Gates: U.S. “Probably” Should Have Declared War on Iraq Before Launching It

Getting Congress to do so might have ended its growing “timid” role

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Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

Robert Gates signs copies of his book at a Pentagon bookstore on Thursday.

Former defense secretary Robert Gates says Congress “probably” should have declared war on Iraq before invading in 2003, and added that it should do the same before any attack on Iran.

Gates, speaking at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast as part of the promotion tour for his just-published Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, said it is a way for Congress to re-establish its role in the nation’s most critical life-and-death decisions.

Time asked Gates the question, noting that in his former role as college president, he was familiar with elective courses. He smiled at a reference to the U.S. public—much like some busy college students who simply audit courses, without earning grades or credit—that merely audits the nation’s wars. Might a congressional declaration of war focus the nation’s mind on the challenges inherent in combat?

“I think that the hurdle for the use of military force, particularly in the absence of an immediate threat to the United States, imposed by requiring a congressional act, would not necessarily be a bad thing,” he said.

“I think the bar for preventive war ought to be very high,” he added. “Iraq was a preventive war. An attack on Iran today would be a preventive war.”

Gates began serving as defense secretary in late 2006 under President George W. Bush, three years after the Iraq war began. He continued in his Pentagon job under President Obama until June 2011, six months before the last U.S. troops left Iraq.

The one-time CIA chief also expressed leeriness over building a case for war, with Iraq or any other nation, based on intelligence reports. The key U.S. intelligence claim—that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction—proved to be unfounded. “I, perhaps better than almost anyone, am familiar with both the strengths and the weaknesses of U.S. intelligence,” he said. “And to make a decision to go to war purely on the basis of intelligence assessments—and absent a smoking gun—I think is a very `iffy’ matter.”

The war over going to war was papered over by the passage of 1973’s War Powers Resolution, which allows a President to wage war for 60 days before requiring a congressional authorization for the use of military force. President George W. Bush got such approval from Congress five months before invading Iraq. But such a resolution doesn’t carry the weight of a declaration of war, and lawmakers seem eager to avoid votes on such declarations.

“This is a place where I think the Congress ought to assert itself,” Gates said. “The irony is, I believe in recent years—and, coming from me, this is a strange thing to say—but one of the things that I lament is that, because of the changes in the Congress, I think they’ve become less important in the governance of the nation—they’ve weakened themselves in the decision-making process.”

Gates has criticized the willingness of the nation to go to war in recent decades. “We have so many other tools of American influence around the world, in addition to the military, and we always make the assumptions that the use of military force will be short, it will be over…and we’ll be done,” he said.

But that rarely happens—1991’s Gulf War being the most recent exception, he noted. “On these matters of war and peace,” Gates said, “I think that the Congress has been very timid.”

Was that a yes? Time asked again. Should the U.S. Congress have declared war on Iraq before committing 4,486 American lives and at least $1 trillion to the effort?

“You were asking me if the Congress should have declared war—should have been asked to declare war—on Iraq,” he said. “As I say, I hadn’t thought about it before—but my initial instinct in response is probably yes.”

96 comments
KashefKasar
KashefKasar

. Void void void elections void as farce and tragedy and Action violent , bloody sectarian heroes gangsters came from behind the border and traitors of Iraq and the spies and agents of foreign .... Accordingly, the vote in the elections for the Day 30 / April / 2014 accompanied by war, genocide and bloodshed Sunnis Arabs and is an essential component and important part of the Iraqi people by the Maliki government and its army and militia terrorist void according to international laws, elections must be held in an atmosphere of safe and secure and to enable all the people to cast their ballots without Mazaiqat and the imposition of a curfew by the security forces of repressive associated with al-Maliki on lawyers and legal Iraqis the Arab and international organizations, the international community and civil society organizations access more to prevent this farce and horrific disaster , forgery, intentional either prevent voters from reaching polling stations in the regions and provinces and cities inhabited by Sunnis Arabs of Iraqis or grab voters by force in favor of the point of influential threat and intimidation and coercion , intimidation and enticement .. .. and here are Mission (UNAMI ) supervising the elections and the Government of the United States and the mullahs of Tehran collaborators in crime election and depriving the population of Iraq aboriginal people of the Sunni Arabs to participate effectively in the elections in order to enable them to plunder the riches of the Iraqis and continued in the series of killings and genocide of the Sunnis Arabs and the participation of the government, which up fraud to the helm of government corruption and theft, make Iraq into a spiral permanent non Msagr security and economically for the continuation of the so-called political process dirty that brought Iraqis to death and destruction , displacement and looting the wealth and the destruction of infrastructure (SOA and economic and social .... and .. etc

KashefKasar
KashefKasar

This story is not to entertain ... a practical reality on the ground ...
If Okrmt ... Karim queen ....... If Okrmt Varmint rebellion ? ?

