Thousands of Iraqis marched in Baghdad on Saturday to protest the draft agreement between President Bush and the Iraqi government that provides for the continued U.S. occupation of Iraq and the ultimate withdrawal of U.S. forces. The protestors were calling for the Iraqi parliament to reject the proposed agreement, arguing that U.S. forces should be thrown out of the country now.
Don’t count on seeing similar protests here in the United States. Unlike Iraq, where the constitution requires the consent of the parliament, here in our country the only thing that’s needed is the approval of the ruler.
Of course, it wasn’t always that way. Under the Constitution, congressional consent was required for all treaties. Thus, even if the president had negotiated an agreement with a foreign power, the law required congressional approval before the agreement could take effect.
The principle of congressional approval as a prerequisite for presidential action was once the same with respect to the waging of war. While the Constitution delegates the power to wage war to the president, it delegates the power to declare war to Congress. That means that before the president can legally wage war, the law requires that he first secure a declaration of war from Congress.
President Bush leveled a military attack on a country that had never attacked the United States. Yet, he failed and refused to secure the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war before waging his war on Iraq.
Some people have argued that the congressional vote to authorize the president to use force against Iraq was equivalent to a congressional declaration of war, but they couldn’t be more wrong. The resolution didn’t declare war on Iraq, it instead authorized the president to make that determination. Yet, the Constitution does not permit Congress to abrogate and delegate its power to declare war to the president. The Constitution requires that Congress make the grave determination as to whether the nation is going to war against another nation.
If the president had followed the law by seeking a congressional declaration of war on Iraq, he would have had to make the case for doing so. Some astute congressmen could have then challenged the president’s implication that Saddam Hussein was preparing to unleash weapons of mass destruction, including mushroom clouds, on America. By showing that the president’s WMD claim was defective and bogus, it is entirely possible that Congress would not have supported going to war based on the president’s alternative rationale of democracy-spreading.
The president’s war has killed and maimed countless Iraqis and thousands of Americans, exiled millions of Iraqis to other countries, left museums in shambles, and destroyed the entire country. It has also unleashed the perpetual threat of terrorist blowback against the American people. The hundreds of billions of dollars in federal expenditures to finance the war and occupation are contributing to the bankruptcy of our nation.
The proposed agreement calls for U.S. troops to remain in Iraq until 2011, when they will be entirely withdrawn from the country. The agreement also calls for the Iraqi government having jurisdiction over certain crimes committed by U.S. forces and U.S. contractors.
Thus, President Bush is now entering into an agreement with Iraq that has very serious long-term consequences not only for U.S. troops, not only for the newly elected president, but also for the entire nation. Yet, unlike the Iraqi president, who is seeking the approval of his legislature, as the Iraqi constitution requires, the president is refusing to seek the approval of Congress, as the U.S. Constitution requires.
The president’s invasion of Iraq, without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war, and his proposed agreement with the Iraqi regime, without the constitutionally required congressional approval, demonstrate the extent to which the U.S. president has assumed dictatorial powers. Perhaps that’s why conservatives are becoming increasingly agitated over the possibility that Barrack Obama might soon be elected president.