential press conference, November 7, 2002, which is after the congressional vote:
The only way, in my judgment, to deal with Saddam Hussein is to bring the international community together to convince him to disarm.

But if he's not going to disarm, we'll disarm him, in order to make the world a more peaceful place....

Hopefully, we can do this peacefully -- don't get me wrong. And if the world were to collectively come together to do so, and to put pressure on Saddam Hussein and convince him to disarm, there's a chance he may decide to do that.

And war is not my first choice, don't -- it's my last choice. But nevertheless, it is a -- it is an option in order to make the world a more peaceful place.
Media: can we please dispense with this lie that tries to tie Kerry/Edwards to the bogus Bush decision to invade Iraq when inspections were working?

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