Friday, March 29, 2013

10 year anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom: final thoughts

* See 10 year anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom: thoughts and 10 year anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom: Columbia students rally to support US troops Spring 2003.

It's been 10 days. I've posted a survey of my thoughts on the 10th anniversary of OIF here, and shared my views on OIF in comments at Blackfive, Small Wars Journal, National Review, and Foreign Policy. That's enough for now.

Here's a good recap of the Iraq Survey Group's Duelfer report that draws primarily from Volumes II and III. There's a lot to take away from Volume I, too. The ISG Duelfer report confirms that we dodged a bomb by ousting Saddam, but OIF critics care more about the bullets that hit us while we dodged the bomb.

Views on Operation Iraqi Freedom haven't changed. They've just hardened. OIF supporters list the many justifications and the bad alternatives. OIF critics coalesce mainly around three points: the conviction that Bush lied, the cost, and the insistence that OIF made matters worse. The 'Bush lied' crowd ignore the justifications and the alternatives. They will stubbornly restate the one point and use it as a platform to legitimize every conspiracy. The 'cost' crowd either decries the whole mission or they support the war while decrying the post-war. The 'made matters worse' crowd is the 'I told you so' folks who are most likely to be nostalgic for Saddam's rule.

My approach to discussing OIF has mainly focused on the contemporary context of wearing President Bush's shoes at the decision point. I prefer to ask Why Iraq?, rather than the hindsight question of Was it worth it?. I believe answering the 2nd question requires knowing the answer to the 1st question, and most people don't really know the answer to the 1st question. I have found that a better understanding of the context of the decision point at the start of OIF makes a difference in people's views.

A thoughtful judgement of OIF, including one of hindsight, requires understanding the law and policy context of the decision for OIF provided by the UNSC resolutions that set the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (at minimum, see UNSCRs 687, 688, 949, and 1441), Public Law 107-243 (the 2002 Congressional authorization for use of military force against Iraq), Public Law 105-235 ("Iraqi Breach of International Obligations", 14AUG98), President Clinton's December 1998 letter to Congress on the legal authority for Operation Desert Fox, February 1998 warning on Iraq to Pentagon personnel, December 1998 announcement of ODF (the penultimate military enforcement step that set the baseline precedent for OIF), and Secretary of State Albright's March 1997 summation of US policy on Iraq, President Bush's March 2003 letter to Congress on the legal authority for Operation Iraqi Freedom, September 2002 background paper and remarks to the United Nations General Assembly, October 2002 outline of the Iraqi threat, and excerpts from the 2003 State of the Union, the March 2003 statement of the Atlantic Summit ("A Vision for Iraq and the Iraqi People"), the April 2002 UN Commission on Human Rights situation report on Iraq pursuant to UNSCR 688, the November 2007 Iraqi Perspectives Project report ("Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents") pursuant to UNSCR 687, the January 2003 IAEA update report pursuant to UNSCR 1441, the March 2003 UNMOVIC Clusters document ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues Iraq’s Proscribed Weapons Programmes", fact sheet) pursuant to UNSCR 1441 that triggered the decision for OIF, and the September 2004 Iraq Survey Group Duelfer report that corroborated Iraq's material breach of UNSCR 687.

Go here for a comprehensive table of sources. Go here for my FAQ-style explanation of the law and policy, fact basis of OIF.

For my final thoughts on the 10th anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, here is a selection of comments I made at the aforementioned sites:



In these comments, it's apparent that a lot of folks fundamentally misunderstood the procedure that led to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Clarifications:

Saddam's guilt was established in fact. Legally, Iraq's presumed guilt was the foundation of the Gulf War ceasefire and subsequent UNSC resolutions.

Based on the presumption of guilt, the burden of proof was entirely on Saddam to prove Iraq was rehabilitated according to weapons and humanitarian standards of compliance.

There was no burden on the US or UN, or the various intelligence agencies, to find or prove Iraqi violations.

UNMOVIC, like UNSCOM, was not designed to find Iraq's violations. UNMOVIC, like UNSCOM, was designed to test Iraq's compliance.

While weapons and humanitarian issues were the object of the compliance standards, the main subject purpose of the compliance standards was to test Saddam's behavior and intentions, and thereby resolve Saddam as a regional threat. (Note: Iran is not Iraq's only neighbor in the region.)

This criminal metaphor should help folks understand the rationale behind the enforcement of the Gulf War ceasefire and UNSC resolutions that led to OIF:

Saddam was like a convicted yet unrepented dangerous recidivist (insert your felonies of choice) who lived in a residential family neighborhood. The label psychopathic could fairly be applied to Saddam. Folks don't much like his troublemaking direct neighbor, either, and were worried - but not too worried - when, at first, they were only making trouble for each other. But the trouble escalated between them and Saddam crossed taboo lines in their fight. That was bad. But Saddam made it worse when he then attacked, hurt, and threatened his other neighbors. Authorities intervened and Saddam was placed on a strict probation status with conditions he must meet in order to prove his rehabilitation. Probation status means you're no longer presumed innocent until proven guilty. Saddam was proven guilty and he held the burden to prove he was rehabilitated. Saddam could and should have met his burden and thereby removed the probation status in year one. Instead, Saddam thought he could beat the system. He perhaps failed to appreciate the high risk that was assigned to him or, perhaps, he did appreciate it and just reverted to his nature as a dangerous recidivist. Saddam continued to violate his probation and the probation became stricter in response. Finally, the authorities declared Saddam's Iraq had "abused its final chance" (President Clinton, Dec 1998). Saddam was given a 2nd final chance to rehabilitate by President Bush in 2002-2003, but Saddam failed again. And the 2nd final chance really was Saddam's final chance.

A main purpose of the Gulf War ceasefire and UNSC resolutions was to ensure that Iraq would not threaten the region again. Saddam's failure at the compliance tests showed that he was not rehabilitated and remained a threat. Keep in mind that concurrent with the weapons standards, Saddam was noncompliant on humanitarian standards, too.

Bottom-line: While WMD was a chief form of Iraq's threat, the essential threat of Iraq was not possession of WMD. The essential threat of Iraq was the noncompliant, non-rehabilitated Saddam.



The end state for Iraq established by President Clinton and carried forward by President Bush was an Iraq in compliance, internally liberally reformed, and at peace with its neighbors, with or without Saddam. All three prongs have been achieved, though the 2nd prong is less to our standard than the other 2 prongs.

Under the 1st President Bush, the premise that Saddam would remain in power was based on the assumption that Saddam would rapidly comply with the ceasefire terms - in other words, meet his terms of probation. The 1st President Bush did not intend to contain Iraq indefinitely.

Except Saddam didn't comply. Instead, he made the situation worse and increased the standard of compliance.

When the disarmament failed and turned into de facto containment, Clinton threw out the accompanying premise that Saddam would remain in power. Instead, Clinton set the policy that Saddam would remain in power only if Saddam complied and instituted radical reforms to his regime.

By the close of the Clinton administration, we only had 3 choices with Iraq: Maintain indefinitely the toxic status quo ("containment"), free a noncompliant Saddam, or give Saddam a final chance to comply.

The containment was de facto; it was neither our policy with Iraq nor an end state. After Clinton exhausted all enforcement measures short of ground invasion, the containment was what we were forced to do in the absence of a viable alternative.

Freeing a noncompliant Saddam was out of the question.

Op Desert Fox set the bar at a "final chance" for Saddam to comply. The case and precedent for OIF were already in place. Giving Saddam a 2nd and final 'final chance' to comply only needed sufficient political will.

The status quo was toxic, costly, and unstable before 9/11. One way or another, with or without 9/11, we were going to crash land with Saddam. We could either try to control the landing by resolving the Iraq problem on our terms or maintain the status quo while waiting for Saddam to determine our fate. 9/11, by adding the risk of an unconventional front that Saddam could use by his own means or supplying the NBC black market, provided the political will for giving Saddam a final chance to comply.

President Bush moved to resolve the intractable Iraq problem that he inherited. The alternative choices weren't better.

Bush didn't actually take us to war with Iraq. He took us to the compliance test for Saddam with a credible threat of ground invasion. Saddam could have precluded OIF by complying with the weapons, humanitarian, and other standards, and thereby meeting the terms of Clinton's end state for Iraq.

End state ≠ exit strategy.

We achieved our war objectives in Iraq. While the controversy of OIF is fueled mostly by the costlier post-war, our desired end state in Iraq required that we stay to win the post-war in Iraq, too.



One of President Bush's main objectives for giving Saddam a final chance to comply in 2002-2003 was to bolster the UN as a credible enforcer on WMD proliferation. Bush faithfully followed the enforcement procedure on Iraq he inherited from President Clinton, although Bush deviated from Clinton's public case. However, although the UN sanctioned the post-war peace operations in Iraq, UN officials disclaimed the invasion of Iraq. By doing so, UN officials discredited the enforcement procedure that defined OIF, thus weakening the UN as a credible enforcer on WMD proliferation.

"Rogue" nations, such as Iran and north Korea, thus have been encouraged to advance their WMD pursuits.



How much study has been given to the idea that most or even all the trouble and outsized costs we experienced in our post-war occupation in Iraq were merely compounding downstream effects originating from the one point of failure to establish security and stability after Saddam?

And, if the *one* variable, SASO, had been flipped - if we had been able to establish and guarantee security from the outset of the immediate post-war - everything else about our peace operations in Iraq would have been different?

By curing which early 'viral vectors' could we have headed off the whole epidemic?

My understanding of the Iraq insurgency is that it was rooted on the Sunni side by Saddam loyalists, renowned for their own viciousness, welcoming in al Qaeda. And on the Shia side, the insurgency was rooted in Iran-sponsored Sadrists.

The Kurds were on board with us.

I can't think off the top of my head what could have been done to prevent the Saddam loyalists from mobilizing, but in hindsight, the Shia insurgency strikes me as having been preventable.

We didn't account for Muqtada al-Sadr because he was a minor figure in the Shia community before the war, while the major Shia leaders were on board with us. The coalition believed, with reason, the Shia, like the Kurds, supported our intentions for post-war Iraq. And most Shia did. It seems that if we had been able to identify Muqtada as a threat and neutralize the Sadrist threat early on, we would have stabilized the Shia.

Then that would have left us with only the Sunni problem. The Sunni problem may have been manageable if, like the Sadrists, we have been able to identify and cure the 'viral vectors' early enough.

It's barely remembered now that the international community was prepared to invest and pour peace-building assets into Iraq in the post-war, but only if we guaranteed security in Iraq.

In order to build a higher order social-political society, the universal needs of security and stability first, then law and order, services, and economy - the basics of governance - need to be in place. The insurgency basically beat us to 1st base on security and stability, and the rest of it couldn't work without the foundation. I believe most Iraqis were on board with our promise to build a better Iraq after Saddam. But a minority willing and able to force their politics by extreme violence will have an outsized effect.

The inefficient "adhocracy" in the management of the Iraq reconstruction was in large part due to hostile politics within the US, politically driven unreasonable expectations of immediate returns on investment, and adverse conditions on the ground that sabotaged reconstruction efforts.

If the domestic political frame can be fixed, a reasonable long-term planning approach applied, and initial security and stability mastered, then combined with general improvements, the cost of peace operations should be further driven down.

Of those 'ifs', the most important is establishing and maintaining security and stability from the outset of the post-war.

I believe most or all the inefficiencies in post-war Iraq followed from the initial failure to establish and maintain security and stability. Flip that one switch, and I believe the rest would have fallen into place for us in Iraq, including many fewer casualties for all parties, reasonable expectations and cost management on a long-term planning frame, a conducive political frame, and enough international funding and peace-building assets to reasonably offset our costs.



Regarding the insurgency, 2 nasty surprises:

Saddam loyalists, renowned for their own viciousness, welcoming in al Qaeda.

The Iran-sponsored Sadrists. Muqtada al-Sadr was at best a minor figure in the Iraqi Shia community. We didn't account for him. The major Shia leaders were on board with the US-led coalition. The coalition believed, with reason, the Shia, like the Kurds, were good with our plan - and most Shia were. But not all. The coalition forces were focused on the Sunnis and were surprised by the Jaish al-Mahdi attacks.

From what I've heard, most Iraqis were on-board with the US promise of building a liberal democratic Iraq after Saddam. But in order to build a higher order social-political society, the base of security and stability first, then services (governance) and economy need to be in place. The insurgency basically beat us to 1st base on security and stability. The insurgency did not represent the majority of Iraqis and, indeed, caused massive death and destruction to the Iraqis, but a minority willing and able to be very very violent can have an outsized effect. In politics, violence works.



Here's another angle to consider the justification for Bush's decisions on Iraq:

What debt of honor did we owe Iraq's Shiites for encouraging rebellion in 1991, including a pledge of support from the American President, only then to turn our backs when they took as at our word and rose up against Saddam? The penalty for the crime of trusting America was Saddam brutally putting down the revolt and subsequent reprisals while we assuaged our guilt by adding UNSC resolutions and the no-fly zone.

President Bush’s decisions on Iraq, especially his call on the Counterinsurgency “Surge” in 2006 despite tremendous pressure to cut and run from Iraq, stand in sharp contrast to his father's decision in 1991 that dishonored America in the precise moment that the world’s faith in America as a transformative “leader of the free world” was at its highest. Which signaled to Saddam at the outset the limit of American will to enforce the ceasefire, which set the path for our compounding problems with Iraq.

What we did to Iraq's Shiites in 1991 is why I can’t go all in on hating on Muqtada al Sadr. He’s a villain who’s caused a lot of damage no doubt, but he’s also a villain with a sympathetic origin story. Teenage Muqtada’s father and uncles were killed for trusting America and answering our call to action. While I view him as a problem that needed solving, I didn’t fault Muqtada for distrusting Bush’s son (through no fault of W's) and being murderously bitter against America. I wouldn’t forgive us either if I was in his place.

I can only imagine the level of trust and faith that Iraq's Shia had in America in 1991 to risk their lives and rise up against Saddam on the mere word of the American President. I can only imagine their grief and fury at America's craven self-serving betrayal. If we had kept our word to them in 1991, I wouldn’t be surprised if Muqtada became a cheerleader of the US, instead of an obsessed hater of the US.

It’s too bad because in 2003, when we entered Iraq, the major Iraqi Shia leaders were on board with the American goals for Iraq after Saddam. We failed to account for Muqtada because he was a minor figure. One wonders whether our nation-building occupation of Iraq would have unfolded differently if the Shia, like the Kurds, had stayed on board so that we could have focused on working the Sunni problem.

As is, the Sadrists and JAM surprised us, mixed lethally with the Saddam loyalists and their AQI guests, and it got a lot worse before the COIN “Surge” and Awakening. The interest accrued for Bush the father's debt of honor cost us and the Iraqis greatly.



Our hope, which admittedly was optimistic, was that Iraq's sectarian mix would become a model for liberal pluralism in the Middle East. The US position was that Iraqis would come together as Iraqis first.

From President Clinton's statement on signing the Iraq Liberation Act, October 1998:
The United States favors an Iraq that offers its people freedom at home. I categorically reject arguments that this is unattainable due to Iraq's history or its ethnic or sectarian makeup. Iraqis deserve and desire freedom like everyone else.



I'm late to the party, but here are my thoughts on Saddam in relation to Iran:

Saddam nostalgics are delusional.

Iraq and Iran are not the only 2 nations on an island. Saddam threatened the whole region and especially his other closest neighbors. Has everyone forgotten that we fought the Gulf War because of attacks and threats against his neighbors other than Iran?

