In "self-defense" - Compare with the Downing Street Memo/Minutes Information
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S.-led airstrike on Iraq Friday had been "working its way up the (military) chain of command for some time, " according to Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. Craig Quigley.
The attack, in conjunction with British fighter aircraft, hit five targets south of Baghdad, the first strike of its kind in nearly two years....
The 2 1/2-hour operation was prompted by an "increased threat to our aircraft and our crew," Marine Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold said at a Pentagon news conference. "It reached the point that it was obvious to our forces that they had to conduct the operation to safeguard those pilots and the aircraft. In fact (it was) essentially a self-defense measure," he said.
Quigley was asked why U.S. President George W. Bush was required to sign off on this attack when previous U.S-led strikes in Iraq occurred without presidential approval.
"This was different," Quigley said. Because the targets of the attack were north of the 33rd parallel -- out of the no-fly zone -- the president's permission was needed to launch the strike, he said.
Military planners presented their attack proposal to the president on Thursday morning, after which Bush ordered the strike, White House sources told CNN Senior White House Correspondent John King.
Bush didn't tell Congress about the strikes - Feb 16, 2001
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush White House did not inform congressional leaders of the airstrikes against Iraq before they occurred, overlooking a courtesy previous administrations extended to Congress and ruffling even Republican feathers.
Typically, military actions of this kind are disclosed to the bipartisan leadership of Congress and the chairmen and ranking members of the military and international policy committees. The disclosures are treated in strictest confidence, and are part of a larger strategy of keeping Congress informed and facilitating quick press releases complimentary of the underlying military action.
But no one in the leadership was consulted, nor were members of the relevant House and Senate committees.
"We prefer to be kept informed," said one senior Republican source. "We want to know what's coming and how to respond."
The issue of consultation is very sensitive among congressional Republicans. They often complained bitterly about the lack of communication between the Clinton White House and Congress on several military actions. Republicans expected a new approach and were chagrined to be kept in the dark.
Some congressional sources theorized the White House did not consult Congress in order to reinforce the appearance that the airstrikes were "routine" and unworthy of the type of congressional notification that would suggest a change of policy. Nevertheless, senior congressional sources said the Clinton White House notified congressional leaders the last time coalition partners attacked Iraqi sites outside of the north and south no-fly zones.
"They can't have it both ways," said a Republican congressional source. "If it was not new, why did it go all the way to the president and require his authorization?"
Western Diplomats at the UN were stunned by Bush's action
All of them expected the new U.S. administration to try to work on a solution to the Iraqi question within the United Nations and not act on their own.
They all said Tuesday's visit by new U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to the United Nations was one reason for their astonishment. During a meeting with the four other Security Council permanent members -- Britain, Russia, France and China -- Powell stressed the importance of dialogue and compromise with the other members, diplomats said.
Diplomats were surprised by the fact that U.S and British aircraft bombed targets that are outside the no-fly zone. Warplanes targeted Iraqi air defense facilities south of Baghdad that included radar systems that have been threatening American and British aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone, the Pentagon said.
One senior Western diplomat, however, said Powell during the U.N. briefing differentiated between the actions of the U.S. as a U.N. member and as a nation. The diplomat said that he read that as a hint that the Bush administration had not closed off any option, including the military one.
The same diplomat said that he was more surprised by the fact that Britain took part in the air strike. Rumors that Britain was reassessing its policy toward Iraq and intended to stop bombing in the no-fly zone have been spreading recently at the United Nations.