Historic Documents of 2002


Edited by: CQ Press

  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Text Size

  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Copyright

    View Copyright Page


    The prospect of a war in Iraq and the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States dominated international diplomacy and many aspects of U.S. domestic policy during 2002. The year was the first in decades in which international concerns regularly overrode domestic political and economic considerations in the United States.

    Especially in the early months of 2002, many Americans were still in a state of shock over the September 11 terrorist attacks. The attacks—carried out through use of hijacked airplanes—killed nearly 3,000 people, destroyed the World Trade Center towers in New York City, damaged the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., and disabused Americans of the notion that their country was safe from the troubles of the rest of the world. Months after the attacks, many Americans remained leery of air travel, and the economy continued to reel from the trauma. The administration of President George. W. Bush also used its war against terrorism to justify a broad range of policies, including restrictions on civil liberties, a tougher stance against foreign enemies, and even its plan to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil exploration.

    By far the most urgent, and controversial, outgrowth of the September 11 attacks was a decision by President Bush to use the war on terrorism to tackle the regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Bush signaled on November 26, 2001, that he considered Iraq's government to be a supporter of terrorism because of its past (and presumed current) possession of biological and chemical weapons and its attempts to develop nuclear weapons. Bush stepped up the rhetoric against Iraq in his January 29, 2002, State of the Union address, describing Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as constituting an “axis of evil” that supported terrorism and threatened U.S. interests. From that point forward it was clear that Bush intended to use Iraq to demonstrate his determination to eliminate potential threats to U.S. security; the only questions involved when and how he would proceed.

    At least for the moment, Bush answered the latter question in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on September 12. The president denounced Iraq's government as a threat to worldwide peace and security and demanded that the UN Security Council act to enforce the numerous resolutions it had passed since 1991 requiring Baghdad to give up its weapons of mass destruction. Some of Bush's senior advisers, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, had publicly suggested that the United States should bypass the UN. In calling for action by the Security Council, Bush heeded conflicting advice from his secretary of state, Colin Powell, who had said it was important that any U.S. military action against Iraq have at least the implied blessing of the world body and broad international support.

    Bush's September 12 speech set off a flurry of international diplomacy through which Powell sought to build broad support for an assertive stance against Iraq. After seven weeks of haggling over the nuance of various texts, Powell succeeded in winning unanimous support on the fifteen-member Security Council for a resolution (number 1441, adopted November 8) demanding that Baghdad provide a “full” and “complete” accounting of its prohibited missiles and weapons of mass destruction, and allow the return of UN weapons inspectors, who had left Iraq in 1998 because the government there was not cooperating. Any hopes that adoption of the latest UN decree would produce a peaceful resolution of the dispute over Iraq were quickly dashed, however. The Iraqi government on December 7 denied that it possessed prohibited weapons—a denial that carried little credibility with most world leaders—and then demonstrated only grudging cooperation with weapons inspectors sent by the United Nations, repeating a pattern from previous inspections during the 1990s.

    The Bush administration in September laid out the intellectual argument for tackling suspected threats—such as Iraq's possible use of biological or chemical weapons—before, rather than after, the fact. In a National Security Strategy, approved by Bush and released September 20 by the White House, the administration argued for “preemption” as a means of heading off potential threats. The strategy embraced many other aspects of a broad foreign policy, but the advocacy of preemption attracted wide attention and was generally seen as an effort by the administration to justify a potential war in Iraq.

    The intense focus on Iraq came the despite the fact that the United States and its allies had not completed the work of the first element of Bush's war against terrorism: the pacification and reconstruction of Afghanistan. Less than a month after the September 11, 2001, attacks, the United States, Britain, and a few dozen allies invaded Afghanistan to root out the al Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban government, which had offered al Qaeda an operational base there. Bush accused al Qaeda of planning and carrying out the September 11 attacks.

    The military operation quickly succeeded in ousting the Taliban from power and scattering al Qaeda's thousands of fighters. Late in 2001 the United Nations brokered an agreement among Afghan factions for an interim government to be led by Hamid Karzai, a respected tribal leader who had broad support in Western capitals. At a follow-up conclave in Afghanistan in June 2002, Karzai was elected to lead the country for another two years—while a constitution was drafted for a permanent political arrangement. Even with that endorsement, Karzai remained little more than the mayor of Kabul, the national capital during 2002. Most of the rest of the country was controlled, for all practical purposes, by local warlords who had little or no loyalty to Karzai's central government. The Bush administration was reluctant to expand the international peacekeeping force that was responsible for security in the Kabul area. Washington and other Western governments also fulfilled only part of their promised contributions to rebuild Afghanistan in the wake of three decades of war. As of the end of 2002 the United States had failed to capture the two men whose charismatic leadership had turned Afghanistan into a terrorist base: al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and the Taliban's chief leader, known as Mullah Omar.

    During the first part of the year U.S. government officials and some terrorism experts expressed hope that the Afghanistan conflict might have substantially disrupted al Qaeda's ability to plan and execute major acts of terrorism. That hope proved false on October 12, when a car bomb exploded outside two crowded seaside nightclubs on the resort island of Bali in Indonesia. More than two hundred people, about half of them Australians, died from the blast and resulting fire. In the months before the bombing the United States had tried, with little success, to get the Indonesian government to crack down on extremist Islamic groups. The bombing severely damaged the country's important tourism industry and stirred the government to action. Within two months key figures of a regional Islamist organization, with links to al Qaeda, were arrested, and some were charged with crimes in connection with the bombing.

    Yet another terrorist bombing came just six weeks later, this time at a beachfront hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, patronized almost exclusively by Israelis. The explosion of a car bomb killed twelve people and injured several more, including some Israeli tourists. At almost exactly the same time, someone fired at least one surface-to-air missile at an Israeli airliner that was taking off from the nearby Mombasa airport; the missile missed the plane, which was loaded with Israeli tourists. Terrorism experts said these simultaneous attacks appeared to indicate the work of al Qaeda, which had staged similar twin attacks in the past—notably the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in August 1998.

    Yet another crisis emerged late in the year, just as the United Nations was beginning its debate on what to do about Iraq. The Bush administration announced in October that North Korea had admitted violating a 1994 international agreement under which it had promised to halt development of nuclear weapons. This announcement set off a round of accusations between Washington and the North Korean government in Pyongyang, which had become increasingly estranged since Bush took office. The Bush administration rejected calls for direct talks with North Korea, arguing that any diplomatic contact to resolve the dispute should be handled through talks involving other affected countries in the region, notably China, Japan, and South Korea. This argument over procedural matters led nowhere, and by year's end North Korea was openly defying the 1994 agreement and resuming operation of a reactor that had been used to produce weapons-grade plutonium for the country's small arsenal of nuclear weapons.


    A coincidence of election calendars made 2002 a year of significant political turnover in several important nations. Two of the most notable elections brought to power figures who, in recent years, had been considered unacceptable by key political forces, both domestically and internationally. In October Brazilian voters elected as president Ignacio Lula de Silva, a former labor union leader far to the left of the country's political spectrum. Known as Lula, this candidate of the Workers Party benefited from widespread dissatisfaction with the uneven benefits of globalization—the opening of world economies, including Brazil's, to free trade and investment.

    Unhappiness with the status quo also led to a major electoral victory in Turkey by a party with Islamist roots. In November the Justice and Development Party, headed by former Istanbul mayor Recep Tayyip Erdogan, virtually wiped out several of Turkey's long-standing secular parties and took commanding control of the parliament. Erdogan promised to honor Turkey's secular history, however, and won promises of support from leaders in Europe, as well as the Bush administration.

    Another remarkable transition took place in Kenya in December, when longtime president Daniel Arap Moi reluctantly stepped aside and allowed a free election. The victor was Moi's former vice president, Mwai Kibaki, who had helped consolidate several opposition factions into a cohesive party to challenge Moi's handpicked successor. The election was more than a success for Kenya, serving as a rebuke to those who insisted African nations were not ready for true democracy.

    One of those scorning democracy was the president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, who used the full range of electoral tricks to hold on to power, including repression of the opposition, disenfranchisement of voters, and even the denial of food aid for people who refused to support the government. Western leaders denounced Mugabe's reelection in March as a fraud, but many other African leaders were reluctant to criticize a colleague, especially one who had been a hero in the continent's struggle for independence from colonialism.

    Mugabe pretended to hold free elections, but that could not be said for Cuban leader Fidel Castro, another dictator who held on to power despite growing public dissatisfaction. Castro welcomed former U.S. president Jimmy Carter for an extraordinary visit in May and even allowed Carter to speak to the Cuban people over national television. Carter lectured Castro on democracy and gave Cubans their first information about a homegrown petition movement for free elections. But Castro made no move to ease his grip on the island, which he had ruled for more than forty years.

    War and Peace

    The beleaguered peoples of four countries torn by long civil wars received good news during the year as the warring parties took important steps toward peace. The largest conflict anywhere in the world in recent decades—referred to as “Africa's First World War” for control of Democratic Republic of the Congo—simmered down during 2002, and nearly all the participants signed peace agreements. Most of the countries that had sent soldiers to fight either for or against the Congo's government withdrew their forces during the year, but an outbreak of fighting in eastern Congo raised international concerns about the stability of the peace accord.

    Two other long-term wars in Africa appeared to come to more definitive conclusions. The bigger and older conflict, in Angola, ended early in the year after the government killed longtime rebel leader Jonas Savimbi. UN-monitored efforts to restore peace appeared to be well under way by year's end. Free elections capped a much smaller—but brutal—war in the tiny West African country of Sierra Leone. Fighting between the government and a rebel group had pretty much ended the previous year, allowing the United Nations to sponsor elections in May that reelected the civilian president whom guerrilla forces had tried to oust from power.

    Much work remained to bring a conclusive end to yet another long-term war, between the two major ethnic groups on the large island of Sri Lanka. The government and representatives of the guerrilla group known as the Tamil Tigers signed a cease-fire agreement in February, and both sides claimed to be committed to resolving their disputes peacefully. Even so, it was clear that overcoming the brutality of one of the world's bloodiest wars could take many years to accomplish.

    U.S. Domestic Issues

    Domestically, the major news story for much of the year was about corporate corruption. Starting with the collapse of the Enron energy corporation in late 2001, and running well into the summer of 2002, nearly every week brought revelations of wrongdoing of some type in the suites and board rooms of large corporations. In some cases—notably in the continuing revelations about Enron—the public learned that corporate officers had concocted false or misleading financial reports to fool investors. In many other cases, personal greed had driven actions as corporate officers took inflated salaries or stock options and bought personal luxury goods. By midyear, television frequently showed images of board chairmen, executive officers, and other high-ranking officials being taken from their homes, often in handcuffs, and into court to face charges of fraud or other wrongdoing. Congress responded with legislation aimed at regulating corporate behavior, but some of the most aggressive action was taken by state regulators, notably New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer, who cracked down on Wall Street investment houses.

    The wave of corporate scandals did no favor for the U.S. economy, which was still struggling to recover from a brief recession in 2001 that was worsened by the September 11 terrorist attacks. Although inflation and interest rates remained low and growth increased, albeit sluggishly, the jobless rate hovered near 6 percent, the stock market continued its downward slide, and confidence remained low, pummeled by the corporate accounting scandals, fears of new terrorist attacks, and uncertainty over a possible war in Iraq. By year's end many public and private policymakers were openly concerned that the economy might fall back into recession, and some were even warning about a possible deflation.

    Despite a growing federal budget deficit (the result of lower tax revenue and increased spending on national security) and signs that the nation's states and cities were being forced to cut back on services to maintain balanced budgets, President Bush and the Republicans insisted that the best fiscal stimulus was to make the massive tax cuts enacted in 2001 permanent and to make new cuts. (The 2001 tax legislation had specified that the cuts would continue only through the decade.) Democrats argued that more tax cuts would only deepen the federal budget deficit, which they said would lead to higher interest rates and slower economic growth. Democrats, who held a slim majority in the Senate, blocked any further tax cuts, but they were unable to push through their own legislation to help the jobless.

    Democrats tried to make the faltering economy the focus of the midterm congressional elections, in which they hoped to solidify their control of the Senate and perhaps even gain control of the House. Instead the Republicans won control of the Senate and increased their margin in the House. It was a stunning defeat for the Democrats, who quickly agreed that they had lost because they failed to offer voters a coherent policy alternative. It was an even more stunning victory for the president, who had put his prestige on the line by campaigning almost nonstop in the weeks running up to the election. The GOP congressional victories bolstered not only Bush's ability to control the legislative agenda but also his own political position going into the 2004 presidential campaign season.

    Remarks widely interpreted as racist forced Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., to resign his position as GOP leader in December. In the midst of the controversy over Lott, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear arguments in what was considered to be the most important affirmative action case since the 1970s. At issue was whether it was constitutional for a college to consider race and ethnicity as a factor in its admissions policy. In a ruling earlier in the year, the Court issued what many considered to be its most momentous decision in decades regarding separation of church and state. By a 5–4 vote, the Court up-held a voucher plan that used public funds to pay tuition for students at religious schools.

    Plan of the Book

    These are only some of the topics of national and international interest chosen by the editors of Historic Documents of 2002. This edition marks the thirty-first volume of a CQ Press project that began with Historic Documents of 1972. The purpose of the series is to give students, librarians, journalists, scholars, and others convenient access to documents on a wide range of topics that set forth some of the most important issues of the year. These primary sources have often been excerpted to highlight the most important parts of lengthy documents written for a specialized audience. In our judgment the official statements, news conferences, speeches, special studies, and court decisions presented here will be of lasting interest.

    Each document is preceded by an introduction that provides context and background material and, when relevant, an account of continuing developments during the year. We believe these introductions will become increasingly useful as memories of current events fade.

    JohnFelton and MarthaGottron

Back to Top

Copy and paste the following HTML into your website