Hillary Clinton and The New Nixonians

220px-Richard_Nixon225px-Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropBelow is my column in USA Today on the striking similarities between Richard Nixon and Hillary Clinton, particularly with regard to the staffers surrounding them. Both tended to blame others about being, to paraphrase Nixon, “kicked around.” However, there are deeper and rather disturbing patterns emerging that are shared by the two leaders in my view.

It has taken almost 50 years, but the Democrats have finally found their inner Nixon. Make no mistake about it: Hillary Clinton is the most Nixonian figure in the post-Watergate period. Indeed, Democrats appear to have reached the type of moral compromise that Nixon waited, unsuccessfully, for Republicans to accept: Some 71% of Democrats want Clinton to run even if indicted.

While Obama could be criticized for embracing Nixon’s imperial presidency model, his personality could not be more different from his predecessor. Clinton however is the whole Nixonian package. On a policy level, her predilection for using executive and military power is even coupled with praise for (and from) Nixon’s secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. However, it is on a personality level that the comparison is so striking and so unnerving. Clinton, like Nixon, is known to be both secretive and evasive. She seems to have a compulsive resistance to simply acknowledging conflicting facts or changes in position. She only makes admissions against interest when there is no alternative to acknowledging the truth in a controversy.

Clinton’s history of changing positions and spinning facts is now legendary. Indeed, a video entitled “Hillary Clinton lying for 13 minutes straight” has become an Internet sensation with millions of viewers. Polls show Clinton with record lows for her perceived honesty and trustworthiness. (In fairness, Trump fares little better). Clinton seems entirely comfortable denying facially true facts. For example, she spent much of a year assuring the public that she was fully cooperating with investigators into her use of an unsecure server for her communications as secretary of State. Indeed, she used her claimed cooperation as the reason that she would not answer more questions. When the State Department Inspector General issued its highly critical report on the scandal, many were shocked to learn that Clinton not only refused to speak at all with investigators but so did her top aides. Where Clinton repeatedly said that her use was allowed by the State Department, the report said that the rule was clearly violated, she never received approval for such a security breach and that a personal server would never have been accepted.

Of course, politicians are not known for their allegiance to the truth, and Clinton may be a standout in that group, but she is hardly unique among her peers. However, that tendency is often checked by a staff that forces politicians to recognize reality and even the truth of controversy.

The problem is that Clinton has surrounded herself with aides who have demonstrated an unflagging loyalty and veneration. Take Huma Abedin, perhaps her most influential aide. Abedin described her first meeting on the “Call Your Girlfriend” podcast: “She walked by and she shook my hand and our eyes connected, and I just remember having this moment where I thought; ‘Wow, this is amazing. And … it just inspired me. You know, I still remember the look on her face. And it’s funny, and she would probably be so annoyed that I say this, but I remember thinking; ‘Oh my God, she’s so beautiful and she’s so little!'”

Adebin’s breathless account is similar to communications of other aides who fawn in emails to Clinton over her speeches, dress and demeanor. In the released emails, former National Security Council adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall asked that an aide pass along her praise of Clinton’s performance at a hearing:

“If you get a chance — please tell HRC that she was a ROCK STAR yesterday. Everything about her ‘performance’ was what makes her unique, beloved, and destined for even more greatness. She sets a standard that lesser mortals can only dream of emulating.”

(In 2014, Sherwood-Randall was made the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy.) Emails from other close aides like Lanny Davis and Sidney Blumenthal show the same level of constant stroking and exaltation.

It is certainly true that Washington’s powerful have always attracted a circle of sycophants. Indeed, the most powerful figures often seem to need continual stroking from underlings and there can be a race to the bottom as aides outdo each other in their adoring rhetoric.

What is so concerning is that Clinton seems to invite such expressions of absolute loyalty and reverence. The question is whether there is a John Dean willing to walk into her office and tell her of a cancer growing within the White House. After years of scandals and investigations, Clinton has distilled a team down to the truest believers who have little difficulty repeating truth-defying spins or refusing to cooperate with investigators.

Indeed, recently, top Clinton aides took the notable step of agreeing to be represented by the same lawyers in both the criminal and civil investigations into the email scandal. That is a move that can greatly assure a more uniform account in the testimony of Clinton aides. It is also a move that rejects potential conflicts between aides in both their recollections and interests. In the most recent depositions, that joint counsel instructed key aide Cheryl Mills to simply refuse to answer most of the questions about the reasons and arrangements made for the use of a personal server at the State Department. So far Clinton’s top aides have remained a uniform front.

It is hard not to think of Nixon aides like John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman in the “palace guard” surrounding Nixon. They should be a cautionary tale for all of these aides. Ehrlichman would later look back and marvel at the loss of his own sense of self and independence: “I, in effect, abdicated my moral judgments and turned them over to somebody else.”

My greatest concern is not that a President Clinton will continue a pattern of false statements but that her aides will gradually forget the difference between what is true and what is not.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.

127 thoughts on “Hillary Clinton and The New Nixonians”

  1. tnash80hotmailcom:
    “it was his distinct, different policy to throw in an extra half million combat troops”

    I’m not versed on Vietnam War law and policy like I am on OIF law and policy, but speaking to your analogy, you’re confusing legal character and practical character.

