Why we fight?

The defense secretary says he doesn't know whether the use-of-force authorization for Iraq covers the war the United States is fighting today.

Published May 9, 2007 3:39PM (EDT)

Sens. Hillary Clinton and Robert Byrd have proposed a repeal of the 2002 resolution by which Congress authorized George W. Bush to use force in Iraq. At a Senate appropriations hearing today, Byrd asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates if he believed that the use-of-force resolution still applied at all.

Byrd: Secretary Gates, the 2002 authorization to use force in Iraq authorized the president to use force for two purposes ... The first was to defend the national security of the United States "against the continuing threat posed by Iraq." The second was to "enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions against Iraq." Since the government of Iraq that is referred to in the resolution no longer exists, having been replaced by a democratically elected one, do you agree ... that this authorization no longer applies to the ongoing conflict in Iraq?

Gates: I think the honest answer, Sen. Byrd, is that I don't know the answer to that question.

Byrd: That's being honest. Therefore, if you don't know the answer -- how does it apply if you don't know the answer?

Gates: Well, sir, my impression is that it's the view of the president that it still continues to authorize the actions that we are taking in Iraq.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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Iraq War Orrin Hatch R-utah Robert Byrd D-w.va.