(CNSNews.com) - When 32 out of 37 members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) voted against a resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq last week, critics asked whether the group was opposed to war with Iraq or just to a Republican White House.
On December 16, 1998, then-President Bill Clinton ordered America's armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq.
"Their mission is to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs, and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors," Clinton said at the time. "Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the Middle East and around the world."
At the time, the 38-member CBC did not adopt an official position on Clinton's decision to launch Operation Desert Fox. But only three members of the CBC, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.), voted against the House resolution in support of Clinton's unilateral use of force against Iraq.
Yet, when President Bush presented both chambers of Congress with a resolution authorizing the unilateral use of military force against Iraq, the CBC's members voted 32 to 5 against the measure.
According to Rachael Sullivan, spokesperson for Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) who chairs the CBC, members of the group composed a statement of "principles" which they said President Bush should meet before authorizing any military action against Iraq.
The CBC statement, she said, makes clear the group's opposition to any military strike against Iraq "without a clearly demonstrated and imminent threat of attack on the United States." And, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said there has seen "no evidence nor intelligence that suggests that Iraq poses an imminent threat to our nation."
Reps. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) also downplayed the Iraqi threat in a joint statement on Oct. 7. Brown, however, is not a member of the CBC.
"The Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein has abused the human rights of Iraqi citizens and has used chemical weapons against its own citizenry. This regime has failed to comply with certain international laws and United Nations resolutions concerning weapons inspections and disarmament, and this non-compliance potentially endangers the United States and regional security interests," according to the statement. "Nonetheless, we do not believe that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States or its allies."
Lee has proposed the use of "diplomatic tools" to ensure that Hussein cannot produce weapons of mass destruction by sending U.N. weapons inspectors back into Iraq. "This alternative to war," she said, "would give the U.N. inspections process a chance to work, continuing the successes of the 1990s when thousands of Iraqi weapons were found and destroyed."
David Almasi, director of the black conservative group, Project 21, said the CBC apparently sees a greater threat in President Bush than it does in Saddam Hussein.
"They have been one of the biggest opponents of the Bush presidency and also one of the most liberal, left-wing coalitions within Congress," Almasi said of the CBC. "So, for them to be against taking out Saddam Hussein, it doesn't surprise me, but it does show the possibilities for having them replaced and the need for having them replaced."
According to Almasi, members of the CBC have been inconsistent in their policies dealing with the use of military force against Iraq. He believes partisan politics are the reason.
"That points to the idea that some of this may just be in their hatred for George Bush, the man, or, their profound love for Bill Clinton," he said. "They're not necessarily looking out for their constituencies."
Almasi said the 32 black congressmen who voted against the Iraq resolution were only looking to satisfy their own political agendas.
"All of the people who are in the Congressional Black Caucus have in the past shown themselves to have a very left-wing agenda," he said. "This just happens to be perfect for them exercising their vote against the president's policies."
E-mail a news tip to Michael L. Betsch.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.