Democratic Senator Denounces Bush 'Preemption Policies'

By Lawrence Morahan | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT

Washington ( - The Senate, on a voice vote Monday, approved the $87.5 billion President George W. Bush wanted for Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bush says the money will help bring stability and democracy to both countries, and he's expected to sign the bill soon.

But as the Senate prepared to give final congressional approval to the supplemental spending bill, critics weighed in, too. A member of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee said the Bush administration's policy of preemption is costing the United States the support of potential allies overseas.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said although the United States clearly has the military capability to protect America's interests around the globe, the question increasingly looms as to whether current policies and rhetoric are making or losing friends and respect worldwide.

"Unilateralism and preemption and an over-reliance on the military dimension of U.S. power may well be leading us in a direction that weakens rather than strengthens our ability to meet the challenges of the new asymmetric world," Feinstein told policymakers at a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations.

"This is a world where traditional armies are not well suited to deal in the hidden shadows of the terrorist and where the enormous goodwill generated after 9/11 has dissipated and been replaced by growing antagonism toward our country," Feinstein said.

Sixteen U.S. soldiers were killed Sunday when a Chinook helicopter was brought down by a man-portable anti-aircraft missile in the deadliest single attack against U.S. forces since the war began March 20. Another 20 soldiers were wounded in the action outside the town of Amiryah near the Baathist stronghold of Fallujah.

U.S. military commanders have noted that attacks on troops in Iraq have grown more sophisticated in recent weeks.

But Feinstein said that regardless of how the United States got into Iraq, it was critical that America should stay and win the peace. A premature pullout would likely result in a civil war with the Sunni Baathist Party returning to power, she said.

Commenting on the Bush administration policy, Feinstein noted that preemption in response to a direct and specific threat is legitimate under international law.

The most recent addition of the Department of Defense manual on international law defines a specific threat as "incontrovertible evidence that an enemy attack is imminent," said Feinstein, who was one of 77 senators who voted to authorize the use of force against Saddam Hussein.

Based on a review of intelligence, and as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Feinstein said she saw no incontrovertible evidence that an imminent threat has been found in the case of the war in Iraq, with the exception of missiles with ranges in excess of 150 kilometers, which violated U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Key judgments by intelligence analysts in the unclassified version of the National Intelligence Estimate last year deemed that Iraq had continued its weapons of mass destruction program in defiance of United Nations resolutions and restrictions, Feinstein said.

Analysts found that Baghdad had chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of the United Nations restrictions. If left unchecked, the Iraqis were expected to have a nuclear weapon during the decade, Feinstein said.

The analysts also assessed that Baghdad had begun renewed production of banned biological agents, although they noted Iraq's capability probably was more limited than at the time of the Gulf War, Feinstein said.

The Bush administration judged that all key aspects of Iraq's offensive biological weapons program were active and that most elements were in fact larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War.

However, neither the military examination of more than 1,000 priority sites in Iraq nor the interim findings of Dr. David Kay have produced evidence of weapons of mass destruction, Feinstein said.

"To date the most likely pre-war judgments of intelligence analysts have not been borne out. Of course this may change, but so far it has not," Feinstein said.

Without the imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction - or evidence of a clear threat - Iraq appears not to have been a preemptive war to prevent an attack by the government of Iraq against either America or American interests. "Rather, it was America's first preventive war, the purpose of which was to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein."

"Preventive war, targeted against speculative threats, is not legitimate under international law," said Feinstein, who also is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But regardless of how the United States got into Iraq, Feinstein said it was critical that we win the peace, "as rocky as that road might be and is."

A premature pullout from Iraq would likely result in a civil war with the Sunni Baathist Party returning to power. "Beyond Iraq, the impact of a pullout could well destabilize the Middle East further with consequences for Israel, America, and the entire globe," Feinstein said.

In a legislative victory for President Bush's Iraq policies, the Senate voted its final approval Monday for $87 billion for U.S. military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This package is in addition to a $79 billion package enacted in April, including $62 billion for the war in Iraq.

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