Hillary Clinton and Tom Daschle may have said it as boldly as anyone-except, perhaps, for the representatives from France and the other member states of the United Nations Security Council.
"After the liberation of Kuwait in 1991," said Clinton and Daschle, "Iraq entered into a United Nations-sponsored cease-fire agreement pursuant to which Iraq unequivocally agreed, among other things, to eliminate its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs and the means to deliver them, and to end its support for international terrorism."
This was necessary because Saddam had armed himself to the teeth with some of the most insidious and lethal weapons known to man. "Iraq," said Clinton and Daschle, "had large stockpiles of chemical weapons and a large-scale biological weapons program." And that was not all. Iraq also "had an advanced nuclear weapons development program that was much closer to producing a nuclear weapon than intelligence reporting had previously indicated."
The entire time her husband was in office, said Mrs. Clinton (again joined by Daschle), "Iraq, in direct and flagrant violation of the cease-fire, attempted to thwart the efforts of weapons inspectors to identify and destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction stockpiles and development capabilities."
Finally, six years into the Clinton presidency, after seven straight years of Saddam’s defiance, Congress had had enough. "In 1998," said Hillary Clinton and Daschle, "Congress concluded that Iraq’s continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threatened vital United States interests and international peace and security, declared Iraq to be in ‘material breach of its international obligations’ and urged the President ‘to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations.’"
This led to a sudden, inadequate and unsuccessful air war launched by Mrs. Clinton’s husband the night before the House of Representatives was scheduled to impeach him as President.
Because of President Clinton’s failure, Mrs. Clinton, joined again by Tom Daschle, has been forced to conclude, "Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations."
Worse, said Clinton and Daschle, Saddam is a threat to directly strike at America-and has repeatedly attacked U.S. forces while they were merely going about the business of enforcing decisions made by China, Russia, France, and other members of the world community, through the U.N. Security Council. "The current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its continuing hostility toward, and willingness to attack, the United States, including by attempting in 1993 to assassinate former President Bush and by firing on many thousands of occasions on United States and Coalition Armed Forces engaged in enforcing the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council," said Clinton and Daschle.
And it gets even worse. "Members of al Qaeda, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001," said Clinton and Daschle, "are known to be in Iraq."
What does all this add up to? To Clinton and Daschle, it means that Saddam-as outrageous as this might seem to non-malignant personalities-just might launch a nuclear, chemical or biological Pearl Harbor against the United States. "Iraq’s demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, the risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide them to international terrorists who would do so, and the extreme magnitude of harm that would result to the United States and its citizens from such an attack, combine to justify action by the United States to defend itself."
If Saddam persisted, said Clinton and Daschle, America must launch a preemptive war. They were so convinced of this, they wrote it into law.
All of the above quotes come from the joint resolution Congress passed October 10, 2002. It was titled, "Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq." It concluded: "The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines necessary in order 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 resolution regarding Iraq."
The resolution was approved 296 to 133 in the House, and 77 to 23 in the Senate. The majority of Senate Democrats voted for it. Not only did Hillary Clinton and Tom Daschle vote for it-attaching their names and their credibility to it forever-but so, too, did liberal Democratic senators such as Joe Biden (Del.), Chris Dodd (Conn.), John Edwards (N.C.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Tom Harkin (Iowa) and John Kerry (Mass.).
These senators told us three months ago, in the most serious venue imaginable-a formal act of Congress authorizing a war in which Americans will kill and be killed-that Saddam Hussein has chemical and biological weapons, is developing nuclear weapons, is harboring al Qaeda, is a real threat to attack the United States, and is lying about all these things.
If these senators were telling the truth, there is no choice but war.
Since Clinton and Daschle and other Senate liberals approved a war against Iraq, their claims have been backed up by President Bush, as well as by a unanimous vote in the UN Security Council. Just like Daschle and Clinton, the French and the Russians and the Chinese determined that they could no longer risk Saddam’s continued defiance in possessing and developing weapons of mass destruction.
But-even in passing its war authorization-Congress opened the door for Saddam to be given one last chance. It expressed its "support" for the President’s effort to "obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions"-namely, the resolutions Saddam agreed to at the close of the Gulf War to reveal the full extent of his weapons programs and to assist UN inspectors in destroying them.
On November 8, the Security Council unanimously voted for Resolution 1441, an ultimatum to Saddam. France and the others did so, "recognizing the threat of Iraq’s non-compliance with council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace." The council unanimously recalled that the UN had "authorized member states to use all necessary means to uphold and implement its resolutions" arising from the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, including those requiring Iraq to disarm.
"Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations" under these resolutions, said the Security Council.
So, the council members gave Saddam one more chance-a last-ditch opportunity to escape the certain destruction he and his regime faced as a result of the war resolution approved by the U.S. Congress in keeping with the Security Council’s own previous declarations that such a war would be justified.
They decided "to afford Iraq, by this resolution, a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations."
The French and the others were clear about what types of actions by Saddam would signify he had blown this "final opportunity" and brought, by his own fault, a war upon his head.
The Security Council, they said, "Decides that false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq’s obligations."
The French and the others were not about to be pushed around. They directed UN weapons inspectors "to report immediately to the Counsel any interference by Iraq with inspection activities, as well as any failure by Iraq to comply with its disarmament obligations, including its obligations regarding inspections under this resolution."
They "warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences" if it blew this "final opportunity."
On January 27, chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix reported to the Security Council on his efforts to verify Iraq’s disarmament. "Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance-not even today-of the disarmament, which was demanded of it," he said.
He described the Iraqi relationship with UN weapons inspectors as a "game of hide and seek."
In the reckoning set up by Hillary Clinton and Tom Daschle, and by the French and other members of the UN Security Council, time has run out on Saddam Hussein.
President Bush is now following through on the framework these leaders constructed for handling Saddam. "The dictator of Iraq is not disarming," Bush said in his State of the Union address-repeating the warning of Hans Blix. "To the contrary; he is deceiving."
Bush said he would send Colin Powell to the UN on February 5 to "present information and intelligence about Iraq’s illegal weapons programs, its attempt to hide those weapons from inspectors, and its links to terrorist groups.
"We will consult," said Bush. "But let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him."
Clinton, Daschle, the French, and the other Security Council members finally have a leader who will follow through on the commitments they made to disarm Saddam. Surely, the President deserves their support as he follows through with the awesome responsibility they have settled on his shoulders.