The Iran-Iraq War was not a stabilizing event. Saddam-Iran is not a case of adding 2 unstable elements to form a stable compound. This notion of propping up Saddam to deal with Iran for us is like proposing the propping up of Hitler to deal with the Soviet Union for us. Hitler + USSR = worst of WW2, not peace in our time. Propping up Saddam to deal with Iran is not a recipe for regional security and stability.

Enough people already claim America's liberal promise as 'leader of the free world' is a lie. If we decided to reverse course and prop up Saddam after a decade enforcing UNSC and Congressional humanitarian resolutions and statutes for Iraq, all those people would be right.

Saddam was not our puppet to control. If we decided that a *noncompliant* Saddam should remain in power, how do we expect to control Saddam's behavior inside Iraq, in the region, even on the international level, given his track record and ambitions? Remove our constraints from the noncompliant Saddam and put on blinders? Make a deal with Saddam with 'rules' we actually expect him to honor?

Most likely, this fantasy relationship with Saddam would require a continuation of our indefinite, toxic, expensive, provocative, harmful, crumbling pre-OIF status quo mission with Iraq. And it probably would not work. By the way, pre-OIF status quo mission nostalgics are delusional, too.

It's like the Saddam nostalgics have wiped their memories of why we fought the Gulf War and tried to enforce the Gulf War ceasefire and UNSC resolutions in the first place. The Saddam they've conjured up since his death is not the same Saddam we struggled with.



As I said up front, my approach to understanding OIF is based mainly on the contemporary "Bush's shoes" context of the question, 'Why Iraq', rather than the hindsight question of 'Was it worth it'. I believe answering the 2nd question requires knowing the answer to the 1st question, and most people don't really know the answer to the 1st question.

As such, my discussion points emphasize the "political rhetoric" of conditions, laws, policies, and precedents at the decision point rather than a post-mortem technocratic accounting.

"Who knows?"

We knew the standing US relationship with Iraq was toxic, indefinite, deteriorating, and stalemated.

We knew the official US determination - established under Clinton - that the noncompliant Saddam was a "clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere."

We knew the direct and second-order harms caused by the US status quo with Iraq.

We knew the laws and policies - established during the Clinton administration - that set the resolution for the Iraq problem.

We knew 9/11 had opened an unconventional front that Saddam could utilize with or without al Qaeda - al Qaeda did not own a monopoly on terrorism.

By the close of the Clinton administration, we knew our only way out of the toxic mess with Iraq, other than regime change (internally or externally generated), was Saddam complying with the Gulf War ceasefire and UNSC resolutions.

Either/Or.

Both Clinton and Bush gave Saddam a "last chance" to comply. He declined. That left the US with one option for solving the toxic status quo with Iraq.

At the decision point of OIF, did you believe that Saddam would come around on his own accord on both the weapons and humanitarian fronts if we unilaterally ended the pre-OIF mission? Or, the US's Iraq problem would solve itself if we continued maintaining the pre-OIF status quo?

Before and after 9/11, did you believe the pre-OIF status quo with Iraq was stable, stabilizing, and sustainable?

When you place yourself in Bush's shoes at the decision point of OIF, keep in mind the humanitarian standards, too. They were not an after-thought to WMD. In fact, the most costly, invasive, provocative, and (arguably) controversial part of our pre-OIF status quo with Iraq - the no-fly zones with counter-fire - were enforcing humanitarian resolutions, not weapons-related resolutions.

So, even if Saddam had completely and unconditionally met his burden of proof on the weapons-related resolutions, the humanitarian issues still needed to be resolved in order to lift the pre-OIF mission and call off OIF.

There is no evidence, even after the fact, to argue that Saddam was in position to comply with the humanitarian resolutions.

I agree that the faulty intelligence "undermined our credibility globally". Again, however, context matters, and the context has been distorted in the public discussion.

The trigger for OIF was not based on an "assumption" by Bush officials. The trigger for OIF was based on the controlling *presumption* of Iraq's guilt on WMD. Plus, Saddam's violation of the concurrently mandated humanitarian standards is not disputed.

Iraq was on probation after the Gulf War, which meant the CIA was not responsible for proving the state of Iraqi WMD. Iraq's guilt on WMD was established. For the legal purpose of enforcing the ceasefire and UNSC resolutions, Iraq's guilt was presumed. Iraq was responsible to prove it was cured of WMD weapons, related technology and systems, development, and intent. Only Iraq - not the CIA - could cure Iraq's presumption of guilt.

In fact, the CIA Duelfer Report shows Saddam was holding back and Iraq was in violation. We only know (or believe we know) after the fact what Saddam was holding back.

"Assumption" isn't compelling from the legal standpoint on Iraq. As long as Iraq's presumption of guilt was controlling, US officials were *obligated* to interpret intelligence on Iraq in the unfavorable light cast by the presumption of guilt. That was true for Clinton officials as well as their successors.

In any case, we didn't go to war based on the intelligence. The trigger for OIF was Iraq's failure to comply, ie, meet its burden of proof on a mandated standard of compliance.

I explain this further in Regime Change in Iraq From Clinton to Bush, which I wrote for my National Security Law class, and its companion piece A problem of definition in the Iraq controversy: Was the issue Saddam's regime or Iraq's demonstrable WMD?, which explains the divergences in the public controversy.

They're easy reads, but here's the executive summary: Legally, Bush relied on Clinton's laws, policies, and precedents on Iraq, ie, the legal case, to resolve the Iraq problem. Publicly, Bush should have stuck closer to Clinton's public case because Clinton's public case against Iraq hewed close to the legal case against Iraq. That's the difference between a Harvard MBA and a Yale JD, I guess.

As you point out, the decision-point justification for OIF is a separate issue from analysis of the post-war in OIF (ie, occupation and peace operations after Saddam). However, the two issues are often conflated in the public discourse, which is where my decision-point contextual approach to the issue comes in.

On the issue of the post-war in Iraq ...

My understanding of de-Baathification is it did not apply a lifetime bar on soldiers and bureaucrats from government service. Rather re-hiring required a vetting process.

Bremer's plan made sense and the international community was initially willing to pour non-military assets into rebuilding Iraq. But the base requirement for everything else to build on was security and stability, and the enemy blew that up.

What if the military hadn't fallen behind the insurgency? What would be different in Iraq today if the COIN "Surge" has been employed in the 'golden hour' of the immediate post-war, rather than at the end of 2006, and precluded the damage to the peace process wrought by the insurgency?

So yes, I wish our military performance in post-war Iraq had been perfect from the outset, too. But I tend to be sympathetic because I realize the insufficient preparation by the Army for the post-war was caused by a deep-seated institutional flaw - the Vietnam War-traumatized, Powell Doctrine mindset. Our problem in the immediate post-war wasn't primarily insufficient troop numbers; it was insufficient method. Bush could control the numbers, but no Commander in Chief was going to overcome the Powell Doctrine mindset of the military before the fact.

I talk about my pre-9/11 brush with the Army's post-war doctrinal flaws in this post. Pre-mission planning and training wouldn't have solved the Powell Doctrine problem. The only realistic way the US was going to learn how to occupy Iraq properly was to occupy Iraq first, and then be driven to the correct method by necessity, assuming we didn't cut and run before we learned.

I'm also sympathetic because the standard applied by OIF critics to OIF is ahistorical. Getting it dramatically wrong at the start of a war, absorbing catastrophes, and then learning how to do it right along the way, is a consistent theme in US military history. It just happens that in OIF, our learning curve was steeper in the post-war than it was in the war.

For the Army, the road to right has always been paved with a lot of wrong, and a lot of our blood. The key has always been whether the US would stay the course long enough to turn wrong into right. The post-war in Iraq is far from our worst post-war. The Korean War happened 5 years into the post-war of WW2. Truman sent Task Force Smith into Korea on a suicide mission. Eisenhower used public discontent over the Korean War to break the Democratic stranglehold on the White House. Ike campaigned on the promise he'd get us out of Korea ASAP.

The US got a hell of a lot wrong - catastrophically wrong - in our post-war in Korea, but our military stayed long enough to get it right because Eisenhower, despite his campaign promise, established a long-term military presence in Korea to secure our gains that continues today.

If we had been able to control the security from the outset of the post-war, I think events in Iraq would have turned out very differently, even without the COIN "Surge". Still, our learning curve in Iraq, while costly, is consistent with US military history, and the post-war in Iraq looked like it had turned the corner at the point we left. It may still work out, but I just don't know at this point whether we stayed in Iraq long enough to secure our gains and foster a reliable (domestic) peace in Iraq, like we did with South Korea.



That is how the real world works for convicted unrepented defiant recidivists on probation status. They're held to a higher standard of behavior due to the greater risk they pose to society. Probation status means you're no longer presumed innocent until proven guilty. Saddam was proven guilty and he held the burden to prove he was innocent and rehabilitated. A main purpose of the Gulf War ceasefire and UNSC resolutions was to ensure that Iraq would not threaten the region again, ie, rehabilitation. Saddam's failure at the compliance tests shows that he was not rehabilitated and remained a threat.



My approach to understanding why we invaded Iraq is based on the contemporary context of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In other words, to understand President Bush's decision to invade Iraq, one must place oneself in Bush's shoes at the decision point to invade Iraq.

I believe OIF was a war of choice. I understand the alternate choices to OIF were not better choices.

President Bush faced, as did President Clinton before him, 3 choices on Iraq:
A. The status quo, or maintain indefinitely and head-lining the invasive, provocative, harmful, and eroding bombing, sanctions, and 'containment' mission;
B. Unilaterally end the status quo mission and release a noncompliant Saddam from constraint, in power and triumphant; or
C. Give Saddam a final chance to comply with the Gulf War ceasefire and UNSC resolutions under the ultimate threat of regime change, and if Saddam triggered the final enforcement step, move ahead with regime change.

Realistically, President Bush could choose either Option-A, the status quo, or Option-C, give Saddam a final chance. Option-B, or free a noncompliant Saddam, was out of the question.

At the decision point of OIF, what did we know about the status quo, Option-A?

We knew the standing US relationship with Iraq was toxic, indefinite, deteriorating, and stalemated.

We knew the official US determination - established by President Clinton - that noncompliant Saddam was a "clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere."

We knew the direct and second-order harms caused by the US status quo with Iraq.

We knew the laws and policies - again, established by President Clinton - that set the resolution for the Iraq problem.

We knew 9/11 had opened an unconventional front against the US that Saddam could utilize with or without al Qaeda - al Qaeda did not own a monopoly on terrorism.

By the close of the Clinton administration, we knew our only way out of the toxic mess with Iraq was either regime change (internally or externally generated) or Saddam complying with the Gulf War ceasefire and UNSC resolutions.

Either/Or.

Both Clinton and Bush gave Saddam a "last chance" to comply. Saddam failed to comply both times. That left the US with one option for solving the toxic status quo with Iraq.

President Bush chose Option-C. If you would have chosen differently, either Option-A or Option-B, then place yourself in Bush's shoes:

At the decision point of OIF, did you believe that Saddam would come around on his own accord on both the weapons and humanitarian fronts if we unilaterally ended the pre-OIF status quo mission (Option-B)? Or, the US's Iraq problem would solve itself if we continued maintaining the pre-OIF status quo (Option-A)?

Before and after 9/11, did you believe the pre-OIF status quo with Iraq was stable, regionally stabilizing, and sustainable?

When you weigh your choice, keep in mind the humanitarian standards imposed on Iraq. They were not an after-thought to WMD. In fact, the most costly, invasive, provocative, and (arguably) controversial part of our pre-OIF status quo with Iraq - the no-fly zones with counter-fire - was enforcing humanitarian resolutions, not weapons-related resolutions.

That means even if Saddam had completely and unconditionally met his burden of proof on the weapons-related UNSC resolutions, the humanitarian requirements still needed to be resolved in order to lift the pre-OIF status quo mission and prevent OIF.

There is no evidence - even after the fact - that Saddam was in position to comply with the humanitarian resolutions.

Again, you're wearing Bush's shoes at the decision point of OIF: Option-A, Option-B, or Option-C?



I agree that the faulty intelligence "undermined our credibility globally". Again, however, context matters, and the context has been distorted in the public discussion.

The trigger for OIF was not based on an "assumption" by Bush officials. The trigger for OIF was based on the controlling *presumption* of Iraq's guilt on WMD. Plus, Saddam's violation of the concurrently mandated humanitarian standards is not disputed.

Iraq was on probation after the Gulf War, which meant the CIA was not responsible for proving the state of Iraqi WMD. Iraq's guilt on WMD was established. For the legal purpose of enforcing the ceasefire and UNSC resolutions, Iraq's guilt was presumed. Iraq was responsible to prove it was cured of WMD weapons, related technology and systems, development, and intent. Only Iraq - not the CIA - could cure Iraq's presumption of guilt.

In fact, the CIA Duelfer Report shows Saddam was holding back and Iraq was in violation. We only know (or believe we know) after the fact what Saddam was holding back.

"Assumption" isn't compelling from the legal standpoint on Iraq. As long as Iraq's presumption of guilt was controlling, US officials were *obligated* to interpret intelligence on Iraq in the unfavorable light cast by the presumption of guilt. That was true for Clinton officials as well as their successors.

In any case, we didn't go to war based on the intelligence. The trigger for OIF was Iraq's failure to comply, ie, meet its burden of proof on a mandated standard of compliance.



The notion that Operation Iraqi Freedom was triggered by faulty intelligence is a persistent, but false myth.

The intelligence on WMD did not and - by design - could not trigger Operation Iraqi Freedom. The only trigger for OIF was Iraq's failure to comply, ie, meet its burden of proof on a mandated standard of compliance.

Iraq was on probation after the Gulf War, which meant the CIA was not responsible for proving the state of Iraqi WMD. Iraq's guilt on WMD was established. For the legal purpose of enforcing the Gulf War ceasefire and UNSC resolutions, Iraq's guilt was presumed. Iraq was solely responsible to prove it was cured of WMD weapons, related technology and systems, development, and intent. In addition, Iraq was responsible for meeting a mandated humanitarian standard. Only Iraq - not the CIA - could cure Iraq's presumption of guilt.

As long as Iraq's presumption of guilt was controlling, US officials were *obligated* to interpret intelligence on Iraq in the unfavorable light cast by the presumption of guilt. That was true for Clinton officials as well as their successors.

In fact, the 2004 CIA Duelfer Report shows Saddam was holding back and Iraq was in violation. We only know (or believe we know) after the fact what it was that Saddam was holding back. Of course, Saddam's violation of the concurrently mandated humanitarian standards is not disputed.

The intelligence could not trigger OIF. Only Saddam's failure to comply could trigger OIF. In order to cure Iraq's presumption of guilt and prevent Operation Iraqi Freedom, Saddam only had to meet his burden of proof on the mandated standard of compliance for the Gulf War ceasefire and the weapons and humanitarian resolutions. Saddam could and should have complied in 1991, let alone 2002-2003.

President Clinton gave Saddam a "final chance" to comply in 1998. President Bush gave Saddam a second last chance to comply in 2002-2003. Saddam failed to comply in both his last chances on both the weapons and humanitarian fronts.

And, that's why we invaded Iraq.



Our Iraq mission was trending as a success at the point that Obama and Biden badly bungled the SOFA negotiation. It's as though Eisenhower somehow fumbled away Germany, Japan, and Korea, for whom US-led nation-building also required many years, at their critical turning points.

