Iraq Liberation Act of 1998

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The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 H.R. 4655 (PL 105-338) was passed October 5, 1998, in the U.S. House of Representatives by an overwhelming majority. On October 7, the companion bill, S. 2525, passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate, "establishing a program [to] support a transition to democracy in Iraq." [1]

Speaking on behalf of the bill in the Senate, Trent Lott said:

"The United States has many means at its disposal to support the liberation of Iraq. At the height of the Cold War, we supported freedom fighters In Asia, Africa and Latin America willing to fight and die for a democratic future. We can and should do the same now in Iraq.
"The Clinton administration regularly calls for bipartisanship in foreign policy. I support them when I can. Today, we see a clear example of a policy that has the broadest possible bi-partisan support. I know the Administration understands the depth of our feeling on this issue. I think they are beginning to understand the strategic argument in favor of moving beyond containment to a policy of 'rollback'. Containment is not sustainable. Pressure to lift sanctions on Iraq is increasing--despite Iraq's seven years of refusal to comply with the terms of the Gulf War cease-fire. Our interests in the Middle East cannot be protected with Saddam Hussein in power. Our legislation provides a roadmap to achieve our objective.
"This year, Congress has already provided $5 million to support the Iraqi political opposition. We provided $5 million to establish Radio Free Iraq. We will provide additional resources for political support in the FY 1999 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, including $3 million for the Iraqi National Congress.
"Enactment of this bill will go farther. It requires the President to designate at least one Iraqi opposition group to receive U.S. military assistance. It defines eligibility criteria such a group or groups must meet. Many of us have ideas on how the designation process should work. I have repeatedly stated that the Iraqi National Congress has been effective in the past and can be effective in the future. They represent the broadest possible base of the opposition. There are other groups that are currently active inside Iraq: the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The State Department seems to believe there are more than 70 opposition groups, many of which do not meet the criteria in H.R. 4655. Many barely even exist or have no political base. They should not be considered for support. We should also be very careful about considering designation of groups which do not share our values or which are simply creations of external forces or exile politics, such as the Iraqi Communist Party or the Iraqi National Accord.
"This is an important step. Observers should not misunderstand the Senate's action. Even though this legislation will pass without controversy on an unanimous voice vote, it is a major step forward in the final conclusion of the Persian Gulf war. In 1991, we and our allies shed blood to liberate Kuwait. Today, we are empowering Iraqis to liberate their own country."

Jesse Helms, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, commented:

"This bill will begin the long-overdue process of ousting Saddam. It will not send in U.S. troops or commit American forces in any way. Rather, it harkens back to the successes of the Reagan doctrine, enlisting the very people who are suffering most under Saddam's yoke to fight the battle against him."
"Mr. President: the people of Iraq, through representative organizations such as the INC, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Shi'ite SCIRI, have begged for our help. The day may yet come when we are dragged back to Baghdad; I believe that day can be put off, perhaps even averted, by helping the people of Iraq help themselves."

According to Senator Bob Kerrey:

"Second, this bill is not a device to involve the U.S. military in operations in or near Iraq. The Iraqi revolution is for Iraqis, not Americans, to make. The bill provides the Administration a portent new tool to help Iraqis toward this goal, and at the same time advance America's interest in a peaceful and secure Middle East.
"This bill, when passed and signed into law, is a clear commitment to a U.S. policy replacing the Saddam Hussein regime and replacing it with a transition to democracy. This bill is a statement that America refuses to coexist with a regime which has used chemical weapons on its own citizens and on neighboring countries, which has invaded its neighbors twice without provocation, which has still not accounted for its atrocities committed in Kuwait, which has fired ballistic missiles into the cities of three of its neighbors, which is attempting to develop nuclear and biological weapons, and which has brutalized and terrorized its own citizens for thirty years. I don't see how any democratic country could accept the existence of such a regime, but this bill says America will not."

Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998

However, according to, "U.S. Congress also pursued a bill dubbed the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998 to force the White House into supporting the INC. Passed with bipartisan support, it promised the INC US$97 million in aid to create an administrative infrastructure fund broadcasting efforts, and also to buy light armaments. The President and his advisers, however, were not amused. Bill Clinton dragged his heels for weeks before signing the bill, and once signed on December 31, 1998, it languished in layers of bureaucracy in Foggy Bottom. Without cash, the INC could not begin to rebuild itself yet the U.S. Department of State refused to disburse the funding.

"In fact, only US$20,000 had been provided between January 1999 and July 2000 to train three Iraqi exiles in non-lethal measures at the Pentagon. If provided with funding, Ahmed Chalabi told U.S. Congressmen on June 28, 2000, 'we can begin humanitarian relief projects within 45 days and begin broadcasting operations in less than 30.'

"'I cannot understand why President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act when he had absolutely no intention of implementing the provisions of that law,' Sam Brownback, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Near East, commented during a 2000 hearing on the issue. Chalabi, speaking during the hearing, went even further, saying that the INC has been 'routinely disparaged by adminstration officials from the National Security Council (NSC), the CIA, the State Department and the Department of Defense. And, while blaming the victim may provide temporary political cover for betrayal of US interests, ideals and commitments, it has done little for the confidence of the Iraqi people or Iraq's neighbors.'"