Said a man entered the desert and you 'd like to see someone has the rest . I saw the old man sitting between her hands and a sheep dead and seated beside her puppy wolf I told her what happened . Wolf said this puppy Ahtdhanah a small and weak we introduced our house and Rbinah in the center of our family and has made
​​us Astamana Hatna fed milk from Cold and considered her up large and strong bones and teeth have grown and spun his muscles . This morning attacked the Hatna which is his mother's breast Afqatlha evil killers ... ! ! ! The man looked into the eyes of a wolf pup to say about San shate old man was killed and shocked my heart and you are the Son stepson to Hatna feedback from the udders and grew up among us ... who Onbok that your father was a wolf if foul tempers and poor do not benefit the literature nor milk ... ! ! ! Vhmar of accompanying Varmint and honoring will not work with like generosity ....
This story is not to entertain but to prompt all of the afflicted from the pain of denial of the beautiful and self- directed this story of American politicians who have embraced a group of collaborators deceptively secretly with Iran's rulers to facilitate the occupation of Iraq in 2003 . To implement its agenda, based on the establishment of an empire stretching from the Grand Knight of the Atlantic to the borders of India . ( ( ( Witness today's threats, the mullahs of Tehran 's occupation of the occupied Palestine is very clear by moving its wing Representative of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and in order to strengthen its position to be strengthening its position on the borders of Palestine of Hamas and support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and stick with it and to prevent the fall of Outlaw tyrannical regime fought the Syrian people under the pretext of lack of empowerment of extremists from the rule of Syria? ? ? ))) did not stay in front of him only impediment Iraq . In order that the work of collaborators authored lies on Iraq pray for injustice Shiites and lied to the politicians, the White House Lie followed the other to the occupation of Iraq under the pretext of Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction and providing false reports claiming relationship with Saddam's regime with al-Qaida and show after the occupation of Iraq in 2003 all of those allegations pure fabrication and a lie. While the real intent of those campaigns Altzlilih planned by the mullahs of Tehran is the destruction of Iraq and to facilitate the occupation by coalition forces, then work on the delivery of Iraq to Iran Iran without losing any soldier or military stomach or money . After that failed in the occupation of Iraq in the eight-year war in the eighties of the last century .. but paying the bill of occupation and loss of lives of American soldiers , equipment and money obtained from taxes is the American people by the seducer . The more the losses suffered by the U.S. occupation forces are were funded by Iran .... It is theft of Iraqi funds that were carried out ( by the wolves ) oriented members of the government in Iraq loyal to Iran by the Government of smuggled into Tehran's mullahs . Were back those stolen from Iraqi funds in the form of car bombs and sticky bombs and improvised explosive devices , weapons and equipment borne arms dealers to various cities in Iraq and militias trained to murder , assassinations and quality processes , distributed in kegs for them in the various governorates of Iraq 's occupation forces to target and force it to withdraw to vacate the atmosphere in Iraq without partner gripped by its implementation ... this does not mean that we deny the role of the honest Iraqi resistance in the resistance against the occupation in 2003 , 2007. Before that Iran is training fighters under the name of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq .... and the tip of the iceberg ... but not painful that extended a hand of known ungrateful for the unknown , even if the pain will remain Kabert cynicism thrives in yourself and makes you feel bitterness and frustration and sadness as long as life runs within you ........

KashefKasar
KashefKasar

Her short story meanings and lessons dedicated to the great American politicians ....
There was a man named (son of Butti ) fond of hunting in the wild since his youth, then married the man and the fact that a large family of five girls only . And fishing in the wild are not twins girls. Think of the man in the case of injury or disability weakness when you get older how age can provide for his family living. He got the idea to raise and train a bird hunter takes every day to teach him how to catch and return to the house . The man carried the idea without thinking carefully about what is the quality of the bird which must be used . One day, the wounded man's disease, he decided to send Tira , who took care of him and his path to good fishing . Fjhzh several fishing . Gold bird , flying in the wild and in the afternoon of that day came back and took the bird hovering above the courtyard of the house of the man . All came out of the house to the patio happily waiting for them to deliver their hunger hunting to fill their hunger . If this bird throwing them snake serious and very large .. Their joy turned to horror and great fear they took outside the house fleeing fearing the wrath of their Viper ... Tried to calm the man grabbed Btair scan on his head and came to him and took Bghazal mummified re- training of new ... He decided one day to test the bird trained by well-trained and took care of him .. He sent a man to his family asking them to return to the house and told them that he intends to test conducted on the bird . And he sent the bird for hunting and took the man alone waiting for the return of the bird , along with good fishing . Returned the bird and if it throws pack black on the courtyard of the house which made the man surprised by what he saw and is shocked at the sight appalling bird this time R all types of snakes hazardous and threw it in the back garden of the house of the man , which terrified his family for the second time so they decided to all leave the men and leave the house and spread risk to its neighbors. Then remorse man (son of Butti ) in the chosen bird mis . Causing him to lose his family and his neighbors , friends and lose his reputation and credibility among nations and the world ... And taking the hits like ( bird son Butti ) on each of the picks from friends or people or bad check policy thoughtful of others carefully focused and super ... What Tstenbton of this story is based on the political reality practiced by some powerful countries in the world today ?