    Legal authority and policy objective can be the same while practical measures taken with the same legal authority for the same policy objective can differ widely.

    I believe LBJ carried forward JFK’s policy objective for Vietnam, but I don’t know about the legal authority. Because I’m not versed on Vietnam War law and policy, I’ll switch to a more straightforward analogy: the atomic bombs we deployed in WW2.

    The legal authority and policy objective for the atomic bombs were the same as for Operation Downfall, but the practical character was different.

    It’s also normal for practical measures to escalate when a policy objective is valued highly enough but it’s not achieved with lower measures. If the atomic bombs hadn’t worked, Operation Downfall was on deck.

    The decade-plus escalation to OIF thoroughly used up lower measures to compel Iraq’s compliance. OIF wasn’t a leap; the threat of regime change and the ODF bombing was the penultimate enforcement step and it failed to compel Iraq’s compliance. After ODF, progressively, the only measure that remained to enforce a “final opportunity to comply” (UNSCR 1441) was the threat of regime change by ground invasion. Again, with the ‘containment’ broken and unreconstructed Saddam in breach across the board, including the disarmament and terrorism mandates of UNSCR 687, the fundamental question in the decision for OIF was whether we were ultimately bluffing about the policy objective to “bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations” (PL 105-235), which was the defining US-led international enforcement of the post-Cold War (including 9/11) era.

    1. Eric…..There was very little domestic opposition to the advisors sent by Eisenhower, and increased from c. 1,000 to 16,000 under JFK.
      The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed with only two dissenting votes out of the 535 member Congress.
      Prior to that Resolution, obligations under SEATO to assist South Vietnam was cited as the primary basis for initial U.S. involvement.
      Sen. Fullbright was Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in Aug. 1964, when the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was introduced.
      Fullbright, an “early” critic of the Vietnam War, understood the “open-ended” implications of the resolution.
      He told a few vacillating Senators that this legislation could be the basis of much deeper involvement in Vietnam.
      That is, it provided “legitimacy/ cover” for LBJ to escalate.
      Fullbright was effective in limiting debate and getting near-unanimous approval for the resolution.
      He’s remembered for his “early” opposition to the war, less so for his aggressive role in passage of the resolution.
      Daniel Ellsberg was at the Pentagon as the Gulf of Tonkin “crisis” occurred.
      Evidently, he saw the conflicting, questionable reports as they came in in Aug. 1964.
      I think it was in 1971 when he leaked the classified Pentagon Papers.
      At that stage, American involvement was winding down rapidly.
      If in fact he saw the contradictory GOT reports in Aug. 1964, going public at that point may have had some impact.
      By 1971, the main effect of the spilling the classified Pentagon Papers was the creation of the “plumbers unit” in the Nixon White House.
      LBJ sought and received the legal cover with the Gulf of Tonkin Res., at least as far as Congress was concerned (in the first 2-3 years of the massive escalation).
      I don’t remember offhand if it was officially recinded, but I think the War Powers Act, c. 1973, effectively put stringent limitations on any further American military operations in Vietnam or Cambodia.

  2. tnash80hotmailcom:
    “After a quick read, I think you’re saying that Clinton had the authority to invade Iraq based (largely, not exclusively) on the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act.”

    That’s not what I’m saying. PL 105-338 was not an AUMF.

    The basic authority to invasively enforce Iraq’s compliance was the Gulf War authorization, PL 102-1 (1991) and UNSCR 678 (1990). The Gulf War authorization was “to use all necessary means” (UNSCR 678) – “the use of all necessary means” (PL 102-190) – to enforce Iraq’s compliance with all the UNSCR 660-series resolutions. The ceasefire was part of the UNSCR 660-series resolutions.

    Subsequently, PL 107-243 (2002) reiterated and updated the standing law and policy of the ceasefire enforcement that worked on the basic Gulf War authorization.

    Again, PL 105-235 and PL 105-338 were not AUMFs. They worked on the basic Gulf War authorization, too.

    With the UNSC dysfunctional over Iraq, PL 105-235 (1998) provided the determination that Iraq was in material breach, which triggered enforcement, and clarified that Iraq’s noncompliance was a national security threat, which established a domestic legal basis for the ceasefire enforcement that was substantively the same but legally distinct from the international legal basis for the ceasefire enforcement.

    PL 105-338 (1998) built on standing Congressional resolutions and executive policy to clarify and codify that regime change, including US-led post-Saddam peace operations, was the solution for Iraq’s material breach of the ceasefire.

  3. Eric …..I’ll reread your most recent post when time permits.
    After a quick read, I think you’re saying that Clinton had the authority to invade Iraq based (largely, not exclusively) on the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act.
    I’ll review the language of that legislation….my recollection is that it called for assistance to Anti-Saddam Iraqi groups.
    While “bombing is invasive”, as you stated, a 3-4 day bombing campaign against specific targets is far less “invasive” than sending in ground troops to dislodge a regime and occupy a country.
    Not a perfect analogy, but to me it’s a bit like LBJ saying he was just continuing JFK’s Vietnam policy by going from 16,000 advisors when he took office in 1963, to over 500,000 combat troops when he left office in early 1969.
    I’m not speculating on what JFK might have done….I don’t think there is clear historical evidence to predict that.
    I’m saying that LBJ’s policy was not merely some continuation of a primarily advisory role….it was his distinct, different policy to throw in an extra half million combat troops.