By the close of the Bush administration, the US presence in geopolitically critical Iraq was settling into a stabilizing role like our long-term presence in Europe and Asia. Obama's failure in Iraq has led to, at the very least, a stronger position for Iran, decrease of US options in the region, and the heightened risk of reversing hard-won progress in Iraq. Like Germany in Europe and Japan in Asia, an empowered liberal Iraq should have been the lynchpin of our Middle East strategy. Now, we can only hope the US did enough for Iraq to resist corrupting influences and stand on its own before our premature exit.



06APR15 Editor's note: Temporary housing while I consider where to relocate this comment if I decide to preserve it at all.

For my answer to the question, "Was Operation Iraqi Freedom legal?", go here. I address the international legal controversy at A2.

President Clinton didn't need to declare a war that was established before he was voted President. The US war on Iraq to enforce the UNSCR 660-series resolutions pursuant to UNSCR 678 was established upon Public Law 102-1 in January 1991. Clinton's military enforcement of the UNSCRs was pursuant to the mandate of PL 102-1, which is to say, the Gulf War ceasefire was not legally a separate entity from the Gulf War.

The fundamental issue that underlaid OIF and the whole US-led enforcement of the UNSCR 660-series resolutions was not war. That threshold was passed in 1991. Rather, the fundamental issue was compliance: "to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area" (UNSCR 678) - "Recalling that in its resolution 687 (1991) the Council declared that a ceasefire would be based on acceptance by Iraq of the provisions of that resolution, including the obligations on Iraq contained therein" (UNSCR 1441).

As you quoted, "The resolution makes clear that any Iraqi failure to comply is unacceptable and that Iraq must be disarmed. And, one way or another, Iraq will be disarmed."

For over a decade, the chief enforcer of the Gulf War ceasefire did everything it could to compel Iraq's compliance short of resuming the Gulf War. The Operation Desert Fox bombing in December 1998 used up the penultimate enforcement measure to drive Saddam to comply. After Operation Desert Fox, the threat of regime change was the last remaining of the "necessary means" to compel Saddam’s cooperation.

Like the rest of the UNSCR 660-series resolutions it summarized and restated, UNSCR 1441 was not a toothless or triggerless resolution. UNSCR 1441 "[recalled] that its resolution 678 (1990) authorized Member States to use all necessary means to uphold and implement its resolution 660 (1990) of 2 August 1990 and all relevant resolutions subsequent to resolution 660 (1990) and to restore international peace and security in the area".

UNSCR 1441 didn't bar regime change as you imply. The UNSCR 1441 inspections depended on the threat of regime change. According to Hans Blix and confirmed by the Iraq Survey Group, Saddam only cooperated with the UNSCR 1441 inspections at all - and deficiently at that - due to the credible threat of regime change.

As such, the UNSCR 1441 inspections were Saddam's "final opportunity to comply". The threat of regime change would no longer have been credible if it had been a dud when triggered by Saddam. Every other enforcement measure had proven ineffective. When Saddam failed his "final opportunity to comply", upholding and implementing Iraq's compliance with the UNSCRs meant regime change. Discrediting the threat of regime change meant aggressive, irrational, rearming, terrorist, tyrannical, noncompliant Saddam defeats the enforcement of the UNSCR 660-series resolutions.

The international legal controversy in the UNSC was procedural, not substantive. Substantively, Saddam was evidently noncompliant with the ceasefire across the board, including the humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688, the terrorism mandates of UNSCR 687, and the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687.

However, you're correct that once Saddam confirmed his material breach of the ceasefire, the Security Council split over the authorization to follow through on the threat of regime change.

Perhaps coincidentally, the UNSC members opposed to enforcement in the face of Saddam's evident noncompliance were also the UNSC members implicated in the Oil for Food scandal.

As you alluded, the international legal controversy over Bush's Iraq enforcement was the same international legal controversy over Clinton's Iraq enforcement. The procedural controversy in the UNSC carried over from Clinton to Bush - see this. OIF and ODF were equally legal from the American perspective or equally illegal from Russia's perspective. (In comparison, the decision for OIF followed after 10 days of UNSC debate after the presentation of the UNMOVIC Cluster Document to the UNSC, while Clinton bombed Iraq immediately upon the presentation of the UNSCOM Butler Report.)

Op Desert Fox differed from Op Iraqi Freedom in practical degree, not legal kind. ODF was war, carried out under the Gulf War authorization of PL 102-1 and UNSCR 678. The forcible insertion of conventional ground forces is not the only condition that defines a war. ODF is notable for targeting military-related Iraqi infrastructure beyond suspected WMD sites in order to instigate and facilitate a coup-based regime change, a precursor to Obama's Libya regime change strategy.

In practical terms, ODF proved bombing Iraq was inadequate to enforce Iraq's compliance (which unfortunately, coupled with China, France, and Russia's support for Saddam that carried forward from 1998, encouraged Saddam to defy the UN mandates again in 2002-2003), cleared the penultimate enforcement step, and set the stage for the ultimate enforcement measure, the threat of regime change, which Clinton's successor exercised in 2002-2003.

The threat posed by Saddam's regime to "America's vital interests" (Clinton) was a standing threat that Bush inherited from his 2 immediate predecessors. Hence, "the continuing threat posed by Iraq" in Public Law 107-243 was carried forward from "Iraqi actions pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States" in President Clinton's official notice to Congress on July 28, 2000.

To wit, from Clinton's official notice to Congress on July 28, 2000:
The crisis between the United States and Iraq that led to the declaration on August 2, 1990, of a national emergency has not been resolved. The Government of Iraq continues to engage in activities inimical to stability in the Middle East and hostile to United States interests in the region. Such Iraqi actions pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.

President Clinton's judgement for ODF that "This situation presents a clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere" was based on Saddam's noncompliance with the UNSCRs. The threat to US national security, including Saddam's terrorism and terroristic rule, was intrinsic with Iraq's material breach.

As such, the 2002 AUMF mandates to "(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq" (P.L. 107-243) were national and international aspects of the same problem, with the same solution: "Iraq fully comply with all of its obligations under Security Council resolutions" (Clinton).

For an idea of what "the threat Iraq’s non-compliance with Council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security" (UNSCR 1441) looked like from the White House, consider these factors:

A. The sanctions-based ad hoc 'containment' of Saddam that followed Operation Desert Fox was evidently failing by 2001, if it ever worked in the first place. Saddam was rearming in violation of UNSCR 687.

To wit, Iraq Survey Group Duelfer Report:
The successful implementation of the Protocols, continued oil smuggling efforts, and the manipulation of UN OFF [Oil for Food] contracts emboldened Saddam to pursue his military reconstitution efforts starting in 1997 and peaking in 2001. These efforts covered conventional arms, dual-use goods acquisition, and some WMD-related programs.

The UNSC members opposed to ODF and OIF were complicit in A. with the Oil For Food scandal.

B. The 9/11 attacks raised the threat consideration of Saddam's ongoing violation of the terrorism mandates of UNSCR 687.

To wit, in an address to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pentagon staff on February 17, 1998, President Clinton warned of "the very kind of threat Iraq poses now: a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction, ready to use them or provide them to terrorists".

To wit, 9/11 Commission:
Iraq under Saddam was a major state sponsor of international terrorism: Baghdad actively sponsored terrorist groups, providing safe haven, training, arms, and logistical support, requiring in exchange that the groups carry out operations ordered by Baghdad for Saddam's objectives. ... Conventional wisdom casts Saddam Husayn as a terrorist, a primary consumer of terrorist tactics and methods, and an enemy of the United States. That is true. Conventional wisdom describes Iraq under Saddam Husayn as a primary state sponsor of international terrorism-and that is true.

To wit, the Iraqi Perspectives Project report on Saddam's terrorism found Saddam's terrorism was even worse than had been assessed before OIF.

C. In combination with B., whether or not Saddam was producing new "militarily significant WMD stocks" as the pre-war intel had indicated, Saddam was at minimum guilty of unaccounted for stocks.

To wit, President Clinton, CNN interview, July 3, 2003:
Let me tell you what I know. When I left office, there was a substantial amount of biological and chemical material unaccounted for. ... So I thought it was prudent for the president to go to the U.N. and for the U.N. to say you got to let these inspectors in, and this time if you don't cooperate the penalty could be regime change, not just continued sanctions. I mean, we're all more sensitive to any possible stocks of chemical and biological weapons. ... it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks of biological and chemical weapons.

D. Per C., "The onus [was] clearly on Iraq" [to] "verify the absence of any new activities or proscribed items, new or retained" (UNMOVIC). There was no burden to prove Iraq was guilty. Saddam's guilt and threat were established as foundational premise. The burden of proof was on Saddam to prove Iraq was fully compliant with "the governing standard of Iraqi compliance", including the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687, as the prescribed way to establish Saddam was rehabilitated sufficiently to be trusted with the peace.

The principal trigger for OIF was the UNMOVIC Cluster Document presented to the UNSC on March 7, 2003 with the finding of "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues".

The confirmation by the UNSCR 1441 inspections that "Iraq ... remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687" (UNSCR 1441) meant that "the threat Iraq’s non-compliance with Council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security" (UNSCR 1441) remained unresolved in Saddam's "final opportunity to comply [with] full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under resolution 687 (1991) and other relevant resolutions" (UNSCR 1441).

There was no dispute that Saddam was guilty of material breach of the ceasefire. The dispute was over what to do with the last remaining measure of the "necessary means to uphold and implement" (UNSCR 678) Iraq's compliance. And whether, procedurally, according to Saddam's allies on the UNSC, enforcement was allowed only with a new concurrent specific authorization from the UNSC. Or whether duly following the UNSC "conven[ing] ... to consider the situation" per paragraph 12 of UNSCR 1441 - which was the debate between March 7 and March 17 - no additional UN authorization was needed because, per Clinton, the US President was already vested with the authority to enforce the UNSCRs per UNSCRs 678 and 687, the US Constitution, and US law.

The President's options at the decision point for OIF were either follow through on the threat of regime change to bring Iraq into compliance or else surrender the enforcement of the UNSCR 660-series resolutions and free an unreconstructed, noncompliant Saddam from constraint.

What did the alternative to OIF of freeing a noncompliant Saddam look like to President Bush?

President Clinton answered that question in his announcement of ODF, December 16, 1998:
If we turn our backs on his defiance, the credibility of U.S. power as a check against Saddam will be destroyed. ... Heavy as they are, the costs of action must be weighed against the price of inaction. If Saddam defies the world and we fail to respond, we will face a far greater threat in the future. Saddam will strike again at his neighbors; he will make war on his own people. And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. He will deploy them, and he will use them.

----

Holding pen from here:

Compliance with the UNSCRs was Saddam's way out of the "corner", ie, ceasefire of the Gulf War. Saddam could and should have proven compliance with the terms of the ceasefire by the time that Clinton was voted President.

Supervised disarmament was a core element of the UNSCR 687-mandated disarmament process. Unsupervised destruction was a method to evade accountability in order to retain weapons claimed to be destroyed outside the UNSCR 687-mandated disarmament process.

The "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" was clear by the time of Saddam's "final opportunity to comply" with "full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations" (UNSCR 1441) in 2002-2003, if it somehow wasn't clear to Saddam when he agreed to the ceasefire terms in 1991 that he promptly violated with unsupervised, unaccounted destruction while hiding WMD stocks that were revealed in 1995 by his son-in-law, General Hussein Kamel al-Majid.

That revelation, more than any other, reinforced the need for strict compliance with UN mandates. In contrast, opponents of the US-led enforcement in effect adopted the standard of compliance preferred by Saddam Hussein and his allies, where anything hidden out of sight would be tolerated, by which Iraq would have satisfied its disarmament obligations by 1994 - in other words, before General Hussein Kamel al-Majid revealed Saddam's hidden WMD stocks in 1995.

"Full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions" did not include an exception for 'grudging' partial credit. Either Saddam was compliant, happily or grudgingly doesn't matter, with the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" or he "remain[ed] in material breach of [Iraq's] obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687" (UNSCR 1441).

Findings like "Huwaysh instructed MIC [military-industrial complex] general directors to conceal sensitive material and documents from UN inspectors" (Duelfer Report) show that Saddam did not intend to comply, grudgingly or otherwise, with the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance". And that's before we even consider Saddam's violation of ceasefire obligations such as the terrorism mandates of UNSCR 687 and humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688, both of which also informed the need for Saddam to comply fully with disarmament mandates.

You're correct IAEA made a relatively encouraging assessment on the nuclear mandates of UNSCR 687. (Note: the ISG Duelfer Report provides insight on why US officials pushed for an urgent return of IAEA to verify Iraq's compliance on nuclear mandates; there were several indicators of nuclear-related activity, including but not limited to the controversial indicators.)

You're incorrect on UNMOVIC. If UNMOVIC had made a similarly encouraging assessment, perhaps the President might have decided differently. However, UNMOVIC did not make an encouraging assessment of Iraq's compliance on the other disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687.

Again, the UNMOVIC findings were the principal trigger for OIF. For an idea of what Bush had to weigh at the decision point for OIF, in combination with Saddam's other continuing violations of UNSCRs, review the UNMOVIC Cluster Document (link) ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues Iraq’s Proscribed Weapons Programmes 6 March 2003") according to UNSCR 687. An easier read is the State Department summary (link) of the 173-page report.

You're correct that Saddam's WMD practice included proven proficiency and application of dual-use conversion for WMD, which goes to why compliance needed to be strict.

Another reason compliance needed to be strict, from the Iraq Survey Group Duelfer Report:
Through an investigation of the history of Iraq’s bulk BW [biological weapons] agent stocks, it has become evident to ISG that officials were involved in concealment and deception activities.
ISG judges that Iraq failed to comply with UNSCRs up to OIF by failing to disclose accurate production totals for B. anthracis and probably other BW agents and for not providing the true details of its alleged 1991 disposal of stocks of bulk BW agent.
Officials within the BW program knowingly continued this deception right up to OIF and beyond, only revealing some details well after the conflict.

Eric Vought:
The idea that he intended to restart after the end of sanctions is likely true but not relevant.

Actually, that issue went to the core relevant issue of the UNSCR 660-series resolutions: the rehabilitation of Saddam's regime. The fundamental purpose that underlaid the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) in the Gulf War ceasefire was a prescribed process, including but not limited to disarmament, by which Saddam would ensure he (ie, Iraq) could be trusted with the peace.

The source of the “clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere” (Clinton) was not Iraq’s WMD, but rather the nature of Saddam’s regime within and outside Iraq. Iraq’s WMD was a symptom only, albeit a very dangerous symptom, of the cancer afflicting Iraq: Saddam's rule, noncompliant and unreconstructed.

Your statement, "The idea that he intended to restart after the end of sanctions is likely true but not relevant", is a fundamentally incorrect characterization of the Gulf War ceasefire and its compliance-based enforcement.

Note the future tense in President Clinton's justification for Operation Desert Fox, the penultimate enforcement step to Operation Iraqi Freedom:
Heavy as they are, the costs of action must be weighed against the price of inaction. If Saddam defies the world and we fail to respond, we will face a far greater threat in the future. Saddam will strike again at his neighbors; he will make war on his own people. And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. He will deploy them, and he will use them.

President Clinton, August 2, 1999: "Iraq remains a serious threat to international peace and security. I remain determined to see Iraq fully comply with all of its obligations under Security Council resolutions."

