Boosting Biden, NBC Misrepresents 2002 Iraq War Resolution

If NBC wants to support the effort of Joe Biden and Carl Levin to adopt a new resolution undercutting the 2002 version that authorized President Bush to go to war against Iraq, let it put Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann out there to make the case. But please don't misrepresent to the public what that 2002 resolution [full text here] said.

On this morning's "Today," NBC reporter John Yang asserted the following:

"That 2002 measure allowed the president to go after weapons of mass destruction and topple Saddam Hussein. There were no weapons and Saddam's been executed."

View video here.

Whether intentionally or not, Yang misrepresented the scope of what the 2002 resolution authorized the president to do. Here is the verbatim text of the section of the 2002 resolution setting for the the authorization:
SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.

(a) AUTHORIZATION. The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to

(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and

(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.
Let's agree that UN resolutions are no longer a factor. But, as per 3(a)(1), the Bush administration indisputably views the situation in Iraq as "a continuing threat" to the national security of the United States. We have heard numerous administration representatives make the case that if we were to withdraw now, Iraq would become a staging place for Al-Qaeda and other terrorists groups to launch attacks against the US and its allies. One thing is clear, the authorization, contrary to Yang's characterization, was in no way limited to the toppling of Saddam and the removal of WMDs.

Now it's true that the prefatory language of the resolution -- the "whereas" clauses -- makes reference to WMDs and the hostility of the then current Iraqi regime. But such clauses have no binding effect. They are the garnish. The meat is the Authorization clause, which clearly continues to justify continued US involvement. But even if the prefatory language were relevant, it also includes a "whereas" establishing that "it is in the national security of the United States to restore international peace and security to the Persian Gulf region." That would clearly encompass the current activities within Iraq.

Perhaps the best evidence that the current resolution remains entirely adequate to justify continuing military action in Iraq is the very fact that the Dems want to adopt a new one. If the 2002 resolution no longer authorized what the Bush administration is currently doing in Iraq, the Dems would be so arguing, perhaps even bringing a lawsuit seeking to establish that in continuing to prosecute the war the Bush administration is acting outside the law. That instead the Dems are seeking to adopt a new resolution is proof that they recognize that the current resoluton continues to authorize our continued efforts in Iraq.

But no doubt Biden and Levin will appreciate NBC's efforts to help make the case on their behalf.

UPDATE: Appearing on this morning's "Meet the Press," co-sponsor Carl Levin told Tim Russert that the 2002 resolution was "very broad" and "pretty much authorizes the president to do whatever he wants." Compare and contrast with Yang's claim that the resolution only "allowed the president to go after weapons of mass destruction and topple Saddam Hussein." Will NBC be embarrassed that in its eagerness to undermine the Bush administration, it was willing to go further than even a sponsor of the new resolution himself?

Mark was in Iraq in November. Contact him at mark@gunhill.net

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.