Eight years ago today, President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, calling for regime change in Baghdad, but stopping short of direct military assistance.
“The United States favors an Iraq that offers its people freedom at home,” Clinton said. “I categorically reject arguments that this is unattainable due to Iraq’s history or its ethnic or sectarian make-up. Iraqis deserve and desire freedom like everyone else. The United States looks forward to a democratically supported regime that would permit us to enter into a dialogue leading to the reintegration of Iraq into normal international life….
“[W]hile the United States continues to look to the Security Council’s efforts to keep the current regime’s behavior in check, we look forward to new leadership in Iraq that has the support of the Iraqi people. The United States is providing support to opposition groups from all sectors of the Iraqi community that could lead to a popularly supported government.”
At the heart of the Iraq Liberation Act, it said:
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ‘Iraq Liberation Act of 1998.’
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
The Congress makes the following findings:
(1) On September 22, 1980, Iraq invaded Iran, starting an 8 year war in which Iraq employed chemical weapons against Iranian troops and ballistic missiles against Iranian cities.
(2) In February 1988, Iraq forcibly relocated Kurdish civilians from their home villages in the Anfal campaign, killing an estimated 50,000 to 180,000 Kurds.
(3) On March 16, 1988, Iraq used chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurdish civilian opponents in the town of Halabja, killing an estimated 5,000 Kurds and causing numerous birth defects that affect the town today.
(4) On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded and began a 7 month occupation of Kuwait, killing and committing numerous abuses against Kuwaiti civilians, and setting Kuwait’s oil wells ablaze upon retreat.
(5) Hostilities in Operation Desert Storm ended on February 28, 1991, and Iraq subsequently accepted the ceasefire conditions specified in United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 (April 3, 1991) requiring Iraq, among other things, to disclose fully and permit the dismantlement of its weapons of mass destruction programs and submit to long-term monitoring and verification of such dismantlement.
(6) In April 1993, Iraq orchestrated a failed plot to assassinate former President George Bush during his April 14-16, 1993, visit to Kuwait.
(7) In October 1994, Iraq moved 80,000 troops to areas near the border with Kuwait, posing an imminent threat of a renewed invasion of or attack against Kuwait.
(8) On August 31, 1996, Iraq suppressed many of its opponents by helping one Kurdish faction capture Irbil, the seat of the Kurdish regional government.
(9) Since March 1996, Iraq has systematically sought to deny weapons inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) access to key facilities and documents, has on several occasions endangered the safe operation of UNSCOM helicopters transporting UNSCOM personnel in Iraq, and has persisted in a pattern of deception and concealment regarding the history of its weapons of mass destruction programs.
(10) On August 5, 1998, Iraq ceased all cooperation with UNSCOM, and subsequently threatened to end long-term monitoring activities by the International Atomic Energy Agency and UNSCOM.
(11) On August 14, 1998, President Clinton signed Public Law 105-235, which declared that ‘the Government of Iraq is in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations’ and urged the President ‘to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations.’
(12) On May 1, 1998, President Clinton signed Public Law 105-174, which made $5,000,000 available for assistance to the Iraqi democratic opposition for such activities as organization, training, communication and dissemination of information, developing and implementing agreements among opposition groups, compiling information to support the indictment of Iraqi officials for war crimes, and for related purposes.
SEC. 3. SENSE OF THE CONGRESS REGARDING UNITED STATES POLICY TOWARD IRAQ.
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.
An act without action. It’s interesting how Clinton declared Saddam’s government “in material and unacceptable breach” of U.N. resolutions, made it his policy to support the replacement of Saddam’s regime with democracy, and rejected arguments that Iraqi freedom was unattainable because of Iraq’s history, ethnicity or sectarian make-up.
The Iraq Liberation Act authorized Clinton to spend up to $98 million arming and training Iraq opposition groups. When he left office in January 2001, Clinton had spent almost none of the money. (Can you hear Chris Wallace? “Do you think you did enough, sir?”)
Less than five years after the Iraq Liberation Act, President Bush followed through. Bush took action to liberate Iraq.