Public Law 107-243: "it is in the national security interests of the United States and in furtherance of the war on terrorism that all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions be enforced"

UNSCR 1441: "Determined to ensure full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under resolution 687 (1991) and other relevant resolutions and recalling that the resolutions of the Council constitute the governing standard of Iraqi compliance,"

UNSCR 687: "Decides that Iraq shall unconditionally undertake not to use, develop, construct or acquire any of the items specified in paragraphs 8 and 9 above"

UNMOVIC Cluster Document: "UNMOVIC must verify the absence of any new activities or proscribed items, new or retained."

----

Do the Darwin:
The entire world understood that Saddam was playing a shell game in 1998.

Incorrect.

To wit, President Clinton, CNN interview, July 3, 2003:
Let me tell you what I know. When I left office, there was a substantial amount of biological and chemical material unaccounted for. ... So I thought it was prudent for the president to go to the U.N. and for the U.N. to say you got to let these inspectors in, and this time if you don't cooperate the penalty could be regime change, not just continued sanctions. I mean, we're all more sensitive to any possible stocks of chemical and biological weapons. ... it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks of biological and chemical weapons.

The one data point above all others that refutes your "shell game" inference (BTW, the 'shell game' metaphor implies Saddam was hiding something, not faking) is the hidden WMD stocks that were revealed in 1995 by his son-in-law, General Hussein Kamel al-Majid. Saddam had used the tactic of unsupervised unilateral destruction of stocks in violation of the supervisory mandate of UNSCR 687 to hide WMD stocks that Iraq claimed to have destroyed.

That revelation, more than any other, reinforced the need for strict compliance with UNSCR 687. In contrast, opponents of the US-led enforcement in effect adopted the standard of compliance preferred by Saddam Hussein and his allies, where claims of unilateral destruction were accepted at face value and anything hidden out of sight would be tolerated, by which Iraq would have satisfied its disarmament obligations by 1994 - in other words, before General Hussein Kamel al-Majid revealed Saddam's hidden WMD stocks in 1995.

Answering the question of Saddam's proscribed weapons was not guesswork. It wasn't even intelligence work, where our intelligence efforts were (evidently) outmatched by Saddam's counter-intelligence. The "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" was the prescribed way to answer the question, and the last time Saddam was asked the question, the UNMOVIC Cluster Document findings were his final answer.

By the same token, Saddam's noncompliance with UNSCR 687 and the other UNSCR 660-series resolutions was the prescribed measuring stick for Saddam's continuing threat. It was also the necessary measuring stick for Saddam's continuing threat due to Saddam's "concealment and deception activities" (Duelfer Report) throughout the Gulf War ceasefire, including the final UNSCR 1441 inspection period.

Which is to say, the proscribed items we could demonstrate in hand were not the main weapons threat, because the proscribed items we could demonstrate, we could destroy as mandated. Rather, Saddam's main weapons threat was based on the weapons we couldn't demonstrate in hand due to Saddam's noncompliance and "denial and deception operations" (Duelfer Report). Hence, the compliance-based enforcement.

By necessity and mandate, the burden of proof was never on the US to prove the "threat Iraq’s non-compliance with Council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security" (UNSCR 1441). Saddam's continuing threat was established and presumed. The burden of proof was on Saddam to prove he was compliant and disarmed and therefore no longer a threat.

Do the Darwin:
In fact, the October 2002 vote was contingent upon the passage of UN Resolution 1441, which was not only a reinforcement of previous resolutions but also a sort of "blank slate" to be applied to any prior violations.

Incorrect.

I don't know where you got this idea. It's certainly not from any of the law and policy or US or UN discussion..

There was no amnesty for Saddam. The unsupervised years between Operations Desert Fox and Iraqi Freedom with unambiguous indicators (link) that the 'containment' was failing with Saddam rearming in violation of UNSCR 687 heightened the scrutiny on Saddam, not lowered it. The situation certainly did not merit a "blank slate" forgiveness for Saddam's track record (link).

That being said, the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) remained the same. For his "final opportunity to comply", PL 107-243 and UNSCR 1441 summarized the standing US laws and UNSC resolutions on Iraq, reiterated the legal authority for military enforcement and "governing standard of Iraqi compliance", respectively, in strict terms and reset the material breach status for Iraq. UNSCR 1441 "recall[ed]" UNSCR 678 from the original Gulf War authorization. Then the UNMOVIC Cluster Document confirmed the material breach of UNSCR 687.

Do the Darwin:
The very fact that you have admitted that the invasion was NOT sanctioned by the UN and was, in fact, considered illegal according to the UN charter, and instead intend only to justify it according to domestic law...

Incorrect.

I said there is a UNSC procedure-based international legal controversy over OIF.

Operation Iraqi Freedom is the same legal (or illegal, from the Russian perspective) as the no-fly zones and Operation Desert Fox. See President Clinton's statement (link) of legal authority for ODF, citing to UNSCRs 678 and 687, that President Bush carried forward to OIF.

The "illegal but legitimate" (IICK) Kosovo intervention is a precedent. However, the Iraq intervention is distinguished from the Kosovo intervention by the Iraq intervention's standing UNSC authorization and practical precedent that the Kosovo intervention did not have. As the Russians like to point out, OIF was more legal (or less illegal) than the Kosovo intervention.

Domestic law is relevant because international law is enforced by sovereign authority and there is no domestic legal controversy over OIF. The US was the chief enforcer of the UNSCR 660-series resolutions from the outset in 1990. The US doesn't act under order of the UN. The US President enforces UN mandates by US process on US terms. If that sounds messy, that's just the messy arrangement enforcing international law. Thus, when OIF is characterized as illegal under international law due to UNSC procedural dysfunction, that doesn't mean all that you think it means.

Do the Darwin:
In fact, the October 2002 vote was contingent upon the passage of UN Resolution 1441

Sort of.

Actually, UNSCR 1441 was contingent on PL 107-243, but it's a minor distinction. UNSCR 1441 and PL 107-243 worked in tandem. Inserting UNMOVIC into Iraq required UNSCR 1441, and the UN inspections functioning in Iraq required the credible threat of regime change enabled by PL 107-243.

Do the Darwin:
The invasion of 2003 was sold to both congress and the American public on claims of Iraq being an "imminent threat"

Incorrect.

President Bush pointedly did not present the case against Saddam as an imminent threat. From the 2003 State of the Union:
Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. ... Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

Do the Darwin:
the vote was not simply a declaration of war, but a maneuver to increase Bush's negotiating leverage to put pressure on Iraq to meet disarmament agreements

Correct.

President Bush, October 7, 2002:
I have asked Congress to authorize the use of America's military, if it proves necessary, to enforce U.N. Security Council demands. Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable. The resolution will tell the United Nations, and all nations, that America speaks with one voice and is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean something.

The purpose of the 2002 AUMF, the same as the 1991 AUMF it incorporated and the whole US-led enforcement of the UNSCR 660-series resolutions, including OIF, was to "bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations" (PL 105-235).

Regime change was the consequence for Saddam failing to prove "full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations" in his "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441). The UNSCR 1441 inspections were the compliance test that determined whether Iraq could be made compliant with Saddam or, per the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, Iraq's compliance would require regime change.

When Saddam failed the UNSCR 1441 compliance test with "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues" (UNMOVIC), deposing Saddam's regime was the preliminary step for the US-led, UN-mandated process to "bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations" (PL 105-235).

See this UN press release (link) for insight on the UN-mandated compliance process of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Do the Darwin:
It was also dependent on Bush's explicit agreement to exhaust all diplomatic means before he invaded.

Partially correct.

The mandate to use "all appropriate diplomatic and other peaceful means to obtain compliance by Iraq" was part of the 1991 AUMF (PL 102-1) for the Gulf War and Gulf War ceasefire enforcement. A version was included in the 2002 AUMF (PL 107-243). However ...

Do the Darwin:
This is why many democrats, including Kerry, opposed and criticized the invasion from day 1. Bush did not hold up his end of the bargain, plain and simple.

Incorrect.

PL 107-243 did not - as you seem to be implying - open a new diplomatic course with Saddam untried in Presidents HW Bush and Clinton's Iraq enforcement. Alternatively, there was no clean-slate 'reset' with Saddam with PL 107-243 that obligated Bush to retread the enforcement measures exhausted by his predecessors.

If fact, the version in PL 107-243 was significantly watered down from PL 102-1 to the point that it's not apparent the President was obligated to take action other than updating Congress. Compare the two AUMFs.

PL 102-1 (1991):
REQUIREMENT FOR DETERMINATION THAT USE OF MILITARY FORCE Is NECESSARY.—Before exercising the authority granted in subsection (a), the President shall make available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his determination that—
(1) the United States has used all appropriate diplomatic and other peaceful means to obtain compliance by Iraq with the
United Nations Security Council resolutions cited in subsection
(a); and
(2) that those efforts have not been and would not be successful in obtaining such compliance,

PL 107-243 (2002):
(b) PRESIDENTIAL DETERMINATION.—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;

After 12+ years, with the penultimate enforcement step passed with ODF, Saddam's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441) under credible threat of regime change was the last remaining "further diplomatic or other peaceful means" short of regime change.

I'm curious. Assuming the more stringent PL 102-1 standard for argument's sake, what "appropriate diplomatic and other peaceful means to obtain compliance by Iraq" do you believe that President Bush overlooked that hadn't already been tried since 1990 and exhausted by ODF in 1998, let alone by OIF in 2003?

Do the Darwin:
Which brings us to the Duelfer report.

It's obvious you're not familiar with the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441). Or else you would know that the "buried and abandoned chemical weapons munitions" reported by CJ Chivers in the NY Times on their face corroborate Saddam was noncompliant with UNSCR 687.

It's also obvious you're citing from a second-hand source. I suggest that you first learn the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" for disarmament mandated by UNSCR 687 (link) and then read the ISG Duelfer Report (link) for yourself.

Note that the ISG qualified the Duelfer Report with the cautionary notes that much potential evidence was lost during the war and its aftermath, key regime officials were not cooperative, and suspect areas were found "sanitized". Therefore, what the ISG found in its post-war investigation is more telling than what the ISG did not find. Nonetheless, you'll see that the ISG findings are rife with violations of UNSCR 687.

To wit, "ISG judges that Iraq failed to comply with UNSCRs" (Duelfer Report).

Moreover, I'm allowed to cherry-pick the ISG Duelfer Report. You are not.

Why? Because the burden of proof was always on Saddam to prove "full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under resolution 687 (1991) and other relevant resolutions and recalling that the resolutions of the Council constitute the governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNCR 1441).

That means any less than "full and immediate compliance" by Saddam confirmed "Iraq ... remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687 ... Recalling that in its resolution 687 (1991) the Council declared that a ceasefire would be based on acceptance by Iraq of the provisions of that resolution, including the obligations on Iraq contained therein" (UNSCR 1441).

Saddam was not allowed to retain some items and activities proscribed by UNSCR 687 as long as they weren't indicated by US intelligence, nor was he allowed to reconstitute proscribed items and capabilities, which he evidently was doing.

Don't overlook that Saddam's WMD threat was not weighed alone. To wit, in an address to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pentagon staff on February 17, 1998, President Clinton warned (link) of "the very kind of threat Iraq poses now: a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction, ready to use them or provide them to terrorists".

Saddam's terrorism (link) in violation of UNSCR 687 and terroristic rule (link) in violation of UNSCR 688, each a trigger for OIF in its own right, each also combined with Saddam's WMD threat to heighten the need for "full and immediate compliance" by Saddam with the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687.

All that being said, the ISG Duelfer Report, while corroborative and informative, is not actually relevant to the decision for OIF. The disarmament-related determinative fact finding at the decision point for OIF was the UNMOVIC Cluster Document, not the post hoc ISG Duelfer Report.

To understand what the President considered at the decision point for OIF, read the UNMOVIC Cluster Document (link) ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues Iraq’s Proscribed Weapons Programmes 6 March 2003") or the State Department summary (link) if you prefer an easier read than the 173-page report.

Do the Darwin:
absolutely nothing that happened between 1990 and 2002 is in any way relevant to the Iraq invasion of 2003.

Incorrect.

Again, I don't know where you got this idea. Certainly not from the law and policy or US or UN discussion. There was no "blank slate" erasure of Saddam's track record (link).

OIF is often isolated out of context and misrepresented as a new policy by Bush. In fact, OIF was the coda of the US-led enforcement of the UNSC resolutions for Iraq that began when Saddam seized Kuwait in 1990 and continued through the subsequent Gulf War ceasefire. Bush inherited Saddam's "clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere" (Clinton) and carried forward the Iraq enforcement from Clinton.

Bush's case against Saddam was really Clinton's case against Saddam, updated from 9/11 with a heightened threat consideration of Saddam's terrorism (link). Likewise, Bush's enforcement procedure with OIF carried forward Clinton's enforcement procedure for Iraq, updated from Operation Desert Fox, the penultimate enforcement step.

Every non-military (ie, "all appropriate diplomatic and other peaceful means", PL 102-1) and lesser military enforcement measure had been used up during the Clinton administration and exhausted against Saddam's persistent subversion of the disarmament process and open violation of non-weapons mandates. The Operation Desert Fox bombing campaign was the penultimate military enforcement. When Saddam was debriefed after his capture, he confirmed that he had been ready and willing to absorb another bombing campaign like ODF.

By 2001, Saddam had de facto neutralized the sanctions and, after ODF, set domestic Iraq policy nullifying the UNSCRs and determined another bombing campaign like ODF could be absorbed. According to Hans Blix (UNMOVIC) and confirmed by the Iraq Survey Group, a credible threat of regime change was necessary to compel even Saddam's deficient cooperation for the UNSCR 1441 inspections.

Before the penultimate enforcement step of bombing Iraq was passed with Operation Desert Fox in December 1998, the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 had established the solution for the threat of Saddam’s noncompliance was US-assisted regime change per section 3 followed by US-led peace operations per section 7 to “bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations” (PL 105-235). After the ODF bombing campaign failed to move Saddam to comply and disarm, the stage was set for OIF: the only remaining enforcement measure was the threat of regime change via ground invasion, which President Bush exercised in 2002.

Do the Darwin:
This, of course, doesn't even address the lies and misrepresentations that Bush utilized to justify the war

First, the pre-war intelligence that Bush presented was simply the intelligence that was available. Clinton and Bush officials enforcing the Gulf War ceasefire were compelled to judge the intelligence in an unfavorable light for Iraq, and 9/11 obliged US officials to increase their wariness due to Saddam's terrorism and belligerence. Congressmen, Democrats and Republicans, who independently reviewed the pre-war intelligence in light of Saddam's track record largely shared Bush's determination. On March 23, 2004, Clinton Secretary of Defense William Cohen gave the Clinton administration perspective to the 9/11 Commission:
The war against Iraq has highlighted the challenge of obtaining reliable intelligence against a so-called “hard target.” While some charge that the Bush Administration exaggerated or manipulated the available intelligence, the fact is that all responsible officials from the Clinton and Bush administrations and, I believe, most Members of Congress genuinely believed that Saddam Hussein had active WMD programs.

In 2005, the bipartisan Silberman-Robb WMD Commission, while sharply critical of the pre-war intelligence, "found no indication that the Intelligence Community distorted the evidence regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. What the intelligence professionals told [the President] about Saddam Hussein's programs was what they believed." Then in 2008, a Democrat-slanted Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, although overtly partisan, analyzed pre-war statements by Bush administration officials and concluded they were largely "substantiated by intelligence", and found no manipulated intelligence nor political pressure placed on intelligence analysts.