Related SourceWatch Resources

External links

  • The Iraq Liberation Act, October 31, 1998. Statement by President William Jefferson Clinton.
  • William B. Reinckens, Hussein's Passing Marks Beginning of Change in Mideast, Martin Indyk, Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East, Says. (US will continue to use force to counter Iraqi violations), USIA, February 10, 1999: "the U.S. position since November has been to contain Saddam Hussein and work with Iraqi opposition groups for his removal. ... Indyk stressed that 'We are not interested in the dismemberment of Iraq,' and noted that the United States will not support a policy which would allow Iraq to be broken up into separate enclaves controlled by different faction leaders. The agreement reached recently with seven Iraqi opposition groups under the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998 requires that all parties agree to the 'territorial integrity of Iraq' before receiving any of the $97 million lethal or non-lethal aid authorized by the U.S. Congress."
  • Lucio Manisco, Press Release: Bombing Baghdad, February 16, 2001: "It goes without saying the US Administration does not give a hoot about international law, the Geneva conventions or the UN: so it will go on bombing Baghdad, maybe as soon as next week, and the European allies - with the exception of the French - will acquiesce: the same way they have been acquiescing to the genocidal sanctions which have killed in a decade more than a million and a half Iraqi civilians, most of them children under five years of age. It is true, by the end of the year 2000 the sanctions were crumbling and the air blockade was being ignored by daily charter flights to Baghdad. Today's bombing is supposed to put an end to all that and open the way to the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998, a copycat version of the Contras operation against Nicaragua. Death from above, peace on earth: scorched Iraqi earth, more suffering, more blood and the perfidious Saddam Hussein growing stronger by the day, while western journalists tow the Washington line without a whisper of criticism or dissent. Gone are the days of Peter Arnett: stockholders all of the new economy, their eyes glued 24 hours a day to CNBC, convinced that nothing like a small dirty war can stop the collapse of Wall Street."
  • Robert Singh, Iraq and US National Security Strategy After 9/11, Social Science Research Council (2003): "Containment, by contrast, was the preferred approach of the Clinton administration and its preferred method for assuring multilateral support for the US on Iraq in the Security Council. In the context of divided--and increasingly acrimonious--party control of the White House and Capitol Hill from 1995-2001, the competing approaches and institutional arenas in which they vied for support militated against a reliable clarity of goals, strategy and tactics on the part of the US. It was only with notable reluctance that Clinton signed into law the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998--heavily pushed by the GOP Congress--that made rollback the express goal of official US policy."
  • Briefing on Free Iraqi Forces by Army Maj. Gen. David Barno, U.S. European Command, March 14, 2003: "General Barno is leading the efforts to train the Iraqi opposition volunteers to assist U.S. and coalition forces in civil-military operations, should military action in Iraq be deemed necessary. ... The Department of Defense has established this training task force to train the Iraqi opposition volunteers, also known as Free Iraqi Forces, in basic military skills, such as self-defense, and specialized civil-military operations to include coordinating humanitarian relief for Iraqi citizens who may need assistance during or after a potential conflict in Iraq. The training task force has been established under the provisions of the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998. This act authorizes the U.S. Defense Department to provide the Iraqi Democratic Opposition defense articles from stocks of the Department of Defense, as well as defense services and military education and training."
  • House and Senate Show Their Support for the Troops, AUSA, March 21, 2003: "The House and Senate have both passed a concurrent resolution that declares unequivocal support and appreciation of the nation to the President as Commander-In-Chief and to the members of the United States armed forces serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. ... The House measure also mentions that the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998 should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove Saddam Hussein from power and that on November 8, 2002, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1441 stating 'Iraq will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligation' to disarm in accordance of relevant U.N. resolutions; and that Iraq remains in material breach of the relevant U.N. resolutions."
  • Mahan Abedin, Restoration of US-Iran diplomatic ties not on the agenda, Lebanon Wire, May 29, 2003: "Apart from monarchist tutelage over the foundation (Iran Democracy Foundation), there are reports the amendment ("Senator Sam Brownback's introduction of an amendment on April 8 that would provide $50 million to an Iran Democracy Foundation") has its origins in the Pentagon and mirrors the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998. Moreover the monarchists, whose divided ranks are often riven with strife and acrimony, are making moves to present a united front. Monarchists are known to have lobbied the Pentagon to disarm the Iraqi-based Mojahedin-e-Khalgh Organization. They are now hoping to capitalize on the MKO's misfortune and secure a dominant position in exiled Iranian politics."
  • Jonathan Eric Lewis, The Assyrian Test of Pluralism in Iraq,, November 28, 2003: "Late last year, President Bush invoked the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998 and designated the Assyrian Democratic Movement, a political party now represented on the Iraqi Governing Council, as an officially recognized opposition movement eligible for American assistance. Ronald Michael of Chicago, president of the Assyrian-American League, remains optimistic that 'the final result will have been well worth it.'"