During today’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he doesn’t know whether the 2002 resolution authorizing force in Iraq is still valid, acknowledging that his view differs with that of President Bush.
During his questioning of Gates, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) noted that the authorization listed two purposes for the use of force: 1) to defend the United States against Saddam Hussein and 2) enforce U.N. resolutions against Hussein’s government. Byrd asked Gates, since Hussein’s government no longer exists, “do you agree that this authorization no longer applies to the ongoing conflict in Iraq?”
Gates responded: “I think the honest answer, Senator Byrd, is that I don’t know the answer to that question.” Gates admitted that his answer contradicts that of the President, who believes the resolution “still continues to authorize the actions that we are taking in Iraq.”
Byrd and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) have announced legislation “that would require the president to seek a reauthorization from Congress to extend the military effort in Iraq beyond October 11, 2007.”
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. Let me read that again, now.
The first was defend the national security of the United States, quote, against the continuing threat posed by Iraq, close quote.
The second was to, quote, enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions against Iraq, close quote.
Since the government of Iraq that is referred to in the resolution no longer exists, having been replaced by a democratically elected one, do you agree — do you agree that this authorization no longer applies to the ongoing conflict in Iraq?
GATES: I think the honest answer, Senator 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.
BYRD: All right.