  4. Nick Corasaniti ‏@NYTnickc 4m4 minutes ago

    Clinton: “And yes, if you’re too dangerous to get on a plane, you’re too dangerous to buy a gun in America.” Perfect……..

  5. Fix for my comment on June 13, 2016 at 12:16 pm:
    ‘In fact, Clinton held the authority to invade Iraq. He just didn’t exercise it with a full practical extent in 1998 while making the case for regime change in the decision for ODF.’

    Legally speaking, President Clinton did exercise the authority to invade Iraq with ODF. Bombing is invasive. The significant difference between ODF and OIF was practical, not legal. The OIF invasion was not based on a different authority than the standing authority for every other invasive ceasefire enforcement action, including the no-fly zones and ODF.

    1. Eric……In one administration (JFK), the Vietnam policy was characterized by a fairly limited number(16,000 at peak) of U.S. advisors.
      Those advisors would inevitably be caught up in combat at times, but the JFK policy re U.S. involvement was primarily based on supplying and advising S. Vietnamese forces.
      The LBJ policy of sending over 500,000 combat troops represented more than a tweaking of “practical measures” adopted to continue JFK policy.
      There were indeed similar objectives in both administrations.
      There was also a stark contrast in the policies of the two administrations.

  6. tnash80hotmailcom:
    “You did not mention the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998 as a basis for the 2003 invasion (you mentioned it much earlier in a comment),
    and I erroneously stated that you did mention the ILA at 4:52 PM yesterday.”

    You weren’t wrong. I said the 2002 AUMF incorporated the law and policy in the decision for ODF. That includes PL 105-338, which is cited alongside PL 105-235 (1998) in the 2002 AUMF.

    A common misconception is that the practical character of ODF was also the legal character of ODF. But the 2002 AUMF didn’t add a level of authority to Clinton’s authority for ODF, which was also HW Bush’s authority for the Gulf War. In fact, Clinton held the authority to invade Iraq. He just didn’t exercise it in 1998 while making the case for regime change in the decision for ODF. From a legal perspective, ODF completed the legal set for regime change to enforce Iraq’s compliance with the Gulf War ceasefire.

    tnash80hotmailcom:
    “On Res. 678, I think that was passed in 1990 in the aftermath of Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait.
    And the language of that resolution was strong and fairly clear cut on response to the takeover of Kuwait, and refers to restore peace in the Persian Gulf.
    The debate about the legality of the 2003 invasion of Iraq continues to this day.”

    The “debate” only continues because OIF opponents continue to assert an argument that is easily rebutted with the text of the UNSCRs.

    In fact, the express purpose of the Gulf War ceasefire was to resolve the manifold Iraqi threat that established with the Gulf War in order to “restore peace in the Persian Gulf”.

    Like you, OIF opponents, led by Saddam’s chief advocate in Russia, have asserted that UNSCR 678 authority was limited to expelling Iraq from Kuwait in 1990-1991. However, a plain reading of the text of the resolutions shows that the UNSCR 678 authority was actually to enforce Iraq’s compliance with the UNSCR 660-series resolutions and “restore international peace and security in the area” (UNSCR 678). The UNSCR 678 mandate carried forward to the Gulf War ceasefire.

    While the proximate matter for UNSCR 678 was the emergency crisis between Iraq and Kuwait, UNSCR 678 authorized enforcement of all standing UNSCR 660-series resolutions prior to UNSCR 678 and “all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area”.

    To clarify the extension of the Gulf War ceasefire from the Gulf War, UNSCR 687 “recall[ed]” and “affirm[ed]” the UNSCR 660-series resolutions prior to UNSCR 687, including UNSCR 678. In 2002, UNSCR 1441 also “recall[ed” UNSCR 678. In fact, as a legal question, the UNSCR 660-series resolutions prior to UNSCRs 678 and 687 remained unresolved at the decision point for OIF and were cited as such by President Bush.

    Easily rebutted Russian assertions aside, we’re talking about the US legality of the decision for OIF. The US legal position has been clear since 1991 – clarified with PL 102-190 (1991) – that enforcement of the Gulf War ceasefire carried forward the Gulf War authorization of UNSCR 678 and PL 102-1 (1991).

    tnash80hotmailcom:
    “You probably remember that the U.S. and U.K. wanted an additional resolution, beyond 1441, explictly authorizing the invasion.”

    That’s not quite accurate.

    Actually, the US and UK position was always that UNSCR 678 provided sufficient authority. Otherwise, the US and UK would have considered the no-fly zones, Operations Desert Strike and Desert Fox, and the other US and UK-led invasive enforcement actions prior to OIF to be illegal.

    In terms of authorization, UNSCR 1441 already decided “Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687” and recalled that “the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations” and “resolution 678 (1990) authorized Member States to use all necessary means to uphold and implement its resolution 660 (1990) of 2 August 1990 and all relevant resolutions subsequent to resolution 660 (1990) and to restore international peace and security in the area”.

    The reporting date for UNSCR 1441 had passed on January 26, 2003 with Iraq evidentially continuing its violations of its obligations. In other words, OIF was already authorized and triggered.

    The UNSC debate between March 7-17, 2003 was not over authorization as such. Rather, the UNSC debate was over a follow-up to UNSCR 1441 that would set a dead-line date for Iraq to comply as mandated. The US and UK wanted the dead-line date, specifically, March 17, 2003. Russia, France, and China refused to sign onto a dead-line date, and instead, wanted an indefinite extension for Saddam while effectively replacing the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1441) with an improvised lower standard of compliance that shifted the burden of proof and changed the role of the UN inspectors from verify to investigate.

    tnash80hotmailcom:
    “I don’t think there was challenge in court on this issue that got anywhere, but I’d have to check to be sure.”

    There have been lawsuits. They’ve been dismissed as “political question”, meaning whatever the political merit of the President’s decision for OIF, it was Constitutionally sound.

    The lawsuits against OIF have claimed Public Law 107-243 did not rise to a Congressional declaration of war or that Congress improperly delegated the power to declare war to President Bush. Yet PL 102-1 and PL 107-243 fulfilled the “specific statutory authorization” standard of the War Powers Resolution (50 USC 1541), which is legally equivalent to a Congressional declaration of war. In effect, the claim against the 2002 AUMF is actually against the War Powers Resolution, not the 2002 AUMF.

    Alternatively, lawsuits against OIF have attempted to carve out a novel and nowhere recorded distinction between the deployment of ground forces and every other military application the President was authorized to “[determine] to be necessary and appropriate” (PL 107-243).

    Although OIF opponents like Kucinich claim there’s a legal basis for their political argument, under an informed scrutiny, the legal basis of their position is quickly revealed to be flimsy at best.

    tnash80hotmailcom:
    “So Bush and Blair argued that they already had that authority, primarily under 1441.”

    Incorrect. Actually, they argued UNSCR 678 was the standing authority to enforce UNSCRs 687 and 1441.

    tnash80hotmailcom:
    “IF the public had known in 2003 what was subsequently known…”

    That’s a different hypothetical, but even if we switch the hypothetical to ‘knowing what we know now’, your flawed premise – besides continuing to ignore that Saddam’s “regional and global terrorism” (IPP), including the Saddam-AQ “considerable overlap” (IPP), was actually under-estimated before OIF – is that while imputing post hoc developments, you’ve also altered the pre-OIF standing US position on the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement and its relation to 9/11.

    See the answer to “Why did Bush leave the ‘containment’ (status quo)?”.

    President Clinton summarized the pre-OIF standing US position on the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement and its relation to 9/11 (CNN, 19JUN04) :

    Noting that Bush had to be “reeling” in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, Clinton said Bush’s first priority was to keep al Qaeda and other terrorist networks from obtaining “chemical and biological weapons or small amounts of fissile material.”
    “That’s why I supported the Iraq thing. There was a lot of stuff unaccounted for,” Clinton said in reference to Iraq and the fact that U.N. weapons inspectors left the country in 1998.
    “So I thought the president had an absolute responsibility to go to the U.N. and say, ‘Look, guys, after 9/11, you have got to demand that Saddam Hussein lets us finish the inspection process.’ You couldn’t responsibly ignore [the possibility that] a tyrant had these stocks,” Clinton said.

    Your position assumes a standard of consideration for the 2002 AUMF and the decision for OIF that is inconsistent with the pre-OIF standing US position on the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement and its relation to 9/11.

    tnash80hotmailcom:
    “generally turned the public against the 2003 OIF decision.”

    With randyjet as Exhibit A, it’s clear that what “turned the public against the 2003 OIF decision” was the misinformation campaign – ie, propaganda – by US “hyperpower” opponents that pre-dated the Bush presidency but yet was subsequently adopted by many (not all) Democratic leaders.

    Would the public “have turned…against the 2003 OIF decision” if the narrative frame of the public discourse had been a correct understanding of the grounds for OIF rather than the prevailing yet demonstrably false narrative, as represented by randyjet? Hard to say; that’s another hypothetical to speculate on.

  7. If you add all of the supporters of Bernie Sanders to all the supporters of Donald Trump, that would most likely be over 1/2 the country. Over 1/2 the country is not happy with where this country is headed.

  8. (I accidently hit “Post” before finishing that last sentence.)
    Anyway, I still maintain that Bush 43 could not have public support, or Congressional approval, for the 2003 invasion.

  9. Thanks, Eric. I need to make one correction to my previous comment.
    You did not mention the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998 as a basis for the 2003 invasion (you mentioned it much earlier in a comment),
    and I erroneously stated that you did mention the ILA at 4:52 PM yesterday.
    Instead, you mentioned the 1998 ODF, the 3-4 day punitive bombing raid on Iraqi targets.
    On Res. 678, I think that was passed in 1990 in the aftermath of Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait.
    And the language of that resolution was strong and fairly clear cut on response to the takeover of Kuwait, and refers to restore peace in the Persian Gulf.
    The debate about the legality of the 2003 invasion of Iraq continues to this day.
    Based on Res. 1441 and the authorization from Congress, my own view is that it was not “an illegal war”.
    I don’t think that the 77 Senators who voted to authorize GULF WAR II are in any position to make the case that war was illegal.
    You probably remember that the U.S. and U.K. wanted an additional resolution, beyond 1441, explictly authorizing the invasion.
    That was never brought before the U.N., due to its certain defeat.
    So Bush and Blair argued that they already had that authority, primarily under 1441.
    I’d have to re-read the 1990 Res. 678 to see if it too was a “solid” basis for the 2003 invasion.
    Clearly, it was passed in a different context. As I remember it, there was explicit language re ejecting Iraq from Kuwait, but did not address ejecting Saddam from Iraq by marching on to Baghdad.
    The debate over the legality of the 2003 invasion goes on, and will probably outlive most readers of this column.
    Domestically, there was opposition from Dennis Kuchinich_sp?_, and others over, who believe that Bush did not have the legal authority to invade Iraq and topple Saddam.
    I don’t think there was challenge in court on this issue that got anywhere, but
    I’d have to check to be sure.
    The post 9-11 climate influenced Bush and the other Neocons in their decision launch Gulf War II.
    And the American public was, overall, behind OIF.
    The absence of the suspected stockpiles of WMDs, the exaggerated terrorist threat to America, and the choatic aftermath of the occupation generally turned the public against the 2003 OIF decision.
    IF the public had known in 2003 what was subsequently known……that the estimates of WMDs and the Al Qaeda threat were way off the mark…..I still,maintain

  10. tnash80hotmailcom:
    “If your claiming that Bush 43 had authority to invade Iraq (under res.1441),absent Congressional authorization, you’re dreaming. … As far as Gulf War II being some kind of extension of Clinton’s ODF or the near sinultaneous resolution in 1998 supporting regime change, that was not an authorization to invade Iraq.”

    Incorrect. See the answer to “Was Operation Iraqi Freedom legal?”.

    The basic legal authority for bombing Iraq was the basic legal authority for invading Iraq (both times): “to use United States Armed Forces pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 678” (PL 102-1) – “to use all necessary means” (UNSCR 678) – “the use of all necessary means” (PL 102-190) – “to restore peace and stability to the Persian Gulf region…[Iraq] comply with all relevant United Nations resolutions” (HW Bush) – “to restore peace and security in the region and…secure Iraqi compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions…to protect the national security interests of the United States” (Clinton) – “to restore international peace and security…to assure its [US] national security and to compel Iraq’s compliance with applicable UNSC resolutions” (Bush).

    The 2002 AUMF incorporated the various law and policy in the decision for ODF. Beyond reiterating and updating the standing legal basis for the ceasefire enforcement, the 2002 AUMF was useful for adding the heightened policy consideration of Saddam’s terrorism.

    tnash80hotmailcom:
    “He would never have Congress or the public on board under those circumstances.”

    Hypotheticals are speculative, in this case, if at the decision point for OIF, we subtract the pre-war estimates and substitute the underlying intelligence (fact record, indicators, UN inspections) in their place.

    I agree that the chief utility of the 2002 AUMF was political. I said above, “It didn’t take a high bar.” That’s incomplete. Rather, it did take a high bar, but it didn’t take a high bar for Bush because the high bar with Saddam had come into reach with the escalation of the ceasefire enforcement before Bush was President.

    To wit, Clinton Secretary of Defense William Cohen gave the Clinton administration perspective to the 9-11 Commission:

    The war against Iraq has highlighted the challenge of obtaining reliable intelligence against a so-called “hard target.” While some charge that the Bush Administration exaggerated or manipulated the available intelligence, the fact is that all responsible officials from the Clinton and Bush administrations and, I believe, most Members of Congress genuinely believed that Saddam Hussein had active WMD programs.

    In other words, the Saddam problem was mature. The pre-war estimates matched what “most Members of Congress” and “all responsible officials from the Clinton and Bush administrations” already “genuinely believed” from the decade-plus engagement with Saddam. With the hypothetical, the underlying intelligence indicated the same concept, if not the same detailed predictions, as the pre-war estimates of Saddam’s proscribed activity.

    The fundamental question in their consideration of the pre-war estimates and/or the underlying intelligence was, is the US ultimately bluffing about the mandate to “bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations” (PL 105-235), which was the defining US-led international enforcement of the post-Cold War (including 9/11) era. Either way, estimated or indicated, it was evident (and since substantiated) that the ‘containment’ was broken and Saddam was rearming in breach of UNSCR 687.

    tnash80hotmailcom:
    “alliance” with Al Qaeda ( or however you chose to characterize it this go-around; you keep “redifining” that “relationship”.”

    The constant characterization of the Saddam-AQ link, collaboration, alliance, relationship, etc, that I’ve used is “considerable overlap” (IPP).

    tnash80hotmailcom:
    “You have once again mischaracterized the circumstances and intent of that resolution.”

    Like I said, learning the primary sources of the mission is critical to cut through the conjecture, misinformation, and misleading second-hand commentary in order to understand the actual why of the Iraq intervention.

  11. Eric….If your claiming that Bush 43 had authority to invade Iraq (under res.1441),absent Congressional authorization, you’re dreaming.
    And you’re the one who stated that Bush 43 would have proceeded with Gulf War II without the inflated estimates of Saddam’s WMD, and “alliance” with Al Qaeda ( or however you chose to characterize it this go-around; you keep “redifining” that “relationship”.
    He would never have Congress or the public on board under those circumstances.
    As far as Gulf War II being some kind of extension of Clinton’s ODF or the near sinultaneous resolution in 1998 supporting regime change, that was not an authorization to invade Iraq.
    You have once again mischaracterized the circumstances and intent of that resolution.

  12. tnash80hotmailcom:
    “walked back”

    To clarify, the hypothetical in my comment isn’t ‘knowing what we know now’, but rather a hypo in Bush’s shoes at the decision point for OIF, minus the pre-war (WMD) estimates.

    tnash80hotmailcom:
    “The pre-Gulf War II statements and beliefs were that Saddam had substantial quantities of WMDs.”

    That’s my point. Stripping away the pre-war estimate leaves us with the intelligence, the fact (track) record of Iraq’s proscribed armament – eg, “it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks of biological and chemical weapons” (Clinton) – the indicators of proscribed activity, and most compellingly, the UNMOVIC findings that confirmed Iraq had not disarmed – eg, “UNMOVIC has credible information that the total quantity of BW agent in bombs, warheads and in bulk at the time of the Gulf War was 7,000 litres more than declared by Iraq” & “With respect to stockpiles of bulk agent stated to have been destroyed, there is evidence to suggest that these was [sic] not destroyed as declared by Iraq.”

    Congress didn’t need a CIA estimate to add 1+1+1.

    The main disagreement was not over WMD stocks, since the alternative relied on assuming that Saddam secretly destroyed them in spite of Saddam’s track record of “concealment and deception activities” (ISG) – while keeping in mind that unaccounted for unilateral destruction was itself a UNSCR 687 violation. Rather, the main disagreement was over the character of the post-UNSCOM proscribed activity that was indicated.

    tnash80hotmailcom:
    “I don’t believe BUSH 43 would ever have received Congressional approval”

    Actually, Bush already had Congressional authorization. Bush could have enforced Saddam’s “final opportunity to comply” (UNSCR 1441) with the same legal set that Clinton used for ODF. The 2002 AUMF reiterated and updated the standing law and policy for the ceasefire enforcement; it wasn’t novel legislation.

    In terms of political approval, Bush was presenting a familiar problem to Congress. Since 1991, Congress had regularly passed legislation in support of his predecessors’ UNSCR 660-series enforcement, including the ceasefire, as it escalated. The Congressional leaders who had served since the 1990s were more experienced than the President with the “crisis between the United States and Iraq that led to the declaration on August 2, 1990, of a national emergency” (Clinton) with the “continuing violations of its [Iraq’s] violations” (UNSCR 1441). It didn’t take a high bar.

    tnash80hotmailcom:
    “The prewar administration statements about Saddam’s supposed link with Al Qaeda were also walked back to “he was willing to consider using Al Qaeda”.”

    Again, not the hypothetical in my comment, but you’re also misrepresenting the IPP findings again.

  13. tnash80hotmailcom:
    “Another theory…only a theory…was that Saddam was actually funding these WMD programs, and thought he had the WMDs.
    That theory is that some of his subordinates were enriching themselves while producing little or nothing.”

    They were productive. ISG found many UNSCR 687 WMD violations.

    That being said, a common misperception is that the ISG survey is a comprehensive and unequivocal account of Saddam’s WMD program as of the enactment/adoption of the 2002 AUMF and UNSCR 1441 or even during the UNSCR 1441 inspections. Yet many ISG findings are heavily qualified, such as the blockquote in my comment to you on June 7, 2016 at 3:35 pm.

    As was the case throughout the UNSCOM/UNMOVIC history, suspicious “denial and deception” (ISG) activity was reported during the UNSCR 1441 inspections. The UN inspections were not like a crime-scene forensic investigation that controlled against loss of evidence, since the burden of proof was on Iraq to comply with the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” (UNSCR 1441) and the role of the UN inspectors was to verify Iraq’s account, not investigate. Iraq’s unaccounted for unilateral destruction was itself a breach of ceasefire.

    The ISG Duelfer report is qualified with many caveats about practical limitations to its investigation and looting, destruction, and suspect areas “sanitized”, before and even during the ISG investigation, that resulted in the loss of much evidence. ISG found IIS “concealment and destruction efforts”.

    So, it’s important to recognize that while what ISG found of Saddam’s UNSCR 687 violations can be considered reliable, the evaluation doesn’t work the other way. It’s a mistake to consider what ISG did not find to be a reliable account of the limit of Saddam’s WMD program given the large loss of evidence reported by ISG. Much of what ISG did not find in its post hoc investigation, especially about Saddam’s BW program, is inconclusive at best and often suspect.

  14. Paul Schulte:
    “One of the things that came up in Saddam’s trial was that he was fudging the WMD numbers upward to scare the Iranians.”

    Right. Saddam considered his WMD, both actual and their perception, to be critical to his ambitions and security, both internal and external. For Saddam, WMD was the answer to his regime’s needs and wants. Until he re-made his WMD program, he was going to fake it.

    Saddam was bluffing, which in and of itself breached UNSCR 687 for casus belli. It affected the pre-war intelligence analysis. Further complicating assessment was that Saddam, on top of bluffing, was in fact rearming in violation of UNSCR 687 with a clandestine and compartmentalized approach including IIS counter-intelligence “concealment and deception [and destruction] activities” (ISG) versus the UN inspections and foreign intelligence.

    Again, there’s a reason the burden of proof was on Iraq. The UNSCR 687/1441 disarmament process was more than a legal justification. Against Saddam’s “denial and deception operations” (ISG), it was only the only reliable practical way, short of regime change, to know that Iraq disarmed as mandated.

    Excerpts taken from this sample of excerpts from the Iraq Survey Group Duelfer report :

    Saddam’s rationale for the possession of WMD derived from a need for survival and domination. This included a mixture of individual, ethnic, and nationalistic pride as well as national security concerns particularly regarding Iran. Saddam wanted personal greatness, a powerful Iraq that could project influence on the world stage, and a succession that guaranteed both. … WMD was one of the means to these interrelated ends.
    The former Regime also saw chemical weapons as a tool to control domestic unrest, in addition to their war-fighting role. In March 1991, the former Regime used multiple helicopter sorties to drop CW-filled bombs on rebel groups as a part of its strategy to end the revolt in the South. That the Regime would consider this option with Coalition forces still operating within Iraq’s boundaries demonstrates both the dire nature of the situation and the Regime’s faith in “special weapons.”
    … From 1999 until he was deposed in April 2003, Saddam’s conventional weapons and WMD-related procurement programs steadily grew in scale, variety, and efficiency.
    … Saddam invested his growing reserves of hard currency in rebuilding his military-industrial complex, increasing its access to dual-use items and materials, and creating numerous military research and development projects. He also emphasized restoring the viability of the IAEC [Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission] and Iraq’s former nuclear scientists.
    … Senior Iraqis—several of them from the Regime’s inner circle—told ISG they assumed Saddam would restart a nuclear program once UN sanctions ended.
    • Saddam indicated that he would develop the weapons necessary to counter any Iranian threat.
    … The Regime made a token effort to comply with the disarmament process, but the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC’s resolutions. Outward acts of compliance belied a covert desire to resume WMD activities.
    … While it appears that Iraq, by the mid-1990s, was essentially free of militarily significant WMD stocks, Saddam’s perceived requirement to bluff about WMD capabilities made it too dangerous to clearly reveal this to the international community, especially Iran.
    … Early on, Saddam sought to foster the impression with his generals that Iraq could resist a Coalition ground attack using WMD. Then, in a series of meetings in late 2002, Saddam appears to have reversed course and advised various groups of senior officers and officials that Iraq in fact did not have WMD. His admissions persuaded top commanders that they really would have to fight the United States without recourse to WMD. In March 2003, Saddam created further confusion when he implied to his ministers and senior officers that he had some kind of secret weapon.
    … Following the destruction of much of the Iraqi WMD infrastructure during Desert Storm, however, the threats to the Regime remained; especially his perception of the overarching danger from Iran. In order to counter these threats, Saddam continued with his public posture of retaining the WMD capability. This led to a difficult balancing act between the need to disarm to achieve sanctions relief while at the same time retaining a strategic deterrent. The Regime never resolved the contradiction inherent in this approach. Ultimately, foreign perceptions of these tensions contributed to the destruction of the Regime.

  15. Eric…..re the last paragragh of your last comment.
    The pre-Gulf War II statements and beliefs were that Saddam had substantial quantities of WMDs.
    Post invasion, these statements were “walked back” to Saddam had “the intent” and “the capabilty” to produce WMDs, not the stockpiles he was thought to have had.
    The prewar administration statements about Saddam’s supposed link with Al Qaeda were also walked back to “he was willing to consider using Al Qaeda”.
    I don’t believe BUSH 43 would ever have received Congressional approval for GULF WAR II with those “walked back” post-invasion conclusions.
    So I disagree with your conclusion that after subtracting prewar estimates, “the remaining case still adds up to the President’s decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom”.
    He would have neither Congressional approval nor initial public support under that scenario.

  16. Paul C. Schulte……The consensus view is that Saddam was intentionally creating the impression that he was concealing stockpiles
    of WMDs, to bluff the Iranians.
    As you stated above.
    One alternative possibility is that he had the WMDs, and they were shipped to Syria.
    I haven’t seen firm evidence of this, but it’s a realistic possibilty.
    Another theory…only a theory…was that Saddam was actually funding these WMD programs, and thought he had the WMDs.
    That theory is that some of his subordinates were enriching themselves while producing little or nothing.
    Saddam and his sons would have taken a dim view of being ripped off like that, but I suppose it’s conceivable that some were playing that kind high-risk, high-reward game with his regime.
    If that was the case, I don’t think Saddam would have ever admitted to being taken.

  17. tnash80hotmailcom:
    “I realize that Gulf War II was launched based on actual violations of 1441, as well as imprecise (to say the least) prewar estimates of Saddam’s WMD.”

    You raise another aspect of my clarification.

    Namely, would the President have made the same decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom minus the pre-war estimates? I believe, yes.

    Imagine yourself in Bush’s shoes at the decision point for OIF. Then:

    First, set Clinton’s decision for Operation Desert Fox as the baseline precedent for Bush’s decision, mindful that Bush carried forward the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement from Clinton.

    Note that Clinton didn’t cite the intelligence at all in his public presentation of the case against Saddam. Instead, Clinton’s public case hewed to the compliance-based, inspection-centered enforcement procedure. While Clinton (we can assume) consulted the intelligence in his decision for ODF like Bush did for OIF, when Clinton referred to “clear evidence of a weapons of mass destruction program” (17FEB98), he cited to evidence of Iraq’s noncompliance, not to the intelligence estimates.

    In other words, if we remove the intelligence feature from the decision for OIF, that only places Bush at carrying forward from Clinton’s decision for ODF, which had already laid the grounds for regime change with the Presidential determination that “Iraq has abused its final chance”.

    Second, assume the other parts of the case against Saddam remained the same, including and especially Saddam’s material breach of the terrorism and humanitarian mandates of the Gulf War ceasefire.

    Recall that while the operative focus for UNSCR 1441 was Iraq’s “full and immediate compliance” with paragraphs 8 to 13 of UNSCR 687, Saddam remained obligated by the UN to comply with all the ceasefire mandates, while the 2002 AUMF instructed the President to “ensure Iraq…promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq” – not just paragraphs 8 to 13 of UNSCR 687. Like Saddam’s disarmament violations, both of the other priority compliance areas crossed the red line of the ceasefire. In fact, as serious as both areas were assessed before OIF, the post-war IPP and UNHCR investigations determined that the Saddam regime’s terrorism and humanitarian violations were actually under-estimated before OIF.

    Third, hypothetically per my clarification above, subtract the pre-war estimates from the intelligence as a whole.

    Imagine the CIA saying something like, ‘We don’t know for sure the current condition of Saddam’s WMD-related armory and programs, Mr. President, but we do know the fact (track) record of Saddam with proscribed armament, we have a compelling catalog of indicators of re-armament that, at minimum surety, speaks to large-scale WMD-related procurement and Saddam rebuilding his military-industrial complex, and we know Saddam has not cured his established guilt of proscribed armament by accounting for his WMD as mandated by UNSCR 687 – eg, “it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks of biological and chemical weapons” (Clinton, 03JUL03).

    Fourth, add to the intelligence minus the pre-war estimates that the UNSCR 1441 inspections have the same result.

    On January 27, 2003, per the reporting date for UNSCR 1441, Hans Blix updates the UN Secuity Council that Iraq is once again noncompliant and defying the ceasefire disarmament process. Then on March 7, 2003, the UNMOVIC Clusters document follows up Blix’s scathing 27JAN03 UNSC update by reporting, “about 100 unresolved disarmament issues …. Little of the detail in these declarations, such as production quantities, dates of events and unilateral destruction activities, can be confirmed. Such information is critical to an assessment of the status of disarmament. Furthermore, in some instances, UNMOVIC has information that conflicts with the information in the declaration.”

    In other words, subtract the pre-war estimates and add together the remaining considerations: the baseline precedent of Clinton’s decision for Operation Desert Fox, Saddam’s over-all material breach not limited to paragraphs 8 to 13 of UNSCR 687, the WMD-related intelligence on Iraq other than the pre-war estimates, and the UNMOVIC findings.

    The sum appears clear to me that if we subtract the pre-war (WMD) estimates from consideration, the remaining case against Saddam still adds up to the President’s decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    1. One of the things that came up in Saddam’s trial was that he was fudging the WMD numbers upward to scare the Iranians. Remember he had been in a nasty war with them before the Gulf War I and did not want them to think he was weak enough to attack. He was gambling that the Coalition would not attack again. He lost.

  18. tnash80hotmailcom,

    I’m clarifying the distinction between the pre-war estimates and the intelligence as a whole. They’re referring to the pre-war estimates, not to the intelligence as a whole.

    Again, the established fact (track) record of Iraq’s proscribed armament was correct. Many indicators of proscribed activity were correct. Iraq’s noncompliance with the UN inspections was correct. So key factors in the assessment were correct, and indeed, although we can fairly conclude that the pre-war estimates were predictively imprecise, the intelligence did correctly indicate that Iraq was engaged in proscribed armament activity.

    I’m also clarifying that the post-war criticism should be understood with the qualification that many of the ISG findings in the post-war criticism are themselves heavily qualified. That doesn’t make the pre-war estimates correct or the post-war criticism incorrect, but it does go to weight.

    Again, if the post-war criticism leads to better tradecraft, that’s beneficial. But you can’t perfect that kind of predictive task, especially versus counter-intelligence like the IIS, which perfected their craft against the UN inspections and foreign intelligence over the decade-plus of the ceasefire enforcement. There’s a reason that the burden of proof was on Iraq.

    It’s the nature of the beast. Whereas the pre-war estimates apparently over-estimated the extent of Saddam’s re-armament, they also under-estimated the extent of Saddam’s “regional and global terrorism” (IPP).

Comments are closed.