2002 October 16

Iraq War: Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq


Congress on this day passed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq, which became the legal basis for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. It is clear from the record that key officials in President George W. Bush’s administration had for many years wanted to remove Saddam Hussein as the leader of Iraq. The terrorist attacks on the U.S., on September 11, 2001, and the resulting war on terrorism provided the pretext. Democrats were deeply divided over the Authorization and the prospect of an American invasion of Iraq (although no one had any idea how disastrous the war would turn out to be). The Senate passed the authorization by a vote of 77–23. Democrats voted 29 in favor and 21 against the Authorization. Only one Republican in the Senate voted against it (Senator John Chafee, of Rhode Island). The House approved the Authorization by a vote of 297–133, with a majority of Democrats voting against it.

In retrospect, the evidence clearly indicates that the Bush administration lied about the justifications for the war: Saddam Hussein did not have any involvement in terrorist attacks on the U.S., as the Bush administration had claimed, and he did not possess materials for chemical and biological warfare, or what referred to as weapons of mass destruction.

The Bush administration lies regarding the Iraq war recall the controversy over the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964 regarding the conflict in Vietnam (see August 7, 1964). Most experts today argue that President Lyndon Johnson lied about the events in the Gulf of Tonkin (see August 2, 1964) in order to justify a Congressional authorization to escalate American involvement in the conflict, which led to the Vietnam War.

Authorization (excerpt): (a) Authorization.–The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate 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 resolutions regarding Iraq.

Read the entire authorization: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-107publ243/html/PLAW-107publ243.htm

Learn more: Michael Isikoff and David Corn, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War (2006)

And more: Dexter Filkins, The Forever War (2008)

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