Revisiting Bush's casus belli


Geraldine Sealey
June 18, 2004 8:01AM (UTC)

Here's another look at what the president said Thursday about one of his original justifications for the Iraq war: "This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and Al Qaeda."

Wherever did anyone get this idea, then? The Demagogue blog digs up -- and hopefully some White House reporters will do the same -- the congressional resolution authorizing the presidential use of force from 2002. It reads:

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"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, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001." (Emphasis added.)

And so, on March 18, 2003, President Bush did just that, using the same language in his letter to the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate as was in the congressional resolution. In other words, in the official notice to Congress laying out Bush's rationale for using force against Iraq, he cited the 9/11 attacks.

Demagogue points out that the use of the word "including" in the resolution -- that it was necessary to take action against terrorists, including those connected to the 9/11 attacks -- was "cute, but it can scarcely be denied that Bush conveyed to Congress -- as the sole substantive justification for the war -- the notion that Iraq 'planned, authorized, committed, or aided' the 9/11 attacks. Otherwise, why include that phrase in a resolution, and a presidential determination, that were directed solely at the question of whether to invade Iraq? Plausible deniability is one thing, but the implication here is quite clear."


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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