Part XXIV Resolutions
An American soldier's coffin returns to the United States
The coffins containing two deceased Americans were returned to the United States in July of 2003, the sombre scene was a macabre and curious moment in history. From the outside, it looked as if the world had taken a step away from the cliff's edge. President George Bush’s call for diplomacy and negotiations, Saddam Hussein’s letter accepting talks with the U.N. and the end of American bombings in central Iraq, all culminated in the readmittance of U.N. weapons inspectors. It was as if a diplomatic coup had taken place, that perhaps all the posturing and the brinksmanship had succeeded, and the United States had put Iraq back in its box to borrow Colin Powell’s turn of phrase. But celebrations were muted in the White House, and everyone could still hear the steady beat of war drums.
As the executive branch continued to lobby congressmen, international delegates and the wider public on the possibility (and potential necessity) of renewed conflict; Secretary Rumsfeld said, "Since the Persian Gulf War, Iraq has agreed to a series of U.N. commitments and failed to fulfil each one., I fail to see what the difference will be now".
Or as Press Secretary Ari Fleischer put it “Their words change after a month of attacks, and their army has been decimated, but their actions have not.".
Even before inspectors officially returned to Iraq there were bumps in the road, the destruction caused in the American operation ‘Desert Badger’ included the bombing of possible production or storage sites of weapons of mass destruction, making it possible that if such facilities had existed they were already buried under hundreds of tons of rubble. Another issue was that the leadership both in Baghdad and Washington hoped for inspections to be brief, at most a couple of months, Washington held public and private concerns that a long delay would significantly push back the military timeline, as well as give Saddam Hussein the chance to deceive or meddle with inspections or better prepare for a conflict with the U.S., while Iraq feared that long-winded inspections would be used to spy on the regime or otherwise meddle in its affairs. Unfortunately for both, chief inspector Hans Blix expressed his own belief that full inspections it could take up to a year “We have hundreds of sites to visit, and many interviews to conduct, this is a process and will not be completed in a short space of time”.
(left) Hans Blix, Cheif weapons inspector (right) UN weapons inspectors
Along with claims and reports on the Iraqi government's treacherous misdeeds, Rumsfeld announced that thousands of Marines would be sent to Kuwait for supposed
routine training exercises, however, the number he was sending (nearly 7,000) would triple the number of marines who were present for the exercises the previous year, this sparked news coverage that the United States may be ramping up for war. As President Bush won his first U.N. resolution and inspectors returned to Iraq, his scope shifted back again to wooing Congress to pass its resolution giving the President the authority to take military action should he need to. Though Congress was eased by the U.N. resolution, it was still contentious amongst most Democrats, who were sceptical of White House claims that a resolution was for purely diplomatic aims and not military ones, as well as claims of Iraq’s WMD capability. Many insisted on seeing the evidence for themselves before they made their decision on whether to grant the President the authority. The U.S’s, intelligence agencies were reluctant to provide such information due to an internal conflict over the strength of said intelligence, when Director of the CIA George Tenet was asked by the Senate intelligence committee for a CIA assessment he refused to provide one, Sen Bob Graham chair of the committee was stunned “This was going to be one of the most important votes in a long time, we don’t want to be flying blind here, we said straight up we can’t vote if we don’t know what we’re getting into.”
The President needed to whip votes, he knew that if he couldn’t get congress on his side it would severely disrupt any coalition and hurt any potential war effort, though he was certain that as President he could act alone he was determined to see that he wouldn’t have to, and he began personally lobbying Senators and the public to go his way on the issue. “The authorization to use force.”
