Monday, July 16, 2007
A Day Late, and 98 Cents Short
Kirchick takes aim at Wiegel and Yglesias for claiming that Joe Lieberman is a warmonger, and that Lieberman's recent Iran-bashing amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill (which passed 97-0 in the Senate) and related media blitz were part of a campaign to push this country closer to war with Iran.
But then, Kirchick closes his post with this:
The near-unanimous support for [the Lieberman] amendment brings to mind the unanimous support for the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act. That act stated that "It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime." Whatever one thinks about the wisdom of the Iraq war, keep in mind that regime change in Iraq was the official, bipartisan policy of the United States government years before it became fashionable for journalists to write tiresome, 5,000-word articles linking Ahmed Chalabi, PNAC and Paul Wolfowitz.
First of all, "regime change" was the desired outcome. There were, however, considerable differences in the actual policies that were adopted (and could be adopted) to achieve regime change. President Clinton, despite the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act ("ILA") and the impassioned please from the PNAC crowd (many of whom later formed the backbone of the Bush administration), opted not to invade Iraq to achieve regime change. See, also, USSR (former).
In fact (as pointed out by one of Matt Y's commenters), the ILA specifically rules out the use of military options (other than providing arms and training to dissident groups):
SEC. 8. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.
Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of United States Armed Forces...in carrying out this Act.
Thus, claiming that the ILA gave "official, bipartisan" cover for the Iraq war is disingenuous. Sadly, that bipartisan cover came somewhat later - albeit with less consensus - via the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. The AUMF passed by a margin of 296-133 in the House (86 Democrats voted for the bill, 126 against) and 77-23 in the Senate (29 Democrats in favor, 23 opposed).
Despite Kirchick's dubious grasp of the historical record, though, he has a point that the ILA (in conjunction with continued air strikes in Iraq) helped to set the bellicose tone (or maintain it's background drone), and chart a course that made war with Iraq more likely - a war that has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster.
However, if Kirchick is trying to throw off the scent of Lieberman et al as "warmongers" vis-a-vis Iran, this is a curious way to go about it. Pointing to the similarities between the ILA (which greased the skids for the eventual Iraq war) and Lieberman's Iran-focused amendment shouldn't put any minds at ease. Quite the contrary. It should serve as a warning to us all that those clamoring for more and wider war are seeking to lay a legislative groundwork that will facilitate the next foray - just as the ILA preceded and assisted the last.