KashefKasar
KashefKasar

Iranian organization Daash industry par excellence

Hundreds battalions fighting the system and do not claim to jurisdiction over the Syrians because they lead their minds they think only Daasha came and with it the Caliph, the judge and the mufti and the policeman ... As if the Syrians a minor ignorant people need to be governed from! Fought for God's sake if you want God and the Hereafter and enough distortion of Islam and Tbgadha people do. Amused Daasha Why refuse to refer the matter to the Court of the legitimacy of an independent? They refuse because they are deadly gang and gangs do not like the courts, of course. Thank God, things began to unfold and started to differentiate rows Today brigade David split from whence all Daash and loyal and has the atom Hundreds battalions fighting the system and do not claim to jurisdiction over the Syrians because they lead their minds they think only Daasha came and with it the Caliph, the judge and the mufti and the policeman ... As if the Syrians a minor ignorant people need to be governed from! Fought for God's sake if you want God and the Hereafter and enough distortion of Islam and Tbgadha people do. Amused Daasha Why refuse to refer the matter to the Court of the legitimacy of an independent? They refuse because they are deadly gang and gangs do not like the courts, of course. Thank God, things began to unfold and started to differentiate rows Today brigade David split from whence all Daash and loyal and has the atom

KashefKasar
KashefKasar

Who are the terrorist Daash?daash terrorist organization they are from the second sideof the base of the Iranian-backed ? the word means Daash shortcuts Persian translation of the so-called (the state of Iraq and the Levant Islamic) in the Persian language means (Islamic State of Iraq Cham) the real intent of this label (the state of Iraq and the Levant Persian)??? Those terrorist forces consists of Hezbollah forces and tha Shi'ite Amal movement and the opposition in lebanon and Hamas, the Palestinian and the Houthi Yemeni Nusayris upper in Syria and militias Abu Fadel Abbas Iraqi and Iraqi Hezbollah and the League of the headbands Iraqi Shiites of Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria Morocco and Egypt and the Shiites of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, the Caucasus and Chechnya and clients and clients hired from Sunnis Arabs to support the axis of evil trio Iran and al-Maliki and Bashar al-Assad in front of the international community and Aahamanm as Islamic organization back to the Sunnis to confuse and shuffling papers and Tajir emergence of this organization for the benefit of the Persian state Safavid in all of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon!!! There is an inclusive (the State of Egypt, Algeria, the Persian) and Daamus Yemen, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Qatar Dasmq and thus to be achieved the dream of the establishment of Iran's alleged empire from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arabian Gulf ......

KashefKasar
KashefKasar

Maliki kill the sons of Sunni Arabs in Iraq by U.S. weapons under the pretext of fighting terrorism ...!!! In order to get Maliki to a third term in the upcoming elections and to pay Iran terrorist axis of evil, the first in the Middle East and to support the Assad regime offender in Syria in his war against the Syrian people, with the participation of the terrorist Hezbollah-led criminal Hassan Nasrallah, and to achieve the so-called Shiite Crescent stretching from Iran through Iraq from the western region and the North-West to Syria and then to Lebanon and included the West Bank and Gaza, led by Hamas, in order to achievethat,the al-Maliki launched a war against the population in the western Anbar then intends to go about the city of Mosul under the claim of waging war against terrorism and al-Qaeda and Daash terrorist and the state of Iraq and the Levant terrorist to unload those areas of the aborigines of murder and forced displacement of Ahlal replaced loyal to the owners of the clients of those areas and to encourage the migration of dependency Iranian Shia in Iraq to live in the provinces of Anbar and Mosul,where he is now an army and militias, al- Maliki since 22 days to wage war savagery against the civilian population defenseless in Anbar and Fallujah, prompting the sons of the tribes of those areas to defend themselves and their cities and the lives of their families and forced to

cover their faces for fear of treachery and allies and the army andmilitias , al-M aliki and fear ofoppression their families prison inmate for the sake of their safety and the safety of their families from the oppression of militia al-Maliki. And in order to verify the absence of any terrorist organization in Anbar and Fallujah call on all journalists and media correspondents and international satellite channels of Western and Arab nations to enter those areas to bring the reality of what is happening on the land of Fallujah, Anbar and presented to the public opinion of all the credibility and professionalism to demonstrate the falsity of the claim-Maliki, who are waging a sectarian war for the Iran's expansionist ambitions in the region …...