he said “If you want to keep the peace, you've got to have the authorization to use force. But it's -- this will be -- this is a chance for Congress to indicate support. It's a chance for Congress to say, we support the administration's ability to keep the peace. That's what this is all about
.” While the President's tone was still one of chief diplomat arguing that a force resolution would give the United States a freer hand in negotiations, other members of the administration were blunter in their persuasion, Vice President Cheney at a speech to a conservative think tank said he was sceptical of any U.N. proposals “This is an emerging threat, The question is how best to do it. And we'd like to have the support of the international community and congress as we move forward here. Any suggestion that we should just get inspectors back into Iraq, and then our worries will be over is wrong … A return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his compliance with U.N. resolutions … we can’t put Saddam back in his box”
President Bush and Vice-President Cheney
The administration’s effort whipped the vast majority of Republicans into line, even those with doubts would be willing to put their faith in the White House and back a broad resolution against Iraq, but the Democrats were by and large still against it, unless presented the proof in hand. Three weeks into negotiations the White House finally conceded and Tenet agreed to produce a national intelligence assessment (NIE) on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction to the intel committee. It was the assignment that George Tenet had dreaded, he was a passionate CIA chief who had been eager to bridge the divide between the President and the intelligence community ( at times an adversarial relationship). He saw his role as the helpful bureaucrat, to aid the President from a neutral perspective. He had been good at it, able to keep his position from the Clinton administration to Bush’s, a miracle in this
Washington. It won him scorn and praise, what some saw as a yes-man for the President, he saw as the ‘chain of command’. But Tenet was steadily becoming aware of the new role the White House was carving out, and just what the Vice President’s office and Department of Defence wanted from him, they wanted to promote specific, possibly faulty intelligence to support their policy on Iraq. Tenets then deputy John Brennan later explained his own frustration “Responding to the requests from the Hill for that National Intelligence Estimate in a very short period and compressed schedule to do something as major and as significant as that, there was concern that intelligence was being pushed forward as the justification for war. ...”.
The White House had put the CIA into a position where it could end up embarrassing the administration, the agency or both because the truth was the CIA had very little solid information on Iraq from 1998 onwards. What the CIA did have was a mix of unreliable, unconfirmable or unintelligible. This would be clear to anyone who could read such a report. Nor would it satisfy the White House or Congress. He had tough choices to make, but he ultimately decided to cut out as much shaky intelligence as possible for the good of the agency.
The national intelligence estimate left a lot out, there was no mention of how a U.S. invasion would be expected to go or the possible aftermath of an invasion, Tenet said that this was far outside the intelligence agencies' field. There was also no mention of bioweaponry, as the CIA had been unable to corroborate the claims of Iraq’s continuation of the program. When it came to chemical weapons the strongest evidence was unaccounted for stocks of mustard, VX and sarin gas plus thousands of shells of chemical agents known to have been used in the Iraq-Iran war and the Kurdish genocide, and the CIA had some intelligence from multiple sources that Saddam sought to continue chemical programs and maintained ties to Iraqi scientists with chemical weapons backgrounds. Regarding nuclear weaponry there were a few lines of inquiry that suggested that Iraq had attempted to purchase thousands of aluminium tubes that could be used for nuclear centrifuges but the report showed it was more likely they would be used for missiles, they placed no timeframe on its current nuclear programme but estimated that if unobstructed Iraq could attain a nuclear weapon by the end of the decade. The NEI concluded that the Saddam regime was maintaining a rudimentary WMD program and had not accounted for all its WMD contrary to U.N. resolutions, that Iraq was likely in possession of chemical weapons, and maintained weapons scientists, such weapons may be used on the battlefield though probably not in a first-strike capacity. The NEI was especially critical of Cheney’s theories about Iraq’s relationship with international terrorism showing that they had unable to pin either financing or training of terrorists to the Iraqi regime, a move that the Vice President took as a personal attack, Cheney was later reported commenting on the NEI and Tenet, calling him “unserious and dishonourable … isn’t he seeing what we’re seeing?”.
CIA Director George Tenet
The report was released to members of Congress. To read the report congressmen had to read it in a small room, alone for security reasons, but some criticised the measure as a tactic to dissuade congressmen from reading the whole document. And though it made for spooky reading to the uninitiated, it contained nothing new or urgent, Senator Graham who asked for the report, later said he understood why the CIA had been reluctant to hand it over “I think [Tenet] knew what this was, this was window dressing, there was nothing fundamentally different here than before”
. Still, the report was able to convince some, Senator John McCain said that there was now “No room for doubt”
that Saddam had WMD, and Democratic Senator John Edwards (a key vote for the President) said that “Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction are a clear threat to America’s allies”.
