On ABC’s “This Week,” host Jake Tapper asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in the context of the Libya operation, “Why not go to Congress?”
“Well, we would welcome congressional support,” Clinton said, “but I don’t think that this kind of internationally authorized intervention where we are one of a number of countries participating to enforce a humanitarian mission is the kind of unilateral action that either I or President Obama was speaking of several years ago.”
Secretary Clinton’s implication, of course, is that Iraq was a “unilateral action,” as opposed to what President Obama is doing in Libya.
This assertion is false on multiple levels. Let’s start by citing Josh Rogin in Foreign Policy, who referenced a chart listing all the countries that contributed at least some military assets to the five major military operations in which the United States participated in a coalition during the last 20 years: the 1991 Gulf War (32 countries participating), the 1995 Bosnia mission (24 countries), the 1999 Kosovo mission (19 countries), the 2002 invasion of Afghanistan (48 countries), and the 2003 invasion of Iraq (40 countries), at the height of the size of each coalition. “As of today,” Rogin writes, “only 15 countries, including the United States, have committed to providing a military contribution to the Libya war.”
And while we’re on the topic of Iraq and historical revisionism, it’s worth pointing out that the attempts at diplomacy with Saddam Hussein lasted through 12 years, 17 UN Resolutions, and two administrations, including the Clinton administration (which went so far as to bomb Iraq in 1998 without UN or NATO approval). It ranks among history’s longer diplomatic efforts to avoid war. And under President Bush, five separate Iraq-related UN Security Council Resolutions were passed unanimously, including 1441, which found Iraq in material breach of its obligations and warned Iraq of “serious consequences” (which all parties understood to mean war) for continued violations. For four-and-a-half months, the United States and its allies worked within the Security Council to enforce that Council’s long-standing demands. Yet, some permanent members of the Security Council publicly announced they would veto any resolution that compelled the disarmament of Iraq. These governments shared America’s assessment of the danger but did not share America’s resolve to meet it. More than three dozen nations, however, did have the resolve to act against Saddam Hussein.
As for Iraq and Congress: On October 10-11, 2002, the House voted 296-133 in favor of the Use of Force Resolution, while the vote in the Senate was 77-23. All told, 110 Democrats in the House and Senate voted in favor of going to war – including then-Senator Hillary Clinton who, in speaking about the United Nations (whose support in the war she, like President Bush, preferred), said,
It often lacks the cohesion to enforce its own mandates. And when Security Council members use the veto, on occasion, for reasons of narrow-minded interests, it cannot act. In Kosovo, the Russians did not approve NATO military action because of political, ethnic, and religious ties to the Serbs. The United States therefore could not obtain a Security Council resolution in favor of the action necessary to stop the dislocation and ethnic cleansing of more than a million of Kosovar Albanians… In the case of Iraq, recent comments indicate that one or two Security Council members might never approve force against Saddam Hussein until he has actually used chemical, biological, or God forbid, nuclear weapons.
Which brings us back to Mrs. Clinton’s comments yesterday about “unilateral action.” Since the idea of a Clinton knowingly spreading untruths is inconceivable, we’ll simply assume that her charges of unilateralism are the product of extraordinary sloppiness and an unusual memory lapse.