KashefKasar
KashefKasar

Mysterious facts !!! Hidden truths!!!

....Iran cunning used say multiply infected with win as Britain's divide and conquer method used by coerced her trick and Iran allied itself with Al-Qaida in secret since the failed occupation of Iraq in 1991 after the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait Iran intensified its malicious corporate reputation with the rule under the banner of the specious defence of Muslims to implement its expansionist wall in the region through the sleeper cells and its customers in the region and at the same time avoiding confrontation with America and the West and, on this basis, the rule adopted by Iran Before the events of 11 September had supported financially and heavily armed, trained and developed sleeper cells in all the countries of Western and Eastern world started violently and the September 11 terrorist left the biggest adversaries are American and Arabic and Islamic States in the trap.The benefits reaped from the allied Taliban Afghanistan war of 2001, paving the way for Al-Qaida members and its leaders embrace fleeing the battlefield with direct as prisoners to use as is learned from it to make a large fissure among Arabic-friendly llamrika and West of uniqueness is in the region for expansion and this is what happened when implicated America by their clients (Ahmad Chalabi and followers of Shia and Kurds demanding a greater Kurdistan and Sunni Arabs from Iraq and outcasts) in launching the war on Iraq in 2003 Iran has sought to occupy Iraq without losing any launch or soldier's life and then stir the sleeping cells to carry out terrorist attacks in Western countries and America and the accused always misguided Muslims and Arabs to protect itself from Iran and move them in Arabic to confuse security and stability, as in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Yemen and Lebanon by Hassan Nasrallah and new teeth in Syria through the terrorist organizations Islamic State of Iraq, Syria we daash) associated with the rule, which is under the supervision and with the full support of the Iran through its vulnerable souls Arab region and Iran maintain peace with America after it ruled were crushed and crippled Iran will is today the undisputed Lady of the region and the Middle East serving the MPR when revolutions in Arabic countries the Arab spring and followed by reversals

...................................................................................................................................

Iran is today of supporting Al Qaeda terrorist and accessories from Iraq and the State of Iraq, Syria and terrorist organization of terrorist sabotage in daash States Arabic, Western and American material and trained and heavily armed after that have accidentally escaped from America's main base in 2001 in preparation for the Grand Knight Empire

JohnJay60
JohnJay60

The most stunning part of this is "I hadn't thought about i before."  It takes a question from an audience member to begin a discussion on a key constitutional point?


           “You were asking me if the Congress should have declared war—should have been asked to declare war—on Iraq,” he said. “As I say, I hadn’t thought about it before


roknsteve
roknsteve

@JohnJay60 Republican president's ( Bush 1 & 2) don't have to declare war.  They just tell big fat lies and start bombing. 

BentonCook
BentonCook

To advocate for formal declaration of war before hostilities is the most intelligent thing Gates has ever said in his public life.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

The last US declaration of war by Congress was in 1942, before Gates was born.  There has been a de facto constitutional amendment to wage war by wimpy resolution since.  No surprise that he hadn't considered the implications before the interview. 

AlphaJuliette
AlphaJuliette

Hindsight is 20/20.  For those who fail to learn the lessons of history they are doomed to repeat the mistakes.

I believe this nation is uniquely poised and positioned to exact great influence in the world.  That is true even today.  But, we are less able and less influential due to the utter dysfunction and disunity in our federal government.  Such a situation undermines our own efforts to look after and protect our global interests.  This is especially important in a world where emerging economic powers are beginning to assert themselves on the global stage.

What Gates is illustrating in his book and his interview is just that eroding influence that seems to be counterbalanced by our own willingness to engage in military action on a preventative basis.  From my perspective this isn't good for our country or for the regions where we are so engaged.  We aren't learning the lessons of history.

dran63
dran63

The ability to fight wars in distant countries is abysmal. 

Tommy34684
Tommy34684

History will tell you if Bush 41 had his say to Bush 43 and 43 listened, the Iraq invasion would never have happened.

bragg916
bragg916

@tkulaga How do you suppose, had Al Gore been elected, would he have gotten us out of Iraq after we had divided the country into three no fly zones?  Would he have simply said that since there were no weapons of mass destruction, we simply no real interest in protecting the people from Hussien's forces any longer?

Tommy34684
Tommy34684

@bragg916@tkulagaHussein was boxed in by the US. He was controlled. We did not need to go into Iraq. Now that we did look what transpired.

bragg916
bragg916

@tkulaga @bragg916 He was controlled?  Wasn't he the one who could be seen on the nightly news riring his weapon in the air to celebrate the deaths of innocent bombing victims?  What does it mean to say he was controlled in respect to policy?  Keep the no fly zones? He had his army move in without air support to eliminate the opposition in the south.  Think the opposition forces in the south thought he was controlled and we were protecting citizens as Clinton claimed was the goal?

arvay
arvay

Cute idea, but it's not going to happen.


The Constitution? Please, Mr. Gates, don't make us laugh.


The reason Congress grew silent about the yapped-about Syrian "intervention" plans was the fact that the American public as vehemently opposed. This was a very expensive lesson, but the Bushie neocons made a contribution. 


Ono, these cuties will not stick their political necks out. good thing, because we do not need, nor can we sustain, a war with Iran.


This way, they can let Obama or any president take or not take action, and snipe from the sidelines.

RobertNash
RobertNash

I'm reading Gates' book now.  He is a well meaning bureaucrat, A VERY VERBOSE AND POOR WRITER.  Six hundred pages?

The guy is being paid by contract for three books and can hardly write a declarative sentence.   Did anyone read his first book?

He is a good person and bends over backwards to be diplomatic -- too much so!.  There are interesting comments and insights such as how Lincoln described his thinking process by metaphor.  A sort of takeoff of Hannah Arendt though that is a stretch.  He respects Bush I and II.  He respects his troops.  (He loves his troops.)  Frankly, I do not recommend the book unless you are a serious history reader.  rln   

Kalyan
Kalyan

Ohh man!! Can't you think beyond war?

Rototime
Rototime

The war on Iraq was very misguided. Draw any conclusion you want but I believe it was initiated for personal reasons.

RB1
RB1

When will these guys wakeup and grow up!  Preemptive strikes are a cowards play!!  America wasn't founded or built upon the concept that we have to act like cowards and strike against people that haven't struck first!  The school yard bullies never seem to grow up from their beliefs that they can bully or harm whomever they like based upon their paranoid view that everyone is their enemy and they have to strike first, before someone might possibly strike back. 

Gates is right in that Congress needs to make the decision. Perhaps then these war hawks wouldn't have such control of all our lives and future.

glmoyo
glmoyo

Why should a country be invaded because it has weapons of mass destruction; can we invade Russia, North Korea or China? 

btt1943
btt1943

Unexpectedly, former Defense Secretary Gates is suffering from the negative impact of his Memoir-gate. He has been severely criticized by his former colleagues and subordinates for his perhaps untimely revelation. In fact, one could detect his warring stance in most of his speeches during his short but powerful tenancy. The world must have been fortunate he was not given the chance to have his ways. Otherwise...

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

“The irony is, I believe in recent years—and, coming from me, this is a strange thing to say—but one of the things that I lament is that, because of the changes in the Congress, I think they’ve become less important in the governance of the nation—they’ve weakened themselves in the decision-making process.”

Because they don't do their jobs.  The hyper-partisan nature of Congress these days is staggering.  The name of the game is obstructionism and brinkmanship.

jmac
jmac

@DonQuixotic Gates in his comments clearly blamed both sides.  "The hyper-partisan nature of congress"  is coming from one side.  Anyone who doesn't think that hasn't been paying attention.   He needs to turn on C-Span and watch the fights and watch the vote.  

AlphaJuliette
AlphaJuliette

@DonQuixotic

Agreed.  And, I believe Congress is more than happy hiding behind the War Powers Resolution because it takes responsibility off of them and puts it squarely on the POTUS.  When things go South they can point accusing fingers and absolve themselves of any responsibility.  Something our elected "leaders" are all too willing and able to do these days.

threegoal
threegoal

I think that at this point Gates is caught in the "worth the sacrifice" trap and he can't bring himself to ever be honest about bad decisions to go to war.  This is a recurring problem.  There's plenty of patriotism and it can be manipulated to overcome critical thinking about the wise use of force.  Bush II, Gates, and others have used the fact that we can be manipulated by our loyalty to the point that we leave out the "thinking" phase.  Hopefully this will not happen on Iran.

BobJan
BobJan

Gate's is right about Congress. They're as useless as t-ts on a bull.

Tommy34684
Tommy34684

@BobJanAnd when Gate's played politics, he fits your description quite well.