But Robert Byrd the moderate Democratic Senator from West Virginia saw the opposite “There is no necessity in here, this tells me it would be a war of choice.”
The Bush administration was confident they had a majority to support the desired resolutions in both chambers but there was still a worry regarding the Senate filibuster, Senate Leader Tom Daschle was among the Democrats unimpressed by the intelligence saying that “this report shows that more study is needed”
but Daschle was privately very worried that filibustering a war resolution would backfire on them, as the White House would make political hay for stalling a bill on national security, in such an instance several Democrats could join the President in support to avoid the association. Instead, Daschle opted for a third option between support and obstruction, a bi-partisan solution. Developed by Senators, Democrat Joe Biden of Delaware and Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana they proposed a two-part resolution
. The two-part resolution would give the President authorization to use force to secure the dismantling of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction not
Iraq as a whole, and this was reliant on U.N. security council approval. If the President were unable to secure U.N. approval it would be kicked back to Congress who would vote for the second part of the resolution to approve the President to act unilaterally. It was a catch-all bill, giving cover to those focused on national security, the desire for international support and not giving the President a ‘blank check’, and consequently won support from the Democratic leadership. The plan had detractors on the left, from peace purists who insisted on voting against the war at all costs. But Biden pitched the plan to those Democrats this way, “If we don’t have an alternative, they’ll get the votes for their resolution”.
The Biden-Lugar bill began attracting support from some reluctant Democrats and Republicans and represented a real threat to the White House’s strategy, Bush desperate to kill the bill whipped Republican leadership in line telling them it made “no sense why Congress would send a weaker resolution”
and that it may “tie his hands”.
Biden bit back at the criticism saying that “This bill is focused on our primary concern; weapons of mass destruction, anyone that’s arguing, saying that this is nit-picking or some kind of symbolic gesture, I mean that is just malarky”.
President Bush in a meeting with Powell and Rice was lobbied by the two, they raised that the Biden-Lugar Bill would still achieve what he wanted, Powell emphasized that the U.S. strategy against Iraq remained in building global support and Rice had met personally with Biden and Lugar to work on the language of the bill to better fit with the White House’s needs. Serious tensions flared in the executive branch over the proposal, to the hawks it would be a massive step back that would severely limit the administration's use of force (in a manner some deemed unconstitutional) even no resolution would be better than that.
(left to right) Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Senators Joe Biden and Richard Lugar
The President was pushed by his chief of staff to personally meet with Senators to get across his concerns to Congress, that any resolution needed to expand to the whole of Iraq, “I understand there’s disagreements, but Iraq is a threat and doing nothing is not an option, [Saddam Hussein] represents the biggest threat to the United States, he wants a nuclear bomb to destroy Israel ”
Daschle replied, “I think we’re concerned about support, we need these concerns to be addressed
”, Gephardt agreed “we agree with your assessment of Saddam Hussein but if this isn’t about WMD we just can’t see it”
Some senator’s raised concerns about ability the United States military, Carl Levin chair of the armed services committee said he had received “deep concerns
” from officers, such concerns included Saddam utilizing chemical weapons, or hunkering down in ‘fortress Baghdad’ or a potential post-Saddam Baathist insurgency. The President snapped back “Well it would be nice if they shared their concerns with me instead of someone from the Senate”
. When asked by congressional Republicans to focus more on Iraq’s human rights abuses, the President got emotional “I’m well aware, you know the guy tried to kill my dad!”
Some attempts to win over Congress went poorly, Secretary Rumsfeld reportedly made an antagonistic, borderline nonsensical hour-long briefing about the threat of Saddam, caricaturing himself going on about how ‘we know there are things we know, we know there are things we do not know
’, the pitch worked against him and only convinced some Democrats that the White House was being cagey, Senator Feinstein of the intelligence committee was reported to conclude from the briefing that “there is no new evidence of Saddam’s nuclear capacity”
and that she wouldn’t be willing to go to war, and was joined in this criticism by several Republicans "We want to be with you,"
Oklahoma Senator Don Nickles, finally told Rumsfeld. "But you're not giving us enough.”.
and other attempts to convince came across as too heavy-handed such as the vivid testimony on the danger of a biological attack on the United States given to congress by Anthrax expert Dr, Bruce Ivins, which was criticised for fearmongering, and failed to convince or panic Americans.
Congress remained embattled over the writing of the resolution into August. Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice worked hard to alter the Democrat's resolution, Powell hit the nail on the head when he said that the threat of unilateral action had to be there “we need to challenge [Saddam], hopefully with a strong congressional resolution, with a strong U.N. resolution, to force him to change his ways, to change the behaviour of that regime, or the regime will have to be changed”.
Republicans succeeded in altering the Biden-Lugar Bill to support a general authorization of force against Iraq pending United Nations support which if unsuccessful would trigger a second vote for Congress to authorize unilateral action. As the President's timeline ticked down, Congress voted a week later the final day before the summer recess and passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2003
or the Joint Resolution to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces pursuant to United Nations Security Council Action
passed with big majorities, 82 votes in the Senate and 319 votes in the House. Now once again the ball was in the United Nations court.
Throughout the Iraqi disarmament crisis, polls on popular opinion greatly wavered, from the beginning of operation Desert Badger, President Bush’s approval rating rose by 10 points to the mid-’50s, and a large majority, 3/4ths of Americans approved of the bombing campaign. But approval for a larger scale invasion was trickier to parse. Americans had been split on an invasion to remove Saddam since 1992, with most polls wavering around 48 to 52% support for a war. Americans’ opinions shifted once important caveats were added, if it were a long war or high casualties were evoking Vietnam flashbacks support dropped dramatically and a third of Americans believed a draft would be reinstated in such a case. Most Americans supported the U.N. weapons inspections but remained unsure of their actual value, 70% thought the U.S. should wait for inspections to end. Half of Americans believed that Saddam had WMD, but most, over 60% thought the administration hadn’t proven it. As the fight over security council and congressional resolutions dragged on support for war steadily declined to between 42% and 47% (these numbers dropped by a further 7% without U.N. support and another 8% without congressional approval). The period also saw Bush’s approval rating settle at around 50%.
The polarized opinion of the country began to be reflected in the public. Where once there had been a single protester outside the White House on the day the strikes began, to the hundreds outside the U.N. headquarters in New York, over 4 months between July and September a largely grassroots anti-war movement took off, slowly but surely, with a few thousand in Washington here, to a few thousand in Chicago there, a vocal opposition grew. The movement wasn’t just a domestic one, the U.K. was quick to build such a movement aided by the governing Labour party’s backbench opposition, against assisting the U.S. in a war. These protests and marches grew in scope, sometimes to the hundreds of thousands, as the images of fighting Americans in the gulf and President Bush’s speeches began to fade from the TV screens, they were replaced by protests (which some complained lent undue weight to the protesting minority). Soon enough Americans were becoming divided too between doves and hawks.
Large protests in Washington, Chicago and London
Criticism of a potential war was given more prominence by the ‘professional’ opposition, most prominently former weapons inspectors, generals, diplomats and politicians. These high-profile talking heads raised the idea that the administration was distorting the facts or said that an Iraq war would be a lot more difficult than they expected. Scott Ritter the former head of weapons inspections before 1998 said that Iraq’s weapons had been 95% destroyed after the Gulf War, and what was left would now be totally unusable. Officer Brent Scowcroft (the elder Bush’s national security advisor) said that an American invasion could ignite the middle east into one big Israeli Palestinian conflict, and former head of Central Command Anthony Zinni said Iraq was nowhere near a priority to America's defence. Former FBI Special Agent John P O’Neill said that an invasion of Iraq would significantly aid anti-American terrorist groups. There was also Al Gore by now a Presidential candidate who openly attacked Bush’s policy for overreaching “But look at the differences between the resolution that was voted on in 1991 and the one this administration is proposing that the Congress vote on in 2002. The circumstances are really completely different”
. Such opposition was also inside the administration, dozens of leaks portrayed a White House scrambling to act, detailing disapproval amongst the military as to the planning of such an operation, and the lack of preparation being taken, there was some pretty explicit criticism of Rumsfeld that he was massively under preparing U.S. forces and portrayed moral as low in the ranks of American forces.
The media varied in its response, print media was far more openly critical compared to television, especially cable news, but coverage especially as the anti-war movement took off split the major cable networks, MSNBC the most left-leaning network featured prominent anti-war critics such as Phil Donahue, CNN was the most neutral and FOX was in clear support for the war and was especially critical of the peace protesters. Print media's criticism of the White House and its intelligence sources could be damning specifically picking apart the exiled Iraqi National Congress for providing misleading or unfounded information to the Bush administration and Congress in their testimony and the scandal swept up several Iraq hawks that championed the INC’s leader Ahmed Chalabi such as Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, including exposing state department records that declared him a ‘convicted fraudster’. Famed Washington Post Reporter Bob Woodward wrote a very critical piece picking apart the White House narrative on WMD simply titled ‘Where is the smoking gun?’
. America’s intellectuals and columnists strongly debated between pro-war and anti-war positions, debating the morality of interventionism. The liberal Arianna Huffington chided the pro-war position asking, “I wonder how people would answer the question of how many American body bags they are willing to accept for the removal of Saddam Hussein.?”
spared against Christopher Hitchens “Under that condition, there are no circumstances in which a military intervention in Iraq could be justified. Someone could get killed. Then again, a man so deeply committed to Habitat for Humanity might ask what kind of habitat this is, where civilians are used as human shields”
Opposition to the Iraq war, (left to right) former weapons inspector Scott Ritter, General Anthony Zinni, former Vice-president Al Gore, Journalist Bob Woodward and columnist Arianna Huffington
No one was certain just what could now be achieved diplomatically while inspections were ongoing, but to fulfil Congress's requirement for the second resolution, they needed to try. So, the administration built its case. An oval office meeting was held for the CIA to present its evidence to the President. Bush, Rice, Card, and Cheney were there and a slide show of every suspected Iraqi violation of UNSC resolutions including Saddam’s drone programme, remaining missiles, unaccounted for chemical weapons and reports that Saddam still held meetings with nuclear scientists. By the time the presentation was done, it was clear that the President was underwhelmed by it, “nice try, but I don’t think this is something that joe-public is going to understand”
he looked to Tenet and asked, “I’ve been told all this evidence about WMD and this is the best we've got?”
Tenet who assisted the CIA’s presentation was cordial in his response “This is what we have, it’s a tossup”
. The President thought for a moment “it needs a lot more work”
he then added, “but don’t stretch it, I don’t want this to be stretched, just the facts”
If selling the case to the White House was tough, then the U.N.S.C. would be on a different level Powell worked day and night negotiating with the other council members for their vote. Some already saw it as a lost cause, Cheney derided the council as the “Inspections business”
and heavily resented being railroaded by Congress. But Powell was heavily committed to building United Nations support seeing it as essential to legitimising any military action and aiding any potential post-Saddam Iraq.
The United Kingdom was most supportive of a second U.N. resolution, Prime Minister Blair a long-time supporter of removing Saddam from power was facing considerable descent from within his own party and hoped for a U.N. mandate to shore up support. This was also true for America's second strongest ally to date, Australia, PM Kim Beazley told Bush he wouldn’t be able to participate in a conflict without a United Nations support confiding that his own party could remove him. And the Italian PM Berlusconi also hedged his support on a U.N. vote following considerable parliamentary and public pushback. The administration worked to canvas support for a military resolution, Powell believed that they could still find the necessary 9 votes, that Mexico, Spain, Germany, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Guinea and Angola combined with permanent members the U.S. and U.K. would make the majority, but the question circulated over if the other permanent members France, Russia or China would veto the decision. All three countries were firmly behind continued inspections, China urged to ‘Use all possible means to avert war'
, Russia pointed toward Blix’s statements saying that inspections were working, "There is movement in the right direction,"
and the French kept up a firm line to give inspections their due, foreign minister Hubert Vedrine (a known critic of U.S. hegemony popularizing the term hyperpower) said “it is everyone’s interest that Iraq is permitted to see the light at the end of the tunnel”
giving Iraq the chance to comply. Though none made it explicit, it became clear that an immediate push for a resolution would likely fail.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Australia Prime Minister Kim Beazley and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
A month into U.N. negotiations the President grew frustrated “He is deceiving inspectors, he is deceiving the U.N. and he is deceiving the world, I have said it before and I’ll say it again if Saddam Hussein is not brought to justice by the international community, then the U.S. must be prepared to act unilaterally.”
He was angry at reports of inspectors, from his eyes, being led around by their noses by grinning Iraqi guards, ‘of course they weren’t finding anything Saddam was hiding it!
’ Hans Blix delivered his first report on the 27th of August detailing the search for weapons in Iraq, the theme was that Iraq, had been unenthusiastically compliant with the inspections, allowing them full access to all sites, though there were reports of intimidation and some Iraqis were not submitting themselves to interviews, but the conclusion was a relatively positive one, Blix also reported that no WMD had been found. Saddam also made an appearance publicly, saying that he was allowing inspectors into the country to squash the US’s claims. Some in the White House took Saddam’s growing confidence as an insult and blamed Blix and the U.N. publicly. Press Secretary Fleischer shot down the report as unimportant and derided the weapons team, "The problem with guns that are hidden is you can't see their smoke.”.
The administration could not break through diplomatically with any of the permanent members neither France, Russia nor China would concede while inspections were ongoing, and several other non-permanent members began to waiver, Cameroon fell in line behind France, and Mexican President Vincente Fox hinted that his country might abstain and German Chancellor Stoiber (who needed to maintain an alliance with centrist liberals) began to urge restraint. The White House grew concerned about the timeline for possible military operations to begin in November, and pushed Powell to wrap up at the United Nations so they could go back to Congress and say that the U.N. was refusing to act. But Powell was struggling to let go of the diplomatic track, he recognised that the there was no clear smoking gun, though he shared much of the enthusiasm for ‘getting rid of the bastard Saddam’
he could see things were not going well, Rumsfeld was sending far too few troops and greatly underestimating the level of resistance they were likely to face, the public was not united behind them and there were too few allies on board. Powell kept fielding doubts from within the military and diplomatic spheres and was getting tired of constantly having to reassure them. Now the Vice-president’s office and Defence department were asking him to push clearly flawed intelligence, a draft of speech from Cheney’s office included already disproven information. He had developed great political clout as the Secretary of State, and it was his soldier's code not to betray the President, it would be an enormous unimaginable act of disloyalty to do so. But he picked up the phone and called the President anyway to ask him “Is this the right way?”
, with the most deference possible he asked the President just what he wanted Powell to achieve at the U.N. going over possible options, while never critical he asked if diplomacy was still on the table, and if the President saw a disarmed Iraq still under Saddam was a possibility, he said he would need more time to gather intelligence to convince the United Nations. He reiterated that he would support the President whatever his decision but left the President with his clear view that “if you’re going to send young men and women in harm’s way, you ought to have a clear political objective”
German Chancellor Edmund Stoiber, Mexican President Vincente Fox and Secretary of State Powell at the UN
The President was in limbo now, central command had pushed back the earliest start date for military action from November to December, Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia denied use of their territory for a ground invasion, and they were still muddling through the United Nations. The President also knew that he was in choppy waters at home, Democrats now had the votes to filibuster a war resolution (the current count was 47 votes for no in the Senate). There were a variety of factors, the growing anti-war movement, the lack of solid allies, ongoing weapons inspections which some said shouldn’t be disrupted (a process that could take months as Blix predicted), the lack of a firm Security Council decision, as well as the 2004 Presidential election steadily gathering steam giving many a good reason to oppose the administration. But the decision was made for him when Senate Leader Daschle said, “Just because the President has failed miserably at diplomacy does not mean the United States should go to war, rushing to war without an adequate concern for the ramifications of doing so unilaterally, with a very small coalition, without enough support, would be premature … this war is not inevitable”
. The President could try to force the Senates hand by putting a vote on the table to make Democrats sign their name to the refusal but one by one when a few high-profile Democrats shared their criticisms it was clear that the battle lines were drawn and barring a change of circumstances a congressional resolution wasn’t on the table, the war drums seemed to be fading.
“If we allow President Bush to start a war without Congressional approval, it will haunt us for years to come, we cannot go to war just because the President sets an unrealistic deadline” –
"Are we supposed to go to war simply because one man -- the president -- makes a series of unilateral decisions that put us in a box, a box that makes war, to a greater degree, inevitable?"
– John Kerry
“There is no question that with regard to Iraq, we have a real and growing problem. But I also believe we have time to deal with that problem in a way that isolates Saddam and does not isolate the United States of America, that makes the use of force the final option, not the first one, The President has failed to do this.” –
“If we were to attack Iraq now, alone or with few allies, it would set a precedent that could come back to haunt us. In recent days, Russia has talked of an invasion of Georgia to attack Chechen rebels. We have already criticised India for its pre-emptive strike on Pakistan. What if China should perceive a threat from Taiwan? So, for all its appeal, a unilateral attack, should be ruled out” –
“Disarming Iraq under Saddam Hussein is necessary and vital to the safety and security of America, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East--let there be no doubt about this. But I continue to have serious concerns that there are those in the administration who would seek to use an authorization for a unilateral, pre-emptive attack against Iraq. I believe this would be a terrible mistake.”
– Diane Feinstein
"I've seen the toll that war can take on our troops and on limbs on that battlefield. The best way to support the troops is never to send them into war in the first place. In the second place, if they go to war, make sure it’s worthwhile. That’s the second-best way to support the troops, so then they won’t have to worry about the reception they will get upon their return.”
– Max Cleland
Democratic Senators, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Diane Feinstein and Max Cleland, all opposed the President's authorization
 Photographs of American military coffins were censored at the time
 After 9/11 there was a lot of criticism of the CIA and Tenet saw it as his job to protect the agency. This included getting closer than usual with the President and would not surprise me if it affected his handling of Iraqi intelligence
 All intel on bio weaponry were second-hand rumours
 The unaccounted-for stockpiles were probably the best evidence of Saddam still having them if you can call the absence of evidence, evidence
 The aluminium tubes and the yellow cake (which is ignored totally ITTL) were the only evidence of Saddam trying to build nuclear weapons aside from some sites that the Defence Department pointed out could be used for centrifuges
 Unsurprisingly many didn't
 A big difference is that the pro-war movement and the jingoism are significantly reduced ITTL
 The New York Times and the Washington Post coverage was so bad they famously posted apologies in 2004, The war on terror and 9/11 seriously affected reporters' objectivity
 Tenet famously called the evidence a ‘slam dunk’. Since 9/11 was a failure not to take the information seriously the Iraq war was a failure of amplifying intelligence.
 Bush-like most believed there was WMD but it wasn’t his primary motivation for going after Saddam. WMD just seemed like the most obvious one.
 Without Chirac putting down a firm veto the U.N. process is not firmly ruled out. And also there is no Francophobia in the U.S. or freedom fries
 Powell constantly reiterated how his speech to the UN was a blot on his record, he remains more cautious ITTL and the White House needs to keep up appearances.
 I have a rudimentary vote count if anyone is interested in knowing how certain Senators would have voted