Second, the intelligence was not casus belli. The law and policy of the Gulf War ceasefire plainly show the casus belli was Iraq's noncompliance, ie, material breach. The pre-war intelligence, no matter how precise, did not and could not trigger OIF. By procedure, only Iraq’s noncompliance could trigger enforcement, and only Iraq’s compliance could switch off the enforcement.

Had Bush presented no intelligence on Iraq's weapons, the compliance-based enforcement procedure would have been the same as in December 1998, when Clinton cited neither the intelligence nor demonstrated Iraqi possession of WMD to justify Operation Desert Fox.

Enforcement turned on Iraq's compliance with the UNSCRs, not on demonstration of Iraqi possession of proscribed items, no matter the degree and kind, nor on the intelligence, no matter how precise.

What was meant by Iraq's compliance with the UNSCR 660-series resolutions?

It meant the source of the “clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere” (Clinton) was not Iraq’s WMD, but rather the nature of Saddam’s regime within and outside Iraq. Iraq’s WMD was a symptom only, albeit a very dangerous symptom, of the cancer afflicting Iraq: Saddam's rule, noncompliant and unreconstructed.

It meant that ISG finding violations of UNSCR 687 of any degree and kind is dispositive corroboration of Saddam's material breach.

It meant that if no violations of UNSCR 687 had been found by ISG, the decision for OIF would still have been justified by the UNMOVIC findings of Iraq's noncompliance.

Full compliance with all the UNSCRs, not just the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687, was required to prove the reconstruction of the nature of Saddam's regime.

For the disarmament mandates, proving Saddam's reconstruction through compliance meant Iraq was required to "declare" and "yield" all proscribed items to the UN inspectors for "destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision" and - this was key - "unconditionally undertake not to use, develop, construct or acquire any of the [proscribed] items", pursuant to UNSCR 687 and related resolutions.

As such, among the disarmament violations found by ISG, the key ISG findings are that "Senior Iraqis—several of them from the Regime’s inner circle—told ISG they assumed Saddam would restart a nuclear program" and "In addition to preserved capability, we have clear evidence of [Saddam's] intent to resume WMD". That was the very condition that Saddam's compliance with the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" for disarmament mandated by UNSCR 687 and related resolutions was purposed to cure as a necessary condition for suspending the Gulf War short of regime change.

The retention by Saddam of the practice and intent to rearm under cover of "denial and deception operations" (Duelfer Report), which was confirmed by Saddam's noncompliance with the UNSCR 1441 inspections and corroborated by the post-war investigation, was the principal trigger for the regime change to "bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations" (P.L. 105-235).

The UNMOVIC findings weren't the only evidence of Saddam's noncompliance with the UNSCR 660-series resolutions, of course. At the decision point for OIF, Saddam was evidently noncompliant across the board with the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance", including the terrorism mandates of UNSCR 687, humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688, and the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687.

* Explanation (link) of the law and policy, fact basis for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

----

From another debate:

I guess you didn't read up to "For an idea of what [the threat] looked like from the White House in 2002[-2003], consider these factors".

President Clinton faced the same opposition leading up to enforcement with Operation Desert Fox, and President Bush fell back on the standing UN authorization used by President Clinton, ie, UNSCRs 678 (which was recalled in UNSCR 1441) and 687.

I answer the question, "Was Operation Iraqi Freedom legal?", here (link).

The "spirit" of UNSCR 1441, plainly stated, was a "final opportunity to comply" with "full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations". The dispute is whether the "spirit" of UNSCR 1441 had any teeth because the UNSCR 1441 inspections were made possible at all only due to the credible threat of regime change.

You're referring to part 12 of UNSCR 1441. Indeed, OIF wasn't automatic. The UNMOVIC Cluster Document, the principal trigger for OIF, was presented to the UNSC on March 7, 2003. After 10 days of debate, the decision for OIF was announced on March 17, 2003. In comparison, Clinton ordered ODF the day after the UNSCOM Butler Report was presented to the UN, stating "If we had delayed for even a matter of days from Chairman Butler's report, we would have given Saddam more time to disperse forces and protect his weapons."

Beyond the issue of unreconstructed, noncompliant Saddam, how much is this consideration worth to the leader of the free world?

In his remarks to Pentagon personnel on February 17, 1998, Clinton warned against the broader consequences of tolerating Saddam's noncompliance:
If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow by the knowledge that they can act with impunity, even in the face of a clear message from the United Nations Security Council and clear evidence of a weapons of mass destruction program.

The reasons that Presidents HW Bush, Clinton, and Bush, with Congress, officially designated noncompliant Saddam to be a "continuing ... threat" to "America's vital interests" (Clinton) are a matter of record. You don't have to agree with the reasons, but your disagreement with the official designation is not a "fundamental fact". Agree with them or not, the reasons and official designation of noncompliant Saddam that were inherited by Bush are fact.

President Bush didn't make the decision for OIF in a vacuum. The "fundamental facts" can only be evaluated properly in the context of the Gulf War ceasefire UN Security Council resolutions that set the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441), the US law and policy that enforced the UNSCRs, the conditions and precedents that set the stage for OIF, and the determinative fact findings that triggered the decision for OIF.

Instead, your view relies on a cherry-picked sample from a post hoc fact finding that you've removed from the context of Saddam's track record, Saddam's ceasefire obligations, and the compliance-based enforcement of the Gulf War ceasefire.

Again, the determinative disarmament fact finding for the decision for OIF is the UNMOVIC Cluster Document, not the ISG Duelfer Report. The ISG Duelfer Report, while corroborative and informative, is not relevant to the compliance-based decision for OIF.

Answering the question of Saddam's proscribed weapons program was not guesswork. It wasn't even intelligence work, where our intelligence efforts were (evidently) outmatched by Saddam's counter-intelligence. Like I said, if Bush had presented no intelligence on Iraq's weapons, the compliance-based enforcement procedure would have been the same. The "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" was the prescribed way to answer the question, and the last time Saddam was asked the question, the UNMOVIC Cluster Document findings were his final answer.

By the same token, Saddam's noncompliance with UNSCR 687 and the other UNSCR 660-series resolutions was the prescribed measuring stick for Saddam's continuing threat. It was also the necessary measuring stick for Saddam's continuing threat due to Saddam's "concealment and deception activities" (Duelfer Report) throughout the Gulf War ceasefire, including the final UNSCR 1441 inspection period.

Which is to say, the proscribed items we could demonstrate in hand were not the main weapons threat, because we could destroy them as mandated. Rather, Saddam's main weapons threat was based on what we couldn't demonstrate in hand due to Saddam's "denial and deception operations" (Duelfer Report). Hence, the compliance-based enforcement.

By necessity and mandate, the burden of proof was never on the US to prove the "threat Iraq’s non-compliance with Council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security" (UNSCR 1441). Saddam's continuing threat was established and presumed. The burden of proof was on Saddam to prove he was compliant and disarmed and therefore no longer a threat.

I answer the question, "Did Bush allow enough time for the inspections?", here (link). In brief, the presentation of the UNMOVIC Cluster Document to the UN Security Council on March 7, 2003 discharged the mandate under UNSCR 1441 to test for "full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under resolution 687 (1991) and other relevant resolutions" (UNSCR 1441). Saddam failed the UNSCR 1441-mandated UNSCR 687 compliance test with "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues".

Given the ISG findings that "In addition to preserved capability, we have clear evidence of his intent to resume WMD" and "[Iraqi] officials were involved in concealment and deception activities [and] knowingly continued this deception right up to OIF and beyond", and that Saddam failed the same UNSCR 687 compliance test for 12 years, I'm skeptical that dropping the UNSCR 1441 mandate in order to administer yet another, indefinitely extended UNSCR 687 compliance test after "Iraq has abused its final chance" (Clinton, 1998) - again - in Saddam's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441), while the threat of regime change degraded after Saddam called our bluff, would have convinced Saddam to comply with the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance".

Instead, when it was evident in March 2003 that Saddam would not comply even under threat of regime change, the alternative to Operation Iraqi Freedom was compromising the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) to free a noncompliant Saddam.

---

The UN mandate was Iraq's compliance with the UNSCR 660-series resolutions.

The UN authorization was "to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area" (UNSCR 678).

When Saddam failed to comply volitionally in his "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441), deposing Saddam's regime was the preliminary step for the US-led, UN-mandated process to "bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations" (P.L. 105-235).

Insight (link) on the UN-mandated Iraqi compliance process of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I answer the question, "Was Operation Iraqi Freedom a strategic blunder or a strategic victory?", here (link).

Consider: How we value WW2 today is due as much or even more to President Eisenhower than Presidents Roosevelt and Truman. Many overlook the context of Ike's "military-industrial complex" remarks.

------

02MAY15 add: As a learning device, it's useful to engage different kinds of comments as I do here (Washington Times), here (Atlantic), and here (Frontpage) to develop and hone content.

You've been categorically misinformed. Let's take this point by point.

Vandal111:
The Bush administration chose to ignore that there was no evidence to support the claim that Saddam was attempting to buy yellowcake from Nigeria ...

You're incorrect.

Recall President Bush's statement in the 2003 State of the Union: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." American analysts did cast doubt on the British assessment for conditional factors, not for "no evidence to support the claim", but British intelligence stood by it. In fact, Joe Wilson's forgery was irrelevant because it wasn't a source for the British assessment nor a significant part of the American analysis. The only reason Wilson's forgery is famous is because Wilson wrote a NY Times column and enemy propagandists persisted in misrepresenting its significance.

See sections 490-503 of the 2004 British Butler review (link) of intelligence on WMD:
503. From our examination of the intelligence and other material on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa, we have concluded that:
a. It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999.
b. The British Government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports, the intelligence was credible.
c. The evidence was not conclusive that Iraq actually purchased, as opposed to having sought, uranium and the British Government did not claim this.
d. The forged documents were not available to the British Government at the time its assessment was made, and so the fact of the forgery does not undermine it.
Moreover, recall that it wasn't a statement of casus belli. It was one example from the spectrum of disarmament issues that Iraq was required to account for with the UN and IAEA inspectors. Later on, the White House said they should have removed the line from the 2003 SOTU due to the disagreement between US and British intelligence and because it wasn't a major point to begin with. Nevertheless, as worded, the statement was correct.

Vandal111:
... or that Saddam had anything to do with 9/11 as Bush claimed.

You're incorrect.

Nowhere did Bush claim Saddam was behind the 9/11 attacks. The claim isn't in the 2002 AUMF, Public Law 107-243, which is the best and official representation of the grounds for the Iraq intervention. The claim isn't in Bush's speeches leading up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. To my knowledge, the claim was not made by any top Bush official, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, Rice.

Was the possibility of Saddam's involvement in the 9/11 attacks investigated? Of course. Obviously, it was not established that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attacks since it wasn't in the grounds for the Iraq intervention.

Vandal111:
his administration revealed publicly CIA employee Valerie Plame-Wilson as an agent who in the past had performed covert missions and would no longer be able to do so because of this. All of this was because her husband traveled to Nigeria and found there was no evidence of any attempt to buy yellowcake.

Plame's CIA employment was already public record. Setting that aside, here's a summary (link) of the Valerie Plame controversy. The basic premise of the controversy is undermined because Joe Wilson didn't actually contribute anything that discredited the British assessment.

Vandal111:
There was a pattern of the Bush administration ignoring all evidence that his assertions were false and in fact emphasizing what he knew to be untrue as justification to invade Iraq. ... The problem for Bush was that this was not enough to convince other nations, along with congress, to join into a coalition so he manipulated evidence and ignored all evidence contrary to his belief.

You're incorrect two ways.

First, in 2005, the bipartisan Silberman-Robb WMD Commission, while sharply critical of the pre-war intelligence, "found no indication that the Intelligence Community distorted the evidence regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. What the intelligence professionals told [the President] about Saddam Hussein's programs was what they believed." Then in 2008, a Democrat-slanted Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, although overtly partisan, analyzed pre-war statements by Bush administration officials and concluded they were largely "substantiated by intelligence", and found no manipulated intelligence nor political pressure placed on intelligence analysts.

US intelligence wasn't the only nation's intelligence service warning on Iraq and Congress had independent access to the intelligence, which wasn't distorted. Saddam's denial and deception operations (link) throughout the ceasefire meant that some level of uncertainty was usual in the intelligence on Iraq. That doesn't amount to "evidence to the contrary". Keep in mind that Saddam's guilt was established at the outset. The presumption was Saddam was armed illicitly until Iraq proved it was disarmed as mandated.

Second, the intelligence was not the justification for invading Iraq. The law and policy enforcing the Gulf War ceasefire plainly show the casus belli was Iraq's noncompliance with UN mandates, ie, material breach of the ceasefire. The UN inspectors didn't search for WMD to match the pre-war intelligence. They tested Saddam's compliance with the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687. The main trigger for Operation Iraqi Freedom was the UNMOVIC Cluster Document finding of "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues" in breach of UNSCR 687. At the decision point for OIF, Saddam was evidently noncompliant across the board with the UN mandates. The Iraq Survey Group corroborated Saddam was in breach of the disarmament mandates.

Vandal111:
The Bush administration lied about Saddam harboring al Qaeda members by providing them the ability to train and recruit more members while knowing full well that Saddam and bin Laden loathed each other Saddam would never have allowed it.

You're incorrect.

See the Iraqi Perspectives Project report (link), "Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents". In fact, Saddam's terrorist network included terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda. While there lacks evidence of direct coordination between the two, Saddam's terrorist network and bin Laden's network effectively overlapped with a de facto link. Here's how Iraqi Perspectives Project researcher and author Jim Lacey describes (link) their relationship:
Moreover, there is also proof of Saddam’s support of Islamic groups that were part of the al-Qaeda network. A good analogy for the links between Saddam and bin Laden is the Cali and Medellín drug cartels. Both drug cartels (actually loose collections of families and criminal gangs) were serious national-security concerns to the United States. The two cartels competed for a share of the illegal drug market. However, neither cartel was reluctant to cooperate with the other when it came to the pursuit of a common objective — expanding and facilitating their illicit trade.

Vandal111:

His administration also disbanded Task Force 121, which was created to find and take out bin Laden, in 2005.

Task Force 121 worked in Iraq. You mean Alec Station.

It's true Alec Station was disbanded in 2005, but not in the way you think. Alec Station started in the mid-1990s. It was only disbanded as the CIA reorganized its assets to keep pace with counter-terrorism demands as evolved by the mid-2000s. The CIA never stopped hunting for bin Laden. Explanation (link) by John McLaughlin, former deputy director of the CIA, and former CIA director Michael Hayden:
"The focus on bin Laden was intense throughout this period, but it's about 2005 that we start to see al-Qaida morphing into something else," says John McLaughlin. ... That meant focusing less on bin Laden and more on al-Qaida as a network. So in 2005, the CIA reorganized. Alec Station disbanded. Those analysts were folded into the larger counterterrorism unit. The search went on, and a new generation joined the CIA effort — people who grew up in a post-9/11 world. ... "Those young men and women, they did nothing but try to pick up loose threads, pieces of information, develop and test hypotheses as to where is bin Laden, and how can we get our hands on him?" [former CIA director Michael] Hayden says.

You've been bamboozled across the board by enemy propaganda.

To help you reorient on the truth of the matter with the foundational bedrock law and policy that defined the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance", operative enforcement procedure, and determinative fact findings, I suggest you review my explanation (link) of the law and policy, fact basis for Operation Iraqi Freedom.



PREFACE: Go here for Hillary Clinton's actual approach to talking about her Senate vote for Public Law 107-243. Go here for criticism of Clinton's 'evolved' position on her Senate vote for the 2002 AUMF.
----------
from: Eric
to: info@hillaryclinton.com
date: Tue, May 5, 2015 at 12:40 PM
subject: Recommendation: How to talk about your Iraq vote

Mrs. Clinton,

Your critics and competitors for the Democratic nomination for President hold against you, the same as they did in 2008, your Senate vote for the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq (Public Law 107-243).

However, if the partisan politics are set aside, a focused reading of the primary sources for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) shows that your support of the US-led enforcement of Saddam's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441) in order to "bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations" (Public Law 105-235) was well founded.

My recommendation for how to talk about your Iraq vote is to set the record straight on the grounds for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

To help in that, my explanation of the law and policy, fact basis for Operation Iraqi Freedom:
http://learning-curve.blogspot.com/2014/05/operation-iraqi-freedom-faq.html

My explanation is drawn from the primary sources of the mission such as the Gulf War ceasefire UN Security Council resolutions that set the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441), the US law and policy that enforced the UNSCRs, the conditions and precedents that set the stage for OIF, and the determinative fact findings that triggered the decision for OIF.

The law and policy, fact basis of OIF is straightforward. The Security Council resolutions of the Gulf War ceasefire mandated the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441). Since 1990-1991, starting with UNSCR 660 and then Public Law 102-1, the US president enforced Iraq's compliance with the UNSC resolutions under mandate of US law and policy. From 1990 to 2003, Saddam's intransigent noncompliance with the spectrum of UN mandates, most notably the terrorism mandates of UNSCR 687, disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687, and humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688, progressed through the HW Bush, Clinton (your husband), and Bush administrations. At the decision point for OIF in Saddam's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441) in 2002-2003, the determinative fact findings show Saddam was evident[ial]ly noncompliant across the board with the UN mandates. In other words, Saddam was in fact in material breach of the Gulf War ceasefire.

The law and policy enforcing the Gulf War ceasefire plainly show the casus belli was always Iraq's material breach of the UNSCR 660-series resolutions.

Although the inaccuracy [predictive imprecision] of the pre-war intelligence [estimates] has been heavily criticized, the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) for disarmament was mandated by UNSCR 687 and related resolutions, not the intelligence. The main element of President Bush's decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom was the UNMOVIC Cluster Document finding of "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues" that confirmed Saddam's material breach of UNSCR 687, which was analogous to the UNSCOM Butler Report that was the main element of President Clinton's decision for Operation Desert Fox. Then the Iraq Survey Group Duelfer Report found a host of disarmament violations that corroborated Saddam's material breach of UNSCR 687. Of course, Saddam's material breach of the non-armament mandates of the Gulf War ceasefire, including the terrorism mandates of UNSCR 687 and humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688, is undisputed. They were also enforcement triggers.

President Clinton was right to strictly enforce the Gulf War ceasefire despite the opposition of the Security Council members that advocated for Saddam in 1998 and again in 2002-2003. Your husband was right to impress the gravity of Saddam's "clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere" (President Clinton) upon you as a Senator and his successor in the White House. According to the Iraq Survey Group and the Iraqi Perspectives Project that studied captured regime documents, President Clinton's dire warnings about Saddam from 1998-1999 were correct. But for the regime change, Saddam would have rearmed - was in fact already rearming in violation of UNSCR 687 - Saddam was a terrorist and tyrant, and Saddam's peculiar decision-making, ambition, and the nature of his regime were not reconstructed as mandated by the Gulf War ceasefire.

When the the law, policy, and facts underlying Operation Iraqi Freedom are correctly understood, it is clear that your husband and his successor in the White House were right about Saddam. Your critics and competitors for the Democratic nomination for President are wrong now and they were wrong in 2008. You were right to vote for the 2002 AUMF.

The best thing for your candidacy for President, the honor of our Iraq veterans, the good of the nation and the peoples of the world whom rely on stalwart American leadership is to set the record straight on the law and policy, fact basis of Operation Iraqi Freedom.



from: Eric
to: ljacobson@, keely.herring94@, truthometer@politifact.com
cc: asharockman@, holan@
date: Tue, Jun 16, 2015 at 4:19 PM
subject: Regarding "Meme says Bill Clinton, George W. Bush had basically the same policy on Iraq"

Mr. Jacobson, Ms. Herring, and Politifact:

I am writing to you regarding your June 16 article, "Meme says Bill Clinton, George W. Bush had basically the same policy on Iraq", at http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/jun/16/facebook-posts/meme-says-bill-clinton-george-w-bush-had-basically/.

Your article addresses a subject I have studied with some depth.

Your article looks at two issues based on a meme about President Clinton and Bush's Iraq policies. The first issue compares Presidents Clinton and Bush's positions on Iraqi WMD. The second issue compares Presidents Clinton and Bush's positions on regime change for Iraq.

1. Your conclusion that "while it’s true that both Clinton and Bush mentioned weapons of mass destruction in relation to Iraq, Bush’s claim was much more expansive [with an addition of nuclear and biological weapons issues]" is incorrect.

In fact, Presidents HW Bush, Clinton, and Bush (and Obama) enforced the same "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) for the terms of the Gulf War ceasefire with emphasis on the disarmament and terrorism mandates of UNSCR 687 (1991) and the humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688 (1991) and related resolutions. See, in particular, paragraphs 8 to 13 of UNSCR 687 regarding Iraq's obligations on WMD.

To wit, preceding Operation Desert Fox on November 5, 1998, President Clinton referred to paragraphs 8 to 13 of UNSCR 687, "After the Gulf War, the international community demanded and Iraq agreed to declare and destroy all of its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons capability and the missiles to deliver them, and to meet other U.N. Security Council resolutions. ... Now, the better part of a decade later, Iraq continues to shirk its clear obligations."

I am curious why the author of the meme chose to refer non-specifically to 1996 given that President Clinton was preoccupied with enforcing the UN mandates for Iraq for his entire presidency from 1993 to 2001. Clinton's enforcement efforts with Iraq peaked with correspondingly ominous statements in 1998.

Similarly, even granting the arbitrary limit of 1996, I am curious why Politifact chose to cite President Clinton's September 7, 1996 statement regarding the Chemical Weapons Convention to represent Clinton's position on Iraqi WMD. Clinton's September 7, 1996 statement on the CWC was not focused on Iraq's compliance with UNSCR 687 and, therefore, was not representative of Clinton's position on Iraqi WMD.

Meanwhile in 1996, per the periodic reporting mandate of Public Law 102-1 (1991), President Clinton made several statements focused on Iraq's noncompliance with UNSCR 687. For example, see http://clinton6.nara.gov/1996/05/1996-05-06-president-letter-to-congress-on-iraq.html:
"The Government of Iraq remains far from compliance with its obligations under applicable Security Council resolutions. The U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) Chairman Ekeus remarked recently in Washington that Iraq may be hiding up to 16 SCUD missiles, possibly armed with biological warheads. Iraqi officials blatantly violated Security Council resolutions in March when they repeatedly obstructed UNSCOM officials attempting to search buildings in Baghdad for weapons of mass destruction material. Iraqi officials may have removed or destroyed incriminating material during the delay. In a report released on April 11, UNSCOM expressed its concern that Iraq may still be engaged in weapons activities prohibited under Security Council Resolution 687. Iraq continues to evade its duty to return looted Kuwaiti property and help account for hundreds of civilians who disappeared in Kuwait during the occupation. Iraq still provides refuge for known terrorists."

President Clinton's 1996 reports on Iraq were not as detailed as his later reports to Congress on Iraq. Instead, Clinton's 1996 reports referred to UNSCOM's reports, which addressed the range of WMD-related mandates for Iraq, including the nuclear, biological, and chemical-related proscriptions under UNSCR 687. For UNSCOM's reports, see http://fas.org/news/un/iraq/s/index.html.

A better detailed statement of President Clinton's position on Iraqi WMD is found in his March 3, 1999 letter to Congress that explained the justification for Operation Desert Fox: see http://clinton6.nara.gov/1999/03/1999-03-03-text-of-a-letter-to-congress-on-iraq.html.

The March 3, 1999 letter to Congress is just one example of Clinton's position on Iraqi WMD from the last part of his administration before Clinton handed off the festering Saddam problem to his successor. See the primary sources for the "President Clinton Perspective" on Iraq compiled at http://learning-curve.blogspot.com/2004/10/perspective-on-operation-iraqi-freedom.html#clinton.

Contrary to Politifact's conclusion, Presidents Clinton and Bush shared substantially the same position on Iraqi WMD based on enforcing the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" for disarmament mandated by UNSCR 687 and related resolutions. In March 2003, the UNMOVIC Cluster Document finding of "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues" confirmed "Iraq ... remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687" (UNSCR 1441) and triggered Operation Iraqi Freedom in the same way that the UNSCOM Butler Report confirmed Iraq's material breach and triggered Operation Desert Fox in December 1998.

The differences between the presidents on Iraqi WMD are, one, the 9/11 attacks raised the urgency to make "Iraq fully comply with all of its obligations under Security Council resolutions" (Clinton) in light of Iraq's continued terrorism in breach of UNSCR 687 (see http://fas.org/irp/eprint/iraqi/) and, two, in his latter presentation of the public case against Saddam, President Bush deviated from President Clinton by citing to the intelligence in addition to Iraq's noncompliance, despite that the UNMOVIC confirmation of Iraq's "continued violations" (UNSCR 1441) - not the intelligence - established material breach of the ceasefire for casus belli. While President Clinton was privy to same or similar intelligence for Operation Desert Fox, Clinton's public case against Saddam for Operation Desert Fox had hewed to the law and policy of the Gulf War ceasefire by citing only to Iraq's noncompliance when Clinton judged, "This situation [ie, Iraq's noncompliance with UN mandates] presents a clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere."

However, President Bush's error of presentation does not change that in Saddam's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441), Iraq was in material breach across the board with the terms of ceasefire, especially the disarmament and terrorism mandates of UNSCR 687 and humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688, for casus belli.

2. Your conclusion "Clinton did sign a law backing regime change in Iraq, but it was limited to assistance to homegrown opposition groups, not to a ground war aimed at toppling Hussein" is partially correct, but elides the ceasefire enforcement context for Public Law 105-338, ie, bringing Iraq into compliance with UN mandates.

[The common misconception that the scope of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 was restricted to aid to Iraqi dissidents is dispelled by scrutinizing the statute's construction. The law plainly established regime change and US-led peace operations with post-Saddam Iraq as the solution to the Saddam problem. And it did spell out measures to aid Iraqi dissidents. However, the statutory text, “[n]othing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of United States Armed Forces” (P.L. 105-338), is not a restriction. Aside from its enumerated measures, P.L. 105-338 was daisy-chained to the standing laws authorizing the "use of all necessary means" (P.L. 102-190) to "bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations" (P.L. 105-235).]

While the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 did not call for (nor bar) regime change by invasion, the statute effectively established that, due to Saddam's intransigence, the solution to the ongoing threat posed by Iraq's noncompliance was regime change, which the Clinton administration actively fostered. In fact, the policy of regime change had begun under President HW Bush who supported the Iraqi National Congress before President Clinton. The statute also committed the US to assisting post-Saddam Iraq (see section 7 of Public Law 105-338 and section 4 of Public Law 107-243).

In context, President Clinton's policy of 'containment' was not meant to be a substitute for Iraqi compliance with the terms of ceasefire. The 'containment' was fashioned as an ad hoc stopgap until either Saddam fully complied with the terms of ceasefire (unlikely, since Saddam had rejected the UN mandates in Iraqi law) or regime change. Part of the 'containment' policy that Clinton conveyed to Bush was the contingency for military response if Iraq showed any sign of breaking 'containment', which was the situation with Iraq by 2001.

Together with the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, Operation Desert Fox in December 1998 set the stage for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2002-2003. President Clinton's December 16, 1998 announcement for ODF laid out the case for regime change, and the bombing campaign cleared the penultimate enforcement step. After ODF, the only enforcement step remaining was the threat of regime change. Hans Blix stated and the Iraq Survey Group confirmed that, by 2002-2003, the only enforcement measure remaining that could compel Saddam to cooperate at all with the UN weapons inspections, even deficiently, was the credible threat of regime change.

In the end, Saddam responded to his "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441) by calling our bluff with "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues" (UNMOVIC Cluster Document) in breach of UNSCR 687. At that point, the alternative to Operation Iraqi Freedom was compromising "the governing standard of Iraqi compliance" in order to free a noncompliant, unreconstructed Saddam who had, one, evidently not disarmed as mandated, and two, was confirmed by the Iraq Survey Group to be rearming in violation of UNSCR 687 with an active program in the Iraqi Intelligence Service.

In summary, the Politifact conclusion that Presidents Clinton and Bush held substantially different positions on Iraqi WMD is incorrect. Both presidents enforced Iraq's compliance with the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" for disarmament mandated by UNSCR 687 and related resolutions. Your citation of Clinton's September 7, 1996 statement on the Chemical Weapons Convention to represent Clinton's position on Iraqi WMD is a curious choice that overlooks the body of Clinton's statements, including from 1996, that focused on Iraqi WMD.

The Politifact conclusion that Presidents Clinton and Bush held different positions on regime change is partially correct, but overlooks the ceasefire enforcement context for the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, including the circumstances with Iraq's noncompliance in 2002-2003.

For more, see my explanation of the law and policy, fact basis for Operation Iraqi Freedom:
http://learning-curve.blogspot.com/2014/05/operation-iraqi-freedom-faq.html



For reference, see Secretary of State Powell's speech at the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003 and the OIF FAQ further reading section for the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement law, policy, and fact findings referred to below. End of a long comment thread:

The thing about Secretary of State Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003 is that while some of its pre-war intelligence-based details that were predictively imprecise have been severely panned in the politics, on the fact record – knowing what we know now – Powell’s presentation actually holds up very well. On the main points of his case presentation against Saddam, Powell was correct nearly across the board.

Of foundational importance, Powell correctly reiterated the burden of proof and standard of compliance with the UNSCR 1441 inspections, and that enforcement would be triggered by Saddam’s failure to comply and disarmed as mandated.

UNMOVIC confirmed and ISG [Iraq Survey Group] corroborated Powell’s view that Iraq did not comply and disarm as mandated by UNSCRs 687 and 1441.

ISG confirmed Powell’s view that Saddam was in fact covertly reconstituting Iraq’s WMD program in violation of UNSCR 687.

ISG confirmed Powell’s view regarding “denial and deception operations” and “concealment and destruction efforts” (ISG) and “many of these [suspect WMD-related] sites were…sanitized by the Regime” (ISG).

ISG confirmed Powell’s view that Saddam had no intention to comply with the UN mandates.

UNMOVIC confirmed Powell’s view that Iraq did not turn over the information required to establish the total verified declaration that accounted for Iraq’s entire WMD-related program, including for anthrax and other BW.

Albeit not the “mobile production facilities used to make biological agents” (Powell) that Powell depicted, ISG confirmed a covert IIS chemical and biological lab network along with CW- and BW-convertible capability.

For example, ISG: “The UN deemed Iraq’s accounting of its production and use of BW agent simulants … to be inadequate. … the equipment used for their manufacture can also be quickly converted to make BW agent.”

UNMOVIC, ISG historical accounts confirm Powell’s context setting of Iraq’s proscribed activity “when UNSCOM was in country and inspecting”. Again, Iraq’s ceasefire-proscribed WMD was established fact on which the burden of proof was on Saddam to disarm as mandated.

Powell’s statement, “There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more” is panned because ISG didn’t find them. [Note: "them" refers to BW stocks; UNMOVIC and ISG confirmed Iraq's dual-use biological production capability.] But in fact, Iraq failed to account for its BW program as mandated. Then ISG could not answer for the fate of Iraq’s missing BW agents, stocks, and equipment due to Iraq’s “denial and deception operations” and “concealment and destruction efforts” (ISG).

UNMOVIC confirmed Powell’s view that Iraq failed to account for its CW stores: “These quantities of chemical weapons are now unaccounted for.” The historical account also confirm Powell’s context setting of Saddam’s track record of “denial and deception operations” (ISG) on CW.

ISG confirmed Powell’s view that “Iraq has embedded key portions of its illicit chemical weapons infrastructure within its legitimate civilian industry”. ISG found a plethora of convertible dual-use items and activity.

ISG confirmed Powell’s view that “Iraq procures needed items from around the world using an extensive clandestine network”. ISG: “The IIS ran a large covert procurement program”.

ISG confirmed, “Early on, Saddam sought to foster the impression with his generals that Iraq could resist a Coalition ground attack using WMD.”

ISG confirmed that the covert undeclared IIS labs experimented on humans.

IAEA and ISG confirmed Powell’s context setting on Iraq’s track record of nuclear ambitions. ISG confirmed Saddam was revitalizing Iraq’s nuclear program and the indicators of proscribed nuclear-related activity, especially related to possible centrifuge activity, and that the aluminum tubes were properly flagged for possible nuclear application. The only part of Powell’s nuclear presentation that falls down in hindsight is the extent to which Iraq sought fissile material.

ISG confirmed Powell’s view on Iraq’s ceasefire-proscribed missile development.

On terrorism, Powell does speak at length with inordinate focus on Zarqawi.

[Update: Analysis of the Zarqawi issue is included in this exceptionally detailed write-up of the Saddam-al Qaeda relationship. Basically, the Bush administration was again substantively correct on the issue, if not predictively precise in the details.]

However, the Iraqi Perspectives Project [IPP] confirmed Powell’s main point that “Iraq and terrorism go back decades” and validated Powell’s warning about “the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaida terrorist network, a nexus that combines classic terrorist organizations and modern methods of murder”.

IPP also confirmed the “regional and global” (IPP) scope of Saddam’s terrorism.

While Powell emphasized the Saddam-AQ link with inordinate focus on Zarqawi, he did not define Saddam’s terrorism exclusively with the Saddam-AQ link:
And the record of Saddam Hussein’s cooperation with other Islamist terrorist organizations is clear … Terrorism has been a tool used by Saddam for decades. Saddam was a supporter of terrorism long before these terrorist networks had a name. And this support continues. The nexus of poisons and terror is new. The nexus of Iraq and terror is old. The combination is lethal.
Various human rights organizations (I refer mainly to the UN Commission on Human Rights due to their regular reference to UNSCR 688) confirmed Powell’s view of Saddam’s humanitarian violations.

ISG confirmed Powell’s view of Saddam’s WMD intent. ISG: “we have clear evidence of his intent to resume WMD as soon as sanctions were lifted … the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC’s resolutions. Outward acts of compliance belied a covert desire to resume WMD activities.”

Finally, Powell was correct that “We wrote 1441 to give Iraq one last chance” and “Iraq is not so far taking that one last chance.”



Part 1, comment criticizing Trump's position on the decision for OIF:

Rhythm and Balls:
"Trump is a sissy who thinks Bush's war in Iraq was a mistake."

The essential defect of Trump's view that "Bush's war in Iraq was a mistake" is not that it's "sissy", but rather that his view is based on legal and factual error - which bears on assessing his judgement as a candidate for Commander in Chief.

The premise of Trump's position is that Iraq was exculpated on the WMD issue, but that premise is demonstrably false.

According to the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) and fact record for the Gulf War ceasefire (UNSCR 687) disarmament process, Iraq's guilt of proscribed armament was established. To cure its guilt of proscribed armament, Iraq was required to meet its burden [to prove disarmament] with the [declare/yield/eliminate-under-international-supervision] procedure outlined in UNSCR 687.

From the outset of the Gulf War ceasefire, Saddam refused to comply and disarm as mandated and as he agreed to do in order to suspend the Gulf War short of regime change.

Accordingly, in 2002, the UN Security Council decided "to ensure full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under resolution 687 (1991) and other relevant resolutions", "Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687 (1991)", and "to afford Iraq, by this resolution, a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations" (UNSCR 1441).

Concurrently, Congress instructed the President "to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq" (P.L. 107-243).

Yet in his "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441), Saddam opted again not to disarm as mandated. Instead, on March 7, 2003, UNMOVIC reported to the UN Security Council, "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues ... Little of the detail in these declarations, such as production quantities, dates of events and unilateral destruction activities, can be confirmed. Such information is critical to an assessment of the status of disarmament. Furthermore, in some instances, UNMOVIC has information that conflicts with the information in the declaration."

In other words, after 12 years, including 4 months of inspections in his "final opportunity to comply", Saddam had failed to comply with even the basic step of the ceasefire disarmament process, a total verified declaration that accounted for Iraq's entire WMD program, which Iraq had been mandated to provide within 15 days - in April 1991.

The post hoc Iraq Survey Group corroborated UNMOVIC and further substantiated President Bush's decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF): "ISG judges that Iraq failed to comply with UNSCRs" - "[In addition to preserved capability,] we have clear evidence of his [Saddam's] intent to resume WMD" - "the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC’s resolutions...[o]utward acts of compliance belied a covert desire to resume WMD activities" - "it has become evident to ISG that [Iraqi] officials were involved in concealment and deception activities"[ - "From 1999 until he was deposed in April 2003, Saddam’s conventional weapons and WMD-related procurement programs steadily grew in scale, variety, and efficiency"].

The truth is at the decision point for OIF, Iraq had not disarmed as mandated. Saddam was in fact rearming in violation of UNSCR 687 and evidentially in material breach across the board of the Gulf War ceasefire mandates, including and especially the (WMD) disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687, terrorism mandates of UNSCR 687, and humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688.

Contrary to Trump's position that "Bush's war in Iraq was a mistake", the President's decision for OIF was correct on the law and facts.

See the explanation of the law and policy, fact basis - the why - of the decision for OIF, which includes the answers to "Did Bush lie his way to war with Iraq?" & "Was Operation Iraqi Freedom legal?".

[P.S. Trump's assertion that Saddam was an effective counter-terrorist is diametrically wrong. In fact, Saddam was a world-leading vector of terrorism: "Saddam’s use of terrorist tactics and his support for terrorist groups remained strong up until the collapse of the regime" (IPP). Saddam also ruled Iraq with "widespread terror" (UNCHR).]

----------
Part 2, from the same thread, comment criticizing Clinton's latter 'evolved' position on her vote for the 2002 AUMF and the decision for OIF.

An upgraded version of the comment:

jonathanturley:
“She only makes admissions against interest when there is no alternative to acknowledging the truth in a controversy. Clinton’s history of changing positions and spinning facts is now legendary.”

As Patriot (@musicman27103) alluded to, a prime example of Mrs. Clinton’s penchant for brazen spin is her ‘evolving’ position regarding her Senate vote for the 2002 AUMF (Public Law 107-243) in response to partisan pressure.

Clinton’s latter position is that she voted for the 2002 AUMF as Senator to provide the President the necessary leverage for “coercive diplomacy” to enforce Iraq’s compliance with the UN inspections, which is partially correct.

However, as her latter position ‘evolved’ under partisan pressure, Clinton subsequently misrepresented the operative enforcement procedure that defined the decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom in order to disclaim her Senate vote with accusation that the decision for OIF abused the 2002 AUMF.

That accusation [by Clinton] is incorrect on the law and facts. The evidence shows that the decision for OIF hewed to Congressional instruction in the 2002 AUMF.

[The nub of Clinton's accusation is the charge that Bush curtailed the UN inspections, but she's incorrect; UNMOVIC discharged its mandate from UNSCR 1441. See the answer to "Did Bush allow enough time for the inspections?"]

The essential defect of Clinton’s latter position is she mischaracterized the operative historical context for the UNSCR 1441 inspections, the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1441) that was enforced under the 2002 AUMF, the Congressional instruction to “ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq” (P.L. 107-243), the UNMOVIC findings in the UNSCR 1441 inspections, the UN Security Council consideration of the UNMOVIC findings, and the standard for the determination to use force in section 3(b) of the 2002 AUMF by which President Bush determined to use force with OIF.

[Section 3(b) in Public Law 107-243:

SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.
... (b) PRESIDENTIAL DETERMINATION.—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; and
(2) acting pursuant to this joint resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorist and terrorist organizations ...]

While mischaracterizing the UNMOVIC [Clusters document] findings [of "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues"] that confirmed “Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687” (UNSCR 1441), which were the principal trigger for OIF, Clinton ignores the various other fact findings that also confirmed Saddam was in material breach of the Gulf War ceasefire mandates enforced under the 2002 AUMF.

For example, the Iraq Survey Group reported, “ISG judges that Iraq failed to comply with UNSCRs”[, "In addition to preserved capability, we have clear evidence of his [Saddam's] intent to resume WMD",] and “the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC’s resolutions” in breach of UNSCR 687 et al, the Iraqi Perspectives Project reported, “evidence shows that Saddam’s use of terrorist tactics and his support for terrorist groups remained strong up until the collapse of the regime” in breach of UNSCR 687, and the UN Commission on Human Rights reported, “systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law by the Government of Iraq” in breach of UNSCR 688.

In addition, Clinton’s later claim that her Senate vote for the 2002 AUMF opposed Iraqi regime change elides section 4 of the 2002 AUMF, which invoked section 7 of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 and “expected” regime change would result from Saddam’s “final opportunity to comply” (UNSCR 1441).

To properly assess Clinton’s latter ‘evolved’ position on her Senate vote for the 2002 AUMF and the decision for OIF, see the explanation of the law and policy, fact basis of the decision for OIF. The scope of Clinton’s misrepresentations are wide enough that I can only recommend reviewing all the answers in the explanation for a sufficient understanding of the 2002 AUMF and the decision for OIF to judge her.

The sad, tragic aspect of Clinton’s spin is that she made the correct decision in her Senate vote for the 2002 AUMF based on the standing law, policy, and precedent that had matured under her husband’s frustrated efforts to enforce Iraq’s compliance with all of the Gulf War ceasefire mandates. Given her proximity to President Clinton’s administration-long struggle with the Saddam problem, Senator Clinton likely understood the gravity of Saddam’s “clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere” (President Clinton) at least as much as, and likely better than, President Bush.

Rather than ‘evolve’ her position on her Senate vote for the 2002 AUMF when her choice was correct in the first place, America, our allies, including and especially Iraq, and she herself would have been better served if she had instead set the record straight on the why of the Iraq intervention and stood up for her right decision and the justified mission.

[P.S. A comment expressing my anger at Secretary Clinton and President Obama's fundamental betrayal of American leadership of the free world with their political partisan-based sabotage of the Iraq intervention. Secretary Clinton also reneged on her promises to the Iraqi people to uphold the Strategic Framework Agreement.]



From comment:

In the context of a permanent competitive movement, I remain interested in the McMullin campaign’s progress.

But.

In terms of his 2016 presidential candidacy, Evan McMullin disqualified himself from my vote by failing the same litmus test that disqualified Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

McMullin’s chief calling card within his over-all branding as a principled conservative departing from a Trump-corrupted GOP is his center-right Republican national security platform and background, including “House GOP policy director”.

Therefore, McMullin’s position on Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) is particularly dismaying as both a poor reflection of his judgement and as a window to the evident misunderstanding of OIF’s grounds in GOP inner circles.

Excerpt from McMullin’s speech on national security at Georgetown University (21SEP16) –
https://www.evanmcmullin.com/honoring_our_founding_principles_promotes_america_s_national_security:
Now, I am going to say something that many may find surprising. As an intelligence officer who saw it firsthand, I believe the invasion of Iraq was misguided – a tragic and expensive mistake. More than four thousand Americans lost their lives in an effort that will end up costing the American taxpayer over 2 trillion dollars. The justification for the war was Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, which were not found, and his suspected terrorist connections.

In our haste and fear we launched a war in which American forces fought with valor and courage, but it was driven by misjudgment on the front end and a lack of clear objectives once it began.
Again, keep in mind that McMullin’s lead credentials are his national security platform and background.

Yet contrary to McMullin’s characterization of President Bush’s decision as a “misguided…mistake”, the “justification” for enforcement with Iraq was plainly stated through 3 consecutive administrations as Iraq’s mandated compliance with the UNSCR 660 series.

The OIF decision was substantively and procedurally correct. The US case versus Saddam is in fact substantiated. Saddam was evidentially in categorical breach of the Gulf War ceasefire in his “final opportunity to comply” (UNSCR 1441).

Contra McMullin, Saddam’s UNSCR 687 breach regarding WMD was established by UNSCOM, decided by UNSC, confirmed by UNMOVIC at the decision point for OIF, and corroborated post hoc by ISG: “ISG judges that Iraq failed to comply with UNSCRs … the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC’s resolutions”.

Contra McMullin, Saddam’s pre-OIF “suspected” terrorism in fact underestimated Saddam’s terrorism. Saddam’s UNSCR 687 breach regarding terrorism was confirmed by the IPP findings on Saddam’s “regional and global terrorism, including a variety of revolutionary, liberation, nationalist, and Islamic terrorist organizations” that included “considerable operational overlap” with the al Qaeda network.

The OIF decision was not made in “haste” (McMullin), but rather at the conclusion of a decade-plus process that exhausted the alternatives until it finally reached the red line of Saddam’s “final opportunity to comply” (UNSCR 1441) in 2002-2003.

Whatever subjective opinion McMullin holds of the 3-administration US policy of strictly enforcing Iraq’s full compliance with the Gulf War ceasefire mandates, [there was no "misjudgment on the front end".] President Bush’s decision for OIF objectively was correct on the facts according to the operative enforcement procedure for the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1441).

McMullin should be the one presidential candidate who upholds the ‘Why We Fight’ of OIF because every national security principle he purports to champion manifested with the US-led 1990-2011 UNSCR 660-series enforcement, most of all with OIF and its peace operations.

Yet it’s plain McMullin is unfamiliar with the decade-plus controlling law, policy, and precedent of the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement and, in the operative context, the determinative facts that triggered enforcement with OIF.

McMullin omits mention altogether of the cornerstone UNSCR 688 humanitarian mandates and thus overlooks Saddam’s “systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law by the Government of Iraq, resulting in an all-pervasive repression and oppression sustained by broad-based discrimination and widespread terror” (UNCHR) in OIF’s justification.

Consistent with his omission of UNSCR 688, McMullin’s criticism of a “lack of clear objectives once it began” exposes his ignorance of the law-and-policy framework that defined the OIF peace operations (eg, section 4 of the 2002 AUMF, section 7 of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, statement of the Atlantic Summit, UNSCR 1483, etc) which included the basic UNSCR 660-series compliance process, which the recent “House GOP policy director” is apparently unaware of.

Simply in terms of political strategy, McMullin repeats the mortal strategic error committed by Jeb Bush responding to the Megyn Kelly, May 2015 “knowing what we know now” hypothetical on Iraq, which discredited GOP leadership on national security and set the stage for Trump. Worse, he doubles down on JEB’s disqualifying mistake.

McMullin seems unconscious that disclaiming the Iraq intervention and stipulating the (demonstrably) false narrative of OIF disqualifies the very center-right national security principles he purports to champion. The OIF stigma, based on the false narrative that McMullin stipulated, has been the keystone premise of President Obama’s radical deviation of US foreign policy that has undermined American leadership of the free world.

McMullin’s fundamental misconception of OIF is mystifying. The law and policy, fact basis of the Iraq intervention’s justification is not complicated. The US led the enforcement of Iraq’s mandated compliance with the Gulf War ceasefire as headline news for over a decade while it progressed to its coda with OIF. President Bush’s decision is a straightforward fact pattern that’s easily understood from a readily accessible, plainly stated law, policy, precedent, fact record.

Yet the one 2016 presidential candidate who cla[i]ms to champion all the principles embodied by the Iraq intervention and therefore should grasp the ‘Why We Fight’ of Iraq, plainly does not know. McMullin’s failure on the OIF litmus test is disqualifying for a prospective Commander in Chief.

I hope Team McMullin is sincere about and successful establishing a permanent GOP-independent real competitive conservative movement. But as for Evan McMullin, he disappointed me.



Comment (posted 122058DEC16, awaiting moderation):

Dr. Duelfer,

You're incorrect that "the Iraq WMD assessments were wrong" in terms of the US presidential determination for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). The controlling law, policy, and precedent for the OIF decision plainly show the determination for enforcement with the Saddam regime pivoted on whether Iraq proved it complied and disarmed as mandated, not whether the US proved Iraq was armed as estimated.

I recommend to you (again), your fellow advocates for reviving responsible American leadership, and to the Trump administration, my OIF FAQ explanation that sets the record straight on the law and policy, fact justification of the Iraq intervention by synthesizing the mission's primary source authorities.

Contrary to your assertion that "the Iraq WMD assessments were wrong", in terms of the US presidential determination, the actual "reality" is that UNSCOM to UNMOVIC to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) as well as non-armament fact findings, such as the Iraqi Perspectives Project (IPP) and UNCHR, "broadly" corroborate your assessment "that Iraq failed to comply with UNSCRs up to OIF" (ISG).

The legally prescribed and practically necessary determinative measurement for Saddam's WMD-related threat was not rooted in the intelligence estimates but rather the UNSCOM and UNMOVIC findings on Iraq's "continued violations of its obligations" (UNSCR 1441), inasmuch the WMD-related intelligence estimates were not themselves rooted in the UNSCR 687 inspections.

On law and fact, President Bush and the US (with Prime Minister Blair and the UK) demonstrably were right on Iraq. The OIF decision is a straightforward fact pattern with an exceptionally well developed, decade+ law, policy, precedent, fact record. Iraq's categorical "material breach" (UNSCR 1441) of the Gulf War ceasefire is confirmed by you and other fact-finding authorities.

Beyond the correct US presidential determination for OIF, the US-led, UN-mandated peace operations with Iraq were succeeding before President Obama's deviation.

At the dawn of the Arab Spring, the UN Security Council (on 15DEC10) and President Obama (on 19MAY11) benchmarked the historic opportunity to build a generational peace in the Middle East with the hard-won cornerstone where “In Iraq, we see the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy … poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress” (Obama).

However, the window to build a generational peace evident in 2010-2011 required American leadership to stay the course with Iraq and the Bush Freedom Agenda.

Instead, President Obama radically changed course with Iraq and dropped the Bush Freedom Agenda. Obama's deviant rationale has been based on the demonstrably false notion which you promote, that with Iraq, "Political leaders made decisions based on ... broadly wrong assessments of reality".

Your basic law-and-fact error, exploited by President Obama, has had a catastrophic ripple effect. OIF stigma - comprised largely of conjecture, distorted context, and readily debunked disinformation - has been the keystone premise for President Obama's critical choices that sabotaged nascent post-Saddam Iraq and doomed the Syrian people by disqualifying American leadership of the free world at the very historical moment where the steadfast American leadership epitomized by President Bush with Iraq was most needed. Avid actors such as Iran and Russia have accepted Obama's effective invitation to fill the vacuum and alter the international order in their expected illiberal manner.

The 1990-2011 Iraq intervention, especially OIF and its peace operations, is paradigmatic as it embodied the principles of American leadership of the free world. As long as the stigmatization of the Iraq intervention prevails in domestic and international politics, your current advocacy for reviving responsible American leadership with Iraq, Iran, Syria, and indeed the rest of the world, will continue to be disqualified at the premise level of politics and policy.

The viability of your advocacy fundamentally depends upon you first de-stigmatizing the Iraq intervention. Before you can advocate on current events effectively, you must establish at the premise level of the politics that in principle and policy, President Bush and America were fundamentally right and by the same token, President Obama has been fundamentally wrong to deviate from President Bush with Iraq and the Freedom Agenda.

The following points are included in my OIF FAQ explanation. But as an introduction to setting the record straight on OIF's justification, note:

Iraq's guilt of UNSCR 687-proscribed armament was established by UNSCOM and decided by the UN Security Council. Upon the UNSCOM-established fact of Iraqi WMD, "the threat Iraq’s non-compliance with Council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security" (UNSCR 1441) was presumed until Iraq proved it complied and disarmed as mandated. In other words, noncompliant Iraq was ipso facto a proscriptively armed threat irrespective of the intelligence estimates. The operative enforcement procedure for the Gulf War ceasefire, including the UNSCR 687 disarmament process, was built upon the burden of proof on Iraq. There was no operative burden of proof on the US, UK, and UN.

Therefore, the principal trigger for Operation Iraqi Freedom was not and could not be the intelligence estimates. By procedure, casus belli was primarily established by the 06MAR03 UNMOVIC report confirming Iraq's "continued violations of its obligations" in "material breach" (UNSCR 1441) of the Gulf War ceasefire with the same operative enforcement procedure by which the 15DEC98 UNSCOM report triggered Operation Desert Fox in 1998.

The "assessments of reality" that established casus belli with Iraq from UNSCR 660 (1990) onward were the prescribed measurements of Iraq's compliance with the UNSCR 660 series, in particular Iraq's obligations under the Gulf War ceasefire pursuant to UNSCRs 687 and 688 and related resolutions.

The controlling law, policy, and precedent that defined the operative enforcement procedure plainly show that the moment that UNSCR 687 inspectors re-entered Iraq pursuant to UNSCR 1441, the intelligence estimates could not trigger enforcement to "bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations" (Public Law 105-235). Rather, the US-led, UN-mandated ceasefire enforcement with Iraq always pivoted on the prescribed measurement of Iraq's compliance with the "measures" mandated to satisfy "the need to be assured of Iraq's peaceful intentions [and] ... to secure peace and security in the area" (UNSCR 687).

Based on the determinative "assessments of reality" for the OIF decision, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair clearly were correct according to the operative context - eg, "The Security Council resolutions will be enforced -- the just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable" (Bush at UNGA, 12SEP02), "Resolution 1441 gave Iraq one last chance, one last chance to come into compliance or to face serious consequences" (Powell at UNSC, 05FEB03), "ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq" (Public Law 107-243), and "ensure full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under resolution 687 (1991) and other relevant resolutions" (UNSCR 1441).

Contrary to your unfounded assertion that the OIF decision was based on "broadly wrong assessments of reality", the Saddam regime was evidentially in categorical breach of the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) for the Gulf War ceasefire in Iraq's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441), especially with the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687, terrorism mandates of UNSCR 687, and human rights mandates of UNSCR 688. [FYI, it's evident the pre-war assessments significantly under-estimated the Saddam regime's human rights abuses in breach of UNSCR 688 and "regional and global terrorism", including Saddam's "considerable operational overlap" (IPP) with the al Qaeda network, in breach of UNSCR 687, which were also enforcement triggers.]

At the decision point for OIF upon UNMOVIC's 06MAR03 report, Saddam was far beyond the 'red line' with no intention of fully and immediately complying with the Gulf War ceasefire as was required to switch off the threat of regime change that enforced Iraq's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441) . As you found, "the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC’s resolutions" (ISG) per paragraphs 8 to 13 of UNSCR 687, let alone the spectrum of ceasefire mandates, especially on terrorism per UNSCR 687 and human rights per UNSCR 688.

... The assessment of reality is you are responsible for the current events and degraded US foreign policy that you protest.

You've used your preeminent reputation to validate the plainly false narrative of OIF that America's rivals - Russia and France chief among them - have employed to stigmatize the Iraq intervention and thereby disqualify the American leadership needed for current events.

For your current advocacy to be effective, it requires the re-normalization of the particular "strong horse" American leadership of the free world that manifested with OIF. Which first requires your mea culpa while you disabuse the myth, "Political leaders made decisions [for the Iraq intervention] based on ... broadly wrong assessments of reality".

Once you've set the record straight on OIF's law-and-fact justification at the premise level of our politics to de-stigmatize the Iraq intervention in order to re-qualify the OIF-embodied principles of American leadership in our policy, then - and only then - can your current advocacy hope to become viable.

Re-framing the discourse by establishing that President Bush and the US (with Prime Minister Blair and the UK) were right on Iraq - and by the same token that OIF critics, including yourself and President Obama, have been wrong - lays the foundation needed for the only real path for your current advocacy to succeed.



My March 2016 advice to Bryan McGrath, the author of this letter, at his blog:

Mr. McGrath,

To make a difference, it's incumbent upon you and your fellow signatories to employ your expertise to re-lay the foundation of the political discourse on foreign affairs.

The cascade of world events has caused a pervasive sense that a fundamental course correction of American foreign policy is needed. Yet the course correction hasn't been defined because we haven't properly diagnosed the problem. In order to formulate a prescription, a reliable diagnosis is needed. Yet diagnosis of world events is hampered by a political discourse that's corrupted at the premise level. The Trump campaign has seized on the confused state of our foreign affairs with jarring proposals and accusations. Whether or not Mr. Trump is taken seriously on foreign affairs, the rhetorical effect has been to highlight the perception that Republican foreign-policy elites - which you and your colleagues exemplify - are discredited on foreign policy.

To regain your standing and counter Trump in your area of expertise, you need to de-corrupt the political discourse at the premise level which would position you and your colleagues to regain the upper hand in the political discourse with serious diagnosis and prescription on world events that would help discredit the Trump campaign.

The spectrum of foreign policy and world events covers too much ground for one bite in the election-season public discourse. So where should the de-corruption of the political discourse begin? The 1st bite should be at the root.

The root premise discrediting Republican foreign-policy elites is the prevailing narrative that the decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), ie, the course-setting foreign affair ordered by the last Republican president, was at best a "mistake", as conceded by his own brother, or a "lie", as re-purposed by Mr. Trump. Either way, the prevailing narrative says that OIF was an epically wrong decision that's hung on "establishment" Republicans in general and Republican foreign-policy elites like you in particular.

The corruption of the political discourse on foreign affairs has followed from that root premise. Worse, the prevailing narrative of OIF was elevated from partisan device to an operative element in the Obama administration's foreign affairs with disastrous consequences (also blamed on the last Republican president).

The thing is, the prevailing narrative of OIF, the root premise that has corrupted the political discourse and discredited Republican foreign-policy elites, is demonstrably false. On the facts, the decision for OIF was correct on the law and justified on the policy. President Bush was right on Iraq. Not perfect - no less than our other war-time presidents - but Bush was responsible and dutiful in his office, and right on Iraq.

Once again, to make a difference, it's incumbent upon you and your fellow signatories to use your expertise to re-lay the foundation of the political discourse on foreign affairs. The place to begin that task is to de-corrupt the root premise by setting the record straight on the why of OIF. To aid you and your colleagues, here's my FAQ-style explanation of the law and policy, fact basis of OIF drawn from the primary sources of the mission.

Once the root premise is corrected, then you can re-credit Republican foreign-policy elites (also discredit proponents of the false narrative), re-lay the foundation of the political discourse, and proceed to diagnosis and prescription on world events - on your terms.

Beyond the 2016 Republican nomination race, the stigmatization of OIF has effectively discredited the paradigm of American leadership of the free world, whose fundamental principles manifested with OIF. Re-normalizing the paradigm requires de-stigmatizing OIF. De-stigmatizing OIF requires (among other things) setting the record straight on the why of OIF at the premise level of the political discourse.

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Second:

"I spent much of the day dealing with the Press and answering inquiries from around the world, and I repeated what we said there--he is a danger, and I cannot support him."

Mr. McGrath,

I reiterate my advice - to make a difference, re-lay the foundation of the political discourse on foreign affairs. De-corrupt the political discourse at the premise level which would position you and your colleagues to regain the upper hand in the political discourse with serious diagnosis and prescription on world events that would help discredit the Trump campaign.

In other words, take control, and reframe the narrative.

Like I said, Mr. Trump's jarring proposals and accusation are made in the context of the perception that Republican foreign-policy elites are discredited, chiefly due to your association with the prevailing (demonstrably false) narrative of OIF, and the confused state of our foreign affairs. So re-establish your standing and clarify the situation.

If you limit your commentary to the scope of Mr. Trump's oscillating remarks, that's not enough to make a difference. You'll just be chasing his frame and adding noise to his noise. Limiting your reaction to his terms is a waste of the intellectual, knowledgeable firepower collected on your letter and adds to the Trump narrative of populist iconoclast versus discredited establishment elites.

Trump the Trump narrative on foreign affairs, and the Democratic narrative for that matter, with a superior whole narrative that brings to bear the experience, knowledge, intelligence, and patriotic concern for the nation collected on your letter. That means coordinated communication efforts independent of the Republican candidates, though they should work off of your efforts. Non-subordination helps them because the GOP needs all the vigorous help it can get coming out of the woodwork for this stage and the next stage. With the national political focus riveted right now on the Republicans, the Republican foreign-policy elites on your letter should seize the opportunity to take control of the nation's political and election-season public discourse on foreign affairs. Make your perspective the principal frame of reference. Make the Trump campaign chase your terms, instead.

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Third:

Mr. McGrath,

That's the dilemma.

When starting from a position of inception and disadvantage, competitive activism that's sufficient to make a difference, i.e., win, for any sizeable cause usually requires a zealous, often all-consuming, often self-sacrificial personal investment. There's a reason that in the 7 Army Values, it's not just "service", the value is "selfless service".

With this task, you've taken on a sizeable cause to say the least. The American nation - the nation in whose defense you've invested the better part of your life and honor - is at a crossroads, with our foreign affairs as much as, and possibly more than, any other area.

Per my advice and your follow-up to your letter, declaring that "[Trump] is a danger, and I cannot support him" is only an opening step. The declaration is not by itself enough to make a difference.

Making a difference, i.e., actually winning, will demand your leadership to compete sufficiently against the Trump phenomenon for the duration. If you accept the lead role that you've already invited for this task, and if you sincerely mean to win this contest for America's future, then you should recognize up front that you will pay a personal price that contradicts your post-Navy life goals and plan accordingly